Tag Archives: North Devon

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

I was speaking to a teacher this morning who excitedly told me there were “seven more sleeps” until the school holidays begin, this is a number which fills me with terror and excitement in equal measure. It may seem like a long time to fill with activities, but I think those six weeks will go in the blink of an eye. I asked him last night what he wanted to do over the holidays and together we came up with a summer bucket list of sorts.

We have some sketchy plans for the six weeks our six year old son will be off school and out of routine. I want him to relax, have fun and enjoy being six. We also want to really work hard on getting him ready for the big leap into Year 2, so lots of reading, some work books and lots of counting in twos, fives and tens. 

During the school holidays we are going on holiday in North Devon (right on the Cornish border) and there’s lots to do there. We will be going to the Just So Festival in August and Ben and I will be leaving Daddy and the dog at home and going to Ribby Hall for five days. In between we have trips out and fun things planned, plus plenty of rest days at home so we can chill out and get bored.

What’s on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

⇒ Build sandcastles on the beach in Devon
⇒ Sleep lots (Ben’s suggestion)
⇒ Visit Ben’s cousins in Devon
⇒ Go to the playground in the park
⇒ Visit Westward Ho! and see if the shipwrecks are still visible
⇒ Go crabbing and have fish and chips in Appledore
⇒ Visit the Sealife Centre at Weymouth
⇒ Have lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster
⇒ Go on some treasure hunts using Treasure Trails maps
⇒ Visit the castle fort in the park in Bideford
⇒ Go fossil hunting in Lyme Regis
⇒ Count the stars at night, when camping at The Just So Festival
⇒ Go for a dip in the Bude Pool
⇒ Sing around the Just So Campfire
⇒ Visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester
⇒ Feed the animals at Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall 
⇒ Bake and decorate cakes for our nice neighbours
⇒ Build a bug hotel for our garden
⇒ Have a Cornish pasty picnic on the beach
⇒ Join the Tribal Tournament at The Just So Festival (we are buzzing!)

What's on our Summer Bucket List for 2017?

Check back at the end of the summer to see how we got on!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Perfect Postal Presents from Devon Heaven Hampers

Every year we go for at least one holiday in Devon. To us Devon is a heaven on earth. With breathtaking scenery, gorgeous beaches, excellent country pubs, lovely walks and much, much more to be had, we struggle to find anywhere else to compare.

Two things have to happen when we visit Devon, firstly we have to have a cream tea (himself has it the Devonshire way, cream first, then jam. I have it Cornish style, jam first, then cream), and secondly we do a big Devon food shop, filling our car with local treats we can’t get at home.

When we first started visiting Devon 15 years ago, that would mainly be clotted cream, but that’s more available now. Hubs stocks up on local beers he can’t find in Manchester and top of my list is the best chilli jam in the world which you can only get in one tiny shop in Devon. Also on our list is fudge from Ilfracombe, Devonshire tea, homemade flapjacks, hard to find local cheeses and huge homemade scones. 

I’ve often lamented during the lean months in between our visits to Devon that it would be good to have some kind of food parcel service for people who yearn for some Westcountry fayre. I was thrilled to discover Devon Heaven Hampers who have a huge range of hampers filled with Devonshire goodies, many of which have won Taste of the West Great Taste awards for quality and general deliciousness! 

I’ve picked out three of my favourites from Devon Heaven Hampers

Devon Heaven Hampers

Classic Devon Food Basket

The Classic Devon Food Basket from Devon Heaven Hampers would make a fabulous Christmas gift. It’s a basket full gourmet food all locally sourced in Devon. The basket contains Georgie Porgie’s Puddings – Westcountry Cider and Apple Pudding and an Orange & Cointreau Pudding. Bags of Portlebay Popcorn and Burts Crisps, a bottle of Luscombe Organic Hot Ginger Beer, a jar of Onion & Pineapple flavour Devon Chutney from Otter Vale Products, Devonshire Clotted Cream Vanilla Fudge and some Willie’s Cacao – Milk of the Gods, all presented in a wicker basket. Priced at just £25 this would make an excellent present for someone.

Devon Heaven Hampers

Devon Cider Selection

For cider and scrumpy lovers, the Devon Cider Selection would be a treat. It costs just £28 and comes with free delivery. Cider lovers can enjoy a bottle of Jack Ratt Scrumpy in a traditional style flagon, a lovely bottle of Luscombe Organic Devon Cider, some Lyme Bay Sparkling Cider, and both Sandford Orchard Devon Red and Sandford Orchard Devon Mist. Cheers!

Devon Heaven Hampers

Devon vs Cornish Cream Tea by Post

Last, but by absolutely no means least – the Devon vs Cornish Cream Tea by Post. Decide for yourself and settle the long standing debate between Devon and Cornwall – are cream teas better with jam or cream on top? Not only can you decide which is best, but you can also taste the difference between Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream and Langage Farm Devonshire clotted cream!

This fantastic hamper contains 4 Devon scones, Langage Farm Devonshire clotted cream, Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream, a jar of strawberry jam and Devonshire Tea and Cornish Tea Sachets, all presented in a wicker gift basket and delivered free of charge. The Devon vs Cornish Cream Tea by Post hamper is £23 and is the perfect gift for those who can’t resist a cream tea or three!

I know what I’ll be asking Santa for this year!

For more information and to see their range of gift hampers, visit the Devon Heaven Hampers website.

Holiday Snaps – from Devon 2016

I’ve got this fancy newish camera which I’ve been trying to use and get used to. I had planned on taking it on holiday to Devon for a week to try and spend some time getting to know it a bit better, but I ended up with a fairly epic chest infection a couple of days before we went and I wasn’t really in the mood.

I decided instead to take my “old” camera, a Nikon Coolpix L820. It’s a bridge camera and whilst it really struggles indoors, outdoors it comes into its own.

Before we headed down the M6 towards the South West one of my friends challenged me to take 5 decent photos of Devon. I don’t think I’ve managed that, but I have chosen some pictures which will make me smile.

It wasn’t a particularly great holiday, we’d booked an especially skanky cottage and ended up having to leave after three days and go and stay elsewhere. It was a shame, after everything we’ve been through these past few months I just really needed a rest, a break from the norm and some time to reflect and recover. But maybe that’s something for another blog post. Back to the photos….

Day one of our holiday we got in the car and went for a drive to get our bearings. I’ve no idea where this place is, it’s somewhere in Exmoor, somewhere where we stopped for some air. There was purple heather everywhere, gorse in flower and the air was as clear as a bell. I love the colour and texture in this picture.

Devon

The first cottage we stayed in didn’t have much to recommend it, but it did have a huge buddleia outside the front door. It was teeming with butterflies and bees, so I snapped this little fella. Isn’t he lovely?

Devon

Day two, in an attempt to cheer ourselves up we headed to the familiar territory of Westward Ho! It was worth the drive of nearly an hour for the fresh air and the lift in our spirits. 

Devon

Although he will kill me for sharing this, I adore this photo of my boy running towards his Dad who had just been for a swim in the sea. Again this is Westward Ho!

Devon

It’s not an especially lovely photo, but this is the view from the cottage we stay at in Welcombe in North Devon. Waking up to see the church, the sky and a tiny handkerchief of the sea always makes me happy, rain or shine.

Devon

On our last night we drove to Bude and had dinner at Life’s a Beach, which by day is a beach cafe and by night a popular bistro. We had a delicious meal and then walked some of it off on the beach afterwards. Here’s the small boy at his cheeky best.

Devon

The last night again, this time the beach at Bude, a harbour of sorts. It’s not a great photo, but it is a photo of one of my happy places.

Devon

And lastly, on our way home we stopped at Westward Ho! (are you sensing a theme here?) and had fish and chips on the beach for tea. Whilst we waited for dad to come back I took this panorama and the boy played with his new sword and shield. The result is this rather moody shot of a knight which will probably always make me smile. 

Devon

A mixed holiday for us, some lovely moments, some disappointment, but lots of lovely cuddles with the boys. Looking back I didn’t take any or many decent photos, it’s probably reflective of our mood at the time. We did have fun, we did stick brave smiley faces on for the boy and we did our best to make the best of our holiday. I think he had a good time and that’s all that matters right now.

My Sunday Photo 17.4.16

image

I promise hand on heart that this photo hasn’t been edited or messed about with in any way. We’ve been on holiday in North Devon all week and this was taken on Westward Ho! beach. The tide was just going out and the spring sunshine was dancing on the wet sand and creating a beautiful sky-sand mirror. This photo was taken with my Nokia Lumia phone and I think it’s rather beautiful and a little like a watercolour painting. 

The photo shows a silhouette of my husband as he approached an ancient shipwreck sticking out from the sand. We’d visited last year and had a good look at the wrecks and I was keen to see if they were still visible, which they are. You can read more about the history of the wrecks and see close up photos in this blog post from last year.

Why being disabled on holiday can be a real pain

As a slightly less able person (spinal injury, nerve damage, chronic pain), I need to pace myself and rest more often than I would normally. I have adapted my day to day life so that I’m able to manage myself properly, take my medication when I need to, rest and exercise appropriately and generally maximise my wellness. But holidays throw that tried and tested routine out of the window leaving me in more pain, more tired and out of my medication routine.

We are on holiday in North Devon. It’s one of our favourite places to visit and we come back year after year. But from Manchester it’s a minimum 5 hour journey. This time it took 6 hours, but it has taken 8 hours in bad traffic. Sitting in one position for 6-8 hours is bad for anyone, but with my ruined spine it gets very uncomfortable, then very painful and it takes days to recover from.

Once we get there, put me in an unfamiliar bed and I’m gobbling painkillers like they’re smarties. Combine that with a lack of routine, longer than usual walks which are usually on the beach on sand, shale or pebbles which are hard to walk on its all a bit ouchy. At home I can plan my week, if I’ve got an active day then I’ll make sure I’ve got a rest day after it. On holiday every day is an active day.

So what do my holidays look like? My holidays look like car parks. I often have to just sit in the car and rest while my painkillers kick in and the boys race off to do their thing. It makes me a bit sad that I can’t fully participate in holiday activities, but then I can’t always participate in normal life activities either. Stop moaning kid, these are the cards you’ve been dealt. Live with it.

Reading this back it makes me wonder why I bother going on a UK holiday at all. But it’s beautiful here and although I’m half cut on prescription painkillers most of the time, it’s nice to spend time with the boys, to get some sunshine and sea air and to take the boys out of their routine for a while. It’s hard enough being me and living with my limitations, it must be equally hard for them, so they deserve a holiday and a chance to relax and be free from my routine for a week or two.

Disabled on holiday

North Devon: so beautiful, but you can only access this beach via a cliff path.

My Sunday Photo 10.4.16

A last minute break in what we think is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Smack bang on the North Devon and Cornwall border this is Welcombe Mouth, with gorse and heather covered cliffs, it’s own waterfall, jagged rocks and great surfing. What’s not to love?

It is cold though. So very cold. Brrrrr.

Disabled on holiday

 

Review: Sunday lunch at The Pig on the Hill

We are regular visitors to North Devon and we’re always looking for new places to eat while we’re down there. I’d heard that The Pig on the Hill in Westward Ho! was worth a visit, so while we were down over February half term we popped in for lunch following a happy morning pottering about on the beach. We were so impressed that we immediately booked again for Sunday lunch.

The Pig on the Hill is a pub and restaurant just off the A39 near Westward Ho!, it has a clean, modern look with the odd quirky touch. It has a well stocked bar, a decent wine list and a menu which boasts so few food miles most of the things on it could walk to the kitchen themselves. There’s plenty of parking, an outdoor play area for kids and a selection of farm animals milling around an enclosed paddock. It is pretty idyllic, more so in the sunshine I imagine.

We arrived for Sunday lunch and as we’d been warned when we (thankfully) booked, it was heaving. As we were driving home to Manchester straight after we decided not to have a starter and just dive straight in and have a roast. Despite being a vegetarian I do enjoy a veggie roast dinner, if I’m honest I was disappointed that a veggie roast wasn’t available. There were a couple of veggie options (an open vegetable lasagne or arrancini with mushrooms and blue cheese) so feeling a little disappointed I chose the lasagne.

The boys went for the local ale and treacle braised brisket (£9.95) and the baby roast brisket (£5.95) all served with duck fat potatoes, seasonal veg, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. My open lasagne contained chantenay carrots, red onion, wild mushrooms, apple-wood smoked cheddar, served with a green salad and garlic bread (£13.25).

The Pig on the Hill

The roast dinners arrived quickly, the plates dominated by huge, puffy Yorkshire puddings, being northern we are often disappointed by flaccid southern Yorkshires, but these were beauties. Husband declared the duck fat potatoes to be almost as good as mine, which is praise indeed. The generous portion of beef brisket was soft, tender and yielding, just how brisket should be. There was plenty on the plate and both the boys were very satisfied with their meal, declaring it the best roast dinner they’d eaten in a restaurant.

The vegetables were perfect, decent sized portions of cauliflower cheese, braised red cabbage, broccoli and perfectly seasoned carrot and swede mash. I managed to try a little of each before they were gobbled up by my two hungry boys and they were all excellent.

As for my lasagne, I’m happy to say my initial disappointment quickly evaporated once I tucked in. It was an excellent lasagne, with all the vegetables perfectly cooked and flavoursome. Served with a well dressed  green salad which served to cut through the dense richness of the lasagne. It was a huge, greedy portion of pasta which I didn’t manage to finish, preferring to leave a little room for pudding instead.

When we’d stopped by for lunch earlier in the week we couldn’t resist trying a pudding. I’d had the seasonal crumble which was perfectly poached pink rhubarb and apple, a pud which though simple completely blew me away. With a recent record of perfection etched in our memory, pudding-wise The Pig on the Hill had its own big shoes to fill.

Husband opted for the “Piggy Mess” which was layers of meringue, seasonal fruits, brownie and lemon curd (£6.45) and I once again went for the seasonal crumble served with custard (£5.95).

The Pig on the Hill

This time the seasonal crumble was rhubarb and pear, which despite not looking as prettily pink as I’d hoped, was almost, almost as good as the first time. Generously topped with a ridge of warm, toasted rubbley crumble and served with a little jug of piping hot vanilla flecked custard, it was pretty close to pudding perfection for me.

Husband ended up sharing his “Piggy Mess” with the boy. I managed to snaffle a little of the meringue, which was crisp on the outside, but with a satisfying chew on the inside. Each spoonful contained different surprises, chunks of hidden brownie or popping candy on the lemon curd. For me there was a little too much happening on the plate, but the boys loved it.

With lunch over, we paid the bill and hopped in the car for the long (very long) drive back to Manchester. As we visit Westward Ho! and North Devon on a regular basis, we’ll definitely be popping back to The Pig on the Hill next time we’re down there. Their menu changes all the time and the Sunday lunches are different each week. We were incredibly impressed with The Pig on the Hill, it’s not often you stumble across a restaurant of that quality, especially one down a windy road, seemingly in the middle of not a lot. We’ll be back!

You can find out more about The Pig on the Hill, Westward Ho! on their website.

The Pig on the HillNote: We were not invited by or asked to review The Pig on the Hill, we paid our bill in full (which included several soft drinks and excellent coffee), which came to a grand total of £46.75.

Exploring the Wrecks of Westward Ho!

We’ve been visiting the beach at Westward Ho! for many years. It’s a stunning beach, around two miles of lovely sand, popular with surfers and a great beach for collecting shells. Like most beaches on the North Devon coast its character can often be changed by the winter (and summer) storms; the fierce waves shifting the stones and sand, hiding and revealing features.

When we last visited Westward Ho! in June 2014 there was nothing of particular interest to note, it was the same as it’s always been, sandy and flat, with a bank of stones against the shore. In February 2015 it was at first glance the same. We took a stroll along the beach hoping to collect some nice shells to take back to school when I spotted some pieces of wood sticking out from the sand.

I was really curious about what they were and they seemed to be attracting attention, so we walked over to have a closer look. What we found was the ancient hull of what is thought to be a barge trading on the Bristol Channel, but has also known locally as a ‘Viking Ship’ or ‘Spanish Galleon’, we called it a ‘Pirate Ship’ because the small boy is currently obsessing about pirates.

The wreck is an oak-framed vessel which is around 25 metres long and 7 metres wide. It is thought that the wreck could be one of two boats wrecked nearby, the ‘Salisbury’ of London, lost in March 1759 on Northam Burrows or the ‘Sally’ of Bristol, which was wrecked on Northam Sands in September 1769.

This large wreck isn’t visible very often, so it was a real privilege to be able to see it. It’s usually buried deep in the sand and it might be a number of years before we get to see it again. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of it for prosperity.

Westward Ho

Westward Ho

Westward Ho

A bit further along the beach we came across another wreck, this was much smaller than the first, measuring just over 15 metres in length. The remains of the wreck were not as complete as the first. This wreck is thought to date from the late 18th or early 19th century and is likely to be a Polacca Brig, a style of sailing boat which was used to trade limestone, coal and other goods across the North Devon coast, Taw Estuary and to the Bristol Channel.

Somewhere under Westward Ho! beach lies a third wreck, but that hadn’t been revealed to us by the shifting sands. We felt incredibly lucky to have seen the two skeleton wrecks which had been uncovered over the winter months and we’re hoping to visit again later in the year to see if they are still visible or not.

Note: All images are my own, they must not be used elsewhere without my written permission.

Holiday: Steam Trains at Woody Bay Station

Team HodgePodgeDays are currently on holiday in North Devon. With it being a holiday I’d not planned to do any blogging, and only put finger to iPad (the modern day pen to paper) if I felt suitably inspired. It transpires that today has been one of those interesting, somewhat inspiring days.

It started off, a day like any other, being bounced on bodily by the small boy at some unearthly hour. A sneaky peek around the curtains revealed it to be an overcast morning and a fairly unpromising looking day weather wise. We quickly decided to go for one of our pre-selected wet weather days out. A good hours drive from the cottage to Woody Bay Station near Lynton to enjoy a few steam train rides.

We arrived mid morning and in time for the second departure of the day. Woody Bay is a really pretty station nestled in the hills between Barnstaple and Lynton. The mile long track was restored and opened to the public in 2004 and there are plans afoot to extend the track further and hopefully in time bring back the Barnstaple and Lynton line in its entirety.

We purchased our tickets (£7.50 for a ride-all-day adult ticket, and children under 5 travel for free – hurray!) and watched the train chug into Woody Bay Station. We hopped on board and found our wooden third class seats, our tickets were clipped by the guard and off we chugged to Killington Lane Station. We could get off and enjoy a country walk, but we chose not to as we’d miss all the action.

At Killington Lane we all got out and watched the engine uncouple from the carriages, chug around and couple itself to the front of the train ready for the return journey. We hopped aboard and sped back to Woody Bay for lunch.

Lunch was a massive and very pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting much if I’m honest, so we just ordered sandwiches from the station tea room, and I went for a Brie and cranberry panini which came with a pile of beautifully dressed, interesting salad. The small boy had a child’s ham sandwich and the bigger boy had a ham and cheese panini. Lunch was excellent and we said we’d be back just to eat there next time we passed.

We had another ride on the train and came back for pudding. As we were in Devon we each had a massive, still warm, freshly baked scone with some excellent strawberry jam and a generous dollop of clotted cream. Replete, we toured the station shop and came away with a little model train for the small boy. We had one last train ride and then full of excitement and clotted cream we set off home. The sun once more peeping through the clouds.

The small boy is obsessed with trains, so we go on these kinds of days out quite a lot. I’ve ridden my fair share of steam trains in the last few years, I’m by no means an enthusiast but I really liked Woody Bay Station. I liked the set up, the attention to detail and the quality of everything from the tickets, to the posters at the station to the sandwiches.

I think you’d struggle to fill a full day here with a small child or two, but with lunch and a bit of a walk it’s a nice way to spend an afternoon, and not horrifyingly expensive either. We will be back.

Woody Bay

More information about Woody Bay can be found on their website.

I Wish I Was There (North Devon)

As I sit and type this I am wrapped in a blanket, sat in front of a blazing fire. I can hear the rain bouncing off the windows. The whole family is collectively wearing more layers than a bag of onions and we just want to be somewhere warm.

I want more than nothing else to sit on a beach listening to the waves, feeling the warm sun against my back, heating up my old bones. I want to see my lovely husband emerge like Daniel Craig from the sea and I want to build sandcastles and paddle with my 3 year old son. I want not to shiver when I slip out of bed in the morning.

In short, I want to be here.

North Devon

Here in this instance is North Devon. It might not be exotic or far-flung but it is beautiful. It is so restful and it is, in our eyes, just perfect. On the horizon you can just make out Lundy Island. If you follow the cliff path you’ll find your way to Hartland Quay, like we did.

I love this picture, it was taken a few years ago on a beautifully warm summers day. We’d spent most of that day in Hartland Quay, sat on the beach listening to the waves crash on the rocks, we’d paddled and swam. We’d walked up to the pub and had a pint and some lunch. The warm sun on our backs and our hair, thick and wild with the salt water. We’d never felt so relaxed.

Of course this was pre-baby, but we’ve taken him there since and he loves it as much as we do, though it is slightly less relaxing when you’re on toddler-drowning watch. It must be stunning if even my 3 year old says “oh wow” when he stands at that gate.

I’ve written this blog post as my entry for the Alfresco Holidays photo competition, but writing it really makes me want to go on holiday! We love, love, love North Devon.