New Years Eve 2019, Coleton Fishacre and Dartmouth


The National Trust Coleton Fishacre House and Gardens are located just a couple of miles from our Caravan and Motorhome club site at Hillhead.

The National Trust acquired the property and gardens along with farms and agricultural land in 1982 for the princely sum of £495k.

The house at Coleton Fishacre was built as a country home for Rupert D’Oyly Carte and his wife, Lady Dorothy Carte, between 1923 and 1926.The property runs down to the sea, where one can join the South West Coastal path.

The house at Coleton Fishacre

Although built as a country home, Lady Dorothy lived in the house as her primary residence by the later 1920s. After the Cartes’ divorce in 1941, their daughter, Bridget D’Oyly Carte, took over the house, which her father, who lived in London, would visit for long weekends. She sold the house in 1949, after his death, to Rowland Smith, owner of the Palace Hotel in Torquay.

The house and garden at Coleton Fishacre

The garden at Coleton Fishacre runs down a narrow combe from the house to the sea at Pudcombe Cove. It was originally planted by Lady Dorothy and features rare and exotic plants, some of which are unusual in their ability to grow outside a tropical climate due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream to this part of the coast of Devon.

Coleton Fishacre was acquired by the National Trust in 1982 as part of its Project Neptune, with an eye to completing the South West Coast Path in that area. The garden was opened to the public immediately, while the house was let to tenants. The Trust finally opened the house to the public in 1999.

View from the South West coastal path at Coleton Fishacre

We then headed into Kingswear and took the passenger ferry to Dartmouth for a wander around and a couple of jars at the Cherub Inn. Google it – tis a fantastic example of an old timber framed Inn.

View from Kingswear to Dartmouth
Lower Ferry
The old station building at Dartmouth
Joe on the passenger ferry

We then spent the evening in the clubhouse but returned to the van some time before the midnight hour. Must be getting old…

New Years Eve eve, 2019 – The Steam Packet Inn


This is the second post of the day following our second visit to The Steam Packet Inn at Kingwear.

This little hostelry is rapidly becoming a favourite haunt of ours and is just a five minute drive from the Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Hillhead.

A cosy little place with a roaring log fire, nice selection of ales (including draft Peroni!) and some tasty basic food. The duck pizza is fantastic and tonight I had hot chicken wings. As good as any I’ve had on the other side of the pond. Moe ate the Duck pizza and previously the Haddock fish cakes.

The place has been invariably rammed and it isn’t easy to get a table but worth it when it works out.

Steam Packet Inn, Kingswear

New Years Eve eve, 2019 – SDR


The weather remains somewhat benign. No wind or rain and some glimmers of sunshine on our trip along the South Devon Railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh.

It was around a 45 minute trip to the South Devon Railway station at Totnes and there is no parking at the station itself. There is a pay and display some 10 minutes walk away and so we abandoned the car there.

Somewhat disappointing was our ride up to Buckfastleigh. A diesel engine no less! Still, it was the “Mince Pie Special” with free mince pies on-board.

South Devon Railway Diesel engine

We were expecting something more along the lines of:

South Devon Railway

Once we reached our final destination of Buckfastleigh, we hiked loosely parallel with the river to Buckfast Abbey. Moe’s Grandfather was an architect and lived with the Monks at Buckfast Abbey whilst he designed and had constructed an elaborate marble floor.

Moe couldn’t recognise which bit of floor he designed so we took some pitcures and will check against a postcard she has of Leonard Carter’s work at Buckfast Abbey when we return to East Devon.

The Abbey itself was free to enter and the architecture and finishings showed no lack of investment. There’s money in that Buckfast Tonic (as well as > 10% alcohol and muchos Caffeine)!

Here are a bunch of pictures from the visit, several being of the marble floor designs which will be matched to Leonard Carter’s work. Unless his work has been dug up and replaced…

Model of Buckfast Abbey
Buckfast Abbey
Inside Buckfast ABbey
Buckfast Abbey roof
One of the possible marble floors deisgned by Leonard Carter

A short summary of Buckfast Abbey from Wikipedia – The Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery at Buckfast, near Buckfastleigh, Devon, England. Buckfast first became home to an abbey in 1018. The first Benedictine abbey was followed by a Savignac (later Cistercian) abbey constructed on the site of the current abbey in 1134. The monastery was surrendered for dissolution in 1539, with the monastic buildings stripped and left as ruins, before being finally demolished. The former abbey site was used as a quarry, and later became home to a Gothic mansion house.

In 1882 the site was purchased by a group of French Benedictine monks, who refounded a monastery on the site, dedicated to Saint Mary. New monastic buildings and a temporary church were constructed incorporating the existing Gothic house. Buckfast was formally reinstated as an Abbey in 1902, and the first abbot of the new institution, Boniface Natter, was blessed in 1903. Work on a new abbey church, which was constructed mostly on the footprint of the former Cistercian abbey, started in 1907.

Finally, some steam to take us back to Totnes.

SDR Steam Train

On another subject, I bought a Berghaus Goretex jacket some months ago. I’ve been very impressed with it but didn’t want to get it too messed up doing the caravan chores. So, about a week ago, I ordered another one, specifically to use when we are away in the van and the weather is mis-behaving.

It’s a Berghaus Cornice III Goretex Shell Jacket and I managed to get an offer price of just £110 from Milletts. I’d highly recommend this jacket for not only it’s waterproof and windproof credentials but it’s comfortable and lighweight and complete with a double storm strap.

Here’s a picture…

Berghause Cornice III IA Goretex Shell

Trust me, it is neither cold or wet in the awning right now!

Christmas at Hillhead, 2019 – Day 3 +


An entire week has passed since our last entry. It’s been extremely hectic which goes some way to explain the lack of blog time.

The week started with some very wet and windy weather and despite our double-pegging of the awning, the wind managed to dislodge most of the pegs with the caravan rocking not disimilar to aircraft turbulence.

Monday and we drove to Redruth to collect our new Dometic hybrid coolbox. Two technologies in one (thermoelectric or compressor) allow provisions to stay cool when we are in transit and the compressor, which operates on 240V will keep things cool or frozen regardless of the outside ambient temperature.

The latest caravan addition – Dometic hybrid Coolbox

We also managed to finalise most of the remaining parts of the Christmas shopping.

Tuesday was more of the same and another horrible day of rain and wind. Entertainment in the clubhouse tonight was Christmas carols with the Torbay brass band.

Hillhead CMC clubhouse – Torbay Brass Band

Wednesday and the big day arrived. At our age the magic of Christmas isn’t quite what it used to be but nethertheless, our first Christmas in the van and a Turkey crown to pop on the BBQ a bit later.

The weather had blessed us for Christmas day – very warm for the time of year and we enjoyed sun and blue skies throughout.

In the morning we set off for a walk towards the coast but were thwarted by a steep path which had turned into a stream following all the wet weather. It was even warm enough to don a pair of shorts.

View from the walk
View of our caravan at Hillhead
Sea in the distance

Early afternoon and it was still nice and warm and time to start the Christmas lunch.

Here’s a picture of Joe trying to work out how long a Turkey crown takes to cook on a Weber Q.

Hey Google, how long…

And it looks like Google came up trumps.

The Christmas bird

All in all, the Christmas day lunch was a huge success which was fortunate, because we had to do a repeat performance on Boxing day for Sue and her boyfriend.

This time the weather gods didn’t look down kindly on us. Torrential rain and the winds returned too. We rigged up a tarpaulin to cook under but it was a whole lot harder to keep the BBQ warm. In the end, we had to cover a number of ventilation slots with foil to keep the correct cooking temperature.

We returned to East Devon on the Friday for a weekend with our friends Bob, Mandy and Tilbury Dave who’d had a rotten journey of some 9 hours from London – traffic appeared gridlocked just about everywhere on Friday but I’m sure it was worth the effort.

A terrific weekend with many highlights:

  • Walk around Budleigh Salterton and the Otter estuary
  • A visit to the Fountain Head at Branscomb
  • Sunday lunch at the Bridge Inn Topsham
  • Dinner at the Pig and Pallet smokehouse

A selection of pictures below

Otter Estuary
The three wise monkeys
Lime Kiln Car Park Budleigh Salterton
Views across Budleigh Salterton
Mandy catching up with the “news” at the Fountain Head, Branscombe
The Octagon
Budleigh Old Lime Kilns
Dinner at the Pig and Pallet, Topsham

Christmas New Year, 2019 – Day 2, Brixham…


Managed to escape the rain showers and persistent rain to successfully erecting the awning by lunchtime. The solar lights are all in place to elude some Christmas spirit – assuming the batteries ever charge!

The awning has been double-pegged as the weather looks to be wet and windy for the foreseeable future.

Lunch was preceded by a walk along the Breakwater at Brixham.

Brixham Breakwater…
View towards Brixham…
Brixham Marina…

Lunch was a carvery at the Breakwater Bistro, next to the sea.

Christmas New Year, 2019 – Hillhead CMC…


A brave decision and we booked two weeks at the Hillhead Caravan and Motorhome site. To book two weeks late in the year was somewhat of a challenge as many of the nights are already fully booked. Not only did we manage to book 14 nights but whilst looking for a pitch for friends, we spotted a Serviced pitch had become available for the entire period.

Hillhead is close to Brixham and Dartmouth and only about an hours drive from our storage location in East Devon. A chance to make sure that everything is working prior to our trip to Spain in the New Year and also an opportunity to test out our new mattress.

We arrived to find the site sparsely occupied and chose a pitch on the higher section. It’s all looking rather festive here although we haven’t contributed a huge amount to the festivities.

Hillhead CMC, Christmas 2019

We managed to get more or less set up dodging the showers and extreme periods of rain and strong winds. In the evening we drove to Kingswear and grabbed a pizza and a few jars at “The Steam Packett Inn”. It’s a small place but well frequented by the locals – being its the only pub in town.

This also meant the barman spent a lot of time refusing to serve some rather determined local folks previously banned from the establishment. We did think about catching the ferry across to Dartmouth but another day for that.

Southern Tour, 2019 – Brockenhurst (Black Knowl) Week Two…


It’s now Monday 29th July and Joes ribs are hurting. A lot. Plus there’s a spectacular amount of bruising appearing. No more cycle riding in the near future – a gentle walk (lunch at a local farm shop / vineyard) into Brockenhurst and dinner at the Snake Catcher.

Tuesday was another rainy day and we decided to head to the cinema. Just on the outskirsts of Brockenhurst and the TPMS started alerting with a burst tyre – a large piece of granite had lodged itself through the tyre. Joe couldn’t lift the spare wheel nor operate the scissor jack but a young chap loading his tools into a pick-up truck helped out with the wheel change.

Restores ones faith in human nature!

A new tyre was purchased at New Milton Tyres – I’d highly recommend them. Quick turnaround and they popped the old spare onto the burst wheel (the spare wheel, despite being full size doesn’t have a pressure monitor in it) and then the new tyre onto the spare.

Wednesday we caught the train to Totton, near Southampton to visit the country’s only working Tidal Mill at Eling. In the end, Joe’s ribs were such that an Uber ride to Southampton General hospital was the order of the day. No broken ribs and everything else appeared to check out ok. Only took an hour and a half, including X-Rays, much prodding and a few other tests so felt lucky not to be too badly hurt but also didn’t spend many hours at A&E.

Thursday was a visit to Applecourt Gardens. Some nice features in what is only about an acre, including a Japanese garden with some huge Koi carp.

Applecourt Gardens
Applecourt Gardens
Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden Water Lilies

Friday was a full-on day, and a drive to Norden, close to Wareham. Here we would take a trip on the Swanage Steam Railway, stopping at Corfe castle on the way to Swanage.

Corfe Castle
View from Corfe Castle

Swanage railway station is a railway station located in Swanage, on the Isle of Purbeck in the English county of Dorset. Originally the terminus of a London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) branch line from Wareham, the line and station were closed by British Rail in 1972. It has since reopened as a station on the Swanage Railway, a heritage railway that currently runs from Norden station just north of Corfe Castle to Swanage station. It now also runs to Wareham on certain services, but not on regular services due to signalling problems.

Swanage Railway
Swanage Railway

On the way back from the Swanage railway, a slight detour to the Cuckoo Inn at Hamptworth on the northern edge of the New Forest and Friday evening is the return of Tony’s Fish’n’chips.

Stunning location and proper traditional pub.

Cuckoo Inn, Hamptworth

Saturday and we returned to the Eling Tidal mill. Eling Tide Mill has stood at the centre of life in Eling for centuries. For 900 years millers have been harnessing the power of the tides in Eling Creek to grind wheat into flour. Today the Grade II* listed tide mill (c. 1785), surrounding riverside walks and adjacent visitor centre and cafe form The Eling Tide Mill Experience

Ealing Tidal Mill
Eling Tidal Mill

Sunday was clearing up day ready for the drive back to East Devon tomorrow.

Southern Tour, 2019 – Brockenhurst (Black Knowl) Week One…


It’s Monday the 22nd July and a relatively short drive from Bladon Chains near Woodstock to Black Knowl in the New Forest. The Bladon Chains site could ideally benefit from some capital investment but we understand that the site is only leased from Blenheim Estates on a short-term basis.

However, what small limitations existed on the site were totally made up for by the two sets of wardens. Probably the friendliest site we’ve ever stayed on. Nothing was too much trouble – from our early arrival and the help assisting us to choose an absolutely stunning pitch to dealing with our parcel deliveries and any queries. Absolutely the best!

No such investment dilemmas have faced Black Knowl over recent years – the facilities are literally stunning and the location is perfect for exploring the New Forest on the bike or on foot.

Same can’t be said for some of the site kommandants – the friendly wardens at Bladon Chains are nowhere to be seen here at Black Knowl!

Black Knowl CMC
New Forest Cattle
New Forest livestock…
New Forest Ponies…

We’d mostly set up on arrival and the new Isabella awning is performing well and easy to erect. Tuesday night was witness to a massive thunder and lightning show with some large hailstones intermingled with the waves of rain.

Our pitch at Black Knowl
Our new Isabella in action

We also needed a visit home so little to report on until the weekend. Other than the fact a baby seagull has decided to make our porch its home. And the parents are ultra aggressive in attacking us when we chase the chick away.


Saturday was a trip to Bucklers Hard near Beaulieu.

Buckler’s Hard, originally called Montagu Town, was built by the second Duke of Montagu, and was intended to be a free port for trade with the West Indies. Its geography also favoured the development of shipbuilding, as the hamlet possessed access to a sheltered but navigable waterway with gravel banks capable of supporting slipways for vessel construction and launch. Timber for hulls was also readily available from the surrounding New Forest.

Bucklers Hard
Bucklers Hard

Shipbuilding at Buckler’s Hard commenced in the early eighteenth century. A private shipyard adjoining the hamlet was established by James Wyatt, a local entrepreneur and timber merchant from Hythe on Southampton Water. Wyatt & Co. won a contract to build the Navy ship HMS Surprise in 1744, and subsequently another, HMS Scorpion, at Buckler’s Hard. Henry Adams, a master shipwright, was sent from Deptford Dockyard to Buckler’s Hard in 1744 by the Admiralty to oversee the building of these ships by Wyatt & Co.

After the completion of the initial ships by James Wyatt (HMS Surprise and HMS Scorpion), Buckler’s Hard grew to national prominence under Henry Adams and won subsequent Royal Navy contracts. Over the following sixty years, Adams would supervise the building of 43 Royal Navy ships at Buckler’s Hard, including three that fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805: HMS Euryalus, HMS Swiftsure, and HMS Agamemnon.

There is also a pleasant short cruise along the river.

Bucklers Hard River Cruise

Evening was a cycle ride to the Royal Oak at Fritham and take-away fish and chips from Tony’s Frying machine. The fish are as as good as any we’ve sampled!

An eventful cycle home with Joe falling off his bike at low speed – landing on the side of his rib cage. Ouch!!

Southern Tour, 2019 – Day 20, Bladon Highlights…


It’s not easy to keep the blog up-to-date every day, particulary after a busy couple of weeks here in Oxfordshire. Tomorrow we head to pastures new so this is the final Blog post wrapping up our ramblings from Bladon, Woodstock. It contains a summary and highlights from the visit not specifically listed.

We started out at the Cornbury Music festival which seems like an eternity ago.

The 12th July was Joe’s birthday and what better way than to end the day watching Morris Dancers at the Cock, Combe. This bunch had travelled all the way from Romney Marsh, apparently not because of the lack of quintessential English pubs at Romney Marsh but because their dances are steeped in the history of the local Cotswold Villages (eg Eynsham).

I think it was just an organised pub crawl in fancy dress with a bit of exercise thrown-in…

Morris Dancing at the Cock, Combe

They even arrived with a wooden mascot of a sheep. There probably aren’t many of them on Romney Marsh either!!

Morris Dancers from Romney Marsh

Later, after we had feasted upon the spectacle of our future promised land post leaving the EU, we hosted a BBQ with Bob and Mandy back at Bladon Chains.

Sunday, Chris and Alison arrived from “Dragstalgia” for a few days in the Costwolds.

Highlights, apart from details in specific postings, were a cycle ride to the Trout Inn, on the outskirts of Oxford, a very nice Indian meal at “Da Ba” in Woodstock and a customary few pints at various local hostelries.

Moe found time to visit Blenheim Palace Gardens, via the public footpath located on the far side of Woodstock.

Blenheim Palace grounds

Saturday was a BBQ at the country retreat of the “Naked Chef” and his partner Mandy. Excellent day out and the food “slow-cooked” to perfection. No need to ask the waitor here to hold back the main courses…

The Naked Chef…

Our neighbours on site appeared with an African Grey parrot. Friendly little chap although I wouldn’t want him to “nibble” my fingers.

He made the loveliest whistling and chirping noises and talked with quite a large vocabulary.

Here he is.


A ukulele band greeted our return to Combe steam mill and the steam engine is in full flow on the third Sunday of each month. We had extended our day pass to be an annual one such that we might return and see everything working. Browse below a selection of photos and videos from today’s visit.







Southern Tour, 2019 – Day 15, Chilling…


It’s been a hectic few days and this morning we said cheerio to Chris and Alison. The usual walk into Woodstock this afternoon but this time across the meadow adjoining Bladon Chains campsite.

It was another warm and basically dry day.

A couple of photgraphs below of the site and our pitch in the distance. BBQ for tea in the evening.

Bladon Chains as viewed from the meadow
Our pitch at Bladon chains