At the crack of dawn (5.30am) on the 14th of August, Sue and I packed the car in readiness for our journey south to the beaches of Devon. At precisely 6.30am, wheels crunching the driveway gravel, the adventure began. The Rothwells followed some 40 minutes later.
After a relatively quiet journey we rendezvoused around two and a half hours later on the seafront at Clevedon. It was going to be a lovely day. The boys were clearly nearly as excited as the grown ups and had to be calmed with an invigorating walk along the cliff tops to the site of a nearby Iron Age fort. Great sea views and on return to the cars we were entertained for a while by the local model boat club who chose to demonstrate their craft on the newly refurbished Lido.
Returning to the motorway we took just over 2 hours to reach Ilfracombe. After fruitlessly searching for a parking space close to a suitable spot for a picnic we struck lucky and found the beginning of a cliff walk which had no yellow lines and plenty of space to park a large number of vehicles. Scrambling along a narrow path, avoiding the many nettles we found a bench with magnificent views over the sea and above a cove that we were to visit the following day. Sandwiches and snacky things were soon consumed and after a foray down the cliff to the sea by Suraj and the boys we returned to the cars.
Parking on yellow lines outside our sea-front hotel we dropped off our luggage and checked in. Suraj and I bought weekly parking permits from the Tourist Information Office just down the road and then parked the cars around ha a mile away.
Returning to the hotel we had a chance to check out our rooms. Not the largest, cleanest or most facilitated rooms we have ever stayed in. But, as we wanted this particular week (just happened to be high season), the hotel reluctantly agreed to let us have these rooms that were clearly going to be refurnished and upgraded in October. Luckily, the Rothwells room was worse than ours and the screw driver that Charlotte had brought came in handy!
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the quaint town of Ilfracombe. It doesn’t appear to have changed at all over the decades and thankfully there is no loud glitz and glitter about the place. The harbour was very busy with an endless stream of cars seeking out a vacant parking spot making it difficult to navigate the streets. The weather was gorgeous and with seagulls wheeling and crying overhead it brought back happy childhood memories.
We had our evening meals booked in the hotel. A few days later this was to be a matter of some debate between ourselves and the management, but was resolved to our advantage when we produced the paperwork. Good old internet. The food in the hotel was good, particularly in the evenings, where we could choose from the A’ la carte menu.
After dining we made the steep climb up the hill opposite the hotel to watch the sunset. It didn’t take too much imagination to visualize being on a Greek island, though with a pocket full of British pounds rather than Euros and a stomach full of British beef rather than Greek goat. We finished the evening off by playing roll-a-penny in the arcade near the hotel.
After breakfast we planned to visit the Tunnel Beaches, accessed by passages cut through the cliff by the Victorians. Suraj and I diverted to the cars to pick up beach games left in the boots. Unfortunately, Suraj has been gifted a parking ticket by the authorities. A few days later we tackled the issuer and he had to admit it did look as if he was in a parking bay and advised us to dispute it (Suraj will).
We spent the morning and some of the afternoon on the beach and invented a new game that we have called ‘Sitting Bowls’. It is more than likely to be in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
That evening we went to the theatre and watched a performance of ‘Wind in the Willows’ by a local theatre group before sitting in the rooftop restaurant at a promenade Weatherspoons for a very late evening meal. A quick roll-a-penny session was performed before bed. This became a ritual each evening as the boys (and Sue) enjoyed the excitement of accruing large amounts of winning tickets that would be exchanged for gifts at the end of the stay. Suraj and I added to the ritual by playing pool in the bar next door as tickets were being harvested.
After breakfast the following morning we set off through the town, past the harbour, up the hill (where Sue informed they once stayed in a B&B there as children), by the Rugby Club on whose !st team pitch had a circus tent on (sacrilege) to the small village of Hele Bay. A lovely beach, great for playing ‘Sitting Bowls’ and beach cricket, and that’s how we passed the time. We left late in the afternoon when the tide started to reach its peak and fellow beachcombers had shuffled up all around us, thus limiting our game play. The trek back to the hotel was notable for the surprising amount of energy Lucas and Ellis demonstrated in helping to carry the equipment back. I think the promise of coins for roll-a-penny may have been a key motivation.
Later that evening we returned to the harbour for ice creams and fudge.
The next days adventure involved driving to Lynton & Lynmouth. We stopped briefly on the way at Woody Bay Station to look at the steam trains.
After finding a car park that our weekly parking passes conveniently covered, we meandered up through the town of Lynton, to th an wander down its High Street to window, shop entering most of the gift shops on either side. After a short foray along a nature trail through Rockvale we purchased some excellent fish and chips and then finding a little spot in the churchyard which afforded spectacular views over the town of Lynmouth we joined other picnickers and stuffed ourselves. We collected together the large quantity of left overs into one box in readiness for some illegal seagull feeding.
Making our way to the Funicular we bought tickets and descended to sea level. It wasn’t long before the local bird life too was satiated and it was noted that several did labour somewhat in flight afterwards. Again, we visited gift shops, walked over bridges and looked at the very rocky beach by the harbour before joining a growing queue at the Funicular station for an easy ascent.
Returning to the car, we stopped off on our journey to Ilfracombe at the small but lovely resort of Combe Martin. The tide was on the turn so we only had around an hour there before the sand all but disappeared.
That night after dinner in the hotel the boys traded in their bundles of tickets for toys at the arcade shop.
The following day, after breakfast we packed, brought the cars down and stuffed the boots with our chattels before parking the cars again. We spent around an hour along the High Street, mostly window shopping, but some sweets were bought.
Around 11am we went our separate ways. The Rothwells headed north back home, stopping first at Cheddar Gorge and then in Bristol to see the sights while the heavy Friday night motorway traffic dissipated. We set the Satnav to shortest route which we knew would take us through the middle of Exmoor and headed south towards Buckfastleigh and Philippa’s.
It was a lovely route, though with many junctions and mostly along very narrow single track roads. Surprisingly we met no other vehicles on the road until after Chagford, where we stopped for refreshments at the Three Crowns and cheesy scones in the café next door. After a a stroll around this rather affluent village; chatting to a local he mentioned he had a house in Australia, one in Germany and one there, then got into his Range Rover and drove off.
We did meet several cars on the next leg of our journey but they must have all been locals as they knew where the passing places were and we didn’t have to do any reversing. We arrived at our destination to find that Simon was there, head buried in his laptop yet managing to watch the Olympics on the TV as well.
After tea we spent the evening chatting and watching the Olympics. Like Team GB, Philippa’s radio therapy seems to be going very well and she appears to be coping with the treatment with no obvious effects.
The following morning after breakfast it was decided to go to Slapton Sands for lunch and walk along the beach. Simon was still in bed. having watched the boxing that night until 4.30am, so we left him sleeping and made our way to the coast. The weather forecast wasn’t great but apart from it being very blustery the rain stayed away and the sun came out. We parked half way along the beach and walked around a mile into the wind to the little village at one end. There we had cream scones and drinks and puzzled over lemon halves and cloves. Apparently they keep wasps away (No the don’t!)
After the obligatory shopping in the gift shop (I bought some sour cherry liquorice sticks) we set off back to the car. I left the two sisters to chat and chose a route along the road rather than along the beach. We met up again for ice creams back at the car. On our journey back to Buckfastleigh the rain arrived and set in for the evening.
Simon was still occupied with work and after having an ‘Indian’ for tea with us opted to work in the kitchen on his laptop and watch the Olympics on the TV there. ‘Wraptious’ seems to be doing very well and its sounds like he is branching out into China. There are four of them working in the business now and they are making a healthy profit.
The plan was to drive home the following morning after breakfast and that is what we did. The motorways flowed well and we arrived back in Harborough in record time.
The following day Sue took the boys to Corby and ‘Muddy Mondays’, sounded good and there was a time I would have died to have done such a cool sounding activity, but I dug up a row of potatoes and pulled a row of carrots and beetroot and created my own ‘Mucky Monday’.
On Tuesday it was Sue’s birthday and Charlotte brought the boys over in the morning before she went to work. Sue and I had a lovely day taking them on the bus to Leicester. It was a scorching hot day so we cooled off on the boating lake in Abbey Park then walked along the canal and River Soar into town to the castle. After refreshments in a local hostelry to cool down we visited the market (bought some sweets) before returning by double-decker (upstairs, front seats, how exciting) to Harborough. After taking the boys home I picked Sue up and we made our way to Jamie’s where he made a very nice meal for us. Surprisingly Harley was there.
On Thursday I drove Sue to Bletchley Park to see how the Enigma Code had been broken. We had a guide who showed us where the exhibits were and shared a few stories with us of the people who worked their during the war. After our tour we set off on our own to investigate further, only to stop for a picnic lunch just after midday. We left after 4pm and made our way to a Devere Hotel I had booked in nearby Newport Pagnell. We ate that night in the town at an Indian restaurant.
After a very substantial breakfast, we checked out and had a walk around the town, passing the Aston Martin factory on the way there. We explored further and found a route that took us along the River Ouse before returning to the hotel. It was a fabulous day, warm blue skies and lovely river scenery.
We were home by mid afternoon and as it was a Friday the Rothwells arrived from visiting Conkers for the day a little bit after. We sat outside, ate hotdogs and chatted about what we had been up to.
Harborough has a new show ground on the edge of the town and on Saturday it played host to the Leicester County Show. Sue had arranged for Lynne to visit so I and Jim went to have a look. It was rammed!!! My own fault, I had decided to visit the allotment and pick vegetables before going, so left it late. When we eventually got into the ground we ambled around the usual farm exhibits, watched a bit of animal judging and observed the Fernie Hunt canter around the show ring with their pack, fingers crossed that one of the hounds would controversially gobble up one of the toddlers sticking our their hands to stroke them. No such luck.
We left just as it started to rain and within an hour we had the loudest and heaviest thunderstorm for years. The fireworks lasted well into the evening. I shall go again next year, but early.
Jamie is off to Fuerteventura with his friends for week in the Autumn.
Sarah, Lee and Mia had a few days camping to Lindisfarne in the North East.