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Archive : April

Easter in Devon 18-22 April – and introducing two new members of the family

Thursday 18th
We set off – as is often the case – a little later than planned. We weren’t at all sure how this journey would go as we have extra passengers. Meet Bill & Ted – our new Border Terrier pups.

Bill (L) and Ted (R)

This was their first long car journey and we expected that it might be eventful, We had chosen our travelling time to fit in with their sleep routine. They are usually up an hour or two before they have their morning nap. This can often last two hours and we were lucky that they were popped into their crate and they slept for a good couple of hours before we thought it was time to let them have a pee break, a stretch of their legs and some water. It must be said that the lay-bys that accompany the route down to Devon are generally pretty foul – rubbish bins overflowing even before the BH weekend. And rubbish and the smell of pee lurking in the air. Not very nice!

It was lucky that they seemed quite happy in the car, as the traffic was awful and it took us roughly 5 hours. We had stopped another couple of times to feed and water them (and us!) but we were all glad to arrive at out chosen site for the weekend – Galmpton Touring Park.

We checked in – paying an extra £32 for the dogs (we didn’t know we’d have them when we had originally booked) and were shown to our (fully serviced) pitch. It was a great location – just near the dog-walking area and with a lovely river view. We were very happy. We staked the boys out (another first for them) and they played (and fought!) happily whilst we got set up, had a cuppa and a relax. The weather was glorious and looked set fair for the entire weekend. Lucky us. Damp memories of last Easter in Dorset “flooded” my mind. Boy – did it rain!

After we had recovered sufficiently from the arduous journey, we set off out again to familiarise ourselves with the area and do a bit of exploring. Our first port of call was along the lane by the site, which led down to the Greenway ferry. This ferry goes to Dartmouth and beautiful Dittisham (pronounced Ditsam by the locals) just across the river. It’s a foot ferry and dog friendly so we thought we’d come back another time. Greenway, by the way is the former home of famous author, Agatha Christie. Now owned by the National Trust. We then made our way to Dartmouth, via the lower ferry from Kingswear, Dartmouth’s twin, across the River Dart.

The Ferry Boat

Parking in Dartmouth is always tricky but we struck very lucky. A parking space beside a pasty shop and a branch of Seasalt. What could be better? I saw a lovely dress and resolved to return when I had a little more time. We managed not to succumb to the pasty on this visit!

We walked along the front and saw 8 Bells – the B&B where Mum and Uncle D had stayed on our last trip to these parts, back in 2008. The boys encountered seagulls for the first time and we met more than a few dogs and people who all wanted to say hello to the boys. This was a foretaste of what was to come! We also met a delightful little girl who was entranced by the boys – who behaved very well with her. She had the most infectious laugh and was clearly delighted to have met them. It was lovely to watch.

8 Bells B&B

We were hungry, dinner was waiting at home (lasgane – yum!) and so our last port of call was Tuckenhay, where we knew there was a lovely pub, right on the Dart (and have visited before). We stopped there for a drink and a few crisps, watching the cormorants, ducks and other birds as they made the most of the river and the beautiful evening. The Maltsters Arms was as beautiful and as popular as ever. Once owned by chef, Keith Floyd, it is an idyllic spot – and actually set not fully on the Dart but on the Harbourne River – a tributary of the Dart, at Bow Creek.

We were very envious of a party – complete with two Norfolk Terriers – who arrived at the pub by boat. What better way, eh? We drove home via Totnes, stopping briefly at The Waterman’s Arms in nearby Ashprington for a photo opportunity. WE noticed that the river was very high and very picturesque. The journey home was redolent of garlic as we brushed past it in abundance along the narrow Devon lanes.

Bow Bridge

We returned home to Galmpton, put the dinner in the oven and took the pups for a walk round the grounds. They drew more admirers. We are quite the proud parents! As dusk fell, all we could hear was sheep in the neighbouring field, the “kraark” of an occasional pheasant and the odd dog bark. Bliss. And what a view. And as night overtook the twilight, we saw a full moon, peeping from the tree-tops. I think we are going to like it here.

Good Friday 19th April

The pups had practiced sleeping in the van, as my brother and family had been staying last weekend. We always use the van as overflow accommodation and so we knew they’d be alright. They awoke around 7-ish and we soon had breakfast for all on the go.

We had spent yesterday evening planning and booking today’s adventure – a “Round Robin” trip, from Totnes to Dartmouth by river, thence to Paignton by steam train and home from Paignton to Totnes on an open top bus. A lot of firsts for those pups!

The tour departed at 10:10 from Totnes, so we set off in plenty of time, having packed everything we thought we’d need in our backpack. It was a beautiful morning and we arrived in good time – although paying for parking and collecting our tickets was a bit of a ‘mare.

Soon we were settled on the boat, near some very friendly dog-loving ladies who loved the boys and exclaimed at how well-behaved they were. The Dart is tidal up to Totnes, so leaving on time is pretty important. It was a lovely cruise of about an hour and a half. Some images from the trip follow

The boys snoozed most of the way and we saw lots of wildlife including cormorants, herons, egrets – even a couple of seals. We loved it.

We arrived in Dartmouth with a little time to kill before we caught the train, so went to buy some lunch for us. We had been to a bakery many years before with my Dad and had our very first Homity Pie. We headed off and found that the bakery was still there and still making them. Paul had a massive Cornish Pasty and I had a Homity Pie – lunch sorted. We mooched about a bit more and I bought a couple of soft toys for the boys to murder. Ruined a charity shop’s Easter display but money’s money!

Homity Pie

We caught the foot passenger ferry to Kingswear, from whence the train departs and waited on the platform for a first glimpse of the train. Our previous dogs (Fred and Archie) had been very afraid of steam trains and we wanted to avoid this if possible with these boys. As the train drew in, we gave them treats and praised them and they didn’t turn a hair. They were quite happy on the very pretty 30 minute journey along the coast too, bless them.

We arrived in Paignton, where we did not intend to stop and transferred to the bus station for our journey back to Totnes. Three new modes of transit in one day and they took it all in their stride(s).

It was another pleasant journey, with good views across the countryside. Once back, we had the obligatory ice-cream – rum and raisin and coffee for me and double honeycomb crunch for Paul – and the tips of the cones for the boys. Bad habits. Bad parents.

We returned to the van and all of us had a snooze before waking up for a cuppa and a Hot Cross Bun (us) and some water (them). And then it was out for another, early evening explore. This evening’s destination was firstly Broadsands Bay, where the boys had a their first ever paddle.

We then went for drinks at The River Shack in Stoke Gabriel – again on the river. We had a drink and soaked up the atmosphere before heading home. The menu looked fab but we had a meal waiting for us at home, so,
after drinks we returned home for dinner – fish and chips and mushy peas (home made). Gotta have fish on Good Friday. .

Easter Saturday 20th April

Today’s destination was Salcombe via Dartmouth, where I made a quick return visit to Seasalt and came out with a delish new summer outfit. Love the colours!

We drove up the coast, passing the site where we had stayed in on our 2008 vist at Stoke Fleming and thence via Blackpool Sands to Strete Gate beach, where we stopped for a very good coffee (at The Lime Coffee Company) and a play on the beach for the boys. They had a slight altercation – not of their making – with a seemingly ownerless and quite aggressive dog but came out of it unscathed.

After our break, we pressed on down the coast via the famous Slapton Sands – virtually decimated by the Beast from the East but now repaired and back to normal. Slapton beach was used by US forces as a rehearsal for the D Day and an interesting tale involving a Sherman Tank can be found here.

There is a wealth of wildlife at Slapton Ley – a large lake – which is separated from the sea by a thin strip of shingle, as can be seen in the picture above.

Paul had an urge to find the tidal road and ford we had found near East Portlemouth on our 2008 trip, so we set off in search of it. The lanes are so pretty with spring flowers of all varieties and the sunshine made everything look so fresh and verdant. Spring is such a heartening season and it promises so much – but doesn’t always deliver!

We eventually found the very ford where we had stopped and taken photos and it seemed only right to do so again. The boys were happy to stretch their legs too.

We thought we might catch the foot ferry from East Portlemouth to Salcombe and had a long, windy and ultimately frustrating trip to find nowhere to park. That was that idea scuppered. The only option was to drive to Salcombe via Kingsbridge (it is the other side of the estuary and this is the only crossing). Our route took us through South Pool, a very pretty village, where a quintessentially English duck race and Easter Bonnet competition was taking place. Delightful. There was an army of stewards guiding traffic through the narrow main street.

Easter Bonnets in South Pool

We eventually arrived in Salcombe – the perfect Spring weather and traffic had already indicated that this was maybe not the greatest idea and the town was heaving with people making the most of the holiday weekend. We struck very lucky and found a place to park for an hour. Progress through the town with the boys was – as now seems usual – very slow. Everyone wanted to greet them. All very good training and very lovely for us proud parents – but we were HUNGRY! I was hankering after a crab sandwich and we found the very place. The Crab Shed. Two rounds made freshly before our very eyes. We went and sat on the quay and watched the boats as we ate them. We fed the boys too so we were all satisfied.

Time to make our way home. We went via Dartmouth, taking the Higher Ferry this time, for a change. This is a much bigger ferry. I actually prefer the lower ferry. It’s cosier. Time for a snooze.

Tonight we visited Brixham on our evening drive out. We went for a pleasant walk around the Battery Gardens where we (but not the boys!) saw many rabbits. Well worth a visit.

Easter Sunday 20th April

Another lovely day and we were aiming for Dartmoor. Our last visit had been a little disappointing as it had been very foggy. No such problems today! We drove via Totnes, taking a quick passage through the town to see the sights.

We then meandered around the steep and windy lanes – taking turns at will, just for fun. And then – oh calamity! – we took a very innocent looking lane. It was clearly marked on the map but turned out to be a bit of a disaster!. It was very steep and riddled with massive potholes. If we’d been in a 4 wheel drive – such as Dolly Disco or Kitty Kia – they would have eaten it. But Vicky Volvo is a little less rugged. We ended up reversing for quite a way and then performing a 96 point turn in a gateway. Oops! We kept seeing this guy dressed quite formally for walking the lanes. He had a massive Mexican style moustache and seemed to be stalking us! This may have been him.

We eventually made our way to Harford, where we set up our chairs, walked the dogs and generally relaxed for a couple of hours. We staked them out and they enjoyed foraging for crud to eat, including twigs, bracken but largely rabbit droppings. Monsters! They loved it though!

It was a blissful spot and we even heard a cuckoo, which made my heart soar, as it seems so much rarer these days, as they are, very sadly, in decline. This is probably as a result of changing methods in agriculture, lack of habitat for the host birds (they are nest stealers!). They have always been the harbingers of summer, arriving from Africa, where they spend the winter. My childhood memories, where it is always summer, seem to be punctuated by the cuckoo’s call.

We passed a happy couple of hours here and the sun was so strong, I later realised I was actually sunburnt! In April!

We reluctantly returned home, via Totnes, where another visit to Steamer Quay yielded yet more Ice Creams.

Our last evening saw us making a last visit down to Greenway Quay for a last look at the river and walk for the boys. We had had a very pleasant stay in Galmpton and were not looking forward to grappling with Bank Holiday Monday traffic, but it had to be done. NB – no chocolate was consumed on this day. What’s going on????

Easter Monday 21st April

The boys woke up early, we packed up, traffic was awful, we got home eventually. Not a lot more to say really! It was nice to be home and we unpacked, mowed the lawn, put the washing out and finally relaxed. Until the next Bank Holiday, in a couple of week’s time, when we’ll be returning to Buckinghamshire for a trip of reminiscence and – hopefully – towpath cycling with the boys. Watch this space!

The boys and their Easter Gifts