CORNWALL – AND GURNARD’S HEAD

 

When I was in Cornwall (again!) at the weekend, my daughter and I decided to take Leo (her adorable Tibetan terrier puppy) on a walk to revisit old haunts.

Cutting a long story short, we both used to live in Cornwall before she moved to Dorset and I to Devon. Then, two years ago, drawn back by the curious power Cornwall somehow exerts over all (or most) who have lived there, Joanna returned. It now seems as if she never left – and I too benefit from having her to visit.

One of the many beauties of Devon is that I just have to hop across the Tamar Bridge to be in Cornwall again. That isn’t in any sense to undermine life in Devon, which you’ll by now have gathered that I love. The two counties, though joined, each have their own distinct characteristics. I believe the Cornish coastline to be in a league all its own, while the gentle green, cream and red hills and rolling moors of Devon are awesome.

But back to my story! Saturday dawned gloriously, so we set off in a direction we hadn’t headed in several years. And the last time we went there we certainly didn’t have a happy little puppy accompanying us.

Leo tends to make every expedition exciting, as we look at the world (or try to) through his eyes. Imagine being a puppy and having all the Cornish beaches virtually on your doorstep! But today we weren’t heading for a beach. Our destination was Gurnard’s Head, which meant driving along a roller-coaster kind of road with fabulous new views around every bend, and then (after walking Leo en route) parking by an aptly named pub.

As it happened (not purely by chance!) to be lunchtime when we parked, we went in – despite our rather iffy memories of the pub grub we’d had there in the past.

Well, thank goodness we did, as the business had changed hands (six years ago, we learned) and now the food was simply scrumptious. The whole ambiance was great. What an amazing difference the ‘new’ owners had made!

Afterwards, we braced ourselves against the wind that had sprung up and set off across the promontory to its rocky tip. It was a wonderful feeling, to be back there, our boots muddied from the fields we had crossed, our senses tuned to the ceaseless rhythm of the sea, within touching distance of majestic Gurnard’s Head.

This looks distinctly lion-like, rather than fishy, to Joanna and me. Do you agree?

 

BEAUTIFUL BRIDGNORTH

 

Last Friday, en route (again) for Telford in Shropshire where I was attending a conference, I called in for the first time at beautiful Bridgnorth. Usually I’m on too tight a schedule to do more than by-pass it, but on Friday I made the time to drive in – and I’m so glad I did!

On the banks of the River Severn, this is the town where King Charles I lost his head completely, declaring it to be “the finest in all my kingdom!”

When I go there next (and there will definitely be a next time) I plan to ride on Britain’s steepest inland funicular railway from the Low Town to the High Town – ideally on a day when the sun is shining.  There was, sadly, no opportunity to do this on Friday. But I visited the bustling market and also ate well in the King’s Head – feeling this to be an appropriate gesture to Charles I!

I enjoyed the distinctive shops and was impressed by some of the 16th and 17th century architecture – along with the town’s whole ambiance. I was left with the definite impression that its inhabitants were glad to live there.

On Saturday night, driving home in a southwest direction after my conference, I was awed by one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen. The ever-changing light – especially over the Mendip hills – was quite awesome and extraordinary. I’d have stopped on the M5 and photographed it but for the fact my camera could never have done it justice.

We live in a wonderful world, don’t we?

DARTMOOR TORS

 

I said the other day that I’d soon be bringing you some pictures of Dartmoor Tors, so here are two that caught my attention recently. My own name for the first is Rock of Ages, because it seems to me to have a character that dates back perhaps to the beginning of time. And is that an eye gazing at us from the left-hand side?

I like the second one because I feel it captures some of the essence of Dartmoor – a dramatic landscape that man has never succeeded in taming.

DESTINATION DARTINGTON

I walked with a friend yesterday alongside the River Dart from Totnes to Dartington Hall. The sun was shining and the river was a sight for sore eyes.

We’re fortunate to have Dartington Hall virtually on our doorstep (give or take a few miles!) as it is a wonderful venue for a whole host of events, set in acres of beautifully landscaped grounds.

Unusually for October, it was warm enough to sit in those grounds enjoying the vista spread out before us. My friend told me how her daughter once acted in a play that was performed just below where we sat – with the audience arrayed along the grassy tiers you can see in the picture.

Having soaked up some sun, we strolled beneath trees beginning to don their autumn dress to the old Cider Press – now renamed ‘Shops At Dartington’ – where we enjoyed a vegetarian lunch in Cranks and then shopped to our hearts’ content. Yes, there’s plenty to be said for life in Devon!

GLORIOUS DARTMOOR

 

Yesterday, had all gone according to plan, I would have been visiting Agatha Christie’s house near Dartmouth. Instead, I had a wonderful time on glorious Dartmoor! What went wrong with the original plan? Just that from 1st October Greenway is apparently closed to the public on Mondays! Glad I found that out before driving to Dittisham and taking the ferry across the Dart …

I headed instead initially for Dartmeet – the picturesque place where the West and East Dart rivers meet by an ancient clapper bridge. There had been heavy rain overnight, so the rivers were in full flow, giving off an incredible degree of energy that was exciting to see.

Beneath a clear blue sky, I felt that I was seeing a portion of Paradise! But after a while I moved on because the whole Moor was spread out around me and it was a perfect day to revel in all its glory.

I’d already passed the pretty Tavistock Inn (which is miles from Tavistock, incidentally) and now I was passing Dartmoor ponies grazing nonchalantly, as well as granite tors rising darkly in contrast to the gentle Devon contours surrounding them. These weird stacks (the remnant core of an ancient mountain range) have been shaped across the centuries by heat and cold, wind and rain.

They have great names, such as Feather Tor, White Tor, Crow Tor, Beardown Tors, Swell Tor and Kings Tor. I’ll be bringing you pictures of a few of these soon.

My ultimate destination was the Peter Tavy Inn, in the village of the same name. I had to proceed along a very narrow lane to reach it and there was a horsebox coming up the lane, necessitating some very stressful uphill reversing, but all was well in the end – and I had a delicious lunch, sitting in the sunshine. While I ate nearby church-bells started ringing melodiously as a bride and groom emerged from the village church. Lovely, lovely day!

 

 

 

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

How can the heading Murder On The Orient Express possibly fit in to My Devon Diary? Well, here’s how it works:

Next Monday, if all goes according to plan, I shall be visiting Agatha Christie’s former holiday home overlooking the River Dart near Dartmouth. I’ve already tried (twice) to visit it, but both trips had to be aborted for various reasons. Hopefully it will be a case of 3rd time lucky!

Meanwhile, last week – while in Istanbul – I visited the Pera Palace Hotel where Agatha Christie once stayed for three months while writing her novel entitled … yes, you’ve guessed it!

So the heading is valid for this Diary, don’t you think?

 

WALK AT NOSS MAYO

I just went with my U3A walking group for a lovely walk at Noss Mayo, near Plymouth. This took us past some very placid cattle and sheep and as we approached the sea we could see Wembury Point and the Great Mew Stone – mew being an old word for gull.

Then our path took us alongside the River Yealm’s estuary, where boats bobbed about and we saw idyllic homes on the far side of the Yealm. On our side, strolling through Passage Wood to Ferry Wood, our feet had the pleasure of the level, well surfaced Revelstoke Drive – originally cut from rock long ago on Lord Revelstoke’s orders. He had an invalid wife and wanted to transport her smoothly in a horse-drawn carriage. So we, still today, are benefiting from the consideration he showed his wife!

Our walk ended at the Swan Inn, overlooking the creek, where we enjoyed a wonderfully nourishing lunch accompanied by views on which we could feast our eyes while eating.