Blog : Posts tagged with 'Devon'

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In The Wild

In which we spot someone camping without a camp site


Not having chance for a Proper Summer Holiday for the second year running, we’ve been thinking what we can do with a long weekend away, or even a short weekend away. A bit of wild camping seems like it might be in order. It’s illegal just about everywhere in England,* but “just about everywhere”, for some mysterious traditional reason, doesn’t include the Dartmoor Commons. So, we can zoom off to Devon on a Friday, find somewhere to park the car then hike off into the moors until we’re out of sight of a road. Pop up the pop-up tent, make sure we’ve got food and a trowel, and enjoy a couple of nights in the wilderness.

Ambling around Bristol, though, we’ve noticed recently that not everybody bothers to go that far. The other evening, we noticed somebody camping in Totterdown, on St John’s Lane. Well, we assume that’s what they were doing: a tent had popped up in the bushes. The following morning: someone camping on the Portway, underneath the gorge’s cliffs. Either it’s one person moving their pitch, or inner-city wild camping is the latest trend. Personally, I’d rather travel a little further from home; but presumably, they’re not that local. I think we’d still prefer a pitch on Dartmoor, though.

* Insert “Get off my laaaand!” here

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Summer railway

In which we have a trip out by train


Never mind “Spring Bank Holiday”: it’s June, and it feels like it’s summer already: last weekend, we had a day at the beach, and both ended up horribly sunburned. As shorts aren’t an option for work, I winced every time I moved my legs. Yesterday: a bank holiday weekend, and beautiful sunshine again, so we went off for a cream tea and a steam train ride.

The footplate of a steam locomotive on a summer’s day is a horribly hot and airless place to be. Nevertheless, riding behind a steam engine seems like such a naturally summery thing to do. So we travelled down to the South Devon Railway,* for a day’s relaxation sitting in railway carriages and watching trains go past.

The South Devon Railway is, as steam railways go, an unusually scenic one. Being in Devon it’s surrounded by lush, verdant countryside; it follows the River Dart down from Buckfastleigh, past rough, rocky rapids; weirs and once-busy mill-races; finally alongside the more placid deeper, lower stretches of the river, down to its tidal weir just by Totnes station. It doesn’t take much effort for a train to trundle downriver; as we sat in the front carriage with the windows open, we could hear the locomotive clanking its way down the valley with barely any steam on, the vacuum pump making a light chiff noise for each revolution of the wheels. Every so often, a gentle touch of speed was needed, and we heard the deeper huffhuffhuffhuff of the cylinders, four huffs to each vacuum pump chiff. We passed sleepy red cattle, wading fishermen, and groups of wading photographers standing on mid-river rocks to take photos of the passing train.

Country trains often ramble a little, and pause unexpectedly. Midway along the line, we halted in a loop, and waited quietly for another train to pass. Other passengers, not used to this sort of thing, looked around and wondered what the problem was. We were too far away from the signalbox to hear the block bells chiming; but we could hear the rattle of the signal wires as the signals for the down train were pulled off, then we watched it slowly chuff past us before we started on our way again.

This is not Photo Post Of The Week, incidentally. That’s because the photos below aren’t ones I took yesterday; as usual, my photo uploads are far too backlogged for that. These, though, are from the last time I visited the South Devon Railway, about three years ago. The fixed stop signal has been repainted since, but not much else has changed.

Buckfastleigh station, South Devon Railway, down end Watering an engine whilst rounding the train, Buckfastleigh, South Devon Railway GWR tablet catcher, Buckfastleigh, South Devon Railway

* Things it is important not to confuse pt. 373: the South Devon Railway, the line from Exeter to Plymouth designed by Brunel, opened in the 1840s, and bought out by the Great Western Railway in the 1870s; with the South Devon Railway, the heritage railway formed in the early 1990s to take over the Dart Valley Railway’s tourist line from Totnes to Buckfastleigh and turn it from a business-oriented tourist attraction into a more charitably-run steam railway. You may spot a problem of similarity with the names there.

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Memories of the year

In which we remember things we’ve done


Last year, I spread my favourite memories over a series of posts, and wrote each one up properly. This year, I’m still feeling rather woozy and fuzzy-headed; but, nonetheless, these are the things I remember most clearly about the year.

The sight of Devon in January. Driving down the M5 in the dark, and wondering what it would look like in the daylight; then the next morning seeing everything clearly.

Getting on a plane for the first time, and feeling it throw me back in my seat on take-off. I didn’t realise, beforehand, just how forceful it feels. I tried to identify towns, roads, railways from the window, but didn’t do very well. From what I did recognise, we took a very sinuous course around southern England before heading out over the Channel.

Driving around town in the middle of summer, trying to find my way to work, via a route that wasn’t closed by flooding. The estates and marshland east of town were being pumped out by the army; not many routes were passable. Thinking: it’s a bit silly making the sea defences bigger and louder, only to get swamped by the rain.

And, finally: at the end of summer, on a Sunday afternoon, sitting on a stile listening to church bells, and all the other noises one hears at such times.

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Previously unseen

In which we look at Devon and Cornwall


Some photos pulled out of the files. Devon and Cornwall, last May.

Devon seaside Devon seaside
Cornwall seaside Cornwall seaside

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Why do holidays always end too soon

In which FP checks in from Devon


Right now I’m sitting on a quayside in Plymouth, in front of some white fluffy clouds, lots of yachts, various “rustic” harbourside buildings, and an Apple Mac. The Mac is nearly as much a holiday as the rest of it: I keep forgetting that British Macs have American-style keyboards, with the ” and @ keys the wrong way around.*

Next week I’m going to be back in the office again, but for now, I’m making the most of the sunshine (by burning slightly) and the free time (by doing nothing much of any importance). Lots of photos when I get back – I really should start using my Flickr account properly.

* to say nothing of ยง, ~ and |

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Ooh, Devon Is A Place On Earth

In which we go for a walk in Devon


As the song goes.*

Overlooking the sea Sea wall Teignmouth Sea wall New Red Sandstone Arches

* You know, that song by that woman from Carlisle.

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Words and pictures

In which we visit Devon


Well, not many words. Yesterday: a walk on the beach.

River Flagpole Sandstone

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