So, that's it. The holiday is over. College has begun, well, sort of.
It's back to work and the final checks have been made on the proof-read for my second book. All being well, book #2 will be in bookshops and also online by the end of January - beginning of February. #watchthisspace
The holiday seems all but a distant memory, but we haven't been back home that long!
All the preparation; hiring the nine-seater people-carrier, the cottage, holiday shopping for toiletries and clothes, not to mention writing the lists (clothes, toiletries and misc) and of course the excitement with the build up to the family's annual holiday, and yet it's all gone in the blink of an eye.
Why do we love Brixham so much?
It's difficult to put into one blog so I'll mention the first ten points that spring to mind; but, these are in no particular order....
There's something for everyone of all ages.
There are a mixture of generations in our family. My parents, who are in their eighties, my husband and I, who are in our late forties/fifty, and our children who are now both in their late teens - and we all love Brixham.
First and foremost, there's the fishing town of Brixham itself. Out of all the beautiful spots in Torbay, this is by far our favourite. It has a great selection of shops, including not only popular chain stores like Tesco, Boots, New Look and Costa, but also quirky gift shops and Bistros. There are many places to go for an evening meal or just a drink.
The Old Market House stands beside the replica of Sir Francis Drake's Galleon, The Golden Hind.
If you're anything like me, a history buff, then you'd be fascinated climbing on board and just imagining what life would have been like. Dark. Cramped. Smelly. Not to mention the nauseous motion of the sea during bad weather.
The Golden Hind was most famous for her voyage around the world in 1577 - 1580.
Originally called the Pelican, the galleon was re-named after Sir Franics Drake's patron, Sir Christopher Hatton. Hatton was a successful politican, Lord Chancellor of England and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.
Hatton's crest was a female red deer - which was also called a Golden Hind.
The replica which stands in Brixham Harbour was used in the television series Sir Francis Drake. This is the second replica in Brixham. The first sank during restoration in 1987. This second replica has been with Brixham since 1988.
Another replica of this beautiful galleon can be found in London. Unlike the one in Brixham, this one can sail and has done. In 1979 she sailed to Japan to star in the mini-series, Shogun.
2. Berryhead Hotel.
We all love this place and would definitely recommend a visit. It's a hotel which welcomes non-residents, has a lovely little pool (which our kids loved) and also has a sauna and Jacuzz i- which I love!
The meals are delicious.The view from the terrace is breathtaking and - they allow dogs. Who could ask for more?
The hotel itself - Berryhead House - was originally built in 1803 as a military hospital.
Later, it was home to the hymnist and poet, Henry Francis Lyte. Lyte composed the popular hymns, Abide with me and Praise, my soul the King of Heaven (which, funnily enough, was sung at my wedding back in 1999 and had always been a favourite of mine during school) .
There is a memorial to Henry Francis-Lyte at Westminster Abbey which reads:
In memory of Henry Francis Lyte 1793+1847. "Abide with me; fast falls the eventide"
This market town retains its charm and character from days gone by. If you like a change from the usual chain stores then this is the place for you. It's full of quirky shops, boutiques, coffee shops, hosts a market every Friday and Saturday and even has it's own Norman castle built during the time of William I (which we haven't got around to visiting yet).
I love hippie, new age shops. Crystals, books, scarves, figurines, chakras, incense, meditation, jewellery - and Totnes is bursting with these places 😍🙌
In 2007, Time magazine even called Totnes the capital of New-Age chic, and I can see why...
The first time we went to Totnes, the high street was being closed off to traffic and crowds were gathering. We were getting curious as we felt the excitement in the air. People were walking around in fluorescent tabards talking into walkie talkies, crowds were gathering all the way up the high street.
What was going on? Was there going to be a Royal Visit? 👑
We couldn't believe our luck. Would we see Prince Charles? Princess Anne? Maybe even the Queen herself or even the young Princes?
We spotted a clearing and stood waiting. We had a perfect view, right on the curbside. Then, as we waited for the entourage of police cars followed by a black limousine we saw an orange rolling down the road. Then there was another, and another... soon there were loads of oranges rolling down the road to the sound of everyone cheering. 🍊🍊🍊
What was going on?
Then, we found out.
The Totnes Orange Race originated from a story about Sir Francis Drake.
One day, Sir Francis Drake was walking along Totnes High Street, when he bumped into a delivery boy. The boy was carrying a basket of oranges which, at that time, were a very expensive and exotic fruit. The boy dropped the basket, sending oranges rolling down the road. Seeing these oranges tumbling down the road, the children decided to chase after them - and so the legend was born.
4. Broadsands and Elberry Cove.
As I 've mentioned in a previous blog, the chips from the Beach Cafe at Broadsands are delicious. This was one of the reasons why my son was looking forward to the holiday!!
The beach is a glorious stretch of sand but unfortunately for us, dogs are not allowed during the summer. However, there is a lovely and picturesque walk along the coastal path to Elberry Cove which is dog friendly.
Elberry Cove has a small pebbly beach and is shielded by a wall of trees. It is very tranquil and entirely unspoilt. This was our pup, Devon's first experience of the beach and she loved it.
The walk from Broadsands to Elberry Cove is great for taking the dogs. It's along the cliff side and there's a huge expanse of grass for them to run. There's also plenty of benches so you can have a rest and take in the stunning views across the bay.
5. Paignton zoo.
It's a family traditional in our household that we can't go to Torbay and not visit the zoo. You wouldn't think, as you're walking around the acres of ground under trees, hedgerows, wild flower beds and large animal enclosures, that you're actually next to a supermarket and a stone's throw away from a housing estate - which is really nice by the way.
They sell my favourite ice cream too - blackcurrant and clotted cream - delicious! 🍨
Walking into the Desert House, we're greeted by some of the most colourful birds we've ever seen, which roam free. They're hidden amongst the jungle of trees and tropical plants but as you wander through, they fly passed, their singing ringing around the large enclosure. There are also lizards and snakes (behind glass) but thankfully, no spiders.
* Unfortunately, due to the current COV-19 pandemic, the Desert House was closed, but hopefully we'll be able to go back next year.
Pelican lake is beautiful. The footpath which runs alongside it also has views across to the Gorilla enclosure. A slow stroll along this path takes you to the wild cats, monkeys, birds which includes my absolute favourite - owls.
Something new this year is the lemur wood and wobbly bridge. The bridge is hilarious to walk across. It made me feel drunk 😊
Over the years, we've been fortunate to have seen Paignton Zoo's African Elephant, Duchess.
Sadly, she died last year (July 2019). Seeing what was her home now minus that beautiful gentle giant is heartbreaking.
Duchess was forty nine years old when she died and was known as the matriarch of the zoo.
She had lived there since 1977 and originally lived with an Asian elephant called Gay.
Duchess was a huge part of the Paignton Zoo family and will be forever missed.
The gift shop is stocked full of goodies. There are so many gifts for the younger and older ones. I especially love the jewellery, figurines and wooden African ornaments which are
painted in vibrant colours.
Paignton Zoo is also a conservation and education charity. They work hard to prevent the extinction of threatened animals in the UK and abroad.
There are many ways we can help them do this. Here are just some of the options:
Adopt an animal
Purchasing an annual pass
For more information, check out their website at www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/
Over the years, I've taken hundreds of photographs of the wonderful animals at Paignton Zoo. Here are just 'a few' of them. I hope you like them.
One year, we took a boat trip from Brixham to Dartmouth. Fortunately, the sea wasn't too choppy and there were wonderful views during our journey.
Dartmouth stands on the banks of the River Dart. As we approached the town, we sailed passed Dartmouth Castle - which is another place I have yet to explore.
During our visit to Dartmouth, I did buy a book about the castle and this has fueled my curiosity further. If, like me, you love history, then it sounds like Dartmouth Castle is for you.
It's history spans more than six hundred years. Originally it was a fort before becoming a castle. In the middle ages, the rich merchant seamen of Dartmouth, needed to protect their homes and warehouses.
The castle's defenses date up to the second world war, when two 4.7 inch guns were installed. A target seeking searchlight accompanied these guns and a machine-gun post was also added next to the medieval gun tower.
For more information, I'd recommend buying the book: Dartmouth Castle by English Heritage. This is where I have taken most of my information from but I'm sure there are other detailed books out there. I will have to delve deeper into my research...
The town itself is very pretty. It hosts many festivals, the annual regatta which is well worth a visit, and also a wealth of shops, pubs, coffee shops and restaurants. It's definitely a place we will visit again.
7. Cockington Village
This unspoilt village is one of the prettiest places I've ever seen. The first time I went there was back in 1985 when I stayed in a caravan park with my parents during the school summer holiday. I remember the late Larry Grayson was there signing copies of his book. The village remains just the same as it was back then and retains all its charm and character from a bygone age.
Cockington is the perfect example of an English country village. It comprises of thatched cottages, a cricket ground, manor house, tea rooms and an old forge which dates back to Domesday Day.
When my children were little, they used to love the horse and carriage ride around the village and grounds.
I remember one horse in particular. Her name was Gypsy and my daughter just fell in love with her. One particular visit, Gypsy spent most of the journey farting - loudly. It was impossible to keep a straight face, but fortunately, the man who drove the carriage was finding Gypsy just as funny. Love her. She's retired now, but here's a photo of her.
We've enjoyed cream teas whilst listening to a pianist playing in the tearoom's gardens. We've had picnics in the grounds in front of the manor house. We've enjoyed ball games on the cricket green which our dog, Willow enjoyed just as must as we did 😊 We've wandered around the gift shops which are brimming with so many goodies it's difficult to decide what to buy. And there's also a courtyard which sells some really lovely, handmade gifts.
Cockington is a beautiful place but don't just take my word for it. Take a look at just a selection of the many photographs I've taken and see for yourself how lovely it is...
Greenway is a white, Queen Anne style, Georgian House. It was built in around 1780 by Roope Harris Roope. More famously, it was bought in 1938 by the world famous author, Agatha Christie.
Greenway remained in the Christie-Mallowan family until it was bought by the National Trust and then opened to the public in 2009.
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, and the county always held a special place in her heart.
She was raised in a villa called Ashfield, place she is quoted to describing as:
an ordinary enough villa.
In my opinion, that's a gross understatement. I've seen photographs of Ashfield and it looked lovely. Unfortunately, Ashfield was demolished, much to Agatha's distress.
In her autobiography, Agatha remembers the first time she went to Greenway.
When she was little, she joined her mother visiting Thomas Bolitho MP who lived at Greenway at the time. She is quoted to have said that Greenway was:
a house that my mother had always said, and I thought also, was the most perfect of the various properties on the Dart.
Little did she know at the time that she'd become one of the world's greatest authors and would own the property herself.
Upon entering Greenway, the first thing I noticed was that it felt like she'd just popped into another room. It feels homely and cozy, despite it's grand size. The furniture, layout, even the clothes, are how they were when Christie and her husband, Max Mallowan, lived there.
The house is full of mementos of Agatha's life. For instance, there is a portrait of her as a child. She is sat on a chair with her arm around her doll. That same doll is there, in the room, sat on a chair. For lack of a better way to describe it, I'd say I felt a connection with the great author. This simple piece of her history reminded me so much of my own rag doll - called Anna - whom I loved at that age. It was a reminder that, besides her fame, Agatha Christie was, like you and I, a real, live, ordinary person.
There are family photographs dotted around the house just like we have in our home.
Each piece of furniture seems to tell a story. From the portrait at the bottom of the staircase of Nursie, the lady who taught Agatha to read and write and helped feed her imagination, to her DBE - Dame of the British Empire Award - which lies behind a glass case.
The grounds are vast and, what I find particularly good is that dogs are allowed - but they're not allowed inside the house.
Various footpaths wind around towering trees, shrubs, twisting and turning past the Bathhouse and the Boathouse. Agatha Christie even used the Boathouse for the scene in her book, Dead Man's Folly. It is a place where she relaxed and watched the world go by from the fabulous views across the River Dart.
Her chair still stands where she used to sit and look over her manuscripts. These are just a few of the photos I took whilst at Agatha's Boathouse. The interior photo was taken from standing beside her chair - you could sit down but I didn't want to, it felt Iike I was being cheeky!
To go to Greenway, you need to book a parking slot because it is limited on space. The journey there, although picturesque, is one of tight and twisting roads. We were in a large nine seater and at times, the journey was a bit of a white knuckle ride. Glad I wasn't the one driving.
However, it was all worth it. Greenway is wonderful and I can't wait to go back again.
If you would like to find out more about Agatha Christie and her home at Greenway, then I highly recommend reading, Agatha Christie An Autobiography and Agatha Christie at Home, by Hilary Macaskell Much of what I've mentioned here is what I have learned from these books and also from my visit to Greenway.
9. Goodrington Sands
We can't go to Torbay and not stop at Goodrington.
We've had so many happy memories there.
For the children, there's the amusement arcade, crazy golf, Bumper Slide, Go Karts, Bumper Boats, Cafe with large seating out area, a large grassy expanse for picnics or playing ball games with the kids and the dog, a large Premier Inn, right on the sea front and of course, last but not least, the beach.
Goodrington Beach is split into two sections, one which allows dogs, and the other which doesn't.
We've gone on both beaches and, when it's hot and sunny and it's the height of summer - which is when we usually go, the beach gets really busy.
With our old dog, Willow, we were OK going to the dog friendly beach. She was an old girl and had calmed down a lot. She loved the water and would race in with the kids. Willow would never leave their side.
Her last holiday with us was in 2013. By then, the poor girl was going deaf and her eyesight was failing. Yet, she still tried to keep up with the kids. We had to keep an eye on her though because she was getting confused, thinking a young boy or girl who ran passed was either my Nathan or Becki.
It was a tug at the heart strings really, seeing how our once athletic, sharp and extremely clever girl was getting old.