We had a super week in Devon, travelling around sightseeing and tasting all sorts of wonderful, local produce, and fresh apple cider. Axminster offered an interesting selection of junk shops selling everything including vintage clothes and fossils.
The River Cottage Canteen was super, combining a relaxed atmosphere in a semi industrial building with delicious, ethically sourced, seasonal food. We went there for a lunch and a dinner where I especially enjoyed their strawberry vodka bellinis and slow-roasted belly pork.
We explored the narrow, leafy, countryside lanes and coastline and exploited our National Trust membership to visit the quirky 16-sided house full of curiosities called A La Ronde near Exmouth. The house had been designed to enjoy the sun throughout the day before electric lights were invented.
Castle Drogo, designed by Lutyens, was having an expensive renovation to replace the flat roof that had leaked since it was built in the 1920’s. I climbed the scaffolding to survey the huge site which will be completed in 2017.
The most picturesque places that we visited were Budleigh-Salterton, Branscombe and Sidmouth. There was every kind of architecture from sagging thatched roofs to Regency elegance.
A large market was in full swing in Dorchester where we visited Max Gate, the house owned by novelist, Thomas Hardy. Freya has been wading through “Tess of the D’Urbevilles”, not as enamoured by the style of the book as I had been. We had lunch in an oak panelled tearoom that had been used as a courtroom during the English Civil War.
The highlight of the week was the day that Freya and I spent at the River Cottage HQ cookery school. We did not actually meet my food hero, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but everything was exactly as it appears on the TV programme. We were allowed to wander around and meet the pigs, poke our noses in the Yurt and see where some filming had been going on for the next series.
It was an intensive day of cookery lessons, guided by one of the River Cottage chefs who was passionate about using seasonal ingredients. We kneaded bread, made blackcurrant curd, rhubarb and lemon verbena tarts, chorizo meatballs with broad beans and learned how to fillet a flat fish. All of food had come from the fields and gardens of River Cottage HQ apart from the fish which had been landed at Lyme Regis earlier in the morning.
We reluctantly climbed onto the tractor trailer at the end of the day with our freshly baked loaves and jars of curd after thanking all of the staff and apprentices. I certainly hope to go back another time to undertake another day of curing and smoking or maybe even bee-keeping;)
We spent our last day in Devon at Lyme sitting on the beach and finding out about Victorian fossil hunters in the museum. Since the weather was so lovely, we made ourselves a cream tea back at the cottage. Later in the evening we headed out for a pub supper which we ate outside and washed it down with yet more cider.
We set off towards Norfolk on Saturday morning with the intention of visiting Stonehenge en route. Google informed me that the carpark would cost £5 then the family ticket would be a further £36. We decided to simply drive along the A303 and spot it from the car window. There were hordes of people admiring it from a cordoned-off distance which I felt was rather a shame. I remember scrambling about on the stones as a child in the 1970’s before they became “fashionable” and I much prefer the unlimited access to stone circles that we have in Scotland.
We made a flying visit to the area of Suffolk where we lived when Freya was a baby and had a pint of Adnams Ale at the popular Butt and Oyster pub, overlooking old sailing barges. We were reminded how balmy and sociable summer evenings can be in East Anglia. We are hopeful that we will also get some sunny weather in Norfolk so we can go to the beach and have a couple of BBQs. There are also plans to visit Norwich, a dinosaur park, make a dress, go swimming at a lido and spend a day at a festival so the holiday will simply disappear in a flash!