Holidaying in Devon part 2

Our breakfast area

Our breakfast area

We awoke on Wednesday to bright sunshine and bird noises. S filled up the bird feeder outside and we breakfasted outside along with several chaffinches, a sparrow or two, a great tit and a nuthatch. Buzzards circled overhead and I thought I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker for a second but S missed it and I didn’t have my glasses on so couldn’t be sure. I was still feeling rough and E must have been off colour too as she didn’t eat much. We decided to go to RHS Rosemoor for the day – S being the gardening sort and it being not too far away.

I picked a direct route rather than the main roads and yet managed to make S feel slightly queasy (he gets carsick). Oh dear. We parked up in a wooded area and he recovered slightly while E and I got our stuff together. As you may expect from the RHS practically everyone there was quite elderly. A school party and us were the only real exceptions. Still, it was all very nice. There were some formal gardens (they have lots of roses but there were nicer things too) and woodland areas and walks through wildlife seeded areas to a fruit and vegetable garden where E spent some time talking animatedly to a scarecrow.  We crossed to an arboretum area, Mediterranean garden, bog garden and formal areas. It was all immaculately kept and very impressive. Our biggest challenge was trying to get E to keep her hat on in the fierce sun.

Rosemoor has evidently been trying to attract more families and there were two recently added play areas which looked rather exciting (possibly for larger children) as well as change facilities to the tea rooms. We didn’t try the catering so I’ve no reports there but the toilets were clean enough. There were also some large sculptures to liven areas up – two massive spiders hung in the wood and a dragon guarded a hut of treasure which pleased E no end (she’s recently learnt to roar like a dragon/ tiger/ lion/ whichever story we’re reading so likes a chance to try it out).

hartland pointOn the way home we stopped off at the outlet village for me to buy some clothes and some dinner. It was a lovely day and our drive followed the coastline. I was suddenly impatient to see the sea and, bearing in mind the forecast for the rest of the week is bad, I asked S to drive through to the end of the Hartland Point so we could see it at its best. So glad we did – it was glorious. And standing on the cliffs we could barely hear the sea, we could only see these beautiful blue views stretching across the Atlantic. The cliffs are sandstone and quite distinctive.

On our return, there was a knock at the door and Martin (the cottage owner) appeared to offer a second bottle of wine as an apology for “the shambolic arrival yesterday.” The cynic in me thought he was probably trying to safeguard a good review on TripAdvisor but to be honest it wasn’t that bad. After all, the cottage was clean, the beds were already made, the towels were already out and it didn’t take long for him to hang the curtain, bring down the travel cot or our wine, chocs, cream tea and milk and flowers. It could have been much worse – at least he hadn’t got so mixed up that he’d rented it out twice… Still, it was nice of him and I thought I’d give him a good review anyway.

By the evening I was feeling really quite rough and went to bed early. E had a restless night too (she’s sleeping in our bedroom) and so all three of us slept badly. When she woke in the early hours she’d thrown her covers off and was very cold so I picked her up and brought her into our bed. It meant she slept better but we didn’t really – she’s a fidgeter. I did toy with the idea of sending them out for the day and resting alone but with S feeling bad too I compromised in my head by having a lie in after they got up and downing more Nurofen instead. The virus has been in my throat – swollen, tender and hard to swallow. And headaches. Eeeeeeuurrrrrggggghhhhh.

It was pouring with rain so that, combined with my feeling rough, meant that we weren’t in any hurry to go out. E read her new books, did some drawing and played with her new train set and we tried to feel human. Eventually we left the house and made our way to Arlington Court, a National Trust place the other side of Barnstaple. It had an indoor bit, perfect for this weather. We circled the outskirts of Barnstaple noting how dreary it looked, and then feeling somewhat depressed at the number of Ukip posters there were. It’s not too surprising I suppose, at least we feel some vague connection to what’s going on, living in a city on the middle of the country – I doubt anyone here feels they’re being represented in Westminster these days. I was heartened only by two things – a large Labour banner on one village (I bet whoever put that up doesn’t have many friends – not known for Labour supporters down this way), and that some of the Ukip posters had been defaced.

We could add sensible wet weather footwear to the list of things I didn’t bring so the other NT members who passed us in their sensible shoes could have a moment looking askance at my canvas plimsolls. At least E had a mac and wellies on. We stopped for lunch first. The old ladies did that passive aggressive British thing of bagging a table while their friend joined the back of a queue but it turned out there was another seating area next door which was nicer so we went there instead. We’d not been seated long (I think) when a head popped out and explained that she was sorry, she’d only just seen our order (for E’s lunch) and she’d get right on it. When it appeared, she apologised again and offered us a piece of free cake to make up for it. I wasn’t aware we’d actually been waiting long but only an idiot turns down free cake so this solved a problem as S got to have the date slice he’d been eyeing up and I’d refused to buy (I hate dates). After all that, E didn’t want it so we ate it.

Arlington Court - the doors were better than the insides...

Arlington Court – the doors were better than the insides…

It had stopped raining for a while so we wandered round the formal gardens – lots of rhododendrons and variations – as well as a large walled kitchen garden. One old lady was nagging the life out of her husband, poor chap, her cries of “Well, it’s not my fault!” drowned out only by a peacock on the roof of the hothouse. Then we went into the house. It’s nice enough but unremarkable but the NT like to make a fuss about the contents which were bought by the last owner, Rosalie someone, who liked to collect things. Things like model ships, pewter, fans and shells. If this sounds crashingly dull, you’re not wrong. Why the National Trust thinks they need to say nice things about people who clearly don’t have the wit to do something more interesting with their wealth and spare time than collect pewter, I really don’t know. I’d have had more time for the woman if she’d collected empty gin bottles and gone on the trawl in Barnstaple picking up sailors. Or at the very least, if they’d said she collected things as a symbol of frustration at a world who frowned on her sexual peccadilloes, but no, we get this whispered reverence.

Taking you for a ride today...

Taking you for a ride today…

Our challenge in any NT place is usually to stop E from flinging herself on ancient furniture or picking up precious china but here she was more interested in climbing up and down the large main staircase. The weather had cleared more or less by now so we left and walked up to the carriage museum which had done their best to make a collection of carriages even vaguely interesting. I tried out the feeling of riding in some of them in replica carriage suspensions and E and S tried on hats of the horsemen. They also had a ghastly royal carriage coated in 22 carat gold which I think you were supposed to be impressed at but it was horrible. They didn’t allow pictures and there were no postcards due to the House of Commons refusing permission (more political disengagement). E spoke to a horse and then we left and came home.

We fed and bathed E and I put her to bed. She drank her milk, pointed at her bed, let me lie her down fully awake and waved goodbye to me as I left the room. This has never happened before. I love her even more than I did before. We have now eaten and, having felt terrible earlier, I’m feeling the best I have all week health wise so hopefully this is the beginning of the end. I didn’t set out to write such a long blog post and have had to kneel in a corner because the laptop needed its battery charging so I must stop typing and do some knitting instead.

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