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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Driving Round Dorset and Devon and Eating Crab Sandwiches

We've been away. Every now and then one of us says "wouldn't it be nice to...." regarding a place to go or a thing to see. This year we have been trying to fulfill those wants and not put them on the back burner any longer. So...
We set off south to Winchester and stayed here at The Royal Hotel.
A lovely old hotel in a side street just off the High Street and a very short walk from everything.
There's a great mix of old and lovely and new and useful.
And the weather was lovely. The Cathedral is quite splendid and has strong military connections. There were some grave stones mentioning the Second Anglo-Afghan War way back in 1878! There were three Anglo-Afghan wars over a hundred years ago but we don't seem to have learnt anything.
The weather was lovely enough to sit in pub gardens with a cold white wine and watch the River Itchin flow past and people on the tow path.
Then on to The Haven at Sandbanks in Dorset. This is a hotel we've seen as we've left Poole Harbour on the ferry to France and as we've used the chain ferry to Studland on our way to Swanage. The Haven stands on the bit of headland at the chain ferry.
No point saving up for a stay here and then overlooking the car-park so it was a balcony suite on the south east corner.
Again the weather was wonderful. I'm not sure if I'd have been so thrilled with it all in bad weather, so we were immensely lucky. T and M came over with drinks and ice to enjoy it all with us and stayed to dinner.
We spent most of the time watching events from the balcony. People playing and swimming, boats of all sorts going in and out...power boatloads of marines in wet suits, coastguards, cross channel ferries, the chain ferry, jetskis, dinghies, fishing boats...the lot!
We took the chain ferry across to Studland for a short walk...
 and wondered who to phone before heading back...
to sight of catch the marines or such like, leaping out of planes and all trying to get into waiting boats.

The next day was still fine and we headed off to Torquay. We had planned to stop at Lyme Regis for lunch but the car parks were full, the pavements were overflowing onto the streets and all the cafes were bursting at the seams. We drove on through. Obviously the fine weather had brought everyone out. We are so used to the ease of driving around the north-east that it was quite a shock to our senses.

At Torquay, we had chosen The Imperial Hotel. So had everyone else, it seemed, so this time we did have a view of the car park. So we went out.
 We took the sea ferry across the bay to Brixham, admiring the cliffs...
 And the clifftop houses...
 And Brixham harbour where we enjoyed one of the many crab sanwiches we have eaten this last week...
 The next day we rode the Devon Belle, the old steam train, to Kingswear so that we could catch the ferry to Dartmouth.  The pic below is the Kingswear side and the next one down is the Dartmouth side of the estuary.

 We caught the Lower Ferry back. It is controlled by a tug and rope-cable system and carries a few cars, pedestrians and bikes each way all day. The weather broke down a bit while we were in Dartmouth and we scurried out of the rain into a cafe for a crab sandwich. We decided that £9 was too dear, even for "hand-picked" crab. I know it means hand sorted and hopefully no bits of shell but I had one of those surreal pictures in my mind all day of a large hand coming down from the sky and picking up individual crabs from the rocky pools. We scurried further into a nicer cafe in the old station on the quayside and had a marvelous crab sandwich for £6 only, with the ubiquitous green leaves on the side with a sliver of tomato....described on the menu as "with side salad".
The next day we took off for Slapton Sands. The place where the Sherman Tank was found by a couple of locals fishing just off the beach. Its exposure forced the Americans to admit to a dreadful WW2 catastrophe and the deaths of nearly 1000 men in these beautiful blue waters. They were rehearsing for D-Day and along came some German E-boats out of the blue and sent them all to the bottom
 The tank has been raised and the names now added to the war memorial and the truth told. Previously the relatives had been told that their loved ones had been lost in the D-Day landings, so the Americans had kept their deaths quiet for at least six months. I've often wondered if someone kept sham letters going home during that time!
 After that we headed north to Dartmoor. I've never been there before and was surprised to find no heather in the bit we visited. We ended up at Bovey Castle where no-one has a room overlooking the car-park. When we arrived it was raining a bit so a bloke in plus fours came to the car with a large golfing umbrella to escort us to the door and take the keys off us so that he could do a bit of valet parking. An upgrade to a castle room with a view over the valley was also a lovely surprise. This is not a real castle just the original country residence of W H Smith himself, who obviously enjoyed a bit of huntin', shootin' and fishin' as well as a round of golf, some falconry and a good swim. After that he could promenade the terrace or amble round the garden.
 We did a bit of that too.
 Then after eating far too much for a week we headed back to J&As in Barnet for lunch and then home to three loads of washing.
Yesterday we went to see the new baby...Billyboy. He can now be picked up and cuddled and doesn't seem to mind it.
We can't have him for a few more weeks until all his jabs are finished so it will be the end of October.
It's a long blog! Time for coffee now

1 comment:

carol said...

What a wonderful expedition. I've really enjoyed your account and the lovely photos. Got a laugh at 'Slapton Sands.' Any idea how it got that name?

Most of all I'm thrilled to bits to meet Billy Boy.

PS. A huge crab salad can be found up here for £7