Just Back From…. South Devon

I booked a week away in south Devon in December when it was cold and dark and I needed something to look forward to in the spring months. We have always taken a spring break since we got together and as a teacher the Easter holidays were the first chance to get away. Even after leaving teaching the habit has stuck with us. In recent years we would return to the West Country and carry out research into where we would like to live. Now of course we have moved down to Cornwall so we can enjoy spring here without going very far.


One of my projects is to visit every county in England (and possibly Wales and Scotland), preferably to stay a few days, but at least to have driven through other than on a motorway. So for these ‘at home’ breaks (I refuse to use the word staycation), I look for somewhere where I haven’t been.

South Devon is only a couple of hours drive from us and a region I haven’t been to since I was 12 years old and on holiday in Buckfastleigh with my parents and dog. It was the year when we were supposed to be having a week in Devon and a week in London, but the car broke down shortly after Exeter and we found ourselves spending extra time in Devon. I do remember an amazing farmhouse breakfast where we stayed overnight and also stopping off at Stonehenge and running around the stones (you could do that in those days), but I recall absolutely nothing about London! My mother had a friend living in Orpington, then in the Kent countryside, now just another part of the Greater London sprawl. Continue reading Just Back From…. South Devon


Walking in an artist’s footsteps

Whilst in Essex and with time to spare between checking out of one place and checking in to another, we decided to visit the quintessential English Dedham Valley on the borders of Essex and Suffolk where Constable drew inspiration for some of his paintings, notably “The Hay Wain“.

“The sound of water escaping from Mill dams …, willows, old rotten banks, slimy posts and brickwork. I love such things … as long as I do paint I shall never cease to paint such places.”

~ John Constable

The scene is rural England at its most romantic and although the spot which inspired him has altered slightly you can find the easily recognisable view at Flatford. The area is charming; narrow lanes lead to hamlets and meadows and there are plenty of riverside walks along the River Stour which meanders through this enchanting valley. Dedham, East Bergholt and Flatford is affectionatley known as ‘Constable Country’ and you can see examples of his work and information about the man at the National Trust exhibition centre located at Flatford.


Continue reading Walking in an artist’s footsteps

The Witch Finder General and Malthouses

Our first stop on the recent trip up the east coast of Britain was in a little place called Mistley which is situated on the River Stour in Essex. You may have heard of Manningtree which is a little further up the river as it is the smallest town in England. Mistley’s use as a port can be traced back to the Roman occupation with archaeological evidence indicating that a Roman road connected its riverside to the important garrison town of Colchester (Camulodunum).


Both Manningtree and Mistley are attractive towns with Georgian and Victorian architecture. Manningtree was a centre for cloth in Tudor times with barges transporting it to London and it is believed that the reference to Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry IV as “that roasted Manningtree Ox” relates to the practice of roasting a whole ox at the town’s medieval annual fair.


Mistley is also the village where Matthew Hopkins lived – the notorious Witch Finder General, who struck terror into the local community during the 17th Century.  Continue reading The Witch Finder General and Malthouses


A lingering look at Shropshire

Paula’s black and white Sunday this week is all about Rural Living.


I was going to post a view from my new house, but then I thought it would be nice to show off a bit more of the beautiful Shropshire landscape which has kept me company during the past four and a half years. Just a couple of miles walk from the town you find yourself with views like these. I have to say I will miss them. The Ent-like trees, the dead straight hedgerows, the sheep in the fields, the tracks of tractors, the black and white timber-framed houses and the hills. Shropshire is a beautiful rural county and I think this image captures its beauty.

Please visit Paula to see other blogger’s thoughts about rural living.


Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury: Town Trail Part 1

Today we are going to follow the blue path around town, starting from the Bear Steps (1) heading to the railway station. (The churches, station and library appear in ‘Looking at stone buildings)

towntrailmap (Trail 1)

Bear Steps (1) is in the centre of town and one of the few remaining medieval timber-framed halls. This place has a family connection as the OH’s eldest uncle was born in one of the small cottages back in 1913. The Bear Steps hall is one of only a few remaining medieval stone and timber-framed halls that dominated the town’s architecture. It now houses the offices of the Shrewsbury Civic Society (who produce a Shrewsbury Town Trail booklet and from which much of this information has been gathered) and an Art Gallery. Continue reading Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury: Town Trail Part 1