Loddiswell – May 2023

Click on the pictures to enlarge them

Friday, the 12th of May saw my daughter and me driving to South Devon. Our journey followed the familiar route; eight miles to the M25, then a few miles along to the M3, then the A303 towards Exeter. As usual, Amesbury Services made a useful stop for a lunch break.

This was my first outing of the year. It should have been the second, but a previous ten-day caravan site booking in April had to be cancelled because of a health problem just the day before departure day. So under the new Caravan Club rules, I lost my deposit.

But for this holiday there was no caravan since we had booked a holiday cottage for a family stay in the village of Loddiswell. Although much of the 200 or so miles of the journey can be driven at close to the permitted speeds, some of the driving is done nose to tail on single-carriageway roads where little has changed in the last sixty years. Consequently, with breaks, the journey took the better part of six hours.

Shortly after our arrival, my second daughter arrived from Sussex and also my grandson from St Andrews in Scotland. Together, we explored our new home for the week. The holiday cottage is actually an unconventional barn conversion – unconventional because all the bathrooms and bedrooms are on the ground floor, with the kitchen, dining area and lounge area all open plan on the upper floor. And with some lovely views across the rolling Devonshire hills, it was a wise choice.

The entrance hall.

The Lounge area

The kitchen and dining area

The view from the Lounge window.


My two daughters and Sam enjoy walking, so when possible, we plan our days out so that I drop them off at one point, and then in due course, I meet them at another agreed spot. For our first day, we drove the short distance to Slapton where they began their walk. I drove on along the coast to Torcross village where I parked the car. At one end of the carpark is an American WW2 tank dredged up from Start Bay.

Start Bay. The beach at Torcross.

The Tank Memorial.

The tank is a memorial to almost 1000 American soldiers killed close by during April of 1944. During the few weeks before D-day, secret rehearsals were taking place along this stretch of the Devon coast. The rehearsal involved both American and British forces of both the army and the navies. Unbeknown to the naval ships, a flotilla of German E-boats based in Cherbourg got curious about the activity and very soon got amongst the US landing craft. Two US landing craft were sunk with a huge loss of life. Several tanks and vehicles still sit on the seabed a few hundred yards from the beach.

I took a walk into the village and sat for a while watching the wildlife on Slapton Ley – a stretch of fresh water just across the coast road from the seashore.

Views over Slapton Ley

After we’d had lunch by the Ley, I drove on to Beesands, leaving the girls and Sam to continue walking the Coastal Path for another mile and a half.


For today’s outing, we set off for the carpark at Overbeck’s Gardens, a National Trust property situated close to Salcombe. Eldest daughter and Sam went off on a walk, whilst Jen and I made our way into the gardens. The only benefit of my advancing years is that I am now able to appoint a carer to look after me, so whilst my Scottish National Trust membership dealt with my entrance fee, Jen came in free as my carer. The lovely house, built by the Vereker family was completed just as the First World War was declared in 1914. Their son went off to France to fight but he sadly lost his life just 22 days into the war. The distraught parents moved out of the house and handed the property over to become a convalescent home for injured soldiers. It remained so until 1919 when the property was bought by Otto Overbeck, a wealthy inventor. He continued to improve the gardens filling the cliffside walks with many exotic plants and trees from many parts of the world. Eventually, the estate became part of the National Trust’s Properties.

Views of the Gardens at Overbecks.

Later in the day, we all met up closer to the beach at Salcombe where we enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine.


Today, we decided on a visit to another National Trust property. This time to Coleton Fishacre, the one-time country retreat of the D’Oyly Carte family. The fabulously wealthy family had financial interests as talent agents, theatre management agents, musical composition and as hoteliers which included the Savoy Hotel, Claridges, The Berkeley Hotel, Simpsons and the Grand Hotel in Rome. The family also built two London theatres and formed the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company which performed light opera throughout the Victorian Era. No doubt Gilbert and Sullivan would be frequent visitors to the house.

The journey began by driving down to Dartmouth where we took the Lower Ferry across the Dart Estuary to Kingswear. The ferry is a simple floating platform, pushed along by a tug boat moored alongside the platform. Each platform holds approximately ten cars. On mid-summer days, the queue of waiting vehicles could possibly be long, but on Tuesday, our wait was around five minutes, and we were the last vehicle to board.

Crossing the River Dart

The grounds of the property are immense. Once through the reception area, garden shop and cafe, most of the estate is an RHS-accredited coastal valley garden filled with exotic plants and herbaceous borders. Gravelled pathways stretch down to the cliff top with views over the rugged coast towards Kingswear and the Mewstone, an outcrop of rocks popular with seabirds and seals.

View of the house frontage

A view from the Conservatory

A view of the dining room.

The music room where an illustrated talk was been given.

Our return journey followed the same route back across the river on the ferry.


Tuesday’s visit was a rather longer drive to a point on the banks of the River Yealm at Moss Mayo. Google Maps had indicated what I thought might be an interesting walk for the girls and Sam, whilst I’m content to take an amble around a village and sit while taking in some lovely views. We headed for the coordinates that marked the “Tidal Car Park” – so we weren’t sure what to expect. However, we found a parking spot on ground that looked quite dry. The family went off on their walk whilst I took an amble with my camera.

Two views of the creek at Moss Mayo

After lunch, we went in search of the church of Peter, the Poor Fisherman. The church, mainly built during the 1300s is now disused and is only partly roofed. The churchyard is situated down a steep track approximately 1/4 mile from a tiny carpark.

Google Earth indicates that the short distance has a fall of 160 feet, never-the-less, I decided my mobility scooter could cope with it. The road entrance is controlled by an automatic barrier since to one side of the track is a privately owned caravan park. To reduce the speed of cars, a series of ramps were installed, which were difficult for my scooter. However, I eventually made it down to the churchyard. It is believed that many properties where the congregation once lived, have fallen into the sea, but after extensive storm damage it was decided to build a new church further inland so by 1900, a new church was consecrated and became the new St. Peter’s By 1970, the church was declared ‘redundant’ and was taken into the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

The Churchyard at St. Peter’s

Views of the interior of St Peters.

And then I had to face the climb back to the carpark. The scooter coped with the gradient reasonably well over the first sixty or so yards. But as I struggled to clear one of the speed ramps, a car coming down the lane stopped and the driver offered to whisk me back to the carpark. I gladly accepted. Only as I sat looking at the dashboard, did I realize I was in a Tesla. Angela delightedly drove my scooter back up the hill. Judging by Jen’s picture, I rather think it made her day!


Today’s journey was a comparatively short drive. This time, to Wonwell Beach on the River Erme. The last mile was along a frighteningly narrow road which ended in a tiny turning circle.

Fortunately, all I had to do was to drop off the girls and Sam, then retrace my steps back to wider tarmac. I then proceeded to drive to the carpark at Bigbury-on-Sea. Meanwhile, the family set out on a five-mile hike along the South Coast Path. Being fairly early in the day, I was able to select a ‘choice’ parking bay in the cliff-top parking area.

Low tide had been approximately three hours earlier.

Bigbury Island is around 400 yards from the mainland with about 700 yards of sandy beach between the two low water lines. At high tide, the water is around seven feet deep on the causeway. There are two high tides every 24 hours so should you find yourself marooned because of the rising water, you can always pay to have the sea-tractor ferry you across to the mainland. On the Island is a 13thCentury Inn named The Pilchard, so called because in the 1800s fishermen caught vast numbers of pilchards around the Island, stored them in barrels of salt and sent them to market. After several years the pilchard stocks diminished so that now, pilchards are rarely seen in these waters.

The sea tractor operating on the beach

Sam and his grandad

The other building on the Island is the Hotel. In the late 1920’s the Island was bought by Archibald Nettlefold, a film producer and the then-owner of the Walton Film Studios. He built the grand hotel in the latest Art Deco style with a palm court and sumptuous suites. Among his frequent guests were the likes of Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Today the hotel is a listed Grade 11 building and appears to be busy. A three-night stay for a couple with room and dinner will cost an eye-watering £2700.


Today was Sam’s departure day. He was travelling to Falmouth for a few days to meet up with girlfriend Anna and other friends from his Exeter Uni days, before returning to St Andrew’s. His departure point was the 2pm train from Totnes Station. So during the late morning, we all arrived at Steamer Quay and found a parking spot. The girls and Sam set off at a brisk pace alongside the River Dart, leaving me to take a slow amble at a much slower rate. In due course, we met up to have lunch in the River meadow, before making the short drive to the station.

The River Dart beyond Steamer Quay.

Our lunch spot by the River.

Having seen the train depart, the girls and I drove down to Slapton, where I dropped them off to walk. As they made their way along the seashore to Torcross, I drove to the familiar Stokeley Farm Shop. Besides all manner of local produce, they have a butchery department selling locally sourced meat. Their sausages are some of the best I’ve ever tasted, containing just enough fat in which to cook them. I always endeavour to take some home with me.


Today was departure day. In keeping with the accommodation rules, we were more or less ready to lock the door by 10am. Seven hours later, after 205 miles, a couple of stops, some crawling traffic and a half hour of torrential rain, we arrived home. But that was the only rain we saw during the entire stay……….. Brilliant!!