Wednesday, 31 May 2006
At last some real sunshine to venture out in! This is Tordown Farm and we found it by accicent today. Just outside Barnstaple on the road to Landkey is a signpost which reads Tordown Farm Nature Trail. So we followed the signs. They lead us down three miles of single track country lanes to the Farm car park. A handwritten sign told us to report to the farmhouse which we duly did. Tordown Farm is a working farm but they offer a two mile nature trail to visitors for a donation at the Farmhouse, and Cream Teas are on offer in the dining room. The farms wife is very friendly and gave us a map and explained in detail what we had to do. But before we set off we were able to pet the farm's dogs and check out the guinea pigs, lambs, chickens, quails and an owl all kept in various enclosures in the yard.
The walk was very well sign posted with white arrows and took us through fields, over hills, down into wooded valleys and alongside streams. Many of the fields were resident to goats, sheep and cows, who all stopped their feeding to watch us as we passed. The views were fantastic. What made it even better was the fact that we were the only ones there. Apparently they are busier at weekends. After the walk we stopped for a drink then on the way to car were able to feed grass to the pony in the neighbouring field. A great find!
Monday, 29 May 2006
We went to Westward Ho! today to become windswept and frozen at the local Potwalloping Festival. On a day with better weather this could be a fun event with lots to entertain children and grown-ups alike. We stayed long enough to watch an Aikido display and wander round to take in the sights. There were plenty of stalls, a whole marquee dedicated to local crafts, and more market-type wares ranged along the sea front. Bouncy castles seemed to multiply in front of our very eyes there were so many, although not too many that we couldn't find the beer tent! Activities for children included a fancy dress competition, painting pebbles and designing T-shirts.
Potwalloping dates back to Victorian times when all those who lived in the parish spent some time after the Spring tides collecting pebbles that had been washed down off the ridge and throwing them back again. This protected their grazing rights on Northam Burrows, as well as preventing the Burrows from flooding. Potwalloping became something of an event with food and cider laid on as the whole community turned out. I'm told that both my Grandmothers are true potwallopers as they were born in the parish. The tradition gradually died out but the Festival was started in 1995 in order to celebrate the history of the event and it's getting bigger each year.
The best entertainment of the day was provided by my two youngest daughters Sumo wrestling in giant plastic padded suits. I laughed so much I cried!
Saturday, 27 May 2006
We had the opportunity in the last couple of weeks to meet some folks who were doing a lot of hiking in the area. Two fellows, Steve and Mike, hiked to here from Ely, following the Kekakabic Trail. They said that it was decent hiking, though there were some trees over the trail, and they also had some cold, wet weather to put up with. They stayed with us for a few nights, and were joined by two more companions. Then they took off and hiked the Border Route Trail, from Loon Lake all the way to McFarland Lake. Now that is a lot of hiking in just a couple of weeks! The two ends of the Border Route were in great shape, but the middle section was more challenging. In some places, the blowdowns were thick, and paths around them had been trodden often. In other places, there were beaver dams to cross over, with water several inches deep. The improved weather conditions also brought out the black flies and mosquitoes in the deep woods where they were, so that head nets were a welcome tool. Overall, they said that it was a good experience.
On Thursday, I did a shuttle trip for another fellow who set out to hike the Border Route on a solo journey. I met Scott at McFarland Lake, and we headed back to Loon Lake, so that he, too, could start from the same location as the other guys. We had the good fortune, while driving near the Laurentian Divide, to see a timber wolf crossing the Gunflint Trail. I was so excited! Scott had his camera nearby, and he was able to take a couple of photos. What amazed me about this wolf was his nonchalant manner as he crossed in front of us. He sauntered by, in a trot, and headed up a powerline cut. When I clicked my tongue at him, he paused to look down at us, then continued out of sight. As I mentioned during the winter, I knew that I was going to miss seeing these animals as often as we had. Maybe I'll get more chances like this one yet this summer.
It's been a good week for spotting moose, too. On a trip to Duluth, we saw two "teenage" moose on the Trail. One was in a pond, but the other was on the road, like a new teenage driver. Those young guys are all long legs, and they don't quite know what to do when a car comes along. Fortunately, we knew what to do, and I just stopped to let him find his way to the roadside and off into the woods. On our way home that night, near Lutsen, we got to see a nice bull in a pond off the highway. He was munching away on the grasses, oblivious to the traffic. He had a small set of antlers that were rich in velvet. I don't often see bulls in the summer--more likely the cows and calves. We should get some glimpses soon of baby moose, as they follow their moms and seek relief from the heat and bugs in the roadside lakes and ponds.
The trout have been biting well for some folks. We got a report today of a 36" laker caught and released! I saw the photo of it, and as soon as the fisherman gets home, he will send me a copy of it to post here. It looked like a beauty. The bass also have been biting. The Cross River Bridge opened as of last night for walleye fishing. With any luck, I may get a chance this week to go over there and wet a line. It's a good place for me to try to fish, since I can drive there and I don't have to operate a boat and fish at the same time--something I am not very good at doing!
The days are so long now, as we approach the solstice. It is after 9 p.m. and the sky is still a beautiful pink and lavendar from the sunset. It's the best time of the year.
Monday, 22 May 2006
The cinema has also greatly improved in the last ten years. It has one of the largest screens in the South West with comfy seats, surround sound and a cpacity of around 250. There are three smaller screens downstairs and a small bar. They are very quick to get all the new releases and they have an online booking system which is so easy even I can manage it.
Thursday, 18 May 2006
Wednesday, 10 May 2006
Back onto Exmoor today for a three mile round trip to Pinkworthy (pronounced Pinkery) Pond. The walk up to the pond is pleasant enough, and we had a lovely sunny day for it. The pond is actually a seven acre lake made by John Knight in 1830 when he built a dam across the River Barle, no one knows why.
Once you reach the pond you have a choice of routes, right takes you along the Chains or left half a mile to the Tarka Trail. I wouldn't recommend the latter. I walked it today with 30 children and it is very marshy. There were quite a few wellies which stayed in the mud while thier owners feet marched on. Still, following the stream through the tunnel under the dam was quite an adventure, as was finding sheep skeletons and hundreds of tadpoles. And not an ice-cream van in sight!
Sunday, 7 May 2006
This is Appledore, a quiet village on the banks of the River Torridge and home of the oft-mentioned Hockings ice cream. It used to be a fishing village, its narrow streets meandering down the hill towards the Quay. The Quay now has a brand new flood defence scheme and the thin and twisting roads hidden behind it house art galleries and curiosity shops.
I came down to visit my Grandad who had a superb view from his upstairs sitting room of the many sailing boats coasting up and down the river in the breezy sunshine. And I didn't even have to phone him up to get him to let me in.
Wednesday, 3 May 2006
Monday, 1 May 2006
The weather man said it was going to rain today. What does he know? So when I got fed up of painting skeletons onto black jumpsuits (Don't ask!) we all jumped in the car and went down to Westward Ho! Westward Ho! is the only place in the country to have an exclamation mark after its name and was named after the book written by Charles Kingsley. It is a very popular resort in the summer although this early in the season it was quite sleepy and uncrowded. It is most famous for its pebble ridge which, as you can see, stretches on and on.
We went for a stoll along the sands and a spot of rock-scrambling over the giant rocks placed against the sea wall as a defence against storm waves. We sat on the sea front and ate fish and chips straight from the wrapper, followed by the obligatory Hockings ice cream. I'm beginning to spot a theme in my posts and it's not actually things to do in North Devon. An awful lot of my life seems to revolve around food!