Tag Archives: devon

the village life

Life in the village is pretty amazing. It’s a bit like psychological rehab. No phones, limited internet, lots of nature to keep you occupied and miles and miles of walking ground to let your mind go crazy.  Spring is one of my favourite times of the year to visit Branscombe as the whole village is transformed into a mini Chelsea flower show as locals compete for the very best front garden.

Last weekend we packed up the duvet and an overnight bag, jumped in the car and raced to Devon for a little bit of the village life.

Look who greeted us when we arrived. How can you say no to walkies with those big blue eyes?

Off we went, headed for the beach, Dave and Trigger in tow.

Remember Trigger? Well he needs a bit of taming.

A long walk with the dogs, a huge helping of cottage pie, some local ciders and a few rounds of cards later, we called it a night.

Sunday dawned and we warmed ourselves up with a full English. This is the day we’d travelled across Dorset and Devon for, The Axe Vale Point to Point!

This face tells me he’s up to no good.


And indeed he was. A little practical joke on a very gullible friend later we were ready for the races.

Point to Point is a fashion show for the country folk (dogs included) and an opportunity to bet on some amateur horse racing. It’s a whole day event which is held on the hill at Stafford Cross, just outside Seaton. A tradition spanning hundreds of years, locals flood the grounds in their thousands dressed head to toe in tweed and Barbour. It was a cold, cold day.

But nothing a Otter brew can’t fix.

There’s some interesting characters around. Old gentlemen in crazy propeller inspired hats, and lots and lots of tweed.

Did I mention the dogs? Well they’re the ultimate fashion accessory.


We darted for the totes in time for the first race.

My money was on Miss Cupcake.

Unfortunately, she was so behind, she’s not even in this picture.

We did have some wins as the races went on but the freezing cold wind and the fact I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes were enough for me to call it a day and find the food tent.


Julie and I thoroughly stuffed our faces with home-made cakes and sandwiches until the races drew to a close and the boys grumpily stomped to find us mourning their losses.

Point to Point is held all over the country and you can check out upcoming events here. Don’t forget to wear your thermals!



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!