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these boots are made for walking

Between Christmas and New Year, we dragged our large full Christmas bellies down to Branscombe to spend time with our best friends.

The weather wasn’t going to give in. The south west has been lashed with the winter weather over the last few weeks resulting in sodden grounds and almost weekly floods. We set off down to the beach armed with an umbrella and good ol’welly boots.

After wading through the flood waters down the rough track to the beach, we reached the storm swept shores to witness the waves at great strength. I haven’t seen the sea so ferocious in all my life.

The great opportunity for a game? Oh yes. We spent almost an hour chasing the waves with Trigger and Dave (the dogs), until one of us became the unlucky sucker that got drenched. Not me, obviously!

Richard was seen flashing his naughty I LOVE BEIJING t-shirt, supposedly, until we realised it was definitely time for a beer and headed back to the house.

After another roast dinner and a few beers, I snuggled up on the sofa with my favourite pooch, Trigger. He is completely deaf and blind in almost both eyes. He’s the 3 year old son of Dave (female Dave, don’t ask) from her first litter. He was born with the recessive gene which means he is pretty much an albino dog with white fur and red eyes. They are the beautiful and intelligent Blue Merle Border Collies and I have hours of fun practising his ever growing understanding of dog sign language!


happy halloween

Admittedly, us British folk aren’t as big on the “Halloween” thing as you guys across the pond. I never went trick or treating as a kid, and it’s only in recent years that I have taken notice of this lovely little holiday.

Nowadays, I’m getting much better at celebrating Halloween with fancy dress parties and of course the arrival of Otter St Mary’s annual Tar Barrels Festival. Unfortunately, due to the timing this year, I wont be attending but I’ll give you a little run down of last years festivities.

Now, trying to describe this phenomenon is a little tricky, so I visited their website for a little inspiration:

Those who have visited Ottery St Mary on 5 November, still find it difficult to understand what motivates the townspeople into carrying flaming tar barrels through the streets.

Seventeen barrels are carried during the day. They start in the afternoon and range in size from small for the “boys”, medium for the women and youths, up to “gert big unz” for the men. Traditionally, the barrels are set alight at various public houses and hotels around the town and follow a tight schedule until the final barrel is carried in the square around midnight.

Over a 12 month period, barrels are selected and their internal surface coated with good old fashioned coal tar, available from only one source in the country. Straw and paper is placed inside to help the lighting process and the melting tar does the rest.

The “Barrel Rollers” jealously guard their right to carry barrels. Unlike bygone days, the present day “Rolling” has a high element of control but the fervour and commitment is no less now than in olden days. The motivation is borne from a deep sense of tradition and in many cases this has involved generations of the same family. The Tar Barrels is run for the towns people of Ottery and commercial considerations take second place. Although we welcome visitors, the object of the evening is to perpetuate a tradition, so if you attend it, don’t try and change it, just stand back and enjoy one of the spectacles in our country’s history.

Sounds crazy huh? Yes, it is crazy. And it’s extremely dangerous for those participarting and for those mad enough to stand too close. These monsters men holding their burning tar barrells will literally run into the crowd. It’s full of adrenaline, but a wonderful evening. If you fancy a little less of a thrill, they also have the largest bonfire I have ever seen!

So, grab your warmest cardies, wrap up snug, pack up your soup and enjoy this once in a lifetime event that will leave you quivering at the knees!


time for a brew…

And no, its not that kind of brew. I only drink coffee I’ll have you know.

Anyway, I’m back! Refreshed, re-focused and maybe still a ickle-little bit hungover. If I could put this weekend in a jar, it would be the perfect medicine for feeling down in the dumps. There is just something about being in the countryside, where you feel like nothing in the world can get to you. We were staying at a brew-house in the home of Otter Brewery, so naturally we went for a little tour.

First and foremost, I hit a new milestone in my life. I poured my first pint.

I followed the three musketeers into the barn, armed with our pints, and began learning how the ale is brewed. It really is a fascinating process that requires a lot of time and accuracy.

It’s very clinical inside, chlorine smelling and aluminium for as far as the eye can see. Otter make over 4000 barrels of ale every day using traditional brewing methods. They also recycle the majority of their waste to local pig farmers. The water that is used from the spring is also recycled and cleaner through massive ponds which eventually makes it’s way back into the spring.

The grain and hops are sourced from local producers and the yeast is over 15 years old.

Last time I’d seen beer is this scale was at the Oktoberfest. There we’re thousands of barrels ready to be shipped out to pubs. The three musketeers tried their hand at lifting them.

One musketeer found the ultimate “man-machine” in a forklift truck.

The ethics and production of Otter ale is wonderful. Based in the heart of the Devonshire countryside, this beer is made with nothing but heart and care for the environment.

My favourite part of the tour was the barn bar where we spent the rest of our evening. A little wooden shack with a projector screen TV, a free bar and a table tennis table- what more could a girl want?

We talked ourselves to sleep under the starry nights sky.

The next morning, I had a wonder around the grounds. With a heated swimming pool and a beautiful stone cottage, it makes the perfect weekend getaway.

On our drive back to Branscombe, the views in the valleys were spectacular. Rolling English countryside for miles and miles.

The rest of the weekend went by in a flash. We were back in Branscombe, basking in the sun. I drank Malibu reading my book while the three Musketeers played with their new three way chess board.

Follow me on Instagram for more where these pictures are from.

I’m feeling thoroughly rejuvenated. They do say the best things in life are free.