And it came to pass, that on the twenty-eighth day of serving our penance, the almighty one forgave us sinners (although strictly speaking that should be ‘sinner’ as it was not I that uttered that sacrilegious ‘Custard’ comment, but after all, I guess we are both in this together I suppose). The maelstrom that was sent down from above, the snow, hailstones and rain, in torrential proportions along with winds, of Gale force proportion, were finally cast away, we had taken our punishment and learnt our lesson……. well perhaps one of us had, I cannot speak with any certainty about my beloved !! But the sun had returned, the sky had turned from foreboding grey and tormenting black to the most wonderful blue, the breeze was now but a gentle breath of fresh air upon our faces. The keeper of this particular piece of land (the Campsite Warden – me !!) was now permitted to freely go about and tend his ploughed fields (Repair the grass pitches that had become very soggy and got churned up !!) and to breathe new life into his land (re-seed the grass pitches that had churned up but were now drying out) and to wander amongst his flock once more (the paying guests).
Our little piece of heaven, sits atop a hill, from which we have some wonderful views, to the South East, the rolling Devon Hills adorned with windmills, well they are wind turbines really, but they actually add to the scenic outlook rather than detract from it, to the South ‘we can’ actually see Dartmoor and to the West we have a Sea View, well it is actually the mouth of the Estuary with its two tributaries, the first forms the beginning of the ‘River Taw‘ that flows to, and beyond, ‘Barnstaple‘ and the second that forms the ‘River Torridge‘ that flows to and beyond ‘Bideford‘.
Rolling Devon Hills and Windmills !!
A view of the Estuary
Welcome to our little piece of Heaven in North Devon
We can only get to explore our new area when we are on our time off, half a day on Sunday afternoon and a whole day in the week, we have currently selected to take Thursdays, as it breaks up our seven days quite nicely, however, we may adapt that once we see how busy we get as the season progresses. With Ilfracombe being our local town, being just a short four mile drive away, we have been there on a couple of occasions and had a mini-exploration, there is plenty to see and do but the weather to date has not been conducive to any substantial or in-depth investigations. On our last visit we decided, regrettably as it turned out, to eat out, and what do you eat when you are in a typically British seaside resort, yes that’s right, good old ‘Fish ‘n’ Chips but on this occasion there was nothing good about them whatsoever, in fact I would go as far to say that they were the worst fish and chips we have ever tasted, under-cooked anaemic batter, greasy and the chips were much the same. On our way back to the car, feeling rather despondent, we both agreed that our English owned ‘Fish ‘n’ Chip Restaurant at the bottom of the hill near our apartment in Spain, were much more superior, but we felt sad that a British Classic on our own soil had been so bad, I blame ‘Brexit’ myself, for no other reason than every ‘Fish ‘n’ Chip meal I have had, whilst we were happy to be part of the EU Community, have always been top class, now we have opted to leave our European neighbours our British Standards are already declining, it has to be down to Brexit doesn’t it ? Mind you, there is also a conspiracy theory, since hearing of our plans to reclaim our fishing grounds, the French are already sabotaging our fish stocks and let’s face it, the inferior French fish do not have to swim far to get to Devon, food for thought maybe ? I have to say though, that we had partaken of a Fish ‘n’ Chip meal in ‘Squires’, a Fish restaurant located in ‘Braunston’, a smaller town just a few miles away, three weeks earlier, and they were absolutely superb, so perhaps all is not lost just yet. On our walk back through the town, after our disappointing meal, we stopped at a small shop that sold Pasties and Cakes, Shazza had noticed a sign that advertised ‘Take Away Devon Cream Tea’ (minus the tea ?), “Didn’t that just make it a Scone with jam and cream” I suggested, “Do you not want one then ?” came her somewhat chastising response. I lowered my head ashamedly, “Yes Please Mum, Sorry Mum” I said, with my bottom lip all a quiver, she just looked at me, laughed and called me an idiot !! After a very disappointing lunch I did not have very high expectations of this ‘Take-Away Devon Cream Tea’, surely these are best consumed at a quintessential English Tea and Cake shop, off the finest bone china plates ? We saved our sweet purchase for the evening and my goodness what a delightful surprise, inside the cake box were two enormous fruit scones, and I mean enormous !! Two tubs of Clotted Cream and two tubs of thick fruity Strawberry Jam, they were absolutely magnificent, not being one who is particularly fond of clotted cream at the best of times, this is another one of those food conversion moments, first it was the ‘Kebab’ conversion in Bristol and now, Devon Cream Tea (not minus the tea, as I enjoyed a nice mug of hot freshly brewed PG Tips with it), if this is how good a ‘Takeaway’ version is I cannot wait to try one in a proper tea shop !!
We had also spent one of our ‘Full Days’ off doing a bit of a drive around the Coastal roads, stopping first at ‘Woolacombe Bay’ with its well renowned long sandy beach, crowded during the Summer months, the weather was dry but it was very cold and the wind had an evil nasty icy bite to it. We took a brief walk around the small town but virtually all the shops and Cafe’s were ‘closed’ so we went back to the car, turned the heating on full and continued our sightseeing adventure, whistle-stop tours of ‘Croyde’ and ‘Saunton Sands’, both very popular ‘Surfer Beaches’, but we remained in the car and looked out of the windows at the uninviting and desolate beaches before heading for Barnstaple, the nearest largest town to us. I had looked on ‘Google Maps’ and had seen that the ‘River Taw’ ran past, rather than through the town, so had hoped that we may have had the opportunity to find a Riverside Walk, not that it would have been good enough to walk on this particular day but for another time when it was a lot warmer. It turned out that whilst there was a Riverside Walk, because the river is tidal, it was only actually a riverside walk at certain times of the day, or night, dependent on when the tide was actually in otherwise it was a rather boring ‘mud bed walk’ !! We strolled into the town, I found it pleasant enough, not jaw droppingly magnificent, it was just a normal town with every shop you could ever want, if that is your thing ? However, Shazza, who is very biased towards Spain, did not find it a very enjoyable experience even though I had tried to explain that her comparisons with Spanish Towns were not on a ‘like to like’ basis, but I may as well have been talking to a brick wall. If we came back to Barnstaple in the Summer months, hopefully when it is warmer, the streets will have throngs of people, the Cafe’s, Pubs and Restaurants will have their tables set up outside and perhaps even the tide will be in and the Riverside Walk would be a whole different experience, but then again, whilst I enjoy our Winter breaks in Spain, I really enjoy the UK and I want to tour and visit so many places that I still have not seen. “But” she said, “Wouldn’t you rather be walking down the Promenade in Tee-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, the blue azure Mediterranean on one side, the lively bars and cafes on the other, sat in the warmth of the sun drinking a cold Tinto Verano ?“, all very good arguments, very well presented and………. with temperatures over in Spain currently averaging around 20 degrees(c) whilst here we are struggling to get above 8-9 degrees(c), I guess she had a point, damn it !!
On another one of our days off we decided to visit another Riverside town, ‘Bideford‘, which we were surprised to discover was only around 15 miles away, it looked much further on the map. It was a warmer day, the sun was shining although it was not warm enough to forego our coats. Our initial impressions were good, we were able to find a good parking place, on the river frontage and within just a short walk to the centre of the town, or a bit longer if, like us, you like to stroll at a gentle pace along the river frontage. The car park was both a short stay and a long stay and at £2 for four hours was the best value we had found in the area and for Motorhomers you can overnight for £5 (6pm-10am), nice location next to a park, overlooking the river and a short walk from all the facilities provided within the town, however, there are no services.
Looking back up the River Torridge towards the mouth of the estuary with the main A39 Spanning it.
Looking down the river to the less modern, but very much nicer, road bridge that spans the river to the small village of East-on-the-Water on the opposite bank.
Looking directly across the river from Bideford to East-on-the-Water
We found the town did not live up to ‘our’ expectations, it had a full range of the usual retail outlets but it was quite a steep walk up the main street and apart from a couple of small alleyways to explore, it did not have the ‘WOW’ factor, but again, it may have a different ambience during the Summer. We had intended to have lunch at a nice ‘Bistro’ or something similar, a belated Anniversary meal, but the town was sadly lacking and it was looking like a Pub lunch was on the cards. However, we had followed a sign to the ‘Pannier Market’, up another flipping hill !! The market itself was an indoor affair, very small and basically it just comprised of the usual bric-a-brac and ‘tat’ and it didn’t take us long to walk the full length without being tempted to part with any of our hard-earned money, but fate must have brought us to this area because as we exited the market we saw, across the road, a small Italian Restaurant. We perused the menu board outside and saw that in addition to the ‘normal menu’, they were also offering a two-course lunchtime menu. Shazza opened the front entry door and looked inside, she screwed up her nose, not a good sign, then shut the door again without going inside, “What is wrong” I asked, “It’s empty” she said, “So what is wrong with that, the menu looked good and we don’t seem to have too many options unless you want a pub Steak and Ale Pie“. She had a defeated look on her face, I knew that she didn’t really fancy a pub meal, not that there is anything wrong with pub meals generally, although they can be a bit hit and miss at times, and although she wasn’t bothered about a gourmet lunch she just wanted a nice meal in nice surroundings. “What do you want to do” she asked me, which was because she was fed up and didn’t want to have to decide. “Let us go in here, the menu looks nice and if it isn’t any good you can blame me” I said. We entered, it wasn’t empty, a lady, sat drinking a glass of red wine was at a table just inside the doorway, she gave us a cheery ‘hello’. A young girl, neatly attired in her waitress uniform came to meet us and showed us to a table. It was nice to see a waitress dressed appropriately, it certainly projects a nice first impression, so many staff in eateries these days appear to wear jeans and training shoes and tee-shirts, of course the way they dress in no way reflects the quality of the food, perhaps we are just old-fashioned in our expectation of standards. After taking our drinks order she left us to peruse both the ‘normal’ menu and the ‘Lunchtime Menu Del Dia’. We could have eaten from either the choices all looked good but the value of the lunchtime menu won out at two-courses for £11.95. Now I will not bore you with what we ate but suffice to say that both courses were absolutely superb, the wine was good, the service was excellent especially when the Italian owner, who was not the chef, presented us with our main courses and asked if we had everything we needed, a nice personal touch. It is worth saying at this point that by the time we received our starter course, the place was buzzing, we had timed it just right as the tables filled up pretty quickly. Shazza’s mood had changed within seconds of sitting down at our table, the internal decor was ‘rustic’ but very pleasant, the service was attentive but not overly intrusive and the food was delicious, sometimes you just shouldn’t judge that book by its cover, now where have I said that before ?
In between all this gadding about we have the day job, a little matter of maintaining our nine-acre grass estate. We may not have a toilet block and all the facilities that come with it so no cleaning of said facilities, but there is always something to do, normal routines of morning bin runs and ‘pot’ cleaning and of course with nine acres of grass there is quite a lot of grass cutting, using either the ride on mower, the petrol hand mower or the strimmer. However, there are always the ‘other’ tasks, repairs and general maintenance accounting for the majority of those ‘other tasks’. I have to, very sincerely, say a big thank you to all of my previous Wardens that I have worked with and for, as they have been instrumental in teaching me a great deal from Plumbing skills, Woodworking skills and lots of ‘tips and tricks’ on general maintenance techniques. Imparting and sharing their knowledge and experience has been very useful in the short time we have been here, I would have had to manage without this knowledge, but it would have taken me a lot longer to achieve the desired results after a few (lots) of occasions of ‘that didn’t work, back to the drawing board‘ !! The days are just flying past and we love it here, I know it is early days yet, but it is a wonderful site in a wonderful location with wonderful views and many of our guests so far have been ‘regulars’, as in coming to this site every year for the last 30 years and as you may imagine they know how this site runs !! Actually, everyone we have met has been absolutely brilliant, very friendly and very good-humoured, they don’t even moan about the constant rain we have been experiencing, they just deal with it and either go out, dressed appropriately or remain in their vans watching the TV, DVD’s, reading books and magazines, baking, or watching and waiting for the opportunity to stop me for a ‘natter’ when they see me passing. We are not a busy site, well not as yet at least, probably because lots of caravanners and motorhomers that use campsites these days, although having perfectly usable on-board facilities of their own, prefer to use sites that provide these for them. Before arriving here I had anticipated that our customer base would be either single people or couples, of a certain age, and not families or the younger generation of camper but that theory was blown out of the water pretty quickly !! Having now spoken to a large selection of our guests they all state, without exception, that they enjoy this site for its quiet location yet close proximity to everything, towns, beaches, numerous attractions for all ages, walking routes, cycling routes and the views. They have the on site facilities to service their camping needs, Electric Hook Up, Calor Gas bottle exchange, Fresh Water Points, Grey Water Disposal, Chemical Toilet Disposal and a Motorhome Service Point, Large grass play area, Large dog walking and exercise field and for those who do not want to keep carting their home on wheels up and down each time, they can, for a nominal charge, store their vans in our storage compound, what more could they want ?
So, as our working days are passing by pretty quickly, that means that our ‘split’ days off are coming around quickly as well, although not being quite as hardy as some of our more seasoned guests, some of those ‘off days’ have been spent relaxing in the warmth, dry and comfort of the ‘Little Fokker’. However, now that we have served our penance we are making the most of the drier and warmer weather and on our most recent half day, on the recommendation of one of our regular guests, we decided to explore the small Coastal village of ‘Instow’ at the mouth of the Estuary where the ‘Atlantic Ocean’ turns into two tidal Rivers, ‘The Taw’ and ‘The Torridge’.
Looking up the River Torridge towards Bideford from the mouth of the estuary at Instow
On the other bank of the Estuary lay the pretty coastal village of Appledore
Oh Yes ! One of these would suit me perfectly !!
On entering the village we could not get over just how busy it was, people everywhere, on the pavements, in the Cafe’s, sat on benches outside the local pub, on the beach and unfortunately they all had to park somewhere !! We drove the full length of the village, the car parks were full, the roadside kerbs were full, we thought we would be disappointed and have to leave our visit for another time, but fortunately, eagle-eyed Shazza saw a parking space just big enough to accommodate ‘Wuxly’ just outside the village, just a short five-minute stroll away.
Instow really is one of those chocolate box coastal villages, lovely seaside cottages and houses overlooking the Estuary and on the opposite bank another charming looking village of ‘Appledore’. We walked the full length of the village, Stopping to admire the sea views, the hoards of people on the beach, just walking, playing football and even sat on blankets on the sand eating their picnics, locally purchased pasties or ice creams and we thoroughly enjoyed just being part of the throng of happy people enjoying a warm sunny Sunday afternoon. We had agreed not to eat out again, well not of meal sized proportions at least but the walk by the sea has a way of getting the gastronomic taste buds going. We had passed a local Bakery, come Delicatessen, come Shop selling local produce which had a sign outside advertising ‘Devon Cream Tea’, well, that was it, what a splendid way to end our afternoon stroll by the sea, it had to be done, it would have been rude not to ?
The Cafe part of the establishment was not large, it only accommodated six tables, which were all occupied, but there were four bench type stools that were positioned in front of a large picture window that gave views over the Estuary to Appledore, two of the stools were empty, but not for long. It was a waitress table service arrangement, so whilst we waited to be served, we perused the list of highly tempting ‘edibles’ on the menu cards, out of curiosity more than anything else as we already knew what we were going to order, I still had the memory of the fabulous ‘Takeaway Devon Cream Tea’ and couldn’t wait to have another, but this time a proper ‘Tea Shop’ served one with a pot of strong hot tea that I didn’t have to make myself. We did not have too long a wait, the waitress arrived and we ordered our ‘Devon Cream Tea’s’, but one with Coffee, as Shazza does not drink tea. We waited for ages but eventually Shazza’s coffee arrived, she tried to not drink it too quickly so that she could enjoy some of it with her Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream Scone. After waiting for around ten-minutes, there was still no sign of our much awaited tasty treat arriving so Shazza drank the remainder of her now much cooler cup of coffee, we had observed other’s who had arrived after us, sit down, have their orders taken and subsequently delivered whilst we were still waiting !! Perhaps they had gone to Ilfracombe to get our Devon Cream Tea from the ‘Takeaway Shop’ ? We were just about to give up, pay for the coffee then leave when finally the waitress headed in our direction, no best china crockery here, a small wooden platter, more like a small cheeseboard affair with a handle, upon it were two scones, if we had joined them together they still would not have equalled the size of just one of our ‘Takeaway Scones’, one small tub of jam and one small tub of Clotted Cream, had she got our order wrong, was this platter in fact a single persons portion and another would follow ? We soon discovered that was a ‘No’ then, and to make matters go from bad to worse, another missing item was ‘my’ pot of Tea !! I kept trying to attract the attention of the waitress but she was having none of it, no eye contact, no looking in our direction and so I had to make a choice, stop eating my poor excuse for a ‘Devon Cream Tea’ and go and ask where my pot of tea was, or, finish our poor excuse for a ‘Devon Cream Tea’, pay and leave totally disgusted with a promise to ourselves never to return. We agreed on the latter course of action, we approached the till and, with a smile on her face, the waitress who had taken our order said “Was everything okay for you“, now a typically British person would have responded ‘Yes, thank you’ paid and left, we British do not complain, we even take our place in a queue and wait, and wait and wait, we may not be happy but we are British, we never complain. However, being not typically British and someone who hates bad service, poor standards of food and generally paying for a service and not getting it I said, “Actually no, we waited for ages before my wife got her Coffee, the Devon Cream Tea came out twenty-minutes later, by which time my wife had finished her Coffee, and to top that I didn’t even get my pot of tea“, her face dropped, a lady behind her at the counter, I assumed she was either the owner or the manager, said “You didn’t get your pot of tea, I am so sorry, would you like it as a takeaway ?” I am not sure how I stopped myself from saying, “Are you taking the Piss !!” Instead, I maintained my composure and simply stated, “No thank you, I just want to pay the bill minus the cost of a pot of tea“. We paid our discounted bill and walked back to Wuxly, what had started as a lovely afternoon was soured slightly with a rather disappointing finish, so, I guess my experience of a traditional Devon delicacy could be summed up simply as ‘A Tale Of Two Devon Cream Tea’s‘
And the perfect sunset to end yet another day !!