Saturday, 30 September 2006

Fall Colors and Clouds Abound

For a season that started out looking like it would fly by quickly, this fall really has proven to be a colorful one. With the dry weather, it appeared that the leaves would turn early and fall quickly, but not so. We are seeing our peak color right now, and the landscape is a variety of yellows, oranges, changing greens, and some browns and reds. It is a visual treat. Despite the cloudy days, it is very bright out there.

Cloudy days seem to be the norm, ever since the day of the evacuation, two weeks ago. Those fires didn't stand a chance against Mother Nature's way of recent days. It has been cloudy, rainy, and much cooler than I remember last September to be. The forecast changes on a daily basis, and it seems that this period is so unsettled that it is hard to pinpoint and predict anything with hope of it even being close to reality. Despite the cooler temps, the lake trout haven't been cooperating enough to come in to shallower waters. Today is the end of the season for them, so they can all swim safely off to their spawning season. But watch out come this winter---there will be holes in the ice, and lines dropped ready for the trout to come along hungry!

It is officially moose hunting season, which happens in early October when the moose rut is on. I have only seen one moose lately myself. He was standing on the Trail, near the Poplar Lake Fire Hall. It happened that there was a large sandwich board sign on the road, indicating that the fire hall was the location for current fire information. The moose was standing right near it, calmly looking in both directions at the traffic (did his mother teach him that?), waiting to cross the road. Of course we didn't have our cameras with, but it was a fun sight to remember.

The other day, Paul was up collecting mail at our mailbox, when he heard an unusual snort. A few years ago, when we had a bear hanging around regularly, we learned that donkeys can make a rolling snort to scare away intruders. But this was a new sound, and it turned out to be Jethro. He was standing tall, with his ears pointed straight up. He was looking south of the pasture, which is uphill towards the ridge behind us. Paul looked, and sure enough, there was a moose standing at the edge of the septic field. He didn't see any antlers, so he figured that it must have been a cow. He came down to get us, and when we got up there, Jethro was still standing guard, and occasionally snorting. The moose was already gone, though, so we didn't get to see her. Moses was thrilled to see us all, and thought that we must have brought treats. He was oblivious to the moose, it seems. I guess since he has scared away bears, he doesn't think too much about moose.

We've been seeing several deer in the neighborhood as well as all along the trail. I brought Addie up to the end of the trail this morning, and there were a few sprinkled out along the trail, and then on the return trip, I saw two fork-horn bucks on the side road. It seems early for them to be hanging around, but I am guessing that that is who ate the last of my broccoli plants sometime in the past day. I'm really glad that they didn't find it any sooner this summer. Surprisingly, I was mostly pest-free in my gardening attempts.

One day last week, I went for a drive up to Thunder Bay with my good friend, Gerrie. It was a beautiful ride, and the leaves were in excellent form. The high hills around Grand Portage were a wonderful blend of yellows, oranges and deep greens from the coniferous trees. There are several rock outcroppings, views of some islands, and of course, the big lake, too. If you have not been up that way before, it is a good drive to take, no matter what the season. I find it to be yet another of the many faces of Minnesota, a state that has an incredible range of landscapes.

The word lately from Alaska is that there has been some snow falling in Fairbanks already. Robert was headed out today to get a couple of heaters for his truck, so that it will start for him in the cold and snowy months ahead. I'm glad that we still have fall to go through, because I am not yet ready to face snow. At least, not until the firewood is cut, split and stacked. That is next week's job---it's that time of the year.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Westward Ho! Rock Pooling

Westward Ho! is one of the best places in North Devon to go rock pooling. It is easily much better than the aforementioned Instow. I came here today with 33 children and it was altogether a much more enjoyable experience than the time I spent at Instow with only 5 five year olds. From the slipway at Westward Ho! you turn left along the beach to find the rock pools and there are lots of them. We spent an hour here and the children caught crabs, prawns, blennies and many other creatures of interest. Not many of them came back with dry feet. One girl was heard to remark that this was her best school trip to date, and many others agreed.

Our experience after lunch was not nearly so pleasant. Turning right from the slipway will lead you along the beach for as far as the pebble ridge goes - it goes a long way. Eventually you will reach a concrete track which leads you over the ridge and onto Northam Burrows which, along with Braunton Burrows on the other side of the estuary, has been declared and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), it being the only place in England to grow a certain type of grass.

We had lunch at the Visitors Centre, then followed the sand dunes along the edge of the golf course until we reached the coast. Here the children valiently began to sketch the landscape amidst the angrily swirling sand. We had encountered the tail end of Hurricane Gordan which wasn't due to reach us until the following evening. It certainly felt like it (although there may be worse to come). Several sketch books blew away never to be seen again. Fighting our way back into the full force of the wind was, how can I put it - an 'interesting' walk. None of the children now wish to become desert explorers. I am still finding sand in places I never even knew I had!

Monday, 18 September 2006

A Look at our Fire Truck

Good Monday Morning! After a wonderful birthday party last night, I have the morning update on the Famine and Red Eye fires. The forest service reported that they have several new crews on the fire, from Wyoming, Texas, Michigan and Minnesota, of course. They will be able to do some air suppression, and they have crews on the ground who are starting to dig fire line around the perimeter of the fire. Someone asked if everything is under control. The reply was that the steps toward control are such: initial attack, containment, control, and finally, mop-up until it is out. Currently, the fire fighters are in the second phase, and they hope to have some numbers later today as to how much containment has been achieved. I think it is fair to say that while the fire itself is not under control, the response and work effort are definitely under control. Things are moving forward, the weather is cooperating, and life is moving along mostly as usual. That means that Paul and Addie Will have to continue their schoolwork today, unlike on Friday afternoon after the evacuation order was called!

Friday afternoon was a little strange. We had been having a wonderful time on an absolutely beautiful day, making pizza in the oven outside, when a Gunflint Lodge employee informed us that the evacuation had been called. We were puzzled, and turned on the radio, to hear the official order. You know that radio test of the emergency broadcast system? Well, we heard that, and then a recorded voice verified what Adam had already told us. I went to Birch cabin to let the folks know, and while we talked, I told them that I really didn't know what else to say, since I had never been evacuated before. They began to pack up, and I went back to the lodge to answer the phone and keep out of trouble, as my dad always says. Greg and Paul sprung into action, and immediately fired up our fire truck. They brought it down to the dock, and soon the pumps were running and Paul was spraying water on the trees and sauna. Addie was helping me in the store. When the sheriff came by, we had our first indication of exactly where the fire was burning, and it was then that I knew that we would be okay staying for the night. It was also at that point that we learned it was a cautionary, rather than a mandatory, evacuation. As our other guests came in off of the lake, we told them all that we had learned. Some of them decided to stay for the night, and others chose to leave. The largest factor we were dealing with then was the smoke, and most of those who left did so because of that.

By five, the evacuation/fire truck prep had quieted down. We gathered at the bread oven and started to make pizza in the oven again, for ourselves and guests for dinner. It was a great evening, too, as the smoke wasn't too thick, and the pizzas tasted great. One of the oddest parts, though, was the total quiet. We could hear the airplanes in the distant south, but there were no boats on the lake, and almost no road noise. When we heard a truck coming down the road, we were surprised. Turned out to be the Forest Service. Then our neighbors Tim and Mo came to bring us the produce cooler, and to join us for dinner. We sat out as the darkness fell, and it was a nice evening.
Greg is shown here testing the spray from the fire hose.

Well, now it is Monday evening, and I am finally getting back to finish this post. I can give you the evening update for the fire, too. The day was cool and drizzly, and many planes flew over our lodge. Each time I ran out with the camera, they went by too quickly. I'll try again tomorrow. The report tonight put the acreage for the Famine fire at 4044 acres, and the Red Eye fire at 1792 acres. The Famine fire is considered 5% contained. The good news continues. This week sounds like we will continue with cooler, wetter weather, but there may be a warm-up after that. We continue to be vigilant with our use of campfires and the bread oven, and we hope that everyone else out there is cautious, too.

I'm working towards answering my emails--thanks for writing to us! I should be able to answer in the next day or so.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

The Missing Photos

Last night, the internet wouldn't let me post the other two pictures that I wrote about, so here they are today.
This is looking down the lake to the west on Friday afternoon.

And here is our beach, just a few moments later, as Greg, Paul and Addie came back home. In some directions, the sky was clear, and in others, it was definitely not.

Today it is again overcast, warm and humid. We haven't received any new reports yet, but when we do, I will post again.

The best thing about today is that it is Addie's 15th birthday. Happy, Happy Birthday, Addie! She told her Papa this morning that she is halfway to thirty! How's that for a startling thought at 7:30 a.m.? We will celebrate later today by taking a picnic to Addie's special birthday spot on the other side of the lake. We've been doing this since she was three, and through the years have taken some interesting presents over ahead of time. One year, she found a bicycle in the woods. Another year it was a fairy dollhouse. What will it be this year?

The forecast is taking a decided turn towards colder weather, according to the reports. The equinox is coming up in a few days, so I suppose it is time for fall to kick in to high gear.

Barnstaple Fair

Barnstaple Fair dates back to the time of Athelstan in AD930 and was given its Charter in 1852 It begins on the Wednesday nearest to the 16th September each year and lasts for 4 days. It is hugely popular and children of all ages talk of nothing else from the minute September arrives. A traditional ceremony at the Guildhall opens the Fair and a white glove garlanded in flowers, symbolising the hand of friendship, hangs from the Guildhall window for the four days the fair is in town.

The fair is a meeting of three travelling fairs and so many rides are duplicated. It is always crowded and as well as traditional rides such as the Big Wheel and the Galloping Horses there are thrill rides like Freak Out, stalls where you can chance your arm at winning huge cuddly toys or goldfish, plenty of rides for small children, candy floss stalls, and fortune tellers.It has also become a tradition in recent years that the final day of the fair is marked by fireworks. These begin at around 8.15 and can best be viewed from Barnstaple Bridge.

Our children were given a spending limit and we stayed until they'd reached it, which was just about the time they started to wilt. The rides were quite reasonably priced this year. Having expected them to be about �4 a go (listening to rumours and based on the fact that the prices always go up on the Saturday) we were quite pleasantly surprised to find that most were �2.50 and childrens rides only �1.50.

So, we have reached Summer's end and I must now turn my attention to things which can be done in Autumn and Winter with failing weather and the closing of seasonal attractions. Keep tuning in!

Barnstaple Carnival

Usually held of the third Saturday in September, Barnstaple Carnival coincides with the last day of the Fair and is when you know Summer is truly over. It starts in the Civic Centre car park with the crowing of the Carnival Queen at 5.30, then travels along the Strand and round Barnstaple, although the route is prone to change from year to year. It is one of the largest carnivals in North Devon with carnival queens, floats, majorettes and marching bands travelling in from places as far away as Bude in Cornwall. There are also many individual and group entries who walk the route in costume. The best we saw this year being Fred Flintstone and family complete with a very authentic looking car.

Hundreds of people line the route, sometimes three or four deep, and good places go early. Money is collected in buckets by people walking alongside the floats, all going to good causes. In times gone by spectators threw money onto the floats but this is now discouraged; presumably A&E no longer wish to be indundated by fancy dress clad persons sporting coin related injuries. This years carnival only took 45 mins to pass us, my children of course ran out of coins to throw much earlier than this. Then we headed across to the Fair.

Saturday, 16 September 2006

Fire Update and maybe a picture

The weather cooperated today, by sending us a bit of rain, some higher humidity, and lighter winds. Although we haven't had any official words on it, I expect that the Famine Lake fire probably didn't move much further north. We heard lots of aircraft throughout the day, and guests who arrived to check in said that they saw water drops as they travelled up. The new incident command team is in place, and information and maps are making their way to us here on the south shore of Gunflint Lake. You can view much of this information, too, by visiting the MNICS website, at, and clicking on the current fire information button.

I learned that one of the reasons that the evacuation was called yesterday was because if the wind had moved ten degrees more, the fire would have missed a swamp and headed into more favorable fuels. That would have caused it to burn hotter and faster, and with the wind, it easily could have pushed up to the Gunflint Trail. The fire moved quickly on Thursday, and with similar weather conditions on Friday, it was reasonable to assess that the fire was behaving in the same fashion as the previous day. The smoke was so thick, it was very difficult to see the front line of the fire. The sheriff felt it was necessary to call the voluntary evacuation, so that is what he did. It makes sense to act on the cautious side of things. When they were able to finally fly under the smoke column, they learned that the fire actually was still a good mile or so south of where they thought it was. That was a big relief. We're all very fortunate up here for the lucky breaks that we have gotten.

Some of our guests who checked in today were actually on a BWCA trip this week in the area that the fire was burning. On Thursday night, they were on Long Island Lake. They didn't really camp though. Instead, they spent the night watching the fire, as it had reached the south shore of the lake, approximately a half-mile from where they had stopped for the day. They were at a campsite, keeping an eye on the fire and taking turns snoozing a bit. The fire was at times an orange glow, other times they could see trees torching, and they said it was very loud. At about three in the morning, they decided that it would be better to be in a different location on the lake, because the fire seemed to be coming closer. So they loaded up their canoe and pushed off to go across to an island campsite instead. When they turned on their headlamps, they could see a white cone of smoke and ash in front of them. By morning, they had adjusted their travel plans, so that they came out at the Cross Bay entry point, near Round Lake. Although it was most certainly an interesting experience, they said that it was one that they would rather not repeat.

Now, for some pictures and an update as to what we were doing this past week: Thursday afternoon, Greg and I were on our way home from Duluth. I had heard that fires were burning in the area, due to lightning the week prior. I had been keeping up-to-date with them, mainly through radio reports. We were riding in the blue Toyota, which doesn't have a radio, so I was unable to hear any fire updates that day. But as we came up the trail, we could see smoke columns rising, so we knew that something had changed. As we passed the mid-Trail and Iron Lake areas, the smoke column cleared, but we could see another one up ahead, and we wondered if it could be something left over from the Cavity Lake fire. But as we approached Loon Lake, we saw that it was much closer than Seagull Lake. We stopped near the Schmidts' place, our good friends, whose driveway is pretty much straight south of our lodge. And we could see that the fire was straight south of where we were stopped. We took a couple of pictures, before heading the rest of the way home. When we got here, ash was falling from the sky.

An email told me that the smoke we were experiencing was from the Red-Eye fire. But we realized the next day that the two columns we saw were from the Red-Eye and from the Famine fires. And it was most likely the Famine fire that was sending the smoke our way. After the evacuation stuff took place, Greg and the kids went out on to Gunflint Lake, and they took some pictures from the north side of the lake. They could see lots of smoke in the sky above the ridge. Sometimes it would settle over us, and then other times it would blow on by. The lake looked like copper, much like it had the day the Cavity Lake fire had gone wild in July. The sun was glowing red, as it shone through the smoke. But for whatever reason, we happened to be smoke-free at that time, as shown by this picture of our beach, taken as they returned to this side of the lake. The smoke has been more prevalent than during the Cavity Lake fire. But then the wind will switch, it will all clear out, and once again I am smelling that sweet Northwoods air.

On a different note, some of the best news of the day was that Robert called us. He made it safely in to Fairbanks yesterday, found his good friend Ben, and is starting to settle in. He said that the drive from Eagle to Fairbanks went fine, and that it was very beautiful, thanks to lots of color change taking place up there. We told him of our excitement down here. I don't imagine that he is missing us too much yet, as he starts out on this exciting new adventure in his life. Greg has told me some good stories of his trip up there with Robert. Hopefully, those stories will soon make their way to this blog.

Famine and Red Eye Fires

Life here at Planet Heston's sure has been hopping lately! I have hopes of posting a longer note, with pictures of our current events, but for lack of time at the moment, this will be brief. As many of you have heard, we had thunderstorms a week ago, with lightning that has started some fires in our area. Specifically, two fires are currently burning near us, the Famine fire and the Red-Eye fire. The Famine fire is closer, about four to four and a half miles south of us. The fires are within the BWCA, and are not burning in blowdown. We haven't had much rain, unfortunately, so conditions are dry.

The Famine fire is directly south of us, and on Thursday it made a strong move to the north, due to south winds blowing. On Friday, the fire didn't really move much, but the smoke made it look like it was closer to the trail than it actually was. Since the fire had pretty much stalled on its own, the firefighting aircraft concentrated their efforts on the Red-Eye Lake fire to the east. Later, they were able to put a lot of water on the Famine Lake fire, and that helped to slow down the front line.

Today, we are expecting cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity levels, conditions that are much more favorable for slow fire growth and increased fire-fighting efforts. Rain is predicted over the next few days also, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it arrives soon.

Yesterday, the sheriff issued a precautionary evacuation. The area that this covered extended from the west side of Iron Lake to the Gunflint Narrows Road, which goes in towards the Gunflint/Magnetic narrows. This evacuation was called in the event that if the fire had reached the Gunflint Trail, then it would not be possible to leave should someone choose to do so. All other areas of the Trail remained open. People who were travelling on the trail at that time were stopped, and if they were residents or if they had reservations at a lodge, they were allowed to proceed. This was a voluntary evacuation, and some of our guests chose to leave at that time. We stayed, as did some of our other cabin guests.

This morning, it is cloudy, and hazy across the lake. We are hearing some aircraft, and so we know that they are once again working on the fire. If you have plans up the Trail, we recommend that you call ahead for conditions, and then make decisions based on what you are learning from the people who live here. I will post more later on today, including some pictures, but for now I have to go clean cabins. I just heard that the local radio station, WTIP, will have a fire update at noon today. If you read this before then, you can go to and click on the dancing moose to webstream. Then you can hear the information live. Greg is at the daily briefing as I type, so he will have information from that, which I will summarize also.
Thank you for your calls, and for checking in with us via the blog. We really appreciate all of the support. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, 12 September 2006


This is the other end of the beach from my last posting about Instow and the other end of the season too. There is a car park behind the sand dunes at the estuary side of Instow and from there you can follow a rickety old track to the Cricket Ground. The beach is accessed from a path either side of here and is well away from the one used by most visitors. Perhaps this is why DAISI (Devon Arts In Schools Initiative) decided to use it as the location for some art in nature work - less innocent members of the general public to disturb.

This is where I went yesterday and am only just recovered enough to write about it today. I came with my youngest daughter in my role as Mum, and so was only given five five-year olds to look after - believe me this was enough! There is a reason why I chose to work with older children! The beach was very nice though and there are even rock pools you can mess about in. A little known fact that managed to surprise many locals when I mentioned it.

Sunday, 10 September 2006


Having survived the night and packed up our tent we decided to pay a visit to nextdoor Ilfracombe. Ilfracombe was once a thriving Victorian holiday destination and is still popular as such. It has fallen into decline in recent years and is starting to look a bit shabby but still has something to offer the passing tourist. The harbour is pretty and is surrounded by plenty of nice pubs, cafes and gift shops. There is also the Landmark Theatre, known locally as Madonna's Bra because of the twin conical shapes of its buildings.

We went today because we happened to be nearby and to buy some seaside souveniers for my display at work; but we also decided to visit The Chocolate Emporium, a chocolate museum, shop and cafe in the High Street, as it had been recommended by a friend. It seemed to be the only shop to be shut on a Sunday but it looked very nice from the outside! You will have to wait for further details in a later posting I am afraid.

Colorful Days, Cooler Nights

Last spring, I remember saying more than once that everything seemed to be happening about two weeks early. Should I be surprised then that the leaves are also now turning early? We are not to the peak of color yet, but I definitely see change on the Canadian side of the lake sooner than I did last year. Most of the underbrush is bright with color: yellow grasses, golden bracken fern, bright orange on our moose maples. The New England asters are a shade of light purple, which contrasts well with the other colors. The birch and aspen are just beginning to show some change. And to go with all of that, the sky today is a lovely blue. We have defiinitely turned the corner into fall, as the night temperatures are down in the forties. The days warm up to the fifties and sixties, as long as the sun is shining, but once it goes down, things cool fast.

Despite the cooler times, my tomatoes are still very green. They are just cherry tomato plants, but I am surprised that most don't want to start to show even some orange color on them. At this rate, I will be picking green tomatoes to bring in and wrap in newspaper. I did finally get a small flower on one of my eggplants, but the warm weather that it needs is a thing of the past. It was a fun experiment nonetheless. The basil was prolific, and I have picked it to put up into pesto, for a small burst of summer flavor once winter has set in. We had patchy frost on Friday night---I noticed some on the dock and on the roof of the studio cabin. None of the plants got hit, but certainly that could happen almost any time.

The fishing should pick up for trout, now that the nights are colder. I've been told that they are seeing many on the depth-finders, but the fish are unwilling to bite. The bass, on the other hand, are still biting and still fighting. No sign of walleyes since mid-July. Where do they go?

With Greg in Alaska, the donkeys are depending on me and Paul and Addie to answer their calls for room service. Moses won't usually sing for me, like he will for Greg, but ever since he started receiving oats as a supplement to the hay, he will call for me twice a day. Addie fed both Moses and Jethro one evening, shortly after Greg left, but she didn't know about the plan to feed Moses his oats, too. By nine that evening, he was singing to me, and I figured out that it was because he was expecting something. I find it funny that a donkey can learn something so quickly as he has. On sunny days like today, he is sitting up in the pasture, soaking up sunshine. Life isn't too tough, I guess.

After six days of driving, Robert and Greg pulled in to Alaska on Wednesday night. They had several days where they chose to drive five hundred miles or more. Once they got to British Columbia, they slowed down a bit, so as to enjoy the scenery and to do some hiking. They called one evening after spending several hours on a hike up to a glacier. They never did reach the glacier before it was time to turn around and come back down, but they really enjoyed the trek. They drove up through the Yukon Territory, visiting areas that Greg had been through twenty years earlier with his good friend Art. The fall colors are at peak there right now, and Greg has been taking many pictures.
Tomorrow, Greg flies out to Fairbanks, and Robert will stay behind in Eagle, to join the kids and teachers there for a trip down the Yukon River to an old mining camp. They will learn some history, do some exploring, tour the dredge, and do some water sampling. He is having a great time meeting up with the friends that he and Paul and Addie have made up there in this last year. After the trip, he will load his truck and make the drive to Fairbanks, to join up with his good friend Ben. Soon the snow will start to fall in those areas of Alaska, and he needs to drive out soon, or he won't be taking his truck with him!

The bread oven is still going, at least once a week. Fresh ciabatta and wood-fired pizza are always on the menu. It all tastes even better because we eat it outside.


I don't know why but last thing Friday night I thought it would be a really good idea to go camping. I think it was the prospect of a beautiful weekend and a vain attempt to prolong that summer holiday feeling. Anyway, we searched the internet, found a good campsite, packed the ca and off we went.

It was a lovely campsite, and very busy too, excellent views over the sea as you can see, and we were lucky enough to find quite a level pitch. This is North Morte Farm Holiday Park in the tiny village of Mortehoe nestled between the bigger holiday towns of Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.

We arrived at around 5.00, set up the tent and cooked our BBQ (once I'd been down to the shop to buy the matches I'd forgotten to pack.) Sitting in the sun and drinking cold beer was lovely.
Then the breeze began to pick up and by 8.30 had turned into a howling gale. By 9.30 it was gusting so strongly I began to wish I'd packed a pair of shiny red shoes to click three times. Unfortunately my husband refused to listen to my chants of "There's no place like home" so we just had to go to sleep hoping that we didn't wake up under a pile of canvas, half way down the cliff or actually in the sea.

You can probably guess from the fact that I'm posting this that I lived to tell the tale, but it was a very noisy night. I can thoroughly recommend camping anywhere in North Devon, especially somewhere with fantastic views, but do check the weather forecast carefully first.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Broomhill Hotel Sculpture Garden

Summer holidays are now definately over, doom and gloom settles as I return to work. Still, we were broken into it gently by a visit to Broomhill. This is a place frequented by teachers undertaking training. Today we learnt the finer points of watercolour painting on very wet paper.

This is a lovely place to visit if you are into art. Head out of Barnstaple towards Lynton on the A39 then turn towards Ilfracombe on the B3230 and its about a mile down a leafy country road. Entry into the gardens is �4.50 for adults and �1.50 for children. The hotel also does fantastic food for residents and non-residents alike (this is why teachers really come!)

The gardens stretch on for quite a way, easily long enough to walk off whatever delights you sampled for your lunch, or that extra dollop of cream you had with your cream tea. There are hundreds of scuptures to look at, ranging from the weird to the wonderful. The most famous is the giant red shoe which meets you at the top of the drive. Some are quite hidden away, so you have to keep your eyes peeled. Inside the hotel is an art gallery, entry to this is free, and there are even scuptures in the loo!

Friday, 1 September 2006

Horse Riding

September has arrived. Winter wends its way towards us. And although you can feel it in the air first thing in the morning by lunch time today it was boiling hot again. Thank goodness for that as we'd booked to go horse riding and it would've been miserable in the rain.

There are plenty of place to go riding in North Devon. They all charge pretty much the same at �18 an hour per person, but some insist on you having lessons before they'll let you out in the big wide world. We went to Kingsland Stables in Woolsery (Woolfardisworthy as the sign reads). They offered us a deal on a family of five at �70 total. They were very friendly and great with the kids. We went on a two and a half mile ride down country roads and along a woodland track. It was very pleasant.

Horse riding - ahh! One of those things every little girl wants to do - until they actually get on the back of one and realise its not all its cut out to be. My littlest one was moaning of a sore bottom by the time we got off! She loved feeding the horses some carrots afterwards though. And actually they all want to go again now! Bums recover easily obviously - well young ones do anyway! I can't say the same about mine.