Christmas in Devon

Again – there was no winter trip to Spain to look forward to. After twenty-five winters there, because of Covid, plus old age, it’s looking likely that there won’t be any more. So back in October, as a consolation, I booked a week away for my two daughters, my grandson and myself over the Christmas period.

The accommodation I chose was on a campsite at Dawlish in Devon – a site we first stayed on during August of 1976. But this time, instead of being in a 1968 Sprite Musketeer, I’d reserved a Victory 46’x20’ four-bedroomed Parkview lodge.

Leaving home at mid-morning on a Monday enabled us to have a fairly easy journey around the M25, M3 and A303 to our lunch stop at Solstice Services, a few miles before Stonehenge. Then the route, after miles of fast dual-carriageway, is then forced into a single carriageway which has not changed since I first travelled it in the 1960s.. But finally, we reached Honiton where the route widens back to dual carriageway, then after a few miles on the M5, we took our exit out to the coast. We arrived at Dawlish train station just minutes before the arrival of the train bringing my grandson up from Falmouth. It was almost dark before we’d collected keys and taken possession of our lodge, First impressions out-did our expectations. I’d been expecting the accommodation to be similar to a large mobile home, but this was much more robustly built. Floors felt solid, and walls were thicker – possibly up to 180mm thick. Windows were domestic uPVC with double glazed units. Fridge, freezer and dishwasher were normal domestic models; as was the gas hob and cooker. Heating and dhw was by combi gas boiler with radiators throughout.. I couldn’t help but wonder what the life expectancy of the lodges will be. Will they depreciate much the same as caravans and mobile homes do? I would hope not, since the initial outlay is in the region of £90K – https://burtonconstableholidaypark.co.uk/product/victory-park-view/

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On our first day, we headed off along the Exeter Road and found a parking spot where once there had been a train station, close to the River Exe. The girls and Sam set off walking the river bank downriver, whilst I unloaded my bike and cycled upriver towards the City. In medieval times Exeter was a centre for the wool trade with Continental Europe. But sea-going ships were only able to navigate upriver as far as Topsham, so the bales of wool had to be loaded onto barges and ferried downriver to the quay at Topsham. In the 1500s the Exeter ship canal was built, allowing ships to reach the City. My pictures show views along the canal with glimpses of the river over to the right.

This is the passenger ferry crossing to Topsham.

The last time I cycled this route was back in September; a much warmer day than today’s bitter wind, but with balaclava under my helmet and gloves, it was good to get out for some exercise.

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Today we headed down the coast towards Teignmouth. Along the route, I dropped off the others to enable them to walk the coastal footpath. Meanwhile, I continued on, up over the headland and into the town to find a parking spot close to the river mouth. I unloaded the bike and set off to explore. First I rode along the sea wall, then later rode around the harbour-side and the river mouth.

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The weather was still holding up nicely so today we drove into Exeter and found a parking spot on the Quay. Whilst the family took a walk downriver to the locks, then back along the other bank, I contented myself with an amble around the ancient port.

This is the beautiful Georgian Customs House, which now houses the local museum.

On the extreme right is another Georgian building that was once occupied by the Wharfinger – the guy responsible for collecting docking fees.

Buildings that once were warehouses are now converted into residences, shops and artisan workshops.

After lunch we drove up into the City and leaving the family to visit the shops, I took myself into the Cathedral. Before I went in, we had a photocall.

An organ student was having a practice session so I sat for a while enjoying the sights and sounds.

This is the west end of the nave.

One cannot help but admire the skill of the craftsmen who created such magnificent buildings. Looking upwards the roof is supported by fan-vaulting. Every stone in every fan, identical in shape and size. All done with hand-made tools – made probably by the local blacksmith.

Since in this cathedral there is no central tower at the crossing, we have what is the longest uninterrupted medieval fan-vaulted roof in the world.

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The rain began in the early hours and continued for most of the day – often in torrential quantities. But it didn’t matter for today was Christmas Day. Even so, a dry period allowed time for the daily session in the hot tub.

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After yesterday’s dismal weather, the forecast for Boxing Day was much better.

We set off down the coast to Berry Head, on the southern edge of Tor Bay, where I left the family to walk the Coastal Footpath back to Broadsands Bay.

Meanwhile, I drove into Brixham and took an amble around the Harbour.

Later we met up in a full-to-over-flowing carpark where we were able to sit out and enjoy a picnic lunch on what was an unbelievably beautiful day – for December!.

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Heavy rain was back again during the night. But it didn’t matter too much because today was leaving day. By 10am we were homeward bound. Unfortunately, so was everyone else who had been away for Christmas! With a brief lunch stop; plus the flooded road and the traffic accident, both on the single section, the homeward 180 miles took 6.5hrs.

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