Devon is a part of south-west England that I’ve only driven through on the way to Cornwall for a short break when I was a teenager. Decades later I made the journey with my husband and our teenagers for a two-week break in a thatched cottage.
The week before we left for our holiday saw England in a heat wave. Naturally, we’ve had rain since we’ve been on holiday. I don’t mind it being cooler but to me, it isn’t a holiday if it insists on raining most of the time. At the time of writing this, we have managed to eat outside three times. Twice on the same day. We’re all hoping that isn’t it for al fresco dining.
For once, our journey across the country was untroubled. (Driving to West Wales took nine hours instead of the expected four and a half and was undertaken in some of the heaviest rain we’ve ever driven through. Except for one day, the weather remained wet throughout our holiday.) This year, apart from torrential rain at the beginning of the journey, we left at the time I wanted to, we stopped at the café I’d intended to, and we arrived at the cottage when I expected. It was for all the world like we’d disappeared into The Twilight Zone. What’s more, I don’t appear to have left anything at home which was particularly vital for our holiday. Clearly, I am hallucinating or haven’t woken up yet.
This year’s three-bedroom, three-bathroom cottage is as well-equipped on the inside as it is pretty on the outside.
The family owned cottage was once two cottages on a working farm. The building has been knocked into one creating a generous living space. The work has been carried out to a high standard. I believe the owners also have a campsite for those in camper vans who like sleeping under canvas, although I know where I’d rather be. Inside the cottage, there are pictures on the walls depicting farm life from years ago. Now the only animals we’ve seen are geese and ducks - probably - I call anything bigger than a pigeon DuckDucks.
The only thing the cottage lacks is a dryer which means our damp clothes are still on the line outside, and yes, there’s been a delay to the proceedings because it rained while we were out.
The owners are lovely, and their welcome pack of provisions is very generous. We are a mere four minute’s drive from a well-stocked supermarket and selection of shops including a Cadbury’s chocolate shop. (That’s only my favourite chocolate and the first shop I’ve seen dedicated to the product. We couldn’t resist a purchase or three.)
Our fortnight in North Devon is the third cottage holiday we’ve had in three years. West Wales was the first. We cut our teeth on a dairy farm that came with all the smells you’d expect and some vicious biting flies you didn’t. That cottage was quite basic compared to the other two and we learnt a valuable lesson — you get what you pay for. The West Wales cottage was the second cheapest I could find. The kids had to share a bedroom in the roof where no-one could stand upright. Last year we upgraded to a three-bedroom cottage when we went to Wiltshire. In the second week it became a two-bedroom cottage when our son, Matt, spent the second half of our holiday sleeping on the sofa downstairs due to the number of spiders not only in his bed but also dropping onto him overnight from the beams on the ceiling. In Wiltshire, I ticked something off the bucket list I didn’t know I had when we visited Stonehenge (which looked bigger from the road this year). All three cottages have something in common: not a lot of mobile phone signal and way less internet than we’re used to at home. So, whereas I’d love to move to somewhere less urban, there are limits. I live in a reality where connectivity is a necessity. I also like the ability to walk to a coffee shop and I like to do so on pavements not in the gutter of a road or through an over-grown grass verge. Call me fussy, I don’t care. Rural life is probably not for me but I am also growing tired of suburbia.
Having spent some time down a ditch when we were driving around Wales (something the proprietor of one tourist attraction said was a rite of passage), my husband, Danny has spent an awful lot of time this year fighting with our satnav to program routes that do not require us to drive many miles down single track roads with a stunning lack of passing places. We are on holiday; this is not supposed to be an assault course or a risk to stress levels. This may alter the list of tourist attractions we visit while we’re here. One thing our satnav doesn’t appear to have is a “don’t be so bloody ridiculous, you can’t get a car down that” setting. Indeed, last year in Wiltshire, every time we approached our cottage, the satnav tried to send us down an overgrown track to get to it that would have needed the application of a sharp machete ahead of us. Not to mention a bulldozer to make the track wide enough for a car. On the one hand, there’s a lack of technology in the countryside and on the other, what we do have is apparently intent on driving us mad.
If we can find a common ground and a working satellite overhead, I may just succeed in bringing you further stories and pictures from our antics on the other side of our green and pleasant land.
In the meantime: DuckDucks (or something).
More North Devon antics: Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park