Hurricane Katia

Stormy weatherWe woke up at about 08:00 this morning, Taffy had been for a run and was frying his bacon ready for his ritual bacon sarny whilst he watched the rugby, Wales was playing South Africa in their first match of the 2010 Rugby World cup. Unfortunately Wales lost but is was a close match and could have gone either way. Once the ruby was finished we eventually managed to get ou act togther and headed out to Saunton Sands car park (£5) then headed out along the beach for about and hours then headed back for a coffee and cake. The weather was very windy, so much so the sand was being blown along the beach and my glasses slowly gather salt and misted up. On the beach I saw a grounded Shearwater and some Sanderling.

After coffee we headed back the hut after stopping to get some provisions as I was on kitchen duty. Not a very active day but we are on holiday that is what you can do when you are on holiday.

Holiday in North Devon

View of north Devon coast
View of north Devon coast

Today we go on holiday yippee, it is the regular September wife’s family holiday plus the two hangers on. As is usual I was awake early, due to the anticipation of travel etc. so I was up at 06:00 and having breakfast, we were taking Helen’s folks but not till 10:00 so I had some time on my hand. Earlier in the week a Pectoral Sandpiper had been spotted at Wilstone Reservoir, so at 07:00 I headed down to the reservoir to see if it was still present. I parked up, there were only three cars there, and headed up the steps. There was a fellow birdwatcher pulling the legs out on his tripod, I looked in the binoculars and noticed that there was a gathering on the jetty to the left. I mentioned that that it looked like that was where the action would be and we headed off to the jetty.

The strong wind from the hurricane was very warm, my fellow birder commented that it was unusual for Wilstone, I had to agree. When we got to the jetty we were quickly guided to the bird, it looked quite like lots of other waders. I stayed for an hour trying to soak up the salient features, then headed back home to pack the car for the journey.

Beach huts
Beach huts

We picked up Helens folks and were on the road by 10:10, I chose to go M3 A303 because we had the time and it is a long time since we saw Stonehenge. The breezed round the M25 and got off on to the M3 traffic was heavy but moving at usual speeds. When we got on to the A303 we found that the traffic was a bit stop start. When there was dual carriageway the road was quite empty but as soon as we were on single lanes it clogged up again and sometimes ground to a halt. We stopped at a MacDonalds/Spar/Esso station for a cup of coffee and a pee, in all the journey took 5 hours.

The hut for the week is well appointed, plenty of bathrooms, and a massive kitchen. We have broadband, freesatTV, and no fewer that 3 TVs. The view out of the house is over “The Great Field” which at this time of year is just a muddy mess, I must find out why it is called the great field. We unloaded and I nipped up town for a hair cut, after trying two places I found a place tucked away off a street off the main drag. I had a very efficient haircut and it only cost £3.90, the place was alled Terry’s who had cut hair for 42 years before retiring and selling the business. By the time I got back to the house they were all organised and we decided to go for a walk toward Brauton Burrows over the Great Field. When we headed out the sun was shining but by the time we got back we had been rained on very heavily, some of us got soaked but my trusted poncho kept me dry.

We had fish and chips from SixteenTen for tea. Taffy and I went into to town, sorry village, to get them while the others watched strictly. We had arrived and were looking forward to the next 6 days discovering the beaches and coastal paths of North Devon.

Not a good day for jelly fish

Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish

Last day in Devon, so we. Decided we liked the coast over at Woolacoombe so much we would walk from the south end of Woolacombe Sands over to Croyde Bay and back round baggy point. We parked up at the car park at Putsborough Sands (£6 for the day) then walked in land over to Croyde Bay. Helen took a comfort break while I waited I was chatted up, turns out she was only after my money for the RNLI.

On the way out of the bay towards Baggy Point we stopped for coffee at the NT tea room, I had a coffee cake and Helen beans on toast as brunch. It started to rain on the way out to the point but it did not put off the kids being guided round the rocks in life jackets and wetsuits. After a while I had to put the poncho on. The path is fairly flat so we will mark this down on the list for the September week.

Back at the south end of Woolacombe beach I had my sandwiches (Helen did not need any), in the car. We went down onto the beach to have a look at the rock pools, we had a look along the tide line, I came across a plastic tube with a purple balloon on the end on the balloon was printed Modem Radiosondes I’ll see if I can find out where it is from. There were also a lot of Jelly fish washed up.

Woolacombe Sands
Woolacombe Sands

On the way back we wanted to drive down the toll road and get a video of it, some how we missed the turning, but we did find another interesting road which will appear on youtube, watch the space. We got back to the hut and had a quick tidy round and pack before heading down town to the Vanilla Pod restaurant, which enjoyed earlier in thge week.

Short and sharp like Helen

Sunny cove
Sunny cove

We fancied seeing a large beach, and Woolacombe sands is the closest. We paid our £1 to go along the toll road through Valley of Rocks and the Lee Abbey estate, the road gets very narrow in places. The plan was to park at Mortehoe (£2.60 all day) then go north an loop back round the headland to get a look at the sands. It took about a mile to get out of the village, via a campsite toilet block and swimming pool complex, but we were soon out in the open country with Devon cows and the likes. Our plans changed a bit on the way out and we decided to go as far as Lee Bay.

The descent into the bay was steep and through a wood called Wrinkle Wood, but the effort was rewarded by the views at the bay and the laughs we had at the woman in the car park crouching behind her car only 30 meters from the public conveniences. After a quick coffee we headed up hill (always comes after a down hill) towards Damage Hue cliff. The path was one up hill after a downhill over and over again, Helen said she liked the hills to be “short and sharp”.
We passed a couple of stunning coves and stopped for lunch after a big climb out of a valley, where there was a seat looking back along the coast, as lunchtime views go they don’t get any better. In the valley below we caught site of a few Stonechat.

Sunny day
Sunny day

Helen has decided that when technology makes it possible we will install on one wall of our living room a device that allows you to have a view of your choice, even streamed from remote locations. Remember folks you heard it here first. We got to a sign that said Morte Point was 1.5 miles which would have meant another 3 miles back to the car so we took the direct route back to Mortehoe.

We then drove on to Woolacombe and had to spend £6 to park the car, just to have a coffee, look at the shops and the lovely beach! We decided to eat in veggie burgers in a bun, then get an earlyish start for our last day, we think we will go back to Mortehoe and do the bits we missed!

No flies on Helen, but plenty on me.

Lee Abbey
Lee Abbey

Final today we are doing a local walk along the coast westwards, slightly in land then return via the valley of rocks to say hello to the famous Lynton feral goats. The walk out was quite hard lots of up hill, just to drop back down. We got good views of Lee Abbey and Castle Rock.

There seemed to be lots of flies about, and they all liked hanging out around me, Helen was not bothered by them at all. Helen had a theory that it was because of the witch hazel she had on, I decided it was because I did not have a shower this morning!

You are reminded at every gate and style that you are on abbey land as there is often a short religious, saying attached to the wood work. Birds were very scarce to start with but later we came across lots of Goldcrest, and even a Peregrine Falcon. We also passed a working party trying in vein to win the battle with the Rohdedendrons. One friendly lady, from Cambridge, explained that they worked in the morning and had the afternoons off, my guess is that it some how subsidised the accommodation.

Castle Rock
Castle Rock

We had lunch down at Lee Bay where there is some shelter from the wind and odd shower that had started to become more frequent. Then we walked back up to Tea Cottage (run by the abbey) for some cake. Very nice tea shop with fair trade shop attached. I had apple cake with pixie dust, served by Pixie in person, and Helen had lemon drizzle cake and ewxcellent hot chocolate, which we then needed to walk off.

We walked past the abbey, and on to Castle Rock, where the feral goats are. The climb to the top was fairly easy, the top was a bit disappointing because it seems that the goats must sleep there at night out of the wind and rain, but they don’t move when they need to poo, so there was goat poo everywhere.

We sat for a while between Castle and Rugged Jack and could see what we took to be Guilemots flying from the cliffs and swimming in the sea. We chose to walk back to Lynton over the hill and despite the hard slog to the top it proved well worth the effort, we stopped to have a look at some duck like birds, that turned out to be swimming Gannets, and spotted two Dolphins/Porpoise both with a calf swimming close by.

We were back in Lynton by 1700 we had been out for 6.5 hours and walked over 10 miles, but with all the walking we have done recently we felt we could have walked further. We rounded the day off with fish and chips for tea and an episode of the apprentice.

All dressed up and no place to go.

Arty shot of marsh and sky
Arty shot of marsh and sky

We were all ready to walk to the valley of rocks, but just as we were about to leave the rain started. It looked set in, so we decided we should take the car instead. We headed towards Porlock and through Minehead which despite our expectations we though looked realy worth a look round. Our aim was to have a look at the medieval village of Dunster with its casatle at the top of the hill. We paked outside the village (£1.50 for 2 hours). Found another homing pigeon ring near the church, this time with a live pigeon attached, number GB 08 C 30083.

The sun was out by the time we got back to the car, so we thought a walk was on the cards. We parked at the long term car park in Porlock, (£2.50 for 4 hours, turns out you can park at the village hall for 20p). We put on our boots and headed towards Porlock Weir, the path was in an ancient oak wood, but after Porlock Ford Helen hit her “trough of disillusionment” when we lost the path signs and were heading up hill. I had read the map and knew we were heading in the right direction, and we were soon at the famous Weir.

Daisy from Dunster church garden
Daisy from Dunster church garden

A sandwich stop was in order which took Helen to “the age of enlightenment“ and everything was right with the world, particularly when I found an aquarium to look round. (Ed. “Bloody cheek”) The plan was to walk back across the stony beach along thje coastal path and then strike inland halfwauy across the bay. Unfortunately we were thwarted by the breach in the beach, well that is what the signs said anyway.

The sign said we had to go another way, but that was not going to stop us going along our planned route, a slight detour and a small trespass and we were back on route. By the time we had got back to the town we had walked about 6 miles, and needed some retail therapy. Helen purchased some cheese and crackers.

On the way home we chose the toll road run by the Porlock estate based in Bath. The road is very twisty and the views are fantastic (£2.50 for a very quiet road reminds Helen of the French autoroutes). Back at the hut I downloaded the days photos and then Freshened up before hitting the town. We arrived at the Vanilla Pod restaurant at about 1845 and were the first customers. The food was very good, we shared a mezze, I then had the fish stew and Helen the leek and butternut squash. I would recommend it to anyone in the the area.

Somerset and back

River Lyn at Lynemouth
River Lyn at Lynemouth

A sunny day was too good to miss with the expected rain on it’s way. We walked up to the town hall and called for a cab. Carol’s Cabs turned up and took up to County Gate, which is just over the Somerset border. We soon lost the coastal path and had to take a shortcut across a field of cows and calves. A very long descent followed but stopped short of the sea, then we gradually rose back up to about 300m, when we decided lunch was in order.

We saw some new holiday birds including GS Woodpecker, Wheatear, Peregrine, and confirmed later a Winchat. After lunch we descending along some precipitous paths, towards Lynmouth, made even worse by the strong wind. We got the funicular up the hill and went out to a pub for something to eat, were a Dutch party of MG owners had descended.

Big duck

A big duck
A big duck

A relatively early start but in spite of dire weather warnings it was dry so we headed to Braunton. According to where to watch birds this should be a mecca for waders. It took 35 minutes to get there we parked and walked down the track to the end of the dune area called Rock Point. There were loads of birds about, and the weather was holding out. We came across quite a few areas where there were lots of orchids, I counted at least 3 different species, but don’t ask me to identify them.

We got to the end and stopped for lunch, then walked round the point, where a man and his were flying an electric glider. As we rounded the point we heard a large straining engine and spotted a duck, not the feathered variety but an amphibious vehicle but it was clear from the plumage (written on the side) that it was a royal marines vehicle. I got it on video before it disappeared into the sea. We finally spotted our first wader, a curlew flying past. We continued along the beach and added dunlin and little ringed plover to the list. We then spotted more military activity, some sort of sea exercise with landing craft and inflatables. The weather then caught up with us, luckily we noticed lundy disappearing and had time to get the waterproofs out. A long soggy walk back to the car park.

It was still early, 1430, so we thought a drive back via Illfracoombe was in order. We had stayed in the seaside town about 15 years ago, we remember it well because of an Italian restaurant we found and ended up eating there too many times. We had a pasta course followed by a pizza on three occasions, I vaguely remember having a desert on one of them.

Damien Hurst cafe
Damien Hurst cafe

We parked up down at the harbour and decided a coffee was in order so we found a trendy looking place on the quay side. We had a hot chocolate, a cappuccino, and a piece of cake between us. I noticed that there was quite a bit of modern art around the room, a painting made up of coloured dots, another piece made up of fish in formaldehyde, and a couple of abstract pieces made from butterfly wings, something seemed familiar to me. When the waiter came over I asked about the art, he told us that the cafe/restaurant was owned by Damien Hirst, and he owned a couple of others in the area.

The rain still poured but was not a problem as helen was keen to visit the aquarium. It was small but well laid out featuring creatures only local to north devon. A keeper was feeding the baby rays with prawns held in chopsticks and keenly volunteered some fascinating information about local fauna, which was great. We then headed back to the hut stopping at least three time in search of the most elusive wholemeal rolls for tomorrows walk.

After cleaning the huts washing machine. We went up town to The Queens pub in Lyton centre for some grub. It is very popular and we had to wait for a table to be vacated by their queuing system. The great food made the wait worthwhile, and the real ale was well kept.