Sunday 21 December 2014 – Dartmouth, Devon.
The past few weeks have been rather busy, with work taking over far too much of my life again, not quite to the levels it did before I left New Zealand in 2011, but far more than I want it to – the price that is paid for delivering systems projects, and being a bit too hands on. In a sustained effort to meet the deadline date for the project I have worked quite a few evenings lately as well as the past five Saturdays, effort worth putting in, but I ended up delaying the project for a couple of weeks anyway. It was close but not quite.
The good news is that I am now banging away on my laptop keyboard while sitting on a train heading down to Dartmouth on the Devon coast. I have been looking forward to getting away by myself for a while, taking some time to do some photography and some walking and enjoying a bit of solitude. I surprised myself by really badly wanting to get out of London for a few days, something I did not think was possible. I, of course, miss the sea and the hills a lot, but have found places in London that have allowed some relief from the madness of living in a city of eight million, and while I have always taken the opportunity to escape the clutches of the city – I have never before felt an urgent NEED to.
I have taken a week off work – it was going to be two, but there is too much to do so I return to the office next week with the expectation of being able to knock off a load of stuff while the school is effectively closed. With a week off under my belt, the start of the new year will be a little more relaxed then the end of this one.
Dartmouth was chosen for a number of reasons, mainly through lack of choice as to places to go, but it does have a castle and is on the South West Coast Path, so fulfils my most basic holidaying needs. I was hoping to go somewhere wilder, but rental car prices quadruple this time of year so I have been limited to place I can access by public transport – and with it being a Sunday in winter in rural England there is a surprising lack of that as well. Even Dartmouth – which is fairly well known, albeit small place is not accessible by public transport on Sundays. There is no train service at all and the bus from the closest train station in Totnes does not run on winter Sundays. I will be forced to take a cab.
The journey has been a pretty good one, starting at Paddington.
The train was a little late out of Swindon but made up time before Taunton and hit the coast at Dawlish Warren to schedule. Dawlish Warren holds a special place in my memories – and not for a good reason !
When I was supporting my friend Mal on his epic run of the South West Coast Path back in June 2012 I was on walking/running duties when we arrived in Dawlish Warren late one evening, we misplaced the path and ended up doing an hour long and pointless loop of the golf course that juts out into River Exe. We were tired and hungry and it was dark by the time we got back to where we supposed to be. I think some bad words were said…. I briefly cover the run here. I should mention that Mal is about to embark on an even bigger venture next year – running 50 marathons on 50 days, each with a classic New Zealand peak. Massively epic and you should read about and support it here…
We saw way too much of this place…
The train line through Dawlish is right on the coast and was washed out this time last year in the winter storms, it must have been a great relief to the people of Devon and Cornwall that the line was repaired after some major work. It is a short, but lovely piece of railway and I managed to get my camera briefly out one of the windows in the doors. Unlike Sri Lanka, there is no standing in an open doorway in the UK! There is something magical about looking at the view and the side of a train as it winds its way around a bend on the track.
I arrived in Totnes to discover the taxi was almost twice as much as I was told, a slight uplift on the week day rate, but still I was definitely mis-informed on the taxi price, I hope the price increase is not the same everywhere else in Dartmouth or this could be a very expensive holiday.
After checking into the B and B, I dumped my suit case (I cannot believe I am travelling with a case and not a backpack!) grabbed the camera bag and headed off into the drizzle to check out Dartmouth Castle. To avoid the disappointment of finding it closed I had looked it up on the internet and knew it was open until 4:00 today, but closed during the week – so I had to visit it today. I made it there with plenty of time for a change.
The all too familiar sign, some good – mostly good memories.
As a castle, it was not overly interesting, though it has been well preserved as it was used by the military up to the end of the second world war. The castle was started in 1388 to defend the small town of Dartmouth just up stream from the mouth of the River Dart. The tower was an addition in the fifteenth century and was the first coastal castle built to take big cannons, covering the width of the river. When the tower was built to house cannon a similar tower was built in Kingswear on the other side of the river – and I hope to visit that soon as well…
It was a rather damp exploration of the castle, drizzling for virtually the whole time I was there. Looking back towards the town.
And across the river to Kingswear Castle.
I was surprised to find this wee robin sitting on a sign just outside, I shot this photo on my wide angle lens. I was that close to it.
I was quite keen to get back into town to find a pub to watch the Liverpool v Arsenal football match at 4:00, being a keen Arsenal supporter I was desperately hoping to not see a repeat of the 5-1 thrashing we received at Anfield last season… I took a few photos on the way back into Dartmouth.
Hopefully more on Dartmouth later in my visit as the old town, where I am staying is quite quaint and worth a good explore.
The small town of Kingswear is on the opposing bank of the River Dart and I will visit there either tomorrow or Tuesday.
Oh yeah, the football was a two all draw, not what I wanted, but better than last time!