Testing times in North Devon

As Bobble and I disembarked the train at Tiverton Parkway, he took in a deep breath and declared “This holiday smells like poo, mummy.” He was not wrong, the station was right next to a field of cattle. We’d made it to Devon.

Mr R had been filming near Illfracombe all week, so we spontaneously decided to join him for a long weekend of country air and sandy beaches.

Using the failsafe travel site Sawdays we rented Chapel Cottage in the tiny seaside village of Lee. The cottage was just the right side of old fashioned and rickety, it felt like the kind of place Jilly Cooper’s less well-off relatives would call home.

Following a brief, rainy walk along stunning Lee Bay and a drive to Illfracombe to view Damien Hirst’s controversial Verity statue,  we headed to our local pub the Grampus Inn which should be renamed the Grumpy Inn after the frosty reception we received as we walked into the empty bar with Bobble in tow.

“I’m feeling so low, but I’m going to do my best to pretend I’m not feeling like this when people start arriving”, said one bartender to  the other who was tinkering some depressive Tom Waits style tune on the piano. Er, excuse me, but we have arrived. Are we not worthy of a smile, a fake one at that? Oh well, at least the chips were good.

The next day was equally grey so we headed to our local farmshop for a fry up. Lee Meadow Farm Shop has only been in business for a few weeks, run by the adorable couple Kayleigh and Rocky who produce all their sausages on site though their Glam Pig label. It was encouraging to see a new business thrive in such a remote area, testament to Kayleigh and Rocky’s hard work and clear vision. I would highly recommend the garlic and chilli sausages, although your breath will honk afterwards as they don’t hold back.

The damp and dreary weather meant a our visit to Woolacombe Beach was soon abandoned for toddler mecca, The Big Sheep. It’s a charming, laid back farm themed attraction offering tractor and pony rides, sheep sheering demos and huge indoor adventure area, man alive, I hate soft play almost as much as Bobble loves it.

We took the opportunity to visit ex-London friends now living in rural idyl in a beautifully curated country home with their free range kids roaming around their enormous garden. They talked about the the harsh winters, the remoteness, the terrible transport links, the lack of decent coffee shops, the miserable retirees and local gossiping. They moved for a better quality of life, but I guess it depends how you define quality. I admired their candour and honesty, moving to the country is not opting for an easy life, quite the opposite. For the first time ever, I realised that I would probably hate it.

On our final day, we woke up to clear blue skies and drove to Baggy Point in Croyde, a huge, sweeping sandy beach well known to surfers. We chased waves, built sandcastles and ate sandwiches and satsumas that had that distinct sandy crunch to them. Apart from when our darling son unceremoniously destroyed the Frozen themed fairytale sand kingdom that the neighbouring family had painstakingly built, it was a pretty perfect day.

Back at Chapel Cottage that night, Bobble pointed at the window, “Pink, my favourite sky”. With that, we bundled into the car in our PJs and raced down the track to catch the breathtaking sunset over Lee Bay.

Devon, you beauty, you do play hard to get sometimes.

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