A Week in Sunny Devon
It was six forty-five in the morning when our plane touched down at Gatwick
airport. This was the start of my one week vacation in Southern England.
As we drew up to the gate, the captain told us the weather
forecast for the next few days was warm and sunny…what a bonus! No rain!
Once we cleared customs and located our hired car which, as luck would
have it, had a diesel engine. What a great reward, considering gas is
around five dollars a gallon in the UK and this car would achieve sixty
miles to the gallon. So off we set on our journey down to Devon, where
the rolling hills and lush green valleys are a sheer delight. When we
turned off the highway and on to the county roads, the
scenery started out quite level, with the odd hill scattered here and
there. All of a sudden, I began to see Stonehenge straight ahead. As we
approached the amazing monuments of age-old stone, my heart began to sense
a bygone age of ancient rituals. I slowed down to a crawl (much to the
disgust of the impatient drivers behind) and could envision sacred
blessings being bestowed to faithful worshipers. A time gone by that holds
many mysteries and conjures up mystical thoughts that spark the soul.
All too soon, the unexplainable stones disappeared in the rear view mirror
as the car picked up speed and headed towards Devon. As the scenery began
to change to rolling hills there was no need to look at the map to know
we were approaching Somerset and then Devon. Originating from Florida
where everything is flat, the rolling hills were a truly a refreshing
pleasure to behold.
After four hours of driving and one rest stop for toasted tea cakes and tea,
we arrived at our Devon cottage in the countryside.
Longcombe Cottages is a delightful series of eight individual cottages
catering to all tastes in size. We lodged in a one bedroom cottage that
was the home of two horses before the conversion to a holiday home. It
was tiny but very comfortable. The owners of Longcombe Cottages are
Vanessa and Chris Lewis. They are a wonderful couple who go out of their
way to make every guest’s stay a pure pleasure. With a heated indoor
swimming pool and children’s play area, the secluded cottages are an
idyllic setting for a peaceful holiday. Magnificent rolling hills that
encircle the cottages accommodate a farm with sheep, cows, a rooster and
an angry farmer who will not allow anyone on his land. Of course, one day
we tried to walk over to the cows only to be told to bugger off in no
uncertain manner. Gee! It’s great to be back in the UK and be greeted
with such frank honesty. When I blew the farmer a kiss, his faced turned
to beetroot (nice to see county folks with color in their cheeks).
Chris’s father was a Member of Parliment for a northeastern town in England for many years. One evening he brought over his father’s memorabilia, which contained,
amongst other things, a collection of letters Chris’s dad received
from Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and the infamous Enoch Powell.
Every letter told a story, and there was even some correspondence from a
minster at the center of the Profumo affair in the early sixties. What?
You don’t remember the call-girl scandal that brought down the defense
minister? Of course you do. They made a movie called “Scandal” and I
was reading a letter that was part of all the Hoo-Har. Fascinating stuff.
The cottages are very close to the seaside towns of Paignton (famous for
its great zoo), and Torquay. Both are well worth a day visit and the zoo
is a real nature reserve in natural settings, but very hilly. Torquay takes first prize for magnificent Gardens and superb seafront walking promenade. No wonder they call it the “English Riviera”. It
even has palm trees, swaying in the light balmy breezes. As we walked
along the promenade, we came to a large grassed area that was holding a
festival in aid of a charity. The site was filled with many marquees that
had children’s gifts and there was a large stage for children’s
entertainment. A little further down the line was a marquee with a large
sign reading “Free Men’s Health Check.” It had been twenty years since I had a
health check, so what a golden opportunity to get an examination. “What do
you do?” I enquired. Cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and
testicle test, came the reply from a young good-looking nurse! “Really, where do I sign up?” was my immediate, cheeky smiling, response.
All my blood levels were perfect, then it came to the testicle test. The
cute young nurse brought over a rubber sack that resembled a man’s
genitals and she showed me how to squeeze each testicle looking for and
signs of a lump. It was not the physical I imagined, but it was an
important piece of information on do-it-yourself health check that can
save a life. I had learnt something new and I thanked all the staff
kindly for their great work in preventing illness. Another bonus to a
There was an adjoining marquee, so I went inside to see what was going on.
My eyesight is not what it used to be when it comes to reading small
print. Sitting on a table was a basket with small black packages in it,
with the words “extra strong” written on them in bold white letters. The rest were lots
of small words I could not read without my glasses. I thought they were
extra strong mints, so I asked the girl if it was OK to take a couple.
“Yes, certainly it is OK and you will need this lubricant to go with
them.” She kindly replied. “What? Lubricant with a mint?” I laughingly
She laughed out loud and declaimed “They are not mints…they’re
condoms!!!” The laugh was on me, and everyone in the tent fell about
laughing. What with testicles and condoms, this was turning out to be very
safe sex, but alas…no mints!!!
Meanwhile back at the cottages Vanessa and Chris had organized a
get-together with all the other guests. It turned out to be a great party
with many interesting English folks who all had stories to tell.
Another lovely place close by is the ancient town of Totnes. It is a town
steeped in English history. Steeped is the correct word for the town – it is
built on an extremely steep hill and walking up is not for the unfit. We
had a lovely guide to show us around and tell us the local history.
Medieval legend has it that Brutus of Troy (based on myths) is the
originator of the British race and this would be the place early settlers
would have arrived along the South West coast in the 10th century.
Totnes, which means ‘The Fort’, was originated by the Saxon kingdom of
Wessex. In 1206 people secured their charter of independence from King
John, and sent their first MP to Parliament in 1295. The list of mayors
in the Guildhall begins in 1359.
Many houses in the town depict the wealth of rich merchants from the 16th
century, several with lavishly carved ceilings. Throughout the Civil War,
both sides used the town as a base, with Sir Thomas Fairfax, Charles the
Second and Oliver Cromwell visiting the town and leaving their mark in
the history books. Today the ancient character of the town is still felt with the clock tower in the center to chronicle an ambiance of past era. Shoppers will enjoy strolling around some unique and diverse shops
in the town. It also boasts of a great old fashioned fishmonger with very
There are so many day trips in the local area, we would have needed a
month to see them all. One of the places we did visit was a working farm
called Pennywell. It is filled with an assortment of half-hourly events
and various cute animals that make for a very enjoyable day out. The
highlight for us was the bird of pray display that was truly amazing.
Some of the other places to visit in the area, which the locals told me
were great fun are:
- Canonteign Falls
- Cardew Teapottery
- Coleton Fishacre House and Garden
- Dartington Cider Press Centre
- Hedgehog Hospital
- Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway
- Quaywest Waterpark
- River Dart Country Park
- Sharpham Vineyard
- Sorley Tunnel Adventure Farm
- South Devon Railway
- Totnes Rare Breeds Centre
- Woodlands Leisure Park