My Top 10 days out in the West Country

The West Country is a wonderful area to visit, it combines stunning natural beauty with lots and lots of attractions and interesting places to visit. I have picked just ten of some of the thousands of possibilities – seriously I could have done my top 100 and not run out of ideas! – some are days out that I have done with my family over the years, and there’s one I plan to try this year too!

Morwellham Quay1.  Paignton Zoo 
If you enjoy zoos, I think Paignton tries really hard and has some excellent exhibits – my favourites being the red panda, giraffes and the meerkats!

2. Buckfast Abbey
There’s a monastery shop here that sells products entirely from other monasteries – great Belgian beer and lovely perfumes etc. There’s also the most amazing stained glass window and a great cream tea!

3. Morwellham Quay
Both my girls loved visits here, it really brings history to life – it was a great copper ore port in Victorian times and there’s so much to see.

Cornwall’s Eden Project4. Eden Project
Interesting plant displays and environments, it’s internationally famous for its groundbreaking exhibits and even has concerts down there now!

5. House of Marbles, Bovey Tracey
I am somewhat biased here as this is run by friends of mine, but the glass blowing is fascinating to watch, the restaurant does a great lunch and the shop is very tempting – the marble displays were adored by my daughters and nephews alike!

6. Miniature Pony Centre, Dartmoor  
I just love this place, the ponies are adorable and make you want to take them home and I think I remember Pippa crying just because she couldn’t! Nice picnic area too.

Steaming through the countryside…7. Steam Trains from Buckfastleigh
Travel back in time… and rekindle your memories of steam trains! A lovely few hours reminiscing as you travel close to the River Dart from Buckfastleigh to Totnes – huge thumbs up from me. Have a browse round Totnes while you are there too – a lovely town.

8. Kent’s Cavern, Torquay
I have been here many times with visiting family and the stalactites and stalagmites are always fascinating and the cream tea is fun too!

9. Babbacombe Model Village
The detail in the work is great to see and when the village is illuminated at night it looks very pretty – lots to see including a fire breathing dragon on the model castle!

Kent’s Cavern10. Greenway House
Agatha Christie is one of my heroines and there’s a new trip for 2013 – departing from either Torquay or Brixham and travel on a river boat to her former home Greenway House and then return on Barnaby, a vintage bus. The garden is amazing and I have bought many plants from the nursery section in the past – so I am definitely planning this as a day out this year!

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My life in colour…

I was in Exeter recently in a pretty area on the outskirts of the town where there is a small parade of shops. There’s a couple of cafés, a jewellers, a clothes shop and more – all of them independent and slightly quirky – just my sort of place for a browse among lots of pretty bits and pieces! None of them sold ‘essentials’ but hey – you never know what you might discover for use in a project or to spark some creative idea… so I felt justified having a good rummage!

I spotted some lovely old buttons in one shop window and went inside where they had an amazing collection of old ‘recycled’ buttons of every shape, colour and design you could imagine! They also had a small selection of dress fabrics hanging up. Now I am no dressmaker, but these were lovely and reminded me of frocks my mother had worn. They even had dress patterns – remember the ‘Simplicity’ and ‘Butterick’ brands? – with shirt-waisters and 1960s shift dresses.

Everything seemed terribly familiar and ‘comfortable’ and I started chatting to the shop owner. It was then I discovered I was in a ‘retro’ shop! It seems my childhood era is now on the verge of being ‘antique’ and is classed as retro and therefore very ‘on trend’!

I have to say this didn’t do much for my ego, but rather than feel huffy about it, I just found it fascinating. Looking round this little shop was like stepping back in time and I felt about 12 again, and it was really rather lovely and comforting.

They had games and puzzles that I hadn’t seen for years. Remember how we all used to do jigsaws or play Ludo in the days before playstations and ipads? They also had lots of old cream and pale blue enamel kitchen bits and pieces – now called ‘kitchenalia’ apparently – and all carrying impressive price tags despite being chipped! 

What struck me most of all was how the colours then were so different from now. Not exactly more muted, just different shades. One big change is in the quality of print and packaging. Today we can print photos and patterns and pretty much anything on our home printers – look at all the lovely things we print out everyday for our card and craft projects – but back in the 1950s and 60s, most designs were drawn illustrations involving little photography, and the colours were much less ‘natural’ that we expect today.

While I wouldn’t swap our multicoloured hi-tech modern world for the 1960s, it was wonderfully nostalgic, and a little bit sad, to feel I was back in time to an era when life seemed slower and more innocent and it brought back lots of happy memories.

So tell us… What iconic images bring your childhood back to life?

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