Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An English Summer: Day Two: The Darling Doves of Devon.

 In deepest Devon, looking over into Cornwall

Never thought I'd make the train this morning. Since I stayed up all night on the plane, and then spent my first day in London with Ron at Kenwood, remaining awake so as to get on English time, I successfully passed out cold at 10:30 PM. Was troubled by having painfully tweaked my arthritic thumb on my bag, but was able to sleep soundly till 6:30 AM and woke to find that thumb was much better as well as the rest of me. Called phone company and arranged for data roaming minutes so I could send pictures (it is a most unpleasant generational sensation to have the girl LAUGH at you when you say you're not sure you'll be able to figure it out), and repacked, leaving my carry on bag at the hotel and only taking a tote. I checked out, and they said I ought to have time for breakfast though it didn't start till 8; taking the tube from nearby Kings Cross to Paddington would only take 10 minutes. My train to Devon was at 9, and I could see that would be tight but I so hated to miss the George's full English breakfast! Greed naturally won out. I told the waitress I had to catch a train, and she very obligingly hurried, and I was able to scarf my heavenly plump English sausage, bacon, fried egg, beans, tomato, and heaps of brown toast with butter and honey. Then rushed out to the station, realizing no leeway had been made for not knowing where in station were the ticket collection machines, nor how to use them, not to mention finding the platform, and running long distances! And I tend to get flustered and blinkered in such situations, but there was simply no time for that: I could not. So I focused and actually made the train with 5 minutes to spare! Even got my reserved seat with a table, and am now sitting with a lovely cappuccino, gazing out at the scenery round Taunton, feasting my eyes on delicious green landscapes, while reading the equally delicious Armorel of Lyonnesse (1890s novel set on the island of Samson in the Scilly Isles, which I visited last trip).
My lovely hosts

And some of their lovely flowers

(Later) My friend Dove Grey Reader (Lynne, the well known Devonshire book blogger, whom I've long known online but was meeting in person for the first time) met me at Exeter St David station and we drove to her house which is in beautiful deep green countryside, lovely on a sunny day with fluffy English clouds above. The nearest village is Milton Abbot, and the larger town is Tavistock ("Tavy"). We went to Tavistock first, to the gorgeous Bedford hotel, very old and elegant. Had a lovely lunch, shrimp and crab sandwiches, then visited the Tavistock Pannier Market, an incredible 900 years old. There was lots to see and lots to buy, notably some very pretty English china, but my constant cry had to be, "Oh the lovely Victorian pitcher - no, I couldn't carry that home in my bag, could I..."

Tavistock Pannier Market - 900 years old!

Then we drove to DGR's house, through meltingly lovely Devon vistas. As we approached, through glimpses in the hedgerows I could see the beautiful land and stretch of the river Tamar that has a fine private salmon stream. In the distance, there were the hills of Cornwall, seemingly only a few fields over. At the house DGR's husband Bookhound welcomed me warmly as did their three cats, one blind, one deaf, both elderly, and a young tom whom the old dowagers keep strictly in line. Bookhound so kindly made and served lovely smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches and a gorgeous plate of scones, Devon clotted cream, and jam. And plenty of first rate tea. The embodiment of Devon hospitality! We enjoyed all this outside chatting and breathing in the Devon air.
 Dove Grey Cat
Lots of excellent book talk along with the clotted cream - so many books that I now admire to acquire! And I was most honored to be given an exquisite hand made holder that DGR thoughtfully made especially for me - out of patchwork fabric of Jane Austen's handwriting and quilt, and the quote from one of her letters:  "Have you remembered to collect pieces for the patchwork? We are at a standstill..."  One of the most perfectly appropriate gifts I've ever received:  a perfect memento of a perfect day in Devon.

 A beautiful Jane Austen handmade gift!
We then went out for another drive around Dartmoor but didn't walk as the weather was starting to sock in, heavy clouds descending and rain. Could see some tempting tors, but in that weather DGR most convincingly explained how the mist can come down and you'd be lost. We stopped at a lovely inn (Two Bridges) and stretched out legs on a curious old rock bridge.

Then DGR drove me to her friend Rosie's farm where I was to sleep. Ancient stone buildings, a working dairy farm. Rosie a lovely lady and she kindly set me up with internet in her office so I could check mail before bed. Met her sweet husband, tired after his long day on the farm. The quietest place I ever slept, I think - lovely thick mattress, perfect duvet, big bathtub. I slept like a log from 10:30, as well I might!
Rosie's farm

Crocosmia, which was growing all over Devon
Dove Grey Reader's justly famous blog can be found here:


TessQ said...

It all sounds heavenly!
The quilted holder is wonderful -

If it makes you feel any better, last September in Bath I had to replace my old mobile phone and got a new one... which the young thing in the shop also had to "teach" me how to use! (In a week, I finally mastered the phone part, but nothing else...)

Have a fabulous trip!

Diana Birchall said...

Thanks, Tess! It was just that this girl laughed so darn LOUDLY...sheesh...

BrittArnhild said...

I love following you :-)

Moira said...

That bridge the clapper bridge at Postbridge Diana ... It's about a thousand years old.:D

Heather said...

The Two Bridges is wonderful. I was a student in Exeter and if I was feeling sad I'd drive down there wander on the moor (weather permitting), then have a cream tea and make a fuss of the resident cats. I've a very soft spot for Dartmoor.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful and thoughtful gift, Diana. I love Devon and am looking forward to seeing Lynne again when next I'm down there. Thanks for posting! Barbara

Diana Birchall said...

Britt-Arnhild, it makes a change, doesn't it? I've been loving following you for so long!

Thanks, Moira and Heather- whew, a thousand years old!