Bluebells and Buttercups: Walking in South Devon, England

17 May

By Guest Blogger Stuart Elliott, Edited by Catharine Lickorish

Following a very enjoyable week in Dorset last year we decided to repeat the experience with a minor difference. We rented a cottage in Devon, in the countryside between Bowden and Stoke Fleming.

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Our rental cottage was the former home of the real Christopher Robin Milne of Winne the Pooh fame and his family at the time they owned a bookshop in Dartmouth. It has a large sunny lounge overlooking a ‘wild’ lovely garden.

Summer is a month behind this year. Many of the larger trees are yet to turn green, but we’re enjoying an abundance of early spring flowers and flowering trees. Our garden and the single track lanes we drive daily are bright with blossoms. This week fields and banks are swathed in primroses and bluebells, and gardens are full of bright red azaleas, early flowering rhododendrons and blossoming trees. This must be one of the best weeks of the year in southern England; magnificent.

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Slapton Sands

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Remains of Hallsands Village

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What are we doing apart from admiring the local flora? Well, mainly walking along parts of England’s south west coastal footpath with my sister Catharine. The coastal path runs some 900 kms from Minehead, west of Bristol to Poole, west of Bournemouth, my birthplace. Last year we walked much of the striking and aptly named Jurassic Dorset coast and previously had done part of the north Cornwall coast. This year we’re in the middle of the south Devon coast near the naval college town of Dartmouth, also the location of many of Agatha Christie’s novels. Her summer home, Greenway, located on the Dart Estuary, is now National Trust and open six days a week.

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Catharine ringing the bell to summon the Dittisham ferry

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Greenway House

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Some days we follow the meandering coastal footpaths mirroring the contours of the cliffs as they rise and fall up to 100 meters above the sea. Other days we take inland wooded trails tiptoeing between the bluebells. We all have our foibles; Sharon finds vertiginous high cliffs a challenge, Catharine takes to her heels at the sight of cows and Stuart gets the shakes if he is too far from a pint of fully flavoured warm English beer at lunch time. Consequently our progress is a series of meanderings between cliffs, cows and pubs. Fortunately Catharine loves nothing more than ensuring we spot everything marked on her Ordinance Survey map and keeps us from getting lost.

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St Andrews tea and cake fundraiser.

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One of the beacons that warned of the approach of the Spanish armada.

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We’ve enjoyed gorgeous weather, although a brief period of rain at lunch time today caused us to abort a planned 7 mile walk along a local estuary in favour of local ale in the Sloop Inn and picnic sandwiches in the car.

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However after a short siesta the sun came out and we enjoyed a beautiful stroll along the cliffs into Dartmouth, watching seagulls swarming around tractors ploughing fields and sail boats bobbing along the English Channel under a clear blue sky.

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Tomorrow Catharine and I plan to walk the six miles loop from the Sloop Inn at Bigbury On Sea to Thurlsdon while Sharon attends a mid-day concert, The American Songbook, at the Flavel Theatre in Dartmouth.

We’ll be back next year to fill in more pieces of the coastal footpath jigsaw.

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We recommend these walks:

1) Coastal Path Torcross to Start Point and back – 6 miles
2) Dittisham ferry over to Greenway to pick up the Dart Valley Trail via Dartmouth and back to Dittisham – 6 miles
3) Dartington and on to Totnes – 4 miles (Catharine walked this solo while we attended to business)
4) Little Dartmouth National Trust carpark along cliffs to Dartington Castle and return inland 5 miles

(Footnote by Sharon: Our second day in the cottage marked the twelve month anniversary of Stuart’s stroke. As you can see he is fit and in fine spirits. The only lingering effect of the stroke is a slight visual deficit at speed and a little numbness in parts of his face and left hand which comes and goes. He has made a model recovery and is completely reformed with regard to controlling his blood pressure and managing his stress. Let this be a lesson to us all!)

One Response to “Bluebells and Buttercups: Walking in South Devon, England”

  1. George and Heather May 17, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    England looks lovely and so glad you are away from shootings and tornadoes in USA. Would love to be there with you.
    George and Heather

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