Thursday, 31 August 2006

Sailing through August

From sailing into August, to the fall winds now blowing, it has been quite a month. This is a favorite time of the summer for many people, so my first question is, Why does it have to go by so quickly? Just when we were warming up and having a really good time, the wind changes and everyone heads home to go back to school and work. I love all four of the seasons, but it would be really nice if time slowed down just a bit. I am, however, still taking time to smell the roses on our rosebush whenever I walk by.

The Cavity Lake fire ceased to be an issue in early August, when the crews were able to declare it 95% contained. The whole operation was a marvel, and we so appreciate all the hard work put in by the crews. We got to meet some wonderful people, from the personnel who came each day with updates, to the folks who stopped in just to see us at the end of the road. They all were very dedicated to their job of keeping us all safe and managing the fire in the forest. Our hats are off to them!

Once the fire was no longer a constant presence, we went back to summer as usual. The weather this month has been just like it should be in August---warm days and cool nights. The mosquitoes cooperated on schedule, and have mostly disappeared, with a few strays ones in the evenings. Now that our nights are routinely getting in to the fifties, those stragglers won't be here for long. The stars have been bright in the sky, and I even heard some reports of Northern Lights. Unfortunately, I missed seeing them, as I was already asleep. That means that I also missed any campfire activities that were happening.....Guess I'm just getting a little too old!

Our pizza gatherings this month have been pretty amazing. Thursday is our usual day for making bread and pizza in the outdoor oven, and we invite guests and friends to join in. I like to joke that each week I get to roll in dough, as I am out at our big table, rolling the crusts to throw in the oven. Then everyone else steps up and puts the toppings on, Greg bakes them again, and out comes the most delicious pizza this side of Lake Superior. Twice this month, we fed over fifty people! We didn't even begin to count how many pizzas went through the oven. We just kept rolling dough and tossing them in. It has become a great tradition for all of us here at Heston's.

The birds are quieter, as usually happens this late in the summer. I have been hearing more chickadees, and they seem to be singing those songs that I hear in winter. We had opportunity to watch some young ones, earlier in the month, that seemed to be new at flying. They were perched atop the hop trellises, and would do short flights and little hops from the pole to the wire. They looked to be full-size, but were still fuzzy. Since they don�t fly south, I think that they will be fine, as young as they are. We still have a few hummingbirds coming to the feeder, getting ready for that big flight south.

While the birds get ready to fly south, our son Robert is preparing to go north. He is headed out today, bound for Alaska. He finished his high school work recently, and though his diploma isn�t quite �in hand� yet, he is ready to strike out on his own. Last year, when he was visiting Alaska with Greg and Paul, Greg told me that Robert might not come back home then. One of our early rules, however, was that you can�t leave home without your diploma. So he returned, stuck it out to the finish line, and has another year under his belt. It is a bittersweet day for me, as this is what I have wanted for him, and yet, it is hard to let him go. But as I�ve been saying for most of the summer, �It�s time for that boy to go!� He is so ready to travel, work in new places and meet new people. Greg is taking the first part of the journey with him, with plans to drive across Canada and into Alaska together, and then Greg will fly back from Fairbanks in mid-September. Not long after that, winter will be setting in up there, so Robert has packed plenty of warm clothes and blankets.

Addie and I will hold down the fort again, this time assisted by Paul, while Greg is gone. Once again, I don�t have a lock on the garbage shed. We haven�t had any bears in there yet, but as soon as they know that Greg is gone, they�ll probably come running! Fortunately, I know a solution if that is the case---I�ll call Tim to come and help me set up another steel cable/come-along barrier, and that will keep me one step ahead of the bear. Stay tuned�..

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Lynton and Lynmouth

20 miles out of Barnstaple, where Exmoor meets the sea, you will find the sister towns of Lynton and Lynmouth. Like salt and pepper, or Sooty and Sweep, they come as a pair; so much so that the signpost as you enter the area reads 'Welcome to Lynton and Lynmouth'. When you get to the village of Barbrook you have a choice of routes into Lynmouth, a one mile descent down a 1:4 hill, or a 3 mile scenic road around many twists and turns and through pretty woodland. We took the shorter way today.

It was a cloudy day and Lynmouth was crowded with grockles. Parking was nearly impossible but we found somewhere in the end and then made our way into the centre of the town to find somewhere for lunch. The Corner House was very lovely but very expensive at �4 a sandwich. Still, we were indoors for the only time that it rained.

After that we visited the Exmoor Brass Rubbing Centre. Free to enter but an average cost of �3 per brass rubbing. After a wander round the shops we made our way to the Cliff Railway, pictured above. It has been running since 1888, is water powered and rises 500 feet up the cliff and into the town of Lynton. A return journey cost �2.75 per adult and �1.75 per child. The children loved it and the views out over the bay are fantastic.

In Lynton we had a cup of tea and an ice cream (no Hockings - they don't travel out this far, but they were locally made and very nice). I bought a very nice fluffy pink jumper, made by a company called Weird Fish - who knew there were clothes out there not made by Next?

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Barnstaple In Bloom

The sun peeked intermittently out from between the clouds today. I took advatage of a non-sunbathing day to do a spot of shopping.

Everywhere you look Barnstaple is gearing up for its annual Britain in Bloom entry. It has been a winner on no less than three times in the last ten years, in the category of Best Town, and has gone on to win World In Bloom Best Town.

In the photographs above you can see the Albert Clock, also known as the Four Faced Liar because none of its four faces ever says the same time as any one of the others, and the Heritage Centre. The people with their backs to the beautiful flowers are looking at the Millenium Mosaic, telling Barnstaples history since it began around 900AD.

Croyde Beach again!

Compare the difference between this photo of Croyde and the one taken in June! Croyde yesterday was heaving. Grockles (tourist to you), school holidays, and extreme heat have combined to make it full to bursting. Just look how many people are in the water! Even the car park was nearly full. Prices, by the way, have jumped to �4 per car.

The water was refreshingly icy, and the children would have stayed in it for hours if one of them hadn't fallen over and got a mouthful! We did get a nice wave from those lovely men in the yellow helicopter though.

Saturday, 5 August 2006

RHS Rosemoor Garden

Rosemoor Garden is just outside of Great Torrington. We went there for the first time today, although my children have been before with school and grandparents. It's reasonably cheap to get in: �5.50 for adults, �1.50 for children. But this weekend the children were free as they were having a Family Event Weekend.

The gardens are massive. There are formal gardens, woodlands, cottage and herb gardens and much more. I certainly wasn't expecting it to be quite so big. And we didn't get to see everything today because we were so busy taking part in the specially organised events.

The Family Weekend was sponsored by ING Direct so there was a fair bit of in-your-face advertising going on, but the kids didn't really notice. There were storytelling sessions, where a strange looking gnome told stories, did magic and made balloon animals; there was a craft workshop, the children painted a paper plate; moving statues, bird of prey, a bee-keeping stall and chickens with newly hatched chicks. We also went to listen to extracts of 'Alice in Wonderland' as told by Alice where the Queen of Hearts turned up, towering over everyone in stilts, and enlisted the children to play croquet by being the hoops and the hedgehogs!

At other times of the year I understand they have different events and other workshops for the children to take part in - origami, card-making, etc. The only word of warning I would give is that the restuarant is very expensive, so take a picnic lunch, there's plenty of places to sit and eat.

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

North Devon Show

This is essentially an agricultural show where local farmers, craftsmen and small businesses get to show off their wares. But it is a very popular event locally and there is plenty for the children to do.

The show takes over several very large fields and fills them with marquees, show rings, stalls and fast food wagons. One corner of the show is devoted entirely to entertainment with fairground rides and bouncy castles gallore. A favourite with my children today was the giant Mickey Mouse inflatable slide. It wore them out too, so I loved it!

In the show rings there are displays from local children's organisations (we saw gymnastics today) show jumping, dog trials, cattles shows and more. Marquees house a local Food market, craft stalls, beer or are devoted entirely to animals such as goats, poultry or alpacas (strange animals which had been shaved and looked somewhat like a cross between a dwarfed giraffe and a poodle.)