One of the wonders of life in Totnes is its infinite variety. This morning a group of us walked in a biting sea wind from Start Point Lighthouse along a circuitous route via lanes and the coastal footpath to beautiful Lannacombe Beach – passing these unusual grassy hummocks en route. Our walk took us two hours and we felt we’d earned our lunch by the end of it.
Then, this afternoon, I strolled into Totnes and encountered … this owl:
Today I went with a friend to visit Greenway – Agatha Christie’s summer retreat. We took the ferry from the picturesque Devon village of Dittisham. This involved leaving our car and walking down a steep hill to the River Dart, where a sign told us to ring the big bell to summon the ferryman.
So we pulled (hard) on the rope provided and awaited his arrival from the far side of the river. There was a biting wind, but at least it wasn’t raining (or snowing, as it has been doing today in some parts of Devon). We were soon aboard the small ferry boat and then had a steep hill to climb before reaching Greenway. As well as exploring the house, with its far-reaching views and the artifacts collected over a lifetime (many brought back from Baghdad, where she and her archaeologist husband also had a home) we visited the boathouse – scene of the murder in Agatha’s novel DEAD MAN’S FOLLY.
The surrounding gardens – with their primroses, daffodils, magnolias, camellias and other delights – were where we spent the rest of our time.
There’s a shopping experience virtually on my doorstep that’s like no other! Near to Newton Abbot, a little along the Devon Expressway from Totnes, Trago Mills is located. As you can see from its exterior, it is no ordinary shop – and once inside there is almost nothing that you can’t find. Sorry about the double negative, but Trago’s brings out some odd traits in me!
Created by a man totally opposed to the UK being absorbed within Europe, it aims to give endless choices of merchandise – whether it be clothes, furniture, household items, paint, kitchens, carpets or bathrooms – at the cheapest possible prices. And it pretty much succeeds in its aim!
I went there today looking for a bed and ending up with some cut price stationery. It’s all great fun – though I don’t recommend a visit when the whole world seems to be there at weekends!
Here’s another view of it. Oh, and peacocks stroll freely between tables by the cafes in the extensive grounds …
Today dawned with a clear sky and sunshine, which was such a change after all our recent rain that I decided to make the most of it and walk with a friend along the riverbank from Totnes station to the Dartington shops.
The Dart was in full flow, as you can see, and whether or not its beauty was appreciated by the sheep on the far bank, it was certainly appreciated by me!
There was a lot of mud en route so I was glad I’d worn my old walking boots. I had the impression there were probably more cyclists than pedestrians – especially young parents with two or three children in tow. One little boy fell off his bike quite near to me, but stood up bravely without shedding a tear or making any kind of fuss, much to his father’s obvious pride. Sons are simply not supposed to cry, are they?
The shops at Dartington used to be called The Cider Press, which I think made them a more intriguing destination than their name today.
There’s a great selection of them – all in a picturesque, traffic-free corner of the Dartington Estate. We decided on a coffee in the Venus Café, rather than Crank’s, today. The picture below shows a lovely shop – My Time – on the right-hand side, with Crank’s on the left.
We called in at the Kitchen Shop and then the Delicatessen before walking the 3 or so miles home equipped with some delicacies for tea!
Look who I met on the riverbank during my walk this morning! He’s a Tibetan terrier – the same breed as my daughter’s 9-month old puppy, Leo. All those (not many, actually) that I’ve met seem to be very gentle dogs – capable of vertical lift-off! I find it quite extraordinary how Leo can jump up to my nose-level straight from being stationary by my feet.
It seems that this might be in his ancestry from when his forebears in Tibet jumped up on to donkeys to ride behind monks across hostile territory. Well, whatever the reason, Leo likes to be above ground whenever possible and his favorite position at home is lying in a lion-like pose on the back of a sofa.
After leaving the riverside I had to contend with the new road system in Totnes, where the traffic flow in Station Road and Fore Street has recently been reversed. This is causing all kinds of problems – not least in remembering to look the opposite way from usual when crossing the road.
But there were problems before, with people using Fore Street and High Street as a rat run – and short-cut – ignoring signs indicating these roads were for deliveries and access only.
We now have a 3-month trial period of this new system while some underground gas-pipes are being renewed in the town. After that, who knows whether we’ll stay as we are or revert to being how we were? I think it’s time to adjourn to the Curator’s Café on The Plains for a lovely cup of Italian coffee, watching from a safe distance while the world flows by!
I wrote recently about my intention to travel to London for the day and said I’d keep you posted on that front. Well, my first attempt (at the end of November) failed completely as – resulting from bad flooding – there had been a landslip between Teignmouth and Dawlish during the night before my intended journey and no trains could leave the South West!
For quite a while it looked like my second attempt (yesterday) would meet the same fate. Maybe I should have taken the train pictured (I photographed it in its Paignton siding last week). Trains seem to have been more reliable in former days.
My train from Totnes made it to Reading yesterday, but then everything started to go wrong because of ‘severe signal failure’ between Reading and Paddington. So instead of travelling as intended to Paddington I had to change to a Waterloo train – and reach London one and a half hours late. Still, it could have been worse – much worse. Some passengers had planes and other connections to catch, whereas I was simply meeting my sister in Covent Garden for lunch.
We met up eventually (she’d had problems traveling from Dorset because of serious flooding in the New Forest) and had a wonderful time revisiting old haunts and loving the magical Christmas lights.
We went to Claridge’s (just the outside) both because our grandmother once worked there and because we’ve also been enjoying a TV series about this unique and rather fabulous establishment. A visit to Fortnum & Mason’s was another joy. I bought (for one of my daughters) a special Diamond Jubilee commemoration tin of orange digestive biscuits coated with dark chocolate. It has a unique feature – playing Land Of Hope & Glory when it is opened!
On that note I send you my warmest wishes for the festivities and for 2013. May the coming year be kind to us all …
This morning dawned frostily, with a slight haze over Totnes. As I approached the old bridge along the riverbank I thought again how blessed I am to live here in glorious Devon.
Then, tonight, was the second of the Totnes Xmas markets when the town comes back to life after the day’s trading is done. If you’ve wondered about the video in my left-hand column, then wonder no more for it was made during just such a market a year (or several!) ago.
I went with a friend and we explored all the colourful stalls before heading into Rumours Wine Bar for a glass of their hot mulled wine. Yes, we could have bought this from the stand you see pictured but by that time our tired legs dictated a seat somewhere – and preferably the warmth of an interior.
So we sat and chatted – and received an unexpected ‘visit’ from Liza, who used to manage the Tangerine Tree Café before spreading her wings and heading for new pastures in Exeter. She and some other former (and current) staff from ‘Tangerine’ were enjoying a meal at a neighbouring table and she had spotted me before I spotted her. It was touching that she had bothered to come over and say “Hello!” – but that tends to be how things are in Totnes. I’ve never lived anywhere friendlier!