Covering the Coast

The weather has been so much better the second month of our arrival in Devon that we have been out and about exploring on nearly every day off. There is so much to see and do around here I’m like a kid in a sweet shop not knowing where I want to go next. I’m a massive map lover and study maps like reading a book, Steve often remarks “how on earth do you know about these places?” as I’m guiding him yet again down some tiny green lane with grass growing in the middle to get to a spot on the map I’ve found. The lanes in Devon are not for the meek and mild, most requiring nerves of steel as you approach blind bends on single track roads with passing places few and far between. That’s why these places are so spectacular but even when you think no-one else would be mad enough to find their way there there’s always other people thinking and doing the same.

Devon lanes

The site is looking stunning in the sunshine too. Grass and greenery has now been mowed, preened and pruned, kerbing painted, signs renewed and facilities had a fresh coat of paint. It’s looking very smart out there. Easter was a busy weekend, the site was full as we were just on hardstanding pitches still and thankfully for all who came the weather was great. The sky was blue and the sea was even bluer as you caught a glimpse looking across the treetops. It makes me smile everytime to think I can now see the sea every day- that’s what living in the Midlands for 55 years does to you!

Sun setting on site

We have had three trips back to home and the house since our arrival in March, which is a mighty long way from down here taking 4 and a quarter hours on average each way. First was for a music concert we already had booked in Birmingham so that was a 24hr dash up the M5 and arriving back at 4am in the morning to start work at 10am. Next was for my Dad’s 101st birthday which was a fabulous family celebration get together. Then lastly to do the final clearance and clean of our house ready for the sale completion date. We had anticipated a very busy and emotional 2 days but not quite as emotional as it turned out to be. Our initial thoughts of how liberating and exciting it would be to be free of responsibility and bills was overshadowed by the stark reality that everything our 33 years together had accumulated was either in a charity shop, sold to someone else or packed into a storage container and our castle was now an empty shell. Instead of walking out heads held high we handed the keys over in floods of tears. It will take some getting used to and we try not to think about it too often but life is a journey as they say and this is the road we now travel.

We console ourselves with amazing days out and the stunning scenery that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by. Trips to Hope Cove an idyllic old fishing village with two beaches, pub, restaurant and a gift shop is reached by the obligatory hard to negotiate Devon lanes but is well worth the stress. The sand is clean and golden, the sea a hundred shades of blue and green and the coastal path in each direction gives you stunning views for miles.

Hope Cove

Thurlestone is another coastal village with spectacular views just along from Hope Cove so walking the coastal path from there is the easiest route to take. There are two beaches in close proximity with no facilities at the beach by the golf club but the larger South Milton beach does have toilets, a cafe and watersports. The bay is dominated by Thurlestone Rock an ancient arch shaped formation that is best viewed at high tide.

Start Point is spectacular with its lighthouse and Mattiscombe Beach around the headland. Another narrow winding lane for a few miles up, down and round the Devon hills culminates in a grassy privately owned capark on the hilltop with a little hut where you currently pay £3.50 to park. From here you can walk down a long tarmac path along the rugged peninsula that juts almost a mile out into the sea to reach the lighthouse whilst taking in amazing views of Start Bay and on clear days you can see Beesands, Torcross, Slapton Sands and all the way over to Blackpool Sands. The coastline around the Point once claimed 52 lives in one stormy day in 1892 as 4 boats perished on the rocks.

Start Point Lighthouse and Start Bay

From the same capark in another direction there is a stoney pathway down to Mattiscombe Beach to the south of the lighthouse. This is also an unbelievable view with a perfectly placed bench to sit awhile and listen to the waves rolling in on the Sands or crashing onto the rocks below. The final decent to the sand is a bit of a scramble but do-able and worth it.

We spent a very relaxing couple of hours- after we’d made it back up the hill from Mattiscombe- sitting in Vinny the van having a picnic and admiring 360° views out of every window. We sat in the van as even though it was beautiful blue sky and sunshine the wind was actually blowing our heads off.

Vinny with a view

Another outing has been to Brixham and then onto National Trust Coleton Fishacre. We have visited Brixham several times over the years but still enjoy a stroll around the harbour and onto the marina and beach. It was ‘pirate week’ so everything was decked out in appropriate flags and swashbuckling paraphernalia, including a party of young school children who had visited the pirate ship in the harbour and then were led very enthusiastically by their teachers all around the harbour singing pirate songs and challenging us ‘landlubbers’ with their swords!

Brixham

Coleton Fishacre is a National Trust house and gardens near to Brixham. It was built in the 1920’s by the D’Oyly Carte family as their London weekend escape house and hosted many celebrity parties in its heyday. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and as the property is perched high on a cliffside they extend very steeply in places down to a private cove they used for bathing.

Coleton Fishacre NT

The weather was still sunny and warm through most of May so more coastal days out were had. The park and ride was now in operation for Dartmouth so taking advantage of that we parked up and took the bus into the town. Now the tourist season is taking off the parking in Dartmouth itself is very limited especially for a van/camper so its much easier to use park and rides wherever we can. As we were there on foot we decided to walk to Dartmouth Castle. A very pretty woodland walk along the Dart estuary and past plenty of luxury properties perched on the cliff edges with walls of glass making the most of the stunning views.

The Castle was begun in 1388 and is now managed by English Heritage. The gun tower was added almost a century later and the complex incorporates St Petrox church. The castle saw action in the Civil War and was in use right up to the Second World War. There is a lovely cafe and plenty of outdoor seating to take in the view.

Our coastal visits so far have only covered a very few miles of the stunning South Hams coastline but you’ve probably already got the idea – and seen the photos to prove it – that there’s alot to see and do down here. We are enjoying being tourists whilst also having the good fortune to call the area home, if only for 8 months. There’s lots more days out and photos to come so catch the next blog where we visit a city for a change ( but it’s still on the coast! ) find peace at an Abbey and have lunch with the ponies on Dartmoor.

The Year that Wasn’t…

2020, the last year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, however you want to say it, it really wasn’t the one that we were all expecting. Plans were made by the masses for new adventures during the year, sites booked, journeys planned, and for so many their dreams were finally going to become a reality. Along with most of the population we aswell had all that to look forward to. We had high hopes for 2020 it was going to be our year, time to turn the tables on a “standard” way of life, take a different route and embark on an adventure of our own making.

A quick resume of our year goes something like the following; – I won’t go into too much detail for each month as you can catch up in the relevant blogs if feeling so inclined –

January {see Homemaking and Brexit blog} – we left our old jobs and life as we knew it on 31st January. February {see Countdown blog} – we packed up our belongings and arrived at our site that was to be home for the next 8 months. March {see Settling in blog} – we started our new jobs as Assistant Site Wardens, opened the site to members on 12th and closed the site on the 23rd. April {see Lockdown Life blog} – we spent endless sunny days taking local walks, cycling around the site and watching the grass grow. May {see Lost in Lockdown blog} – more sunshine and blue sky, crafting, painting and watching nature return to site. June & July {see Light at the end of the Lockdown Tunnel blog} – the hot weather ended, we opened the site again and excitedly welcomed back the caravanning fraternity. August & September (see Silly Season blog} – days went by in a blur of smiles, waves and happy campers and we bought Vinny the van. October {see Our Season draws to a Close blog} – the end of our season was in sight, arrivals began to slow down and we started packing up our caravan home. November & December {see Returning to Home from Home blog} – we returned to a house, got used to living in 4 walls again and got stuck there in another lockdown.

So that in a nut shell was the year that really wasn’t supposed to be like that. But even so, everything we have done, experienced, achieved and learned in that year has meant we have had some of the most satisfying and enjoyable days of our lives. We have been together – all day – every day – yes absolutely every day – so that in itself has taught us both alot! Mostly patience and toleration I think, which is very much needed in order to keep harmony in such a small space. It is quite surprising how many times you both seem to want to get through a very small caravan door at the same time, and then have a debate on who has the most right to go first! But in the main we have had a ball being together, we laugh all the time – both at and with each other! We are proud of each other for all the new skills we have learnt and handling the new situations we find ourselves in, and have supported and relied on each other through times when the going got tough. So whilst 2020 wasn’t what we expected it to be all in all it was a year we won’t forget for so many more reasons than just Corona Virus.

The novelty of being back within 4 walls was quickly wearing off, being confined to base in the middle of the Country we were really missing seeing the sea. Our planned travel and holiday destinations had been scrapped and replanned several times so now there was no point in planning a Plan D and with lockdown restrictions imposed for a third time we took to exploring the local area. Snow arrived and made everywhere look pretty for a few days so when weather permitted we took walks around our local lanes, trudging through snow, mud and puddles imagining it was the sand and sea on the Spanish coast as per Plan A would have been. The canal and fields around us did look mighty pretty though in the weak winter sunshine.

Local walks around the village

Vinny the van has had a facelift since we have been home, with his wheels being black powder coated, and a rear door spoiler and front bumper splitter being fitted he now looks very smart and ready to face the world out on the open road. A few more areas inside have been covered and carpeted and we look forward to warmer drier days ahead when we can go further afield and get some camping time out of him. Bill the Bailey is having little tweaks and additions ready to become our next home from home. New bedding, throws, cushions and rugs have been added, plate racks and wine glass holders fitted in the cupboards and a clothes rail fitted in the shower area. Although there are more cupboards in the Bailey than the Eccles the wardrobe space isn’t as large so having to take a wide range of clothes to cover every possible weather variant for 8 months it called for an extra rail to be fitted. As the caravan shower area isn’t needed whilst we are sited in our warden compound it seemed the ideal place to be used as an extra wardrobe. That aswell as it being the wine cellar now makes it a much more useful space! Unfortunately he has been covered in snow several times since his arrival on the drive which is making us jittery, we didn’t buy a new cover for him as we had thought we would be out and about travelling during our time off, but it will be on our ‘to get list’ for next Winter as we would prefer him to be tucked up nice and warm and dry when not in use.

New look for Vinny
Bill out in the cold

Desperate for a change of view whilst out taking our daily exercise we went to Shugborough Hall our nearest National Trust property a couple of miles away. It was a beautiful sunny day so we made a flask of coffee wrapped up warm and headed out. Shugborough was the home of the Anson family who became the Earls of Lichfield, the most recent noteable one being celebrity photographer Patrick Lichfield who was the photographer for the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 and the Queens Golden Jubilee in 2002. He continued to live in apartments in the Mansion until his death in 2005, although he had given the estate over to the National Trust in 1960 to cover death duties arising from his grandfathers death. There was plenty of space out and about on the estate without coming into contact with any other walkers, and thousands of acres of big blue sky and fresh air, although a great deal of the gardens and pathways were under several feet of water so impassable in many places. In the walled garden there was an installation of boards showing images from the Garden Photographer of the Year competition which was both very interesting and inspirational to look around. The coffee (and cake) was very welcome when we got back to Vinny after several hours of rambling, and we sat for a while sunning ourselves on his step albeit wrapped up in woolly hats and scarves. Herds of deer also were visible enjoying the warm winter sunshine in the grounds aswell as on Cannock Chase as we drove back through.

Shugborough Hall
Large areas of the estate were flooded

January has proved to be fairly uneventful, mostly days when there was nothing we had to do and also days when there was nothing we actually wanted to do! It has been nice to just sit and watch TV, films and box sets which is something of a luxury as there’s never the opportunity to do that whilst on site, and as the time back here at home is now dwindling fast, weeks now turning into days, we are savouring the little luxuries that would have been taken for granted 12 months ago. Things like a bath, a king size bed, lounging on full size settees, having a bathroom and kitchen you don’t have to go outside to get to, and having every item of clothing and pair of shoes I own available to wear should I fancy to!

It will soon be time to start writing lists and creating piles of items ready to pack up Bill the Bailey and Vinny the Van again and head back down to Rookesbury Park for the 2021 season. I wonder what this year will have in store for us all? who can begin to imagine, but what’s for certain is that we’ll have an exciting adventure every day.

Catch up with us next time as we spend our last couple of weeks living in the house, start packing for our 8 months away and make the return journey to our other home and life.