Devon to South Wales
Further south and west for our next stop, passing by friends in Dorset, and heading to Devon for lunch with a couple we hadn’t seen in 4 years, and who were also unable to make our ‘Big Day’.
By now you may be getting the impression that we travelled from meal to meal via various friends’ houses. There is a kind of truth to this. It was part of the generosity and kindness we experienced that friends offered hospitality, which invariably included sharing meals. We often ate at times people weren’t accustomed to eating at, owing to our un-predicatable arrival times, yet people were unfazed and welcoming. And the food was very good. Food is one of the loves of our lives; cooking, eating, sharing food with friends, are some of the simplest and best times we had on the trip.
After the welcome ‘catching up’ with news and views we were on the road again, although this time not for very long. The short journey to Exmouth was fairly trouble-free considering we were travelling along the south coast on the first weekend of theEnglish school holidays.
Tea and cake on arrival was a good excuse to sit and natter later we were shown to the ‘honeymoon suite’ as our thoughtful and generous friends had vacated their bedroom so we could sleep there – the second set of our friends to do this.
The following day we had a famous ‘Cole’s tour’ of various East Devon attractions, mainly costal, although avoiding the obvious bottlenecks. We walked along the path of the river Exe and the sea, through the Marina and along the esplanade to the pavilion. Although the weather was changeable, the wide sweep of Exmouth Bay was impressive nonetheless. We had lunch at the Longboat café on the Beach at Budleigh Salterton and our bravery seemed to encourage the sun to come out. We sipped locally produced drinks and ate fresh crab sandwiches. My idea of what a beach café should be. Our afternoon cuppa in the town sadly lacked the same authenticity, despite promising much. We waited ages to be served – and I mean over 40 minutes – and the orders were incorrect. Tony said the coffee was nice, although that didn’t really compensate.
The following day the weather was beautiful and we drove to a local nature reserve, Bystock pools, a wonderfully diverse habitat across a relatively small area: heathland, meadow, forestry and water. We saw Emperor Dragonflies, and Damsel flies a-plenty, although photographing them proved much more difficult than watching them. We spent a happy hour or so meandering the paths and boardwalks, admiring the lilly pads and wildlife and enjoying the summer sunshine. Apparently the site is known for being a nightjar habitat. They’re hard to see at any time, owing to their perfect camouflage, but being a predominantly nocturnal bird we didn’t stand any chance of seeing them during the daytime. It still gave me a warm glow knowing they were there.
We enjoyed our time in Exmouth despite it being the height of the tourist season, and it was another of those places we added to the ‘must do again’ list.
The following day we were on the road again, this time towards West Wales to visit another friend who was unable to make the ‘Big Day’. The weather was still hot, although thankfully the traffic was only moderately busy, and apart from crossing the Severn Road Bridge and a spate of roadworks, we barely slowed down.
Suitably hungry we walked to The Old Swan with our friend, Chris. The oldest pub in Llantwit Major was having repairs done, so we didn’t see it at its best but the food was good, with lots of local choices and hearty portions. It was nice to hear locals in the pub as well as visitors, and to see they had a dog-friendly policy, as many of the hostelries do at home.
Chris was another friend who generously gave up his bedroom. Somewhat anti-socially, we retired for the night before the witching hour. Driving, walking chatting and eating clearly makes you tired. Well, it made us tired anyway, a theme continued throughout the holiday.
The following morning we wereup at a reasonable hour enjoying homemade bread, quality preserves and fruit for breakfast. Chris was keen to show us the delights of the Vale of Glamorgan and a costal walk was the best way to do it. The Glamorgan Heritage Coast is a 22km stretch of coastline awarded Heritage Coast status in 1972. Extending from Aberthaw to Porthcawl, it features dramatic cliffs, amazing rock formations and is rich in wildlife. We covered a small 6 miles portion of it. Heading away from the house towards the Col-Huw point, we continued past St Donat’s castle and onto the lighthouse at Nash Point, finishing at the Plough and Harrow in Monknash.
The route was varied and interesting, highlighting as it does the spectacular effects of freeze/thaw weathering and gales pummeling the cliffs and shoreline. St. Donat’s Castle was once owned by Randolph Hearst, the American newspaper magnate who used to spend holidays there and sometimes bring ‘Hollywood’ friends to stay. It is now the more sober ‘Atlantic College’, an international sixth form college. WWll gun placements are a frequent sight along the coast adding to the historical interest. By far the best bit for me was seeing the jagged coastline and the farmland, dotted with small hamlets. A perfect country/coastal view.
Inevitably our exertion ended in a well-earned lunch at the Plough. My companions had the Glamorgan sausages – ‘as good as homemade’ was the verdict – and I plumped for a mushroom, goats cheese and beetroot affair, which sounds confused but didn’t disappoint. After lunch we ordered ice-cream and walked up the road to catch the bus back to Llantwit. We picked up a few supplies, including some of Chris’s luscious home-grown tomatoes, and began the long haul north. Farewell South Wales, we’ll definitely visit again. Next stop The Peak District National Park, 200 miles away.
Devon Wildlife Trust – Bystock Pools