Australia 2011: Melbourne and Around

My cousin and her partner went above and beyond to make us welcome. As well as accommodating us they took us around Victoria, showing us the sights and being wonderful tour guides. We met up with my aunt for meals, coffees and plenty of ‘catching up’.

We visited areas that had been devastated by catastrophic fires some years before- and further fires have ravaged huge swathes of Australia since we were there. We visited ‘Hanging Rock’, famous for its true tale of missing girls which was made into a feature film in 1975.

One odd anomaly about our travels in Australia until then was that we’d seen almost no kangaroos- animals I’d expected to have seen almost daily. But here, at last, we were treated to sightings of dozens of the creatures, lounging about casually or standing brazenly to gaze around them.

Our hosts live on the outskirts of Melbourne, so following my cousin’s instructions regarding transport we set off unaccompanied to explore the city. Melbourne has a character of its own, quite different from Sydney, Adelaide or Cairns- other metropoli we’d looked at. It felt more like a modern, cosmopolitan European city. It bustled with life and commerce, its streets busy with shoppers, traders and the occasional busker. We stopped to listen to a couple performing their songs on the pavement- he playing an unusual, stringed instrument and she the singer. While we were taken enough with it to buy one of their CDs, I have to admit to not really having listened to it since we returned. Like those unusual bottles of spirits you become passionate about in a foreign land, it was destined to languish in the back of a cupboard until the next de-cluttering session.

Melbourne has its own iconic, tall skyscraper- the Eureka Tower.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eureka_Tower

We had fun in the lift up to the top of the tower, then enjoyed some time looking at the views over Melbourne and beyond. When the time came for us to return to the suburbs, and to my cousin’s house, we got into a bit of a pickle. We’d forgotten our instructions and needed to let her know when we’d be back, but had no clue as to her email. This trip pre-dated smartphones, of course. But one thing I was sure of- if I could find and internet cafe I’d have my aunt’s email address saved and I’d be able to ask her for my cousin’s address. Phew! How things have changed in the entervening years since 2011! Anybody would think it was all a long time ago!

In the event it was all fine, and we got back ok. There was precious little time left. My kindly cousin took us to the airport to drop off our van, in advance of our flight. We had a last supper together at the airport before saying our final goodbyes and I felt emotional at leaving my cousin and her partner- strangers at first, shy at meeting, then we’d bonded over memories and family knowledge shared.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Australia. On to Melbourne

Having collected our third and final van at Adelaide we set off for the next chapter of our Antipodean Odyssey, The Great Ocean Road, which would take us to Victoria and to Melbourne. While the weather continued to be very warm, the landscape morphed into a contrasting character to the arid surroundings of The Outback, becoming more familiar and more in common with many parts of coastlines in Europe and in our own UK.

The wildlife, however was vastly different and we were treated to a multitude of wonderful encounters, such as arrays of brightly coloured parrots and the time we needed to pull up and allow an echidna to meander across the road in front of us.

The Great Ocean Road is famous for ‘The Twelve Apostles’, tall stacks of rock which protrude from the waves like a watery hall of columns, but they are fewer now- eight left, according to Wikipedia. Altogether it is a stunning coast line, although many such rock formations exist around the world.

Once we were into Victoria there was also a more familiar, homely atmosphere, the communities less foreign with their coffee shops, bookshops and so on.

One thing that struck us with both New Zealand and Australia was that other than in large cities such as Sydney, bars and restaurants, where they existed, shut up shop early in the evenings. The vast majority of them existed only for betting purposes and housed screens and machines purely for this purpose. If we were lucky enough to find a bar or a pub open we could sometimes get a drink, only to be told the place would be closing at around 9pm, once the gambling was finished. We’ve visited quite a few countries and have found many areas away from large cities to be lacking in any sort of evening opening, notably the USA and the more rural areas of Europe. This leaves me with an impression that the UK is unique in having pubs and restaurants throughout its shires, although in recent times pubs have been disappearing from many of our villages.

When I was about ten years old I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of my uncle and aunt. I don’t remember much about it but I do remember seeing a photo of myself plus my two cousins, decked out in stiff, knee-length frocks and carrying little posies. A few years [and two babies] later the couple emigrated, like so many, to Australia where my uncle set up a business that was to become very successful, settled into Australian life and had a third child. In the years that followed there was scant contact between our families. We cousins all grew up. My uncle, sadly, passed away. But before we left the UK to embark on this long trip I knew I couldn’t go so far and not meet up with my long, lost aunt and perhaps my cousins.

It was a little tricky getting in touch but we managed it and arranged to meet. My aunt had moved and downsized from their large family home but still lived in Victoria in a small community, whereas the cousin I’d never met, who’d been born in Australia, lived in Melbourne. In a spontaneous gesture of hospitality, she and her partner offered to accommodate us for the remainder of our time, which is a huge step to take for those you’ve never met!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia 2011: Alice Springs and Adelaide

We’d arrived to Alice Springs and the end of our exploration of this enormous country’s red heart. True, we’d only scratched the surface, only had time for a brief flavour of the extraordinary landscapes, but we’d still a lot more to see and do. We had time for a peremptory examination of Alice Springs, a town I’d hitherto mainly associated with the Nevil Shute novel, ‘A Town Like Alice’ and film of the same.

Modern Alice is a pleasing place with a hint of wild west about it and enough shops, bars and restaurants to satisfy passing tourists. I still have [and wear] the rust coloured safari shirt patterned with Australian wildlife that I bought there. By now we’d passed a substantial part of the UK autumn in the southern hemisphere- their spring, and Christmas was not too far ahead, would be upon us once we got back home. But there was little in Alice to herald the event, and it was hot, although by this time we were well acclimatised.

We had a domestic flight arranged for Adelaide, where we were to spend a couple of nights before picking up the next [and final] van for our trip along the south coast. Our hotel in central Adelaide was swanky indeed, the room uber modern with one of those glass bathrooms in the centre that leaves you exposed to your room-mate whatever activity you may be engaged in. Hmmm…

Unlike Alice, Adelaide had moved into full Christmas mode, our hotel foyer bedecked with decorations and Christmas trees and across the street, a department store entrance bore a sleigh complete with reindeer and Santa Claus. And all of this in sweltering heat, the tinsel glinting in sunshine as the air wobbled above the pavements. I suppose anyone who has grown up in what to us is a topsy-turvy climate is accustomed to snowy scenes in stifling temperatures, but it felt incongruous to me.

Adelaide itself I considered to be an elegant, beautifully laid out town with attractive parks and wide avenues. It also seemed to be a bit of a party central, the restaurants and bars not short of revellers of various kinds.

All too soon it was time to leave and to collect our third van of the trip, which was to take us along the famous South Coast Highway and a spectacular coastline, if the guide books were to be believed. There were to be more sights and experiences before our arrival to Melbourne, but best of all, if all went well I’d get to meet up with someone I hadn’t seen since childhood!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia: The Long, Hot Road South

We were on the next leg of our Australian Odyssey, travelling by bus, a seven hour road trip. In the previous post I described how our driver made what could have been a tedious and tiring journey a fascinating and enlightening seven hours by sharing stories and radio clips as well as entertaining facts. The beginning of our drive was early- and dark, meaning that visibilty was limited and as the driver explained, roadkill was inevitable along the road, even though traffic was sparse. Enormous ‘land trains’ are not designed to make emergency stops.

There were breaks along the way at lonely cafes where we could buy meals and drinks as well as art and craft work by indigenous Australians, who were sometimes around, seated outside. The sun’s heat was as unrelenting as the red, dusty road was straight.

We arrived to our stop at King’s Canyon National Park, where we were to undertake a guided walk. As we descended from the cool of the bus the heat assaulted us. Our guide explained that we must choose between a shorter, less taxing walk or a longer, more arduous one. We needed to make this choice on the basis of how fit we were, as if we chose the longer route we’d have to carry at least 2 litres of water. We judged that we could manage the longer hike, a smaller group. Before we got going we were advised not to gulp down large amounts of water but to sip, swigging leading to the necessity for bladder emptying- not a convenient situation out here in the bush. I must point out here, however, that those of us who are used to camping are also used to dealing with peeing outdoors. I’d say the guide was more concerned with leaving the landscape unsullied than our sensibilities.

It was hot. The walk was, at times, hard. Sometimes we had to clamber up and down. There was a point when, on the way down some rocks, I inadvertently trod on a snake. We’d been specifically warned to avoid them, but whilst negotiating a steep descent I hadn’t seen the small, black, wriggling creature and it fell foul of my boot. Horrors! I watched aghast as it threw itself out of the path. At least I hadn’t murdered it- although Husband issued a stern admonishment!

There were some wonderful views, including a pristine pool- astonishing in the desert environment- the reflections beautiful. There were also beautiful birds and flowering plants, eking out a living in this parched, unforgiving environment. The rock stacks and ravines towered or plunged, the colours changing through a varying palette of russet, ochre and deep red. It was worth the effort- the climbs and the seering heat, to see such an astonishing place.

We returned to the bus, filthy from sweat and dust but jubilant from having completed the hike. Then it was on to our next destination, Alice Springs, for a stopover and I was looking forward to seeing such an iconic town…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia 2011: The Red Centre

We’d enjoyed our time in Cairns and especially our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, which it was a privelege to see and one that may be denied to subsequent generations if the warming oceans prompt its destruction.

Now it was time to surrender the current van and take to the sky again- this time a flight to another of Australia’s renowned sites: Ayers Rock, otherwise known as Uluru. The excursion had been booked here in the UK as part of the whole trip, rather than left to us to organise on the hoof. We needed to clear the van, our home for the previous 2 weeks and were faced with the problem of shedding some belongings in order to get our luggage [one bag each] down to the requisite weight for the small plane. Remember, we’d begun our trip weeks ago in New Zealand and had been in the snow-clad south of the south, where we’d worn multiple, thick layers of clothes. Now we were in the sweltering tropics and due to travel to the arid interior. The woolly layers had to go.

But where? We’d have to discard clothing, but were reluctant, even in this former, less-aware-of-sustainability time. Having sorted the items we decided that a charity shop- a thrift store- would be the answer and duly toured Cairns in search of one…in vain. In the end we just had to leave our discarded items by the recycling bins in the hope that someone would make use of them.

We arrived to our desert hotel, a building cunningly situated and camouflaged to make as little visual impact on the barren landscape as possible. I rather liked the hotel for its boho vibe, unlike one or two of the others which were catering for the luxury end of the market. We had a kind of cabin room and the dining area consisted of long trestle tables we could share with other travellers. The food involved lots of BBQ- including crocodile, kangaroo etc, a naturalist’s nightmare!

We were to rise early to go out to see sunrise at Uluru. In the event, we didn’t get to see so much as a single ray of sun since the weather was stuck in stubborn, overcast mode, but the company at the dawn party was convivial and fun and we got to see the rock close up.

There was another day at Uluru so despite the heat we walked a bit, looking at a camel farm and taking in the amazing vistas. There was also a modest mall of shops and even a salon, where I took advantage and went for a much-needed haircut.

The next leg of our trip was to be by coach. Normally I’d avoid coach tours, but this was no ordinary bus excursion. We were to travel from Uluru down through the Red Centre to Alice Springs, via Kings Canyon National Park. We’d stop at King’s Canyon to do a guided hike. While I knew little about the area it was to turn out to be a proper highlight for a number of reasons.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia 2011: Cairns

We came to Cairns and to an enormous, well-appointed, established site on the edge of town. All was good, other than that a small bird, which I believed to be an Australian robin took a dislike to my sunhat and descended from its tree by the gate to attack it whenever I went that way.

The town is unremarkable and pleasant enough, with a variety of bars and restaurants. The seafront promenade is glorious, though, sparkling ocean combined with clusters of pelicans and other wildlife.

We were outside a bar having a beer when an uncomfortable incident occurred. There had been a group of indiginous Australians in the shade of the trees opposite the bar who’d been drinking. A woman approached the nearest table inside the barrier of the bar and accosted another woman sitting at the table, demanding to know what she was staring at. While it was unpleasant for the woman who was the target of this verbal attack,this was our first experience of the anger that native Australians clearly feel and I still reflect on it today, although I have no idea of the answer. Inequality exists in every country in the world, with some countries dealing better with it than others.

The main purpose of visiting Cairns was to visit the Great Barrier Reef and we soon got ourselves booked on a trip there, lunch included. I had no idea how I would cope with a sightseeing tour of an underwater wonder of the world, since I am barely a swimmer and have an innate horror of being underwater. The times when I’ve been submerged I’ve found to be unpleasant, painful [to the sinuses] and terrifying. I’ve written about my experiences with swimming in a previous post https://gracelessageing.com/2013/09/05/when-you-know-you-are-out-of-your-depth/. But now I knew that the only way I would see the Great Barrier Reef properly would be to overcome my horrors and get under the water.

Once underway on the boat we were given a comprehensive talk by an enthusiastic guide which came some way to allaying my fears. They were not only used to those of us who are not water-babies but evangelistic about everyone seeing the reef and its inhabitants, determining that nobody would return having not experienced the marvels of this phenomenon. We’d be coached, cajoled and cared for. I relaxed…a bit.

On arrival to the spot wwhere we were to explore we got changed and kitted out with snorkels, life vests and flippers. Husband, though not himself a water refusenik, is no more a fan of water leisure than I. Nevertheless he was perfectly confident to get down under, having been a regular body-boarder at home. We nerve-wracked, weedy ones went to get our tutorial on snorkelling and a short practice and I was heartened to not be alone in my paranoia.

In the event we got to cling on to a rubber ring and dip our heads in enough for a proper underwater experience. I’d like to say that from that point on I never looked back- that I became a virtual mermaid and devotee of wild swimming- but I’d be lying. I’m still not a fan of swimming and unless I’m too hot I’ll do nothing more than paddle. But I was thrilled to be able to see the colourful fish and corals at the reef and especially the enormous, tame, blue fish that joined us for some of the time, fed and groomed by the boat crews to be fearless among the spluttering tourists.

I didn’t stay in for hours. Twenty minutes or so was about my limit. I wasn’t so good at snorkelling and had ingested more salty seawater than was comfortable. Husband stayed in longer. We enjoyed a buffet lunch- much appreciated, and returned to Cairns, but while I’d only spent a very short period looking at the wondrous reef I felt a sense of triumph that I’d managed it!

Then it was time to move on to the next Australian adventure…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Australia 2011: Towards Cairns

Fraser Island seemed to be a ‘must’, so we made a stop at a site nearby and made reservations to go over there the following day. We got up early ready for the bus to take us to the boat, waiting by the site gate…and waiting…and waiting. An hour later, as we were about to give up, the bus came. Our mistake- we hadn’t accounted for a change of time zone. But the island of sand was worth the wait- if only for the wacky traffic on the sandy beach- several vehicles including a small plane.

We had a stopover before reaching Cairns at Townsville, where a large site faced the ocean and was semi occupied by permanent residents. We are used to staying in all kinds of sites, some purely for tourers and others where people have their permanent homes, either being perfectly acceptable to us.

It was while we were at Townsville that something happened to us which had never happened before…and has not happened since. We were robbed.

It was in the morning. We packed up ready to go and had decided to go and visit the town’s aquarium before we moved on. The last couple of morning jobs included taking the recycling across to the bins, which I did, whilst simultanaeously Husband had nipped out to empty something, meaning that the van was unlocked and open…for all of one minute, our bags left on the front seats. Thus far we’d noticed nothing amiss. We drove from the site and to the aquarium, where we entered and prepared to buy tickets. Husband drew out his wallet- which was empty of all cash. I drew out mine- also empty of cash. I don’t recall how much cash we’d had, but it was a substantial sum, however we still had our bank cards. Phew!

I’ll never know how someone was able to get into the van, access both wallets from our bags and lift all that money in such a short time! It was a salutary lesson on van security though and I think we have to see it in the context of all the years we’ve travelled safely and without incident.

Before going to Cairns we went to the Eungas National Park, a site in a great position up in the hills where we hoped to see some wondrous wildlife…and we were not disappointed. It was a peaceful and beautiful place, views over the valley below punctuated with impossibly tall palm trees. There were walkways through the forest giving access to waterfalls and pools, delicious, in the tropical heat, to bathe in. We were thrilled to see all the wonderful bird and plant species, but far and away the best thrill, after waiting patiently by a quiet pool in the early evening, was spotting a duck-billed platypus paddling around, oblivious to us.

As we’d still not spotted any koalas roaming wild we resorted to visiting a wildlife sanctuary where the cuddly creatures were in abundance, mostly slumbering, as is their nature. Wandering around, we were followed so closely by unfenced wallabies that I stepped back and trod on the toes of one, leading me to apologise profusely…and foolishly. Among the other animals there were cassuaries, dingoes and the most enormous, ferocious crocodile I have ever seen.

Then it was on to Cairns itself…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Australia’s East Coast, 2011

This is the second episode of my Australia Travelogue. Part 1 can be found in last week’s post.

While we’d barely looked at Sydney we couldn’t delay the pick-up of the campervan for another day, so we escaped the cheerful grime of the backpacker hostel and went to fetch our wheeled home for the next 4 weeks.

The plan at this point was to motor up the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns, about 1500 miles. We allocated one week for this journey.

To begin with, the beaches and harbours where we stayed were very similar; wind and wave-swept stretches of coast, for the most part almost deserted except for an occasional walker. The character of the campsites differed from New Zealand’s in that they were larger, bleaker and less intimate. On the first night’s stop we were thrilled by the sight of moderately large lizards which loitered around the pathways and tracks with a studied nonchalence, looking like security personnel.

This was a long drive, punctuated by mainly overnight stops. En route we needed to shop and [of course] pick up beers and so on, using the ‘bottle shops’, since alcohol is not sold in supermarkets as it is in the UK.

As we motored north towards Queensland the landscape gradually altered. Towns were further apart and there were vast stretches of agricultural land where sugar cane is grown. We’d sometimes spot a goods train transporting the cane and these long, snaking vehicles seemed to stretch for ever across the flat fields. The coast was also changing, the beaches huge, the tidal range massive. Along the road we encountered land trains- gigantic lorries pulling a number of large trailers. The roadsides were sometimes fringed with eucalyptus trees and during my turns as a passenger, I was constantly scanning the trees for koalas, a pursuit which was never successful.

There were, however, encounters with wildlife in other areas, such as site showers, where we’d share an occasional shower with a cane toad or a lizard.

For some reason we had high expectations on the approach to Surfers Paradise, a large city south of Brisbane- maybe it was because we’d spent long hours on deserted roads or looking at miles of sugar cane fields and the idea of a surfers town appealed to us. I was thinking of our own Newquay, in Cornwall, UK- a surfer’s paradise for sure. But Surfer’s Paradise, Australia was not at all what we expected. It is a high rise conglomeration and no glimpse of surf greeted us as we drove through. A motor racing event was taking place, so all there was to see were stands and flags. We passed on through.

I was also in a fever of anticipation to see Brisbane, and indeed it did look wonderful as we drove along the river front, searching for somewhere to park the van so that we could explore the place. But here, we drew a blank. We could find nowhere at all to park our wagon and I had to be content with photographing what I could see from the windows. Ho hum. Perhaps we’ll make a return visit at some stage?

So we continued onwards and northwards…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Peaks and Troughs in Sydney

It’s now a whole 10 years since we threw in our proverbial towels, packed our bags and set off on what remains our longest and most thrilling trip; first to New Zealand and then on to Australia. And while we were to be away for almost 3 months it felt like a real adventure, rather than a ‘holiday’.

I’ve described our trip around New Zealand, and how we were to visit plentry of spots that many New Zealanders have not seen, especially those who live on North Island. We’d timed the visit to coincide with the Rugby World Cup that year but gave ourselves enough opportunity to see the country. Even so, there remain places we missed!

Nevertheless, before the final of the RWC we’d planned to move on- not to return home, but to return to Australia for a look at as many iconic and well-known sights as we could fit in.

Arrival to Sydney from Auckland was late, and by the time our transfer had dropped us at the opulent ‘Seasons Darling Harbour’ hotel it was too late to see or do anything [we’d been last to drop off on the transfer bus]. At check-in to the hotel we were told we’d been booked in the previous year and marked as a ‘no-show’. This was our first hitch of the entire excursion and a real blow, since there were no rooms available, apparently, although the receptionist rallied and offered us a ‘suite’ somewhere high up in the high-rise hotel. This was all very pleasant as the suite comprised a living room as well as bathroom and bedroom, although we were only booked in for the one night!

The following morning, as I sat on the high rise toilet and contemplated the stupendous view of Sydney Harbour I heard a loud rushing noise which was quickly followed by the monorail swishing past the window. Who knew? The commuters would have a tale to tell their colleagues.

Realising we should have given orselves more time to view Australia’s iconic city before collecting our first Australian van, we asked about reserving a second night, only to learn that the price would entail taking out a mortgage, upon which discovery we checked out to seek a cheaper option. This, sadly, turned out to be the ‘backpacker hostel’, providing as stark a contrast to the previous night’s stay as it is possible to describe. Nevertheless we wanted more time to see Sydney and had little choice but to check in.

Wary of the greyish sheets on the bed and the sticky carpet, we left our bags and set off to see the sights, which were, admittedly, quite wonderful- Sydney Harbour Bridge standing stately over the glistening water and the iconic Opera House presiding over all. The waterfont is all you would expect. We took a ferry over to Manly, mainly for the views.

Eventually, after a long day of tourist sight bombardment, we returned to the skanky hovel of our accommodation and made the best of it.

In other areas, our travel fortunes continued to be rocky when a cash machine denied my card and refused to cooperate, which was yet another blow. Without card use or cash we were proverbially stuffed. We gathered together such change as we could muster and bought a phone card which we used to call my bank, who, I was at pains to explain, had been thoroughly apprised of all our travel plans; at which, yes, they did restore my financial capability. Phew!

Our Close County Neighbours

Last week I described some of the features of Dorset’s iconic landscapes and seascapes and it’s easy to see why visitors to our lovely county flock here, not only in the summer but throughout the year.

Our neighbouring county to the west, Devon is also a popular tourist destination and we’d booked a few nights just over our county border, in tiny Axmouth, where we’ve stayed before. The site is in the heart of the village, facing the River Axe as it becomes an estuary flowing out to sea at the small town of Seaton. It’s easy to walk into Seaton from the campsite, by walking along the river and across a bridge. A new, road bridge has replaced a much older one, notable for being the first one constructed of concrete!

The site is much busier than it was the first time we came. It is in a wonderful position- not only having interesting views but also near to the two village pubs and bus stops. Across the other side of the River Axe we can see the cute, Seaton trams trundling backwards and forwards around the ‘Axmouth Loop’. I’m a sucker for a tram at any time, but these are restored, vintage vehicles, dinky, colourful and fun.

We head into Seaton and to the tram station. It’s a large, imposing building for such a small tram network! But of course it houses the ticket office, gift shop and is a station. A tram is about to leave, luckily an ‘open-top’, which gives a good view of the estuary mud flats and Seaton marshes. So we clamber up the narrow, winding steps and bag seats on top; soon we’re off, rumbling along a track that winds out of Seaton, past the old tram shed and along the river, where the tide is out and there are flocks of waders congregated on the muddy shores.

An occasional tram passes on the other side, sometimes waiting on a siding. There is one station along the way, in a wooded section, then we roll along to Colyton, where the track ends. The station here capitalises with [another] gift shop and a cafe. After a short turn around the gift shop there’s little to do except wait for the return tram to Seaton, which we do, rattling back the way we came.

We’ve booked to have dinner at the pub which adjoins our site, which is a result! Next day we take advantage of the bus service and go off to Lyme Regis, famous for ‘The Cobb’ and featured in John Fauld’s well known novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman [also a film]. The Cobb is merely a part of the sea wall surrounding the harbour, but from the end there is a fine view of Lyme Bay. It’s a quaint, characterful town and although it’s crammed with visitors on this sunny afternoon I get a pang of nostalgia as it’s here we stayed 25 years or so ago when Husband and I first got together, taking a room and ‘The Red Lion’ in the High Street and striding out for one of our first SW Coast Path walks.

It’s heartening to see that The Red Lion still exists! For some reason our room’s en suite bathroom had a mysterious, bogus door. Stepping out of the bath, I wrapped a towel around myself and, curious to see where the door led, I opened it, just as people were walking along the corridor it accessed. I wonder who was more surprised?

Later, after dinner I remember we gatecrashed a disco being held by a group called The Buffaloes’, distinguished by hefty chains around their necks, but not by their dancing, as we were the only revellers gyrating on the dance floor. Some of them must have been passing our bathroom when, towel-clad, I opened the door. If they recognised me with my clothes on they gave no sign…

But we aren’t staying in the hotel this time, so it’s back to the bus stop and home to our lovely van-

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook