A wonderful walk right on my doorstep!

Morwenstow on the north coast.I know I do tend to go on about how lovely Devon is… but it just is! This week, I thought I’d ramble (excuse the pun!) on about the South West Coast Path.

Not only is Devon blessed with lovely rolling countryside and dramatic moorland, it also has two stunning coastlines to the north and south. The north is rugged and exposed, while the south is softer with more sheltered bays. Devon is the chunky ‘thigh’ of the south west ‘leg’ of England that delicately dips its toe out to the far south west and the Atlantic ocean.

The South West Coast Path National Trail goes right round this leg taking in Devon and Cornwall and more – starting in the north, at Minehead in Somerset and going on for 630 miles – to Poole in Dorset in the south

It is regarded as one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world. The heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery along the way are stunning and every day spent walking it brings new experiences.

The lovely harbour town of Dartmouth in south Devon.You don’t have to be super fit, and you obviously don’t have to do all of it! Some areas, especially in Cornwall, are very steep and challenging (and very beautiful) but lots of other sections are gentle and make lovely seaside strolls.

Some people spend years walking small sections of it, ticking off the miles until they’ve done the whole thing. Others – heaven help them – tackle the whole thing in a couple of months, often for charity.

There’s a rather nifty scheme that lets you stay in B&Bs, while some obliging people will drive your bags on ahead of you so that, when you arrived footsore after a coastal canter, your bubble bath and slippers are ready and waiting for you.

There’s a very good website: www.southwestcoastpath.com which shows you everything you need from amazing photos that will inspire you, to walks that are interesting for children, or include pubs on the route (count me in!).

The coastal path in south Cornwall.

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Letterboxing on Dartmoor

As you know, I live on the coast in Devon, but a few miles inland from us lies wild and wonderful Dartmoor, sometimes known as ‘England’s last wilderness’. This granite moorland with it’s craggy tors, patches of remarkably soggy ground and a lack of footpaths can be a bit off-putting unless you can handle a map and compass… as well as being downright spooky!

So all the more strange then to see youngsters (and adults!) burrowing among the rocks, engrossed in a search… but for what? In these days of Facebook, Twitter and texts, how does Dartmoor still attract today’s youth. 

Guest blogger, Sue Viccars, editor of the Dartmoor Magazine and a professional outdoor writer (how’s that for interesting job descriptions?!) explains all…

“People have been using Dartmoor as a place of leisure since the early 19th-century Romantic Movement. This was when parts of the country such as the Lake District and Exmoor – previously thought inhospitable – suddenly became popular through the work of writers such as Wordsworth and Coleridge.

“On Dartmoor, local guides opened up the moor to visitors, in particular James Perrott of Chagford, who in 1854 came up with a novel ‘tourist attraction’ by building a cairn at Cranmere Pool, a peaty moorland hollow far from civilisation. The idea was for anyone who made it out to this remote part of the North Moor to leave their card at the spot for the interest of later visitors.

“Little did he realise what he had started! After 1907, visitors began leaving stamped addressed postcards in the box, recording the date of their visit, which were subsequently collected and put in the post by the next person to make it out there. This practice continued right up to the 1970s when it was replaced by a stamp system, And so, modern Letterboxing was born – the practice of following clues to find concealed ‘letterboxes’ all over the moor and collecting the stamps contained inside.

“The idea of Letterboxing has since spread to other parts of the world, and the number of letterboxes on Dartmoor has ballooned so that the number out at any one time has to be controlled. Biannual Letterbox Meets, at which clues for new letterbox routes are sold in aid of charity, attract hundreds, it not thousands, of people keen to get out and explore.

“In this way, thousands of people have been introduced to the delights of the moor through Letterboxing. It’s also a great way of persuading children to leave behind their computer screens and go on a moorland ‘treasure hunt’!”

To find out more about Sue’s wonderful quarterly magazine, click here: www.dartmoormagazine.co.uk

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Seashore inspiration…

It’s been so warm this past week I was determined to set foot on the beach at least once! I adore beachcombing – it’s relaxing, therapeutic, invigorating and just plain old fun!

Finding pretty shells is an obvious attraction, but some of the plant life is fascinating. Sea holly, beloved of many flower arrangers, looks stunning in its natural setting, alongside grasses and samphire and other weird and wonderful looking things that I don’t even know the name of.

Thrift is another favourite – such a cheerful little plant – I really look forward to seeing it every year – but goodness knows how it manages to grow in such barren rocky areas.

I love the colour palette of the seashore, and I’ve used it for inspiration when decorating – restful and cool blues and greeny-greys alongside pale blonde sand. But there can be vibrancy too, as in the thrift and in startling yellow/orange lichens. We are blessed with turquoise blue seas down here and that is a wonderful colour to use as a starting point for any water-themed project.

On my recent beachcomb, I picked up a spider crab shell. The detail in both colour and texture is extraordinary. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it, but I’ll store it away for future use!

 

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Completely bats!

Buying an old property often means you get rather more than you bargained for… and I don’t just mean dry rot, woodworm and a leaky roof – I mean resident wildlife!

I hadn’t been living at Victoria Farm long when a chap knocked on the front door and politely told me I had bats! A bat enthusiast who lived in the village, he had seen bats going in and out of an attic in one the old farm buildings we have here.

So, he came along one evening with his bat detector/counter, sat in the dusk watching a hole up in the gable end of the building and then, having checked up in the attic, told us we were the proud ‘owners’ of a lesser horseshoe bat nursery roost! I know, not the sort of thing you get told every day, but there you are, that’s rural living!

The bat gets its name from its horseshoe-shaped nose. It is one of the world’s smallest bats, weighing only about 8 grams, with a wingspan up to 25 cm and a body length of about 4cm – so less than 2 inches – really tiny!

Bats are protected and cannot be disturbed. Luckily for us, the attic has always been unused and their roost is no inconvenience at all. We respect their space, keep the access free of vegetation, and they get on and do what mummy bats do.

Contrary to what you might think, they don’t make a lot of mess. As they eat only insects their droppings are fine and powdery – we call it ‘bat dust’.

Over the 27-odd years I’ve lived here now, the colony has grown and, at the last count, had around 140 little bats in it. If we sit outside on a warm summer’s evening, you can see them flitting about and flying off down the valley but, other than that, we are not aware of them.

The colony is made up of breeding mothers and their young. Females give birth to one pup weighing less than 2 grams at birth. The bats are only with us for three months each year – June, July and August – so I expect any day now, they will start arriving, finding their place in the roof and settling down to give birth and rear their young. The mothers, and their daughters, will then return to the roost next year and so the cycle continues…

Sadly, lesser horseshoe bats are in decline due things such as the disturbance of roosts, changes in agricultural practices and the loss of suitable foraging habitats. Well, be assured – no-one is going to disturb our bats – long may they thrive!

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