Devonshire by bus (and tram)

Podbury's Cottage, Harpford

Our annual June cottage holiday this year was at Podbury's Cottage in Harpford, Devon. Rob and Jackie, Pam and Steve and I all travelled on Friday 14 June to Exeter by train via Westbury, lunched at The Old Firehouse, and travelled to Newton Poppleford by 52 bus, thence by foot with one-wheel suitcase the quarter of a mile up Lower Way (there's also a Higher Way) to Harpford. It was my turn to cook so got it over with with a quick pasta dish.

Harpford bridge (over the Otter)

On Saturday 15 June, after a walk into Newton Poppleford via the bridge over the Otter and a pint at the Cannon Inn, we all travelled to Sidmouth on the 157 bus from Exmouth and visited the little museum, which featured a display on the illustrator Lawson Wood, who retired there, as well as stuff about the railway. I started watching a video but the volunteer informed me it was an hour and half long, so gave up. After a crab sandwich at the Tasty Baguette we headed back to the cottage on the 52, which went past Waitrose. That night we had Steve's asparagus risotto.

The oldest tram in the fleet

Sunday 16 June was Fathers' Day and I travelled to Seaton on the X53 to see the Tramway. Because I was a dad, I got a free ticket, even without the evidence! The first tram to arrive was the pink Car No. 11 and as it was raining, we all crammed in downstairs. The journey to Colyton takes you through wetlands and by the River Axe, so plenty of birds to see. At Colyton I had some soup and was treated to the worst jazz band I'd ever heard - Swing of the Axe - the sax player (male) couldn't even play Happy Birthday to a party in there. On the way back I caught the oldest tram in the fleet, the luxurious single decker No. 14 (built in 1904). Highly recommended.

West Bay

It was a long wait until the bus back, so I caught another X53 going further east and worked out I could have an hour in West Bay, the location for ITV's thriller Broadchurch. I took some photos and had a pint of Palmers Copper Ale in the George Hotel. Pam made nut roast for supper.

Marines yomp through Budleigh Salterton

On Monday 17 June, we took a 157 to Budleigh Salterton. The others got off at East Budleigh to see some Raleigh locations, but I carried on to have leisurely saunter through the charity shops. I bought a crab roll (£1.80) at G & K Sanders fishmongers, then after a look at the beach and some Marines yomping, took tea at the Cosy Tea Pot, sitting outside with some dog owners. When the Fairlynch museum opened at 2pm, I had a browse round, then after a rum and raisin ice cream cone from the Creamery, headed to the bus stop by the library, where I met up with the others. That night we walked a mile or so to Tipton St John for a meal with Jackie's sundial friends at the Golden Lion. I had scallops (4 small) and chunky fish soup as a main- very nice!

Tea and cake at Beer

Tuesday 18 June was to be a day for sketching and I got the X53 to Beer (great name!). It's a lovely place with streams each side of the road down to the harbour. There was a sea mist but I sat down outside Kenno's cafe with a mug of tea and a coconut and jam cake (was it called a Marlborough?) and drew the east chalk cliff. Afterwards I treated myself to a pint in the pub garden of the Anchor Inn, where I bumped into my second cousin Gillian, her husband Tony and their dog, who were staying in Colyton. Back at the bus stop, I discovered a new bus - the Axe Valley 899 from Seaton to Sidmouth, via Beer and Branscombe (see below). Later Jackie made pizza.

Female CD uniform

Wednesday's bus journey (19 June) was rather intricate: the usual 11.32 X53 to Beer, then the 889 to Sidmouth and finally the 157 to Exmouth. Pam and Steve joined me on the first leg en route to Bridport. The community bus arrived soon after we arrived at Beer and was a jolly ride, with everyone knowing everyone else. It climbed the back streets of Beer then plunged down a steep hill to Branscombe, but not as far as the bay! It then went past an interesting turreted church and a pub with a skull over the door - The Fountain Head. At Sidmouth I quickly used the public loo, then hopped on the 157 back to Newton Poppleford and on to Exmouth via a detour to Otterton (with its obelisk and ancient stone cross). I'm sure I spotted Rob and Jackie entering the pub there after painting some sandstone stacks at the bay. At Exmouth I visited the tiny museum (entrance £1) with its CD uniform and more on the railway and thence the beach, which like Littlehampton, is a brisk walk from the town centre, before having a cappuccino and custard tart at the Crusty Cob by the square. This was the only sunny day! Rob cooked a bean casserole.

Fred's Kitchen, Exeter Farmers' market

Thursday 20 June I visited Exeter on the 52, looking for a suitcase to replace the one with the wonky wheel. After a spicy veg pasty from the Real Cornish Pasty Co in the rain, a quick look at the cathedral (£6 to get in!), I bought some piccalilly from Freds Kitchen (sic) at a farmers' market, then to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (ramm) to look at the permanent picture collection (small), an exhibition of photos of the last oak bark tanners (in Colyton) and Gillian Ayers (no relation to Pam). There's lots to see, including a stuffed tiger shot by George V, an elephant, giraffe and polar bear, a collection of collections, and a male CD uniform. I was rather taken with the bee wheelie suitcases they loaned to children visitors. Then it was back to the cathedral for a pint in the Well House. That night it was leftovers night - shepherd's pie, assembled by Rob from the remnants of Pam's nut roast.

Wren's nest in porch

Friday morning we had to be out by 10am. We also discovered a wren's nest inside the porch with maybe four hungry mouths inside. Jude came to pick me (and more leftovers) up and back to Farringdon. Dave had had a cataract op but was looking good. Trout for tea from Dave's archaeologist friend Stewart (I also got one to take home). Saturday we went to Exmouth on the 56 to trawl the charity shops and have a Tasty 3 (beans, mushrooms and egg plus toast, £3.90) at the Harbour View cafe. Dave did a great job fixing my suitcase with araldite. Sunday we went for a walk on Aylesbeare Common with Katy and Stewart looking for orchids and other wild flowers. We spotted three bee orchids and loads of common spotteds. The peanut bird feeder in Dave and Jude's garden attracts all kinds of tits, a robin and a nuthatch, but more often than not they all flew away as soon as I got my camera out.

Bee orchid

Monday morning I was taken to the bus stop by Dave with my bags in a wheelbarrow and put on a 56 with dodgy electrics: no display on the front and ticket machine not working. He terminated at the bus station so had to get a 51 to St David's and home, via Westbury and Southampton. Popped down to Aldi to get some wine, and guess what? - they were selling suitcases! I got one similar to my broken one for £17. Back at the ranch it was in a real state - I was having the damp seen to - but some chaps came round Tuesday morning and moved things around so I could access the bath, cooker, kettle and fridge!

Great tits


Brighton Festival 2013, part the third

Just to round things off, the Fringe this year went on for an extra week, until 2 June... and so did the five pound fringe. This is what I saw on the tail end of the 2013 festival:

Friday 31 May
Buddhism: is it just for losers, The Nightingale. This also doubled as Tim Pilcher's birthday celebration so how could I not go. I saw Matt Rudkin of Inconvenient Spoof do Naive Dance Masterclass at Edinburgh (reprised in part at the AOH launch) and was very impressed. No Silvia this time, tho she was in the building, but Matt was joined by two other chaps who initially graded us by height into different rows of the theatre, splitting up couples as they went along. Then we had a mixture of puppets, silly costumes and nonsense poetry - losing me a bit in the middle - but it all came good in the end, despite a prop malfunction on the night!

Saturday 1 June
Glen Richardson’s ‘Sing-Along-A-The-White-Album’…One More Time! The Lord Nelson Inn.
I thought I'd missed this, but Brian of the Five pound fringe put on an extra show, so I was delighted. In the afternoon I got out my copy of the White Album and played it on the record deck to get me in the mood. Only two tables worth of punters at the beginning, but it gradually filled up, ultimately with a stag party wearing shower caps! Glen was joined by Tom Arnold on drum box and he went through the double album track by track, sometimes on keyboard, others on guitar (never knew he could play!). Phew! what a marathon virtuoso performance, even tho he did forget to turn the 'song sheet' over most of the time. Apparently there were more guest singers the previous night, but we were treated to Claire (?) singing Sexy Sadie, and Emily Hell singing Revolution Number 1. How Glen tackled Revolution Number 9 was a master stroke. Great beer too and a fitting end to the festival.

Sunday 2 June
Lucky Jim at the Battle of Trafalgar. Not strictly a festival event, but free, with Harvey's on tap, and some great company.

One of the events I saw right at the start of the festival won an award! Horlicks And Armageddon was voted Most groundbreaking act! Well done Sarah and Colin.

My Edinburgh week is booked, and I'm looking forward to seeing more great Brighton stuff up there...