Springtime in the Southwest

During lockdown, which feels interminable this time, my husband and I have explored more of the Great Western Canal as well as getting to know some areas closer to our new house.

11 miles of walking heaven

My husband and I have discovered the Grand Western Canal, running a few miles from our home, starting from Tiverton, Devon. The canal was proposed as early as 1796 to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel to bypass Lands End.  However, the proposed canal was never completed because the railway removed the need for its existence.

The eleven-mile section in Devon that had been finished remains open, despite many threats over the years, and is now a designated country park and local nature reserve.  We have chosen to walk sections of the canal, from car park to car park, with the idea to eventually walk the entire thing if we feel fit enough one day.  The park is very well maintained and the majority of the paths are hard packed and not muddy which is a benefit for walking around here!

Here’s a few of the magnificent views that can be seen along the first five miles of the canal from Tiverton to Sampford Peverell in Devon.

Christmas in Warwick

We were very lucky in 2020 that we were able to get together with family on December 25th despite lockdown restrictions in other parts of the UK. Our daughter and son-in-law live in Warwick and we had a great walking tour of the town during our short stay.

Early days in Somerset & Devon

We’ve been in our new house in Wellington, Somerset for just over a month now, but already we have explored a lot of the outlying countryside – a good outdoor break for the lockdown blues!

First we found Wellington Park in our new hometown and it is a real gem dating back to the coronation of King Edward VII around 1901.

Next we took a walk along the Taunton and Bridgwater (yes, the ‘e’ is missing in the town name) Canal. We discovered a wonderful tea room where we can take visitors in the future plus we loved the Dr Seuss-like trees created by the balls of mistletoe in the branches. The narrow boats are much shorter than in Henley-on-Thames because the locks are much shorter.

The National Trust came up trumps for our next visit when we discovered the gorgeous property of Knightshayes Court. The Impey Trail has a lung busting hill but it is a great place to walk for building up stamina and steps.

Of course, we had to head to the coast at some point and a bitterly cold walk on Saunton Sands blew away all the “cobwebs” and gave us a new appreciation for the power of nature. Man, it was cold!

Our latest expedition took us to the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor National Park. The nearby town of Lynton has a steep chair railway that takes visitors from the town down to the beach level and brings them back up at the end of the day. It’s been used since Victorian times. There’s a narrow cliff path leading from the town to the Valley of Rocks. Nimble goats graze on the gorse bushes down the side of the rocks – how do they do that without falling over the side?

I love our new house and I think the surrounding area provides lots of scope for new adventures for a person who loves to be outdoors amidst the majesty of the natural world. I’ll keep you posted.

Franklin the turtle

Last week, I went for a walk along the Taunton and Bridgwater (yes the ‘e’ is supposed to be missing) Canal. Along the way I met a couple who had two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers with them. I asked if the dogs were keen to jump in the canal because being a Toller they were bred to retrieve ducks for hunters.”They both hate the water,” was the reply.

It reminded me of that Paulette Bourgeois storybook when the kids were little. Franklin the Turtle was afraid to go into his shell and eventually had to get a nightlight for comfort. There was a lion who was afraid of loud noises and had to get headphones for when he roared. There was a duck that needed water wings…well you get the idea.

Fresh air therapy

It was a strange day on Sunday, November 8th with low hanging cloud and continuous drizzle. We went to Avebury to see the largest Neolithic stone circle in Europe and the grey sky provided an eerie background for the stones. Then we hiked up a very large hill to get a glimpse of the Landsdowne Monument and the Cherhill Downs chalk horse – both were visible only close up and we missed out on what should have been a spectacular view from the top.  Yes, we’re in our second lockdown but getting out into the outdoors like this, no matter how wet you are, makes it palatable.

My home town

I am one of those people who doesn’t, because of frequent moves, feel a deep connection to any particular place. However, if I had to name a home town Stamford, Lincolnshire would have to be it. I was born there as my Dad was in the RAF working at nearby RAF Base Wittering.

Just before our second UK lockdown, due to Covid-19, my husband and I got to spend a couple of days in Stamford with our daughter Claire and her husband Nathan. It was Claire’s 30th birthday and we got to have a wee party (thanks for the cake Laura) and actually went shopping in some wonderful shops. We also walked around the grounds of Burghley House which is a magnificent building. A brief respite but one that was much enjoyed!

Glorious Devon

On the long holiday weekend my family and I spent four lovely days in Devon.  We stayed at a lovely barn conversion that had a hot tub which was necessary after the active holiday we had.  We hiked the Teign gorge near Castle Drogo, cycled the full distance of the Exmouth Esturary cycle route (about 31 km) and walked around Haytor’s Rocks in Dartmoor.  We also had a lazy day at Killerton, a National Trust property, where the bees and butterflies were active in the gardens.  It was our first visit away from home since March!

Beside the water

We had two fabulous trips out this week both due to our house sale. Researching houses in Northamptonshire we booked and visited the National Trust property at Stowe. The sky was amazing and I love the reflection of the building in the pond.

Recently, the buyer wanted to come and measure some things in the house (he’s keen) so we took a drive to Mill Meadows in Henley-on-Thames and I walked from there to Temple Island. Walking along the river is so lovely especially watching all the people “messing about in boats”.

National Trust Stowe
Temple Island, Henley-on-Thames

The long climb to RSN

The long climb to the Royal School of Needlework. It was the first day back after lockdown on July 9th after missing the whole of the last term. Due to social distancing there are no elevators running at Hampton Court Palace. Our embroidery classes are held on the top floor of the palace so I had to carry my slate frame and sewing supplies up five flights of stairs last week. Was it worth it? Of course!