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Happily I now have some time off work, and while I've not booked a formal holiday, I had arranged to visit my parents (all planned before their emergency visit to me to hold my hand when I came out of hospital)

It's been very pleasant.

The weather has been changeable, but when you are mostly just relaxing and hanging out that isn't a major issue.

My mum and I went shopping and found a couple of pairs of shoes and some shirts,  at the local outlet 'village', which was good. (I don't enjoy shopping, so getting my mum to come with me, and finding stuff which is both suitable and reduced, is a big plus for me!)

Then we met up with my aunt and uncle, and my 2nd cousin who is visiting them while she gets over  a fall, and spent an evening with them, with a meal out at a local thai restaurant. Which was very nice.

We then had a full day when the weather was supposed to be good, so we went out for the day to visit Hartland Abbey, which is about an hour's drive from my parent's house,on the coast.

The original abbey has (apart from a few walls and doorways in the basement) mostly gone, but there is a rather nice house, some walled gardens, and a pleasant walk through the woods to the coast.

The place was originally an Abbey, founded in 1157. It was reportedly the last Abbey in England to be dissolved by Henry VIII, and on dissolution he gave the Abbey to one William Abbot, his sergeant of the wine cellar at Hampton Court. The house has never been sold, since, it has always passed down within the same family (several times through marriage in the female line, hence the current occupants are  called Stucley, not Abbot!)

Hartland Abbey

Much of the house is relatively modern, but rather nice for all that!

We started by walking from the house down to the sea (about 1 mile). The walk was a pleasant one, gently down hill and mostly through woods.

At the end, there is a cottage (Blackpool Mill Cottage) which looks oddly familiar....

It was used as Barton Cottage in the BBCs adaptation of 'Sense and Sensibility', and more recently featured in 'The Night Manager'.  There was however however no sign of Jonathan Pine / Tom Hiddleston or of Mr Willoughby!

Just beyond the cottage is a tiny cliff and steps down to a small, pebbly beach.

We enjoyed sitting in the sunshine looking out over the sea while we ate our picnic lunch, and did go down onto the beach on order to look at the sea properly (I never feel I have been to the sea properly unless I am close enough to be able to paddle should I feel the urge to do so!)

We then walked back up to go round the house. They don't allow photos inside, but it is quite nice, and obviously still lived in (In the library, there are lots of lovely leather bound books and comfortable-looking chairs, and there is also a large TV and a practical looking drinks tray!).

Down in the basement there are several small exhibitions - one about the 17th C Stukeley who was an antiquarian and who studied the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury (and sought to prevent their destruction) and others about various martial Stucleys and Stukeleys, and a very small one devoted to the various times when the house, grounds or estate have been used as locations for film and television.

As well as 'Sense and Sensibility' and 'The Night Manager' they have had visits from 'Top Gear' (dropping caravan over the cliffs) and filming for 'The Shell Seekers', and early version of 'Treasure Island' and  others.

We finished our visit with another short walk to the walled gardens -  a mixture of flower and kitchen gardens.

I think that the flower gardens were perhaps past their best , but still very nice - lots of fuchsias, and lots of bees and butterflies - I counted 4 different varieties of bumble bee on one plant!

We finished up by driving a little further down the coast to Hartland Quay.There is no longer a quay there, but there are some rather nice views! (and a pub, which we didn't go into!)

It was all very pleasant, and I was particularly pleased that I was able to walk to the sea and back, and to and around the gardens, without feeling completely shattered, so I am obviously very nearly back to normal, now!

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A bit of a belated blog, as I've been under the weather since I returned home, but I'm starting to feel more human again now!

We had a 4 day weekend for Easter, and I decided I needed a relaxing time, so I spent the weekend in Devon, at my parents' home.

It didn't start too well, as apparently the entire population of Britain decided to spend the long weekend in Devon, so the drive down was slow, dark and windy, finishing with following a very nervous caravan-driver, who did't get above 25 mph.!

However, once I arrived,things improved. Living alone as I do, it is always nice to be a guest and to have someone else doing the cooking!

Friday was forecast to have the best weather of the long weekend, so we decided to make the most of it.

We went to Heddon Valley, and took a 6 mile circular walk to Woody Bay, where the outward leg is mainly along the coast, with spectacular views, and the return leg slightly inland, among woods and gorse.

It was a beautiful bright, sunny day. In fact, so sunny that we even spotted a rather lovely little lizard.

(I assume it is a Common Lizard, as apparently the only other sort you get in this country are Sand Lizards, which are extremely rare, so it's unlikely to be one of them!)

The trees were still mainly bare, but looked wonderful in the sunshine!

And we felt we had earned the ice creams we indulged in at the end of the walk!

On the way home we did a detour to Coombe Martin in order for me to go and look at the sea close up (I decided not to paddle. It was a sunny day, but it's still only March!)

Saturday was extremely wet, so we stayed home, and indulged in the traditional family pastime of being sociable by all sitting silently in the same room while we read! And eating, obviously.

Sunday was  supposed to be wet with sunny intervals, but turned out instead to be sunny with showers, so we were able to go out again - this time to Baggy Point.

Although it wasn't as wet as predicted, it was *very* windy

It's a shame we hadn't thought to bring a kite!

We started with a steep climb up the hill, then a walk along the cliff path. The wind meant that the waves were big, and even up on the cliff there was lots of salty spray.

And, of course, at the point when we were furthest from the car (or indeed any other sort of shelter!) the sky turned grey and the heavens opened.

The rain was icy cold and this was the point at which I realised that *my* waterproofs were still in the back of *my* car, back at the house... So I got rather damp. But we huddled in a slightly sheltered dip in the ground and ate mini easter eggs until the worst of the rain passed. And then walked back briskly enough to stay warm and start to dry off!

Then, after a quick picnic in the car, looking out over the sea (except for when we had another shower, when it felt more like being under the sea, watching the water sleet down the windows) we walked down to the shore for a short stroll along the beach, which was looking beautiful, particularly when the sun came out.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I had an equally slow journey home on Monday. (And then immediately came down with a nasty bug, which rather took the shine off the following week, but perhaps it would have been worse had I not just had such a relaxing weekend!

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I have had some time off, and while I didn't go away on holiday, per se, I did go down to Devon and spent several days at my parents' house.

On one day, when it stopped raining, I went down to Woolacombe and to Barracane Bay.

The sea was flat as a pancake (which didn't stop some hopeful surfers from going in!) and from time to time the sun came out, briefly.

I was able to go for a short walk and enjoyed a picnic sitting on the cliff overlooking the bay. It was a very pleasant, restful day.

My parents came home on Monday, and as it was a grey and drizzly day I wasn't tempted out, so instead I stayed home, and baked, and made dinner, and read.

It was good to catch up with my parents, and we decided, a day or two later, to go to Exmoor Zoo,which is just down the road, and which they'd never visited!

It is small, for a zoo, but seems well kept, and the animals seem content. They have 3 cheetahs, who were fed during our visit.

They also have some penguins, and pelicans (and ducks and seagulls, but I think those are simply opportunistic and not part of the zoo's own complement!

And otters. I do love the otters.

There was also a peahen (well, there were several) but one with a single chick; we met them several times as we were walking around, they are not confined at all.

We had an an enjoyable day wandering around, and with it being a greyish weekday there were not too many other people around.

And as well as the days out, I also spent a lot of time pottering around my parents home, reading some of their books, watching their TV and picking runner beans in their garden.

It was a pleasant, low-key way to spend an extended weekend!

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A couple of weeks ago, my cousin contacted me to say that she and her parents, and her 2.5 year old son, had rented a cottage in South Devon for a week, and there was a spare room, so would I like to join them? And I would., so I did.

View from the door

Unfortunately I had to work on Monday, so I couldn't go for quite the full week, but I was able to drive down on Monday after work, and stay until Saturday.
Another view from the cottage

We were lucky that the weather has been so lovely - and as you can see, we had a wonderful sea-view, so when we were too hot to go anywhere, we could stay in the cottage and look at the views, listen to the sea, and watch the house-martins going to and from their nests in the corners of the bedroom windows.

We went to the beach several times - always an interesting trip, as most of the lanes were only (just) wide enough for a single car, so any drive was liable to include some reversing, and squeezing into hedge-bottoms!

The nearest beach was on the estuary, with a sandy beach, so although it was tidal, it had very few waves, which I liked, as I was able to swim without getting too many slaps in the face by waves (and I could leave my glasses on, which is always a plus!

We went late in the afternoon, when it was a little cooler, and there was shade, and this had the added advantage that many people were starting to leave as we arrived,so we got an uncrowded beach.

My cousin and I took J to Start Point Lighthouse, which is open to the public, as he likes lighthouses. It's quite a long walk from the car-park for someone who is only two and a half, but we all made it!

And then we all did the tour, and got to climb all the way up. I was a little disappointed that you can't get out onto the walkway outside the lantern - apparently the lighthouse-keepers used to have train so that they could abseil down the outside if it became necessary, in an emergency!

It was fantastic to have such a clear, bright day to visit (it was the coolest day of the holiday, so the walk was do-able; my aunt and uncle went for a proper, 5 hour walk elsewhere!

Start Point Lighthouse

Below the cottage were rocks, so we were able to take J down to investigate the rock pools, which was fun for everyone (there didn't seem to be much other than limpets and seaweed in the pools, which did not seem to detract at all from J's enjoyment, and which meant there was no sea life to be disturbed by his shrimping net!)

At the top of the field behind the cottage was the old coastguard station, now staffed by Coast-Watch volunteers, and we were able to walk up. The views were stunning!  There's a little one-room visitor centre with information about local wildlife and sea-life, and information about shipwrecks in the area.

View from Coast Guard Station

And in the evenings there were BBQs,and champagne and strawberries, and 'treasure hunts' for J in the garden,and general relaxation.

All in all, it was a lovely opportunity to relax and unwind (did I mention that there was no phone signal or internet connection at the cottage?)

On the way home, I met up with my parents for lunch, although we decided it was too hot to look around the gardens of the stately home we met up at.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and it was a little bit of a shock to the system to have to go back to work today, but such is life...
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am signed up to Bill Bailey's mailing list, and as a result, I heard that he was doing two shows at Ilfracombe's Landmark Theatre as warm up for his new 'Dandelion Mind (gently modified)' tour, and, as Ilfracombe is only about 20 minutes from my parents' home, it seemed like a good opportunity to see Bill Bailey and my parents, in one fell swoop.

Pretty picture of the Landmark
Theatre (photo from theatre website)
It was not 100%  successful, as it turned out that my Mum and Dad were actually away all day on Saturday, but we did meet briefly as I popped in for coffee on my way past, en route to the theatre, and again on my return, for about 10 minutes before we went to bed.

The show was great.

I saw the 'Dandelion Mind' show last September (Blogged it here ) and this version of the show has some of the same material, with some new -
including bots about 'Broken Britain' - I particularly enjoyed Bill's comments about the Coalition "It's like being governed by a bowl of pot pourri and a sea-cucumber" (which is one of the few descriptions I can remember, most of the others were more insulting. I kept expecting 'Cream-faced loon' to come up!

Other highlights included some art appreciation, a rendition of 'Scarborough Fair', in German, not to mention a song after the style of
'Chas'n'Dave', (during their Devil Worshipping phase).

Oh, and California Dreaming' at different speeds, which is much funnier than you might think.

I had a great evening, and I'm really glad I went, as although the tour has dates all through November, none of them is near me.

This morning, my parents were leaving at some ungodly hour 7a.m. but did stick their heads round the bedroom door to say good morning and goodbye, and to bring me a cup of tea, before the left. I then went back to sleep, pottered around a bit, and then went on a long, meandering
drive on my way home. (I'd planned to visit a couple of picturesque bits of Exmoor, and go for a couple of short walks and take pretty pictures, but unfortunately it started to rain very heavily at just the wrong moment, so in the end I ended up driving around some very narrow Devon lanes (albeit some of them with nice views) without any walks.

On arriving home I found my next door neighbours have moved out, and some new ones have moved in. I hope they are nice and quiet! The old ones were nice people, but had a very yappy little dog which got hysterical every time I went into my garden...

Tomorrow, I am going to see Fascinating Aida, and if it is a nice day I may go to Stourhead, as it's supposed to be at it's best, for the autumn colours, this weekend. (So it will probably pour with rain all day!) I went around this time last year, and got some gorgeous pics..

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Easter Sunday was a quiet day - my parents had agreed to ring for a couple of church services, but I had no such committments, so had the kind of day which starts with tea in bed, and moves on to eating breakfast in pyjamas while watching Doctor Who, and then drifts onward to involve sitting around in the sunshine with  a Golden Age detetive novel and a cat.

Later, we had a deicious Sunday roast: Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and runner beans, with gin and tonic before hand, and red wine to accompany it, and lemon merienge pie and fresh coffee to follow. It was all delicious, and very relaxed and civilized..
looking West towards Combe Martin
So on Monday we decided to be a little more energetic, and to go for a walk.
We started near Trentishoe which is on the edge of the Exmoor National Park, and walked along the top of the cliffs.
It was another gloriously sunny day, and amazingly still, too, so that even on the top of the cliff there was virtually no wind, and no sound, either, other than the distant sound of the sea, the bird-song and the calls of the sheep and their lambs, grazing along the cliff top.

Heddon Valley to Heddon's Bay
It's a fairly harsh environment - the grass is short and sheep-cropped, and the other plant-life mainly consists of bracken, heather and gorse.

The gorse is all in flower at present, profligate with it's bright gold flowers. The bracken is bright green with new growth, and the heather still has faded white flowers. There are a few foxgloves growing against the drystone walls, a few of them starting to show pinkish buds but the majority with nothing, yet, but large, furry leaves. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had managed to correctly identify them as foxgloves, even without the flowers - unlike my mother, I don't know much about plants)


Looking up Heddon Valley to Hunter's Inn

The soil is too poor, and there is too much wind and salt to allow many larger trees to flourish, but that does mean you can see forever, along the headlands.

After a little while, we parted company; my mum turning back the way we'd come (which was relatively flat, andfairly easy going) while my dad and I continued along the path, which got much steeper as it continued around the headland, with some more stunning views, this time eastward toward Lynmouth.  The path then turns inland, at the Heddon Valley.


The valley is very steep and narrow, and the path runs along one side of it, working it's way back downhill from the top of the cliffs, down towards the river which runs along the valley into the sea. F|rom above, you can see the tiny, rocky inlet where the river reaches the sea. there is a tiny, shingled beach, and lots of rocks.

We didn't go down to the sea, but instead continued down the side of the valley. As the path decended, we gradually left behind the heather and gorse, and  started to see many wild violets, primroses and, as we came among the trees, bluebells, vast drifts of them.

Most of the trees were birch, beech nd young oaks, all of them bright with new growth.

As we reached the bottom of the valley, we found ourselves walking by the side of the river, which is cold, and clear, and surrounded by beech trees, with primroses and white campion and ragged robin all growing along the banks.
We arrived at the Hunter's Inn about 10 minutes after my mum (who had returned to the car and driven it round to meet us) did.
Coming down from the cliffs and woods it's a little startling to come upon a beautifully manicured lawn and a set of peacocks..

However, when we went indoors we discovered that the place has a fine grasp of the essentials.

One of the nice things about going for a vigourous walk is that when you reach the pub at the end you do tend to feel that you have earned your beer!


Axe, coming intoWoody Bay Station
After enjoying our beer, and some very late lunch, we hedd home, via Woody Bay Station - this is a station on what was once (and hopes one day to be again) the Lynton to Barnstaple narrow-guage railway.  The railway opened in about 1898,  originlly built and run by a private company, over a distance of bout 19 miles. It was tasken over by Southern Railways in the 1920s and closed in 1935.

A small part of the railway has been restored and reopened, and it is now possible to go for a short train-ride (about 1 mile each way, I believe)

The railway was running, so we went and had a look at their displays, and watched the train leaving and returning, making little 'pish-te-cuff' noises just like Ivor the Engine,  nd mking that distinctive, Steam-engine smell of hot metal and cinders.

In it's hey-day, the railway ran through the village my parents now live in, and the current Trust hope one day to restore the entire 19 miles of track.

 A very pleasant day.

(more photos on my Flickr stream - )

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It's Easter weekend, which means two Bank Holidays and thus a long weekend, and having been unable to join my sisters for a weekends sailing (as I left it too late, and so the boat is full) I decided to spend the weekend with my mum and dad, down in Devon.
I am fortunate in that I get on very well with my parents, so visiting them is restful, and they now live in a lovely part of the country.
View from the house
I had a smooth trip down on Thursday evening (except for the part where Tybalt got a little travel sick..).

On Friday my parents had various committments, so we didn't go out anywhere, but instead I spent the day between cooking (flapjacks, and lemon meriengue pie, and a casserole) and wandering around the garden in the sun.

We have been enjoying wonderful, unseasonably warm weather for the time of year - yesterday was in the 70s, so being outside is a pleasure.
On Saturday, they asked me whether there was anywhere I'd like to go, and I said the seaside.
Ilfracombe Harbour (Low Tide)
There are lots of bits of seaside near here, and on this occasion we went to Ilfracombe, which started life as a fishing village, and became a holiday destination in the Victorian period, and is now a little run-down. However, in the sun, and with lots of visitors for the Easter weekend, it was looking it's best. 
We walked down to the harbour, full mainly now with pleasure yachts, not fishing boats, and then to a little beach, where I paddled, because sometimes you have to, don't you? The water was very cold, but bracing... 
Juvenile Herring Gull

There were lots of Herring Gulls, and a few Black Backed gulls and a Kittiwake or two, and we saw a cormorant, too, later.

Harbour wall, and St Nicholas's chapel
After my paddle we walked up to the top of the  cliff (to the right of the beach) then along the path back toward the harbour,and up to St Nocholas's chapel, which is tiny (you can see it  perched on the hill on the left of the picture above) It was also the home of the harbour-master at one time - he and his wife lived there in the 1860s, with 8 or 9 of their 14 children...

By the time we came down, the tide had gone out, leaving all the yachts high and dry, although further out to sea were several, sailing, and also 3 or four retired lifeboats. (The current lifeboat was at the top of the slipway, flying lots of flags, and having a fund-raiser) 
Retired lifeboats

We must have spent 3 or 4 hours wandering around, enjoying the views and the weather, and sustained only by large ice-creams made with local cream...

It was a lovely day, and then we returned to the house, in time for me to watch Doctor Who while my parents cooked supper.

A most enjoyable day

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We found that, sadly, the weather forecasters continued to be correct, so on Tuesday we mostly stayed indoors and read, although we did have a brief, damp, walk during the afternoon, and a trip to go ringing and to the pub in the evening.

Wednesday was scheduled to be showery, so we decided to go to Arlington Court, which is another National Trust property, on the basis that between the house, the Carriage Museum, and the Gardens, we should be able to dodge the worst of the rain, which we duly did
Victorian Garden, Arlington Court  
 Arlington was the home of the Chichester family, the last of whom was a very eccentric maiden lady who lived there for over 50 years, and who kept a pet parrot which was allowed free range of the house, and destroyed much of the plasterwork of the ceilings!
The house has a large collection of model ships, the earliest being ones made by French prisoners of war, during the Napoleonic wars, the latest being models of the family's own yacht, and the 'Gypsy Moth' in which Sir Francis Chichester (Who was a member of the same Chichester family, but a cousin, not one of the owners of Arlington) became the first person to sail single-handedly around the world.
We also spent some time in the Carriage museum,  looking at the various carriages, all of which were most impressive, but didn't look, even the best of them, as though they would have been very comfortable to travel in!                                                          
We also met some of the horses (Percherons and Shires) which they keep to give horse-and-cart rides at weekends, and (Naturally) visited the tea-rooms, where we found a coffee cake of truly epic proportions and delectable flavour, just as the heavens opened and it poured with rain.                                                      
I think we got the last available seats before the surge of people getting in out of the rain!
As I am leaving on Friday morning, I had made a request to bring forward Sunday lunch, so the day ended with Sunday roast - local beef, accompanied by Yorkshire pudding, local runner beans and carrots and a very nice bottle of red wine, followed by a floating lemon pudding.
All in all, a most satisfactory day!
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The Met Office are threatening rain for the rest of the week, so we decided to make the most of the sunny weather on Monday and headed to the beach.

We went to Putsborough, which lies at the end of some very narrow, twisting lanes, and which is one of the beaches of my childhood, as we used to go there regularly, and, as my Godmother lived very close by, used often to bump into various cousins there.
Putsborough sands 
By the time we reached the beach, the sun had gone in, and is was quite breezy, so in true British fashion we erected our windbreak and settled down for the afternoon.

Happily, the sun did come out intermittently, and we were able to stroll along the beach, and to paddle, and sit & read and watch the seagulls. I even braved the water and went for a short but bracing swim!

You can't tell from the picture (which was taken just before we left, as the sands were emptying) but there were lots of people there - it was nice to see so many small children enjoying themselves with buckets and spades!

And yes, we did treat ourselves to the traditional ice-cream...
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I have a week off work, which is very nice, and having been insufficiently organised to have made any other plans, I decided to travel down to Devon to spend some time with my parents.

The journey down was horrendous - pouring rain, very heavey traffic and queues on the motorway, so the journey took about an hour and a half longer than normal. However, once I arrived, all was well.

On Friday night, after a very tasty supper (cooked by someone else, which is always a treat for me!) my Dad and I were able to go out into the garden to look for meteors - happily, there is very little light pollution here, and  saw 6 or 7 shooting stars, which was a lovely end to the evening.

As Sunday came a nice day, we decided to go to Rosemoor, which is owned by the Royal Horticultural Society - there are several formal gardens - a rose garden, cottage garden, mediterranean garden, a herb/sensory garden, plus woodland and vegetable gardens.

There were thousands of bees everywhere - both honey bees and bumble bees, and there were also lots of butterflies - small Toirtoiseshells and Cabbage Whites, which one gets everywhere, but also Red Admirals, Peacock Butterflies and Painted Ladies, which are less common.

The colours were beautiful, and although I know very little about gardening, and have difficulty in recognising all but the most common flowers or trees, wandering around beautiful gardens in the sunshine, amid the bees and butterflies, is very pleasant indeed.
More photos on my flickr stream


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