The first May bank holiday always feels like the start of summer to me – the days are long, the weather is (usually) behaving itself a bit more and the idea of sleeping under canvas starts to sound quite attractive. We decided we would start the summer with a short camping trip, just a couple of nights, to give the tent an airing and explore an area that’s a bit too far to easily do in day trips. We’d heard a lot of good things about the North Devon coast so decided to go and investigate, finding ourselves a lovely, fairly quiet campsite near Ilfracombe. I think this might be one of the best views I’ve ever had from a campsite!

Campsite

We knew Saturday was going to be the best day as far as the weather went, so we got our tent pitched quickly, ate the picnic we’d brought with us then went down the hill into the small town of Combe Martin. We explored for a bit then found a welcoming pub called the Pack O’ Cards. It had a really lovely childrens’ play area which Lucy enjoyed while we had a nice drink in the sunshine. Then we walked back a longer route, out of the village, through nearby woods. We found a couple of geocaches while we were there.

Walking

Combe Martin

We actually went back to the same pub later in the evening for dinner, as we’d had a look at the menu and decided it looked good. It turned out to be a good choice, and one we’ll remember if we’re in the area again. When we got back to the tent we found the sunset was beautiful. Even more beautiful was the night sky when I got up for a toilet visit at about 2am – there’s very little light pollution in this area and I could see far more stars than usual – absolutely stunning (but beyond my skills to photograph). One of the reasons I love camping is this feeling of being close to nature and seeing such sights.

Sunset

Sunday was a little more cloudy, so we decided to make it a walking day. I’m really, really proud of Lucy because she walked a long way with us. They say a child should be able to walk a mile for every year old that they are – which means she should be able to walk 5 miles. I’d doubted that she could do this, until today, when I saw her do it, largely without really complaining. She had some school homework to do – go and find bugs and take pictures, draw them, and make a list of what she’d found. We started our day at Watersmeet, as we thought this would be a good spot for finding bugs – a woody gorge where several rivers meet. One of my friends, Rachel Cotterill liked this place so much she used the name for a book she’s written. I trust Rachel’s judgement so thought we would go and have a look while we were in the area.

WatersmeetWatersmeet

Bug Hunt

It's a stunning place, so I'm really glad we did. We parked in what I would descibe as the bottom (Combe Park) car park, which was free for National Trust members with an honesty box for everyone else - the main car park near the café is not free, even for NT members. This worked out really well as we then had a pleasant walk of about a mile to the café, which is inside an old fishing lodge. The café was lovely, as National Trust cafés tend to be, though we were slightly annoyed that they didn't serve hot food until 12 - we had got there just after 11 and really fancied the soup that was advertised, but had to wait. So we did, as we hadn't brought lunch with us. We entertained ourselves watching the many chaffinches, robins and other birds which were playing in the garden, quite unafraid of the visitors. I suppose they know they'll get crumbs and so on.

Watersmeet

Chaffinch

Robin

After we'd eventually had our lunch, we carried on a bit further, but we soon realised we weren't going to get to Lynmouth and then get Lucy all the way back to the car. So, we followed the river back, stopping for more bug hunting, stone skimming and the occasional rest, as it was largely uphill.

Watersmeet

We then drove over to Heddon Valley, anoth National Trust site nearby. After refuelling Lucy with ice cream we started walking again. The sign said it was a mile to the beach at Heddon Mouth, which we thought Lucy wouldn't manage, but to our surprise she did, fairly happily. The going here was easier - it was much flatter and the path was very wide, as it has been designed to take mobility scooters. We soon found ourselves at a little shingly beach where we sat and watched the waves.

Heddon Mouth

Heddon Mouth

By this time, we could see the weather was starting to turn, so we took a slow meander back up the valley and then went and found a pub serving a carvery roast dinner, Lucy's favourite, which we were all more than ready for.

When we got up the next day, we were pleased to find it wasn't raining. We packed up and managed to get it done before the rain set in. We didn't like to head straight home, so we stopped in Braunton for a look round. I'd hoped to walk out to Baggy Point, but by this point it was really raining, so we abandoned that and got some lunch instead, then drove home. By the time we got back to Bude the sun was shining down, which is pretty typical of round here - we have very changeable and very localised weather.

All in all, I think that the weekend was a pretty great start to the summer. We've got at least one more camping trip planned, for a week in August, but I'm hoping to pencil in a couple more short weekend trips like this one, as it's such a cheap way to have a fun few days. I do love discovering more lovely areas just around the corner - this was only an hour's drive from home.

Wine

On Friday, Clive and I went for a day out in Padstow. We felt like a grown up day, and hadn’t been there before. The sun was shining, Lucy was in school with a playdate at a friend’s house afterwards, so we drove down the coast to Padstow. Actually, to Rock, a small village on the other side of the Camel Estuary, where there’s a lot more parking, which meant we could catch the ferry across the estuary.

Camel Estuary

After a short, pleasant ride across the river, we found ourselves in the town. Padstow is a rather attractive little fishing town, built around a central harbour. We strolled around the narrow streets, exploring the shops until it was time for lunch.

Padstow

The town was gearing up for their annual Obby Oss festival on Bank Holiday Monday, so there was bunting everywhere. It looked very pretty, fluttering in the spring sunshine.

Bunting

We found a lovely pub overlooking the harbour to get lunch in. I love my daughter very much, but we do miss doing this kind of thing together – lazy lunchtimes with wine and good food and conversation. Padstow is known for its seafood, so I decided to have the haddock chowder, and I’m really glad I did as it was delicious, without being too filling.

Haddock Chowder

After we’d finished lunch, we treated ourselves to an ice cream, and then decided to explore the coast path heading north out of town. We followed the beach for a mile or so, as the tide was on the way out. There weren’t many people about, and the feeling of space and calm was lovely. I definitely want to bring Lucy here soon, which probably means at a weekend, when I expect it’s busier. But for now, it was so nice to have the space to ourselves.

Camel Estuary

Clouds

When we got to Hawker’s Cove, we decided to turn back, as the beach gave way to cliffs and the coast path began to get steep – we were out for a stroll, not a hike. We followed the coast path back through woods and past and old wartime lookout post and into town. Another lovely ferry ride took us back to the car.

Camel Estuary

What a lovely day out we had. It felt a bit naughty, like playing hooky, to be having a day out together without Lucy, but I think as parents you have to allow yourselves time together sometimes to remember why you were a couple before you were a family. She seemed to have a marvellous time at her friend’s house after school, so I don’t think we should feel too guilty about it – except maybe for the ice cream, and I think we walked that off!

The other day we had one of Lucy’s schoolfriends and her brother and parents around for dinner. We don’t normally have dessert, especially in the middle of the week, but when we have guests I like to make it a bit special by having something for afterwards. As it was really Lucy who had the guest, I asked her what she would like. She came back with “banana pie”. I’m not sure what she was expecting, as I don’t think she’s ever had any kind of banana pie, banoffee or otherwise, but banoffee is what I decided to go with. It turns out Clive had never had it before either. This was a really simple dish to make as it doesn’t even require baking (and making the caramel layer is much easier than it probably sounds). I made it the night before and made sure the cream nicely covered all the bananas, so they didn’t go brown.

Banoffee Pie

Ingredients:

  • 200g butter
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 400g condensed milk (I bought a tin of 397g)
  • 2 bananas
  • 300ml whipping cream

I used a 20cm loose-bottomed tin to make this. There’s probably a small amount of wiggle room in terms of tin size.

Instructions:

  1. Put the biscuits into a sandwich bag and bash them with something like a rolling pin until you have crumbs. Or, use a food processor, but I find the bashing very therapeutic! Melt 100g of the butter.
  2. Tip the melted butter and biscuit crumbs into a bowl. Mix together until the butter is evenly distributed through the crumbs. Spoon this into the tin and use the back of a spoon to press it firmly against the bottom in an even layer. Place the tin into the fridge for at least ten minutes to harden this buttery biscuit base.
  3. Melt the rest of the butter and the sugar over a gentle heat, stirring all the time until the sugar dissolves. Add the condensed milk then bring to the boil. Allow it to boil for a minute, whilst still stirring. You should end up with a rich, thick caramel. Pour this over the biscuit base. Allow to cool then place into the fridge for at least an hour or so to set.
  4. Slice the bananas; arrange them on top of the caramel – I went for a neat geometric pattern but, really, nobody is going to see it so do it however you like.

Banoffee Pie

  1. Whip the cream, then spoon it onto the bananas, covering them. I’ve seen this done with chocolate grated on the top as well, but that felt like an unnecessary extra for me, given how much sugar is already in this!

Sharpnose Point

Today we’ve had a marvellous day at the beach. The weather this weekend has been absolutely glorious, so we decided to spend the day at one of our favourite local beaches, Sandymouth. It’s only a few miles away from our house – I love having beautiful places like thise close by. It’s National Trust owned, which, as we’re members, means we can park for free. We took our own picnic because, although there’s a café, we wanted to walk along the beach a way and then eat.

Sandymouth

Sandymouth is a very long beach, running into the next beach down (Northcott, where we had the scones last week). At the top of the beach, below the twisted, folded rocks, is gravel, then there are exposed rocks, fill of little pools, and then broad, sweeping sand (at low tide, anyway). We crossed the rocks and walked along the sand.

Sandymouth

Sandymouth

We found a nice spot to eat our lunch. Actually, we found two spots.The first spot I found looked lovely until we realised we were right below a nest of seagulls. This felt a bit risky to expose sandwiches and cake so we moved on.

Gulls

After lunch we had lots of fun exploring the rockpools. They’re starting to come to life after winter, with lots of snails, mussels, a few fish darting about and – my favourite – anemones. I love these, and find their bright jelly redness just gorgeous.

Anemones

Anemones

Once Lucy had discovered that they’re squidgy, we had to persuade her not to go and poke every one we saw. “Look but don’t touch” is a hard lesson for five year olds. Fortunately there was lots of other fun to be had, splashing in the water, which was warmer than I expected, drawing in the sand and chasing each other around the beach. By mid-afternoon we’d tired ourselves out enough to feel we could justify a quick ice cream in the café, so we retraced our steps up the beach. I enjoyed a rhubarb and crumble ice cream whilst admiring the view from above the beach.

Sandymouth

Lucy

I was pleased to see these sea pinks coming out, as we walked up the café, I love these delicate yet hardy seaside flowers, and these are the first I’ve seen this year. Lovely.

Thrift

What an absolutely splendid day out this was. I love days like this – spending time outdoors in the fresh air somewhere pretty with the two people I love most in the world is probably top of my favourite things to do. Lucy seems to really love the beach. I think she loves the space, being able to run around, make noise, get sandy have a splash and play with us. Hopefully she’s making some happy memories – I know I am!

Bluebells at Hartland Abbey

Last Sunday we went for an absolutely lush Spring walk. I had been talking to one of my friends about how happy I had been to see bluebells in my garden, and she mentioned that Hartland Abbey, just a few miles up the road, was particularly good for bluebells. It turned out. when I investigated, that they do half price entry on Sundays at this time of year, so we packed ourselves a picnic and decided to go and have a look.

Hartland Abbey

Hartland Abbey is a beautiful building, which you can look around the inside of if you don’t mind paying a little extra. We will, I’m sure, go back and have a look another day, but the day was so lovely, and what we really wanted to do was walk, so we went straight for the woods. There were, as promised, bluebells everywhere, great thick carpets of them under the trees. They were very lovely to walk through.

Bluebells at Hartland Abbey

Bluebells at Hartland Abbey

Bluebells at Hartland Abbey

Bluebells at Hartland Abbey

There are several different trails you can follow, some of which take you through various gardens, or up the steep valley sides. We decided to walk towards the sea, through the trees, which was probably a good choice as it was relatively flat and easy-going for Lucy. The path followed the river through trees and fields until the valley opened out and we found ourselves by the sea. We were getting pretty hungry by this point so we sat and ate our lunch listening to the waves gently breaking just in front of us.

Hartland Abbey Beach

Hartland Abbey Beach

I fell a little bit in love with a cottage at the top of the beach. I would love to live somewhere like this, though I imagine it might be a bit isolated – though, to be honest, that’s part of the appeal. I expect you’d probably get fed up of tourists gawping at you all the time. Maybe a house like this, but somewhere that isn’t a major tourist spot!

Hartland Abbey Beach

Full of lunch, we retraced our steps back towards the abbey. We had plans to get scones and tea, but the queue in the tea room was enormous, so we had a change of plans and got back in the car, drove down to Northcott Beach and went to the Rustic Tea Garden, which is basically a field with a stream running through it in which a lovely lady called Margaret has set up a static caravan and some tables and sells cream teas. And they are splendid. We discovered this place last summer and made several visits but this was our first this year. It’s actually not far from our house – we can certainly walk there, have a break (and tea) and walk back again. And I’m pleased to say the cream tea was just as good as we remembered it.

Cream Tea

It was getting late by this point so we headed home, tummies full of scones and heads full of happy thoughts. Today was a teasing glimpse of summer to come and I can’t wait. The air still has a bit of a chill in it, but it felt really lovely outside today, and I know that in just a few weeks, summer, my favourite time of year, will be upon us. I can’t wait.

Northcott Mouth

So, I am a fool. I didn’t blog on here for a few weeks, and now decided to come back to it… but could I log on? No. I had forgotten my password, and, it seems, my web host doesn’t allow WordPress to send me an email. Very frustrating so, in what I thought was my wisdom but was actually my folly, I decided I would go into the SQL database and get the password from there. I managed to break my database doing this. Moral of the story: do not forget your password, or think that you know how to use a database when in fact you don’t.

Anyway… after much stomping about raging at my own stupidity, I’ve reinstalled WordPress on my account. I’ve had a bit of a rethink about what I want to do with the space anyway, so it’s not entirely bad that I’ve had to start again. I do want to use this as a personal blog, but, well, I have a bit of an idea going round in my head that I’m toying with pursuing over the summer, and this would be a good space to do it in. So, watch this space. If anyone is indeed watching, which I suspect they’re not. I won’t be in any way sharing or promoting the site e.g. on Twitter until I’ve got everything working properly again, so if you happen to be reading this, bear with me! Things should be shipshape again shortly.

I’ve got a few posts lined up which I’ll add over the next few days but in the meantime, because I don’t like to write a post without a picture, this was my view on Sunday afternoon. Northcott Mouth, about a mile north of my house. Which cheers me up because although I’m feeling pretty darn silly, I also feel incredibly lucky that this is literally on my doorstep!

Northcott Mouth