A Fine Week for Devon

We reserved a table outside at The Ship Inn at Cockswood for 6.00pm, hoping that the sun would last long enough for us to be comfortable. In the event, although we’d selected a table that would catch the last rays, the wrought iron chairs, surrounding trees and an invading cloud thwarted any hopes of warmth. It was a good meal, but I envied those who’d had the forethought to bring cosy blankets to wrap up in. A chilly edge to the wind persisted.

Half way through our week exploring the Ex estuary we moved to the other side of the river, to a site called Prattshayes, joining a handful of vans and caravans in a field next to a small stream, presumably once a farm but now a holiday complex consisting of camp site and rental cottages. Less than half a mile up the lane lies the village of Littleham, a large community with two pubs. We wandered up in evening sunshine and had a beer in the garden of The Clinton Arms, although the menu wasn’t tempting.

Cycle fanatic van neighbours, older but clearly more sprightly, recommended a route along an old railway track to Budleigh Salterton, which we decided to tackle next day.

The first climb came up through Littleham village, then after some confusion about where the cycle path began we rode up…and up…

The path curved up through woods, occasional gaps giving glimpses of wonderful views over the Devon countryside and farmland. While it was never steep the gradient was relentless. I vowed not to get off and push as I had on the way to Dawlish and was relieved to make it to the top without walking and even with one or two gears left! Then it was the blessed downhill slope and a hopeless muddle of attempts to find the cycle path in the back streets of Budleigh.

At last we plunged down into the tiny town and to the pebbly beach, where a kiosk was doing brisk business in ice creams and coffees. Feeling that an ice cream might be deserved by now we indulged, then walked the bikes along the prom until we were back in town.

We followed up for our final day with a walk up and along the coast path via ‘Sandy Bay’ holiday park, memorable in that in must surely be the most vast array of chalets the world has to offer, [unless you, reader, know better?]. Once we’d crossed it, though, the coastal views were wonderful and we could loop back along the lanes and a footpath to our site without retracing our steps.

That was it for south Devon- until the next time- and somewhere I’ve never been…

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 author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

A Tiny Taste of Freedom

We are in Devon, south west England, just for a week. I’ve paused my antipodean travelogue for this diversion, mostly because any kind of change of scene is a novelty in these restricted times.

The 20/21 winter was long, difficult and gloomy, with its deluge of grim news and statistics pouring out day after day. It prompted a longing for at least some spring weather and lighter evenings. Nobody wants to wish their life away, least of all those of us with fewer years ahead, nevertheless I longed for spring. Now here it is; and with it a small loosening of the bonds that tied us.

We are re-aquainting ourselves with our campervan, which we have used for odd days out but not for an overnight stay since last summer. The weather is fine, with a cold-edged wind as we prepare and pack and I know for sure I’ll have forgotten items or will have packed entirely unsuitable clothing.

We sweep down and across our home county of Dorset following a route we’ve travelled many times but that always provides magnificent views of the Jurassic Coast and charming villages along the way.

We’ve had to begin reserving, planning and booking- a strategy we’re unused to employing as we usually travel on a ‘where shall we go today?’ basis, once, famously turning right at Bordeaux instead of left for the Med due to a forecast of snow, and landing up in the beautiful sunshine of Portugal instead.

Our first destination is in the village of Starcross, between Exeter and Dawlish, a farm site in a valley with a stream and a pond, beautifully laid out. We have a pitch overlooking the hens’ enclosure. It is warm enough to have coffee or lunch outside and I become fascinated by hen society; the way they move en masse from one area to another or individuals make sudden bursts of running for no apparent reason. When I approach the fence they all gravitate to me, presumably in hopes of food although I prefer to imagine it’s in greeting.

Having set up, we walk into Cockswood, a few minutes away, to sit in the outside area of The Ship pub for a drink and to reserve a table to have dinner next evening. There is just enough warmth in the sun for it to be comfortable.

We swing easily into van routine, sleeping well and waking to tea before morning chores; emptying and water-filling. There’s plenty of time to read, write or potter [Husband’s preferred activity] then after lunch we set off for our first, amoebic cycle of the year, towards Dawlish. I’ve got over my first cycle wobbles by the time we reach Dawlish Warren, a funfair and tourist spot which is seething with revellers, although my thighs are aching, but when we turn up towards Dawlish itself the hill proves too much and I have to alight and push. I’m alarmed! Is this the end for me and cycling?

Next day we stride out along the footpath towards Exeter, past Powderham Castle and the church then along the river bank towards the canal. we stop for a rest at the loch, where the pub is doing great business, most tables being occupied. We turn back and sink onto a bench, footweary by the coffee kiosk in Starcross for reviving tea and cake.

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 author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook