Old cars always seem to need something replaced so when a friend sourced a TA exhaust manifold in Devon, plus some other bits and pieces for his TC, it became apparent we would need to head down to Devon for a couple of days to pick these things up for transporting back to Australia.
The drive down from Windsor was pretty uneventful as we chose to take the motorway most of the way. However, the GPS then took us along every tiny back road it could find to get to the village of Broadwater Kelly where we had booked a B&B for a few nights. Tall hedges, one lane roads with very few passing places and English drivers who know the roads and who travel at speeds which are rather intimidating when you are not really used to these roads.
On the way south we visited the National Trust property, Knightshayes, a Gothic Revival house with extensive gardens, including a fabulous walled flower and vegetable/herb garden. We opted to walk around the walled garden first, it was sunny but threatened to become overcast, so enjoying the sunshine while we could seemed prudent! This was the first sighting of the ruby red apple called Pendragon – just an amazing colour.
The house, a Gothic Revival building, was built by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, creator of the mechanised bobbin lace making machine and owner of a lace factory in Tiverton.
The foundation stone was laid in 1869, but it was not until 1873 that the elaborate interior designs were completed. William Burges, designer of Knightshayes, had a rocky relationship with the family and was fired half way through the project, leaving his imaginative vision incomplete.
Burges was replaced by another reputable designer, John Dibblee Crace, who turned out to be another ill-fated choice. Much of Crace’s work was covered up by the family, but later restored by the Trust.
Visiting the house is to step back in time as you explore the ‘medieval’ hall, complete with minstrels’ gallery. From the gallery you can get a closer look at the elaborate ceiling patterns and admire the chivalrous banners and shields. The house is fascinating and well worth a visit.
Then it was on to Broadwater Kelly, which turned out to be not really close to anything at all, but very rural and charming. We had booked a one bedroom cottage, very old (crooked staircase, low beams and exposed timber) and quaintly decorated and quite a haven for a few quiet days. And some home cooking!
The next day we drove south to the village of Broadwoodwidger and Buddle Farm where Roger Furneaux, a maker of MG parts for T Types, lives. We were picking up some parts to take back to Sydney and had an interesting time talking with Roger, having a look at the many and varied parts he had for sale as well as looking at a couple of restoration projects he had in a barn. Even Roger admitted they may have got beyond being restoration projects. However, I have seen worse!
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From Roger’s we drove south to visit Cotehele, a medieval house and gardens now in the hands of the National Trust. So many of the National Trust properties we have looked at have been handed to the Trust in lieu of death duties! It is fabulous for the wider public to gain access to these extraordinary properties, however it must be distressing for families to just give away the family home of centuries.
Built in medieval times, the current house is mostly Tudor. When visiting the house you make your way through four floors of history to learn stories about the Edgcumbe family who owned it for 600 years.
This fortified manor house is set on a high bluff on the Cornish bank of the River Tamar, which gave it natural protection from skirmishing armies approaching from the east.
Inside the rambling stone walls is a fascinating collection that reflects the antiquarian taste of the Georgian Edgcumbes. The family developed the interiors between about 1750 and 1860 in a deliberate attempt to evoke a sense of nostalgia and recreate the atmosphere of the ‘good old days’.
Particularly interesting at Cotehele were the huge tapestries which covered virtually every wall in the house. Tapestries were, of course, used not just for decoration but also for insulation, keeping out draughts and generally keeping the house warmer.
The house also had fabulous grounds with a huge orchard and, of course, more gardens including a kitchen garden. We came across the Pendragon apple again, this time there were so many on the trees and ground that we felt ok sampling one and taking a few back to the cottage to make apple sauce from, to complement that night’s pork loin chops!
As the house is set high above a river it also, within the grounds, had a small harbour where river trade boats used to dock to bring supplies as well as take away for trade the products of the mill. This mill was powered by water and is still in use today.
Next day, while still in Devon, we also visited Exmoor National Park. First stop was Dulverton where we walked around the town, bought dinner at the local butcher and went for a short walk up the hill from the village through some woods.
From Dulverton we drove across the moors, a vast expanse of treeless, heather covered landscape.
Next stop was Tarr Steps, a 17 span clapper bridge (a bridge made of unmortared stone slabs), the longest of its kind in Britain. It was first mentioned in Tudor times but may be much older. The river has silted up over the last century and often now comes over the stones in times of flood. The bridge has had to be repaired several times as stones of up to two tonnes have been washed up to 50 metres downstream during severe flooding. We had visited this spot with Sue and Nigel (Cape to Cairo and Tango) in 2013 and it is both scenic and fascinating. There were families and kids playing everywhere as this is a holiday weekend and the sun is out!
From there we drove through the National Park, past grazing ponies, sheep and highland cattle to the area of Watersmeet, where John went walking. Watersmeet is one of England’s very deepest river gorges and is an area of ancient woodlands and beautiful waterfalls. His walk took him along a winding track alongside a bubbling brook and past old tree stumps into which people have hammered coins!
Ros opted to stroll around the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth as it had turned cold and was threatening rain, again! We are experiencing a true English summer, cool to cold and rainy!
Lynmouth is a village on the northern edge of Exmoor which straddles the confluence of the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers, in a gorge 700 feet (210 m) below Lynton. Lynton developed when Lynmouth outgrew its harbour side site as this was the only place to expand to once Lynmouth became as built-up as possible.
Both villages are connected by the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, a water powered funicular railway which has two cable-connected cars connected by a continuous cable with the cars being ‘driven’ by gravity by using the weight of water to pull one car down the cliff face which in turn raises the second car. When the heavier car reaches the bottom the water is emptied out of it and water added to the top car and on it goes.The cable car has been running continuously since 1890. Two fascinating a pretty villages. And, one of the charity shops had a perfect hat for Salon Privé for just £3!
Then it was back to Broadwater Kelly for the last day where we washed and polished Goldie(!) and John enjoyed a walk through the fields while Ros finished off the September edition of Opposite Lock, the MGCC Sydney magazine.