Wednesday, 31 July 2013

West Country Adventures

Hello hello!  Here we are, back in the city after a lovely extended stay at our little bolt hole out West.  Well it would be rude not to take advantage of this great weather, wouldn't it?  I hope you've been making the most of it, too.

Goodness, looking back at the snaps I've taken, I realise just how much we fitted in.  Well, there is so much to do, after all, and everything is so much better when the sun is shining, don't you find. You might want to make a cuppa before you read this, it's not for the faint hearted! 

The trip down was accompanied by the usual stream of folk also heading West and the inevitable queues at the dreaded Stonehenge.  Once we got off the A303, the mood lifted and we pootled through the country lanes via the cider farm, on our way to the cottage. We passed some rather fabulous sights, all of a steamy nature!  First it was a steam truck, then it was a few tractors and finally, a full traction engine outside the pub, where its drivers were enjoying a few jars in the sunshine.

It turns out that it was the upcoming steam rally at Langport that weekend and the nearby cider farm had hosted the engines for a stop-off on their way.  It made for some interesting driving, meeting these beasts on tiny winding country lanes.

We also made a stop at the fruit farm to stock up on homegrown cherries and raspberries.  Delicious!  Got to enjoy these seasonal fruits while we can, don't you agree?  (Can't believe it's nearly August already.)

On Saturday, the day dawned bright and clear, oh joy, and my little heart beat a little faster as we arrived at my beloved Bridders for 9am.  I was so glad we did when I saw all the holiday makers circling the car parks an hour or so later.  If you visit, it's worth getting up early to avoid that, not to mention snapping up those bargains on the street market.  Mr HH decided to treat himself to some new togs at the marvellous Smith and Smiths, a traditional outfitters (which has been in business for 130 years) with good old-fashioned service to match. I love its interior.

We mooched along the market which didn't seem to have as many stalls as usual, perhaps some of the stall holders were enjoying the sunshine elsewhere, too.  Down round the old ropemakers' area, I loved these little doggies, though all the best things in this unit always seem to bear "not for sale" stickers.  Set them free!

Sunday, oh Sunday.  What promise you held, a much anticipated event, the Shepton Mallet Flea Market.  Once again, we were up early to join the queue, we've found that's the best way, but not before finding we'd parked next to fellow blogger Daisy Darling out on the field.  It's a small world.  It was a pretty giant affair, as usual and very very hot.  The things I do for thrifting!  This picture is of the main indoor area; outside there are probably four or five times as many stalls.  We don't really get round them all before collapsing.

As usual, we were not disappointed at the flea.  It only takes one good piece to make your day but if there's more...

The next day, it was time for a rest so we packed up the car with essentials and headed for the coast.  Where else but Lyme Regis? The main schools had not yet broken up so it was not too crowded and we had a really blissful day, relaxing and reading, pootling in rock pools for the younger members, enjoying a picnic lunch and a mooch in the nearby flea market.  I know, I know, I can't help myself!

The boys were keen for some steam action so being quite handy for the local railway station, off we set to head a little further West.  I was accompanied by my beloved vintage basket bag, £5 from Shepton Flea.  Love!  

This time, we headed somewhere new.  Having changed mainline trains a couple of times, we finally found ourselves in Paignton on the South Devon coast, a new destination for me.  We headed straight for the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, handily located just to the side of the mainline railway station, and off we set.  Is there anything finer than skirting the seaside on a steam engine?

This little line is very picturesque and I found it hard to concentrate on my sewing.  I never go anywhere without sewing.  (My on-the-go sewing kit for the week was housed in a little old soap box bought for £1 from the Flea.)

Wheeee, the boys enjoyed hanging out of the windows, a great way to cool down.

Our destination, part way along the line, was this little halt, opened two years ago.  There's a little clue chalked out on the platform there...

What we hadn't realised was that having arrived at this utterly picturesque halt, slap bang in the middle of nowhere, it was still some way to our destination.  Off we set, feeling like The Famous Five, tracking through the woods (at least it was deliciously cool), passing little view spots with tantalising glimpses of the estuary, on and on it went.  

We picked some wild strawberries along the way.

After what I think was probably two miles(!), we found ourselves at our destination.  Maybe we should have caught the bus!

I've wanted to visit here for a good long time, having read about its restoration and re-opening in a magazine.  Greenway was the holiday home of Agatha Christie (the Munchkin is currently gripped by an Hercule Poirot obsession), though Agatha sold it to her daughter, Rosalind, and son-in-law in the 1950's and they, along with Rosalind's son, gifted it to the National Trust (in 2002, I think).  

The best thing about Greenway, I think, was the stunning setting,  up high, completely secluded by woods, and with an amazing view of the Dart estuary down below.  Utter peace.  Inside, you could roam most of the downstairs but only a few rooms upstairs as a large portion has been made into a holiday rental.  I was surprised at how grand the interior was.  (You were not allowed to take photographs of the inside.)  Apparently, Agatha's daughter and son-in-law had said that they didn't want the house to be an "Agatha Christie theme park" and the result of the restoration is to set the house as if it was in the 1950's and the owners had literally walked out of the house for a pootle in the garden.

Personally, I think they could have played up the Agatha Christie connection some more without turning it into that theme park.  At the end of the day, I think the link to her is the reason a lot of people visit.  I loved seeing the bookcase with all her first editions and their beautiful dust jackets.  What a holiday home!

Thursday, we stayed a little closer to our own neck of the woods, and set off to the Summer fayre at Forde Abbey.  We had never been here before, oh my, another glorious setting.  

This was such a lovely, laid back event, all that you expect a country fair to be, I think.  It was also very well organised.  We were greeted with row upon row of lovely classic cars, all with the stunning backdrop of the Abbey gardens, replete with double herbaceous borders, pools and fountains.  The odd poseur was to be found matching her outfit to the car!

Further along, was the entertainment area.  There was a ring in the centre with displays of falconry and our favourite, dog agility.  The Munchkin was still enthralled by the Punch and Judy show and chuckled away gamely.  Fantastically un-PC entertainment with Punch whacking the crocodile and everyone else, a fair few times!

There was also an array of stalls, nothing really vintage, but lots of handcrafts, great locally-produced food and drink and my fave fabulous flower stall (this lady is also at the Bridport farmers' market).

Well, that was a lovely laid back way to spend a day.  It's been a fabulous few weeks for organisers of these events.  What a difference a bit (or a lot) of sunshine makes.

Oh dear, we're coming to the end of the holiday, time to get on the train once more, this time headed back to the South Hams in Devon, such a wonderful area.  The boys headed for the South Devon Steam Railway, I hot footed it up the hill into Totnes town and straight for the market.  Here, I found my pal Amanda of Shabby Chick fame and her outrageously beautiful stall of well-priced vintage loveliness.  

I bumped into Emma, with her pretty little daughter, and her mum.  You may know Emma as the owner of the gorgeous Velvet Ribbon (she has stalls at lovely fairs such as Country Living) and I ogled and lusted after her fabric packs in a little shop further along on the hill.  So lovely to be hundreds of miles from home but find kindred spirits with whom to have a natter.

There's lots to look at for a little place.  There are lots of charity shops in Totnes, a very good craft/yarn shop, the shop at the top of the hill (think it's called Gazebo) that sells oodles of Greengate, Cath K and Rice goodies, and not forgetting the several marvellous tea rooms.  I was at the top of the hill by mid-afternoon so I opted for Greys and, not being a tea drinker, plumped for a milk shake and chocolate orange sponge.  Yummy!

It's an eclectic little place, the walls decorated with old paintings and plates, gleaming wooden tables and chairs, and stacks of vintage china and bits 'n' pieces for sale.

I was not just larking about on these days, you know.  My trusty sewing kit went everywhere and the posies slowly rolled out to accompany a different outfit each day (this one a Darling Buds of May-esque dress for £5 from Bridport market).

The piece de resistance for me?  My original felty finds (along with a 1940's floral print frock).  As the lady in the shop said, as I regaled her with tales of my felty obsession, these things have a way of finding their rightful owner.  I like to think so.

A final Saturday in Bridders yielded a stash of vintage knitting needles.  I just love the packaging.  Do you know, I think I am going to have to start (sock!) knitting this Winter but for now, they have a good home amongst my vintage haberdashery display.

If you've read this far, thank you and well done!  You deserve a sit down in this little thrifty chair and its new-to-me, old flea-market-found embroidered cushion.  Oooh, I am partial to a lupin.

Me?  I've got to sort out all this loot!  It's a tough job and all that...

Until next time... XXX



  2. Now I'm jealous! You were in my most favourite place! My parents built and lived in a house in Dittisham so we know the area very well. We always visited regularly from the mid-eighties through the nineties. Always journeying on the DartValley railways. Always visiting, and lunching at Grays in Totnes. Over the years have got to know the kind gentlemen who own Grays and everytime we go always purchasing a tin of their own blend of Earl 'Gray' Tea which I can highly recommend!
    I absolutely love you beautiful felt flowers, they are gorgeous.
    Julie xxxxxxxxx

  3. Gosh, you have been busy having fun ... you've made some great purchases too! It's lovely to read all about the places in my patch from a visitor's perspective and it reminds me why I love living in the south west. M x

  4. wow - I feel like I've just had a little trip away looking through all your pics - looks fab!

  5. Fabulous Hen. I had just sat myself down with a mug of builders tea and our beloved Foyles War when I stumbled upon your latest post...perfick!!!

  6. What wonderful adventures you have Hen!
    Everyone thinks we're mad to set off on our hols at 5am in the morning but it's really worth it to beat those horrible jams.
    Lovely loot you have there.It's the best bit when you get home and go through it all isn't it? I do envy you having a mooch round Totnes.Not so easy to do when you have a dog in tow on holiday.

    Bellaboo X

  7. A post full of loveliness, I love Totnes, tea at Grey's just perfect
    Thank you for sharing
    Thea xx

  8. I thought I spotted your boys at Shepton Mallet last week, but I didn't see you!
    We were at Greenway just a couple of weeks ago - the setting and grounds really are lovely, but I was actually a little disappointed with the interior of the house and would have much preferred a more 'Christie' like set up. We had lunch in the kitchen there which was delicious and I would absolutely recommend it if you visit again.

  9. Wow. What a wonderful post. You did so many nice things on your trip! I would love to visit that big flea market someday, what an amazing event that must be. I love all of your finds, especially the handbag and the little box you used for your sewing, it's so pretty. You know, before I found your blog, vintage haberdashery had never occurred to me but now I love it! I take time to look for it every time I go to a vintage market or even a yard sale. I have had old knitting needles and other supplies for many years which were all given to me by an elderly neighbor when I was in my early twenties and it never occurred to me that they were something special, but now I'm becoming very appreciative of them! That's a credit to you, just so you know. You've shown me how precious they really are. Maybe I should do a blog post sometime. Thanks for sharing your lovely trip!

  10. We're planning a trip to England next year and just discovered that you can take the steam train to Agatha Christie's house, very excited, loved your pictures.

  11. What a loot indeed! Sounds like you had a very exciting few rest for the wicked, hey?

  12. Oh Hen, a veritable feast of loveliness! I don't know where to start it is all just so wonderful and vintage ... what a perfick holiday!

    My favourite picture of all is of your sun lounger, serious envy there ...

    Welcome home, and thanks for sharing

    Love Claire xxx

  13. Thanks for sharing your adventures, beautiful places you've been....I am jealous..:-)

    From Omaha, Nebraska, USA

  14. Good for you taking advantage of this glorious weather - haven't we been spoilt?

    I adore the cardboard box with flowers. Gorgeous! Lots of lovely snaps.

  15. oh I could read your blog for hours and hours ! beautiful as ever... I would love to stowe away in your suitcase your holidays are amazing ! I love Totnes, we stayed for many years while the children were small on a farm in Dittisham near Dartmouth and Totnes was always a favourite place to visit,You will just have to go back again soon so we can see more beautiful pictures x

  16. Lovely post Hen and I agree with Jayne, a fabulous British holiday. My parents had friends who lived in Churston and the Dartmouth steam train would pass at the bottom of the garden. We used to stand and wave with pre lunch G&T's (or should I say tonic with gin that Gill was famous for!) in hand as the train passed with everyone waving, it was lovely, like stepping back in time. Lovely memories.
    Jo xx

  17. Hi Henhouse I have really missed you. What a fabulous post, so sunny and nostalgic, loved your gorgeous photographs as the really captured the essence of the traditional British holiday. Loved all your finds, how wonderful. I also loved your dress Henhouse, so you and so in keeping with the theme of your holiday. Thank you
    Lots of love

    Dorothy's Room

  18. Lovely to journey round with you Hen! I'm so jealous of all your lovely finds.


  19. What a lovely and beautiful time you had!! Thanks for sharing all the pretty photos and such a sweet photo of you!! Love your dress and shoes!! Happy sweet day! xo Heather

  20. Wow, what a wonderful post, I'm pleasantly tired now after all the sight seeing and gosh what gorgeous photos. We stayed at Bridport quite a few years ago at a lovely cottage, we loved every minute of it. The indoor market was a dream, mmmm.

    Thanks for taking us on the lovely journey.

    Peg xx

  21. wow what a great holiday i've done the Totnes line lots of time when i stay at Shaldon near Newton Abbot,and we've never been outside the railway station!! now i know how much is there i certainly shall ask my family if we go again,that we could have a good look round there,thank you for sharing Kerena

  22. Thank you SO much for taking us along on this fabulous holiday adventure!! I so wish I'd been traveling along on that train and to those wondrous places. I have to ask.. what kind of fabric scissors do you recommend? I'm making yo-yos and need some good scissors, mine are Mundial and have lost their "cut" to the tips, thereby only getting half a blades cut before having to reposition them. LOVE your basket.. I have 3 of them but none of them are hand-embroidered. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  23. You sure know how to shop! I think it's probably best I don't have lots of those markets near me. ;D I love your adventures Hen. :) (I really think you need that red car...)

  24. What a fantastic holiday. The good weather makes all the difference doesn't it! We stayed in a lovely cottage in Dittisham a few years ago and I wanted to hop on a boat over to Greenway, but never made it in the end. It's such a beautiful part of the world, I must go back one day. xx

  25. Oh Hen you packed so much in and it all looks delicious! I'm off for another peak! :) x

  26. Looks like you had a wonderful break and what amazing finds! I love the fabulous felt pieces you picked up, but I'm sure you could have guessed that I would ;o) xx

  27. It was a long post - but I enjoyed each and every word and picture. You are like a personal Tourist Information guide - visiting all the lovely, vintagey, best bits. Thank you - I do enjoy your ramblings (and I mean that in both senses, and kindly!)

  28. Fantastic trip! Hen, I'm going to have to read this all again tomorrow as there's so much going on and to look at, I'm truly envious. x

  29. Right with you on the Dog Agility.Whoever invented it deserves an honour. Good to hear Bridders is up to scratch- daughter lives in Totnes, I now see why she is so insistent I visit asap!Forde Abbey gardens are pretty damn wonderful too. Sounds a great holiday.

  30. Wow, what a great post. Looks like you had a fab time, and found lots of wonderful treasures.

  31. What an utterly gorgeous holiday!! I do love your very glam sun lounge -- perfect with the head shade! I so badly want that pink and yellow basket at Amanda's stall - and the crocheted rug. Also love your vintage basket. How wonderful to have a holiday at Agatha Christie's home!! Sigh - I obviously need to move continents!

  32. So glad you are back! Thanks for the armchair tour! More places on my bucket list!

  33. What a fab holiday! You packed lots in . I really want to go to Agatha Christie's house, it's only down the road from me :) xx

  34. It sounds like you have had a fabulous holiday. I haven't been down to that part of Britain in a long time. You post makes me want to pack my suitcase and head on straight down there.

  35. You've been having some fun and that certainly is a great pile of loot to sort through and find homes for.

    Victoria x

  36. Ahh Hen, what a lovely break, especially with all that amazing weather!

    Your photographs and great reportage really allowed the rest of us to tag along for lots of the fun. I can see how you do get so much fine inspiration for your fantastic creativity.

    Now...I am so very glad that I did indeed keep reading and gazing at the photos through the entire post, because...all of a sudden, what appeared but those vintage packages of Aero double points. Can you believe it, I have quite a few of these myself. They originally belonged to my beloved great auntie, who taught me to knit when I was a child. After she died, many, many years ago, I was given her knitting needles. I treasure them, and still use them today. (I also love that delightful Aero packaging!)


  37. What a lovely post. I enjoyed travelling by armchair with you and only wish I could accompany you for real, you find the most delightful places I seem to miss!

  38. Hi Helen it is me again - Dorothy - do pop over to my blog Helen as I am planning a giveaway next week and would love you to enter.
    Lots of love

  39. What adventures you have Mrs Hen. We love joining you on your travels too. Looks like you are enjoying your summer.

    Julie and Poppy Q

  40. Wow!! What a lot of good, honest fun!! Am loving the pull along Cath K "Stanley" type toy and the lupin cushion most of all. You did well indeed! J9 x

  41. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful look at your countryside—even shared some of the pics with more a more "manly" theme with my hubby (steam traction engine and such). Always enjoy reading your blog. Jo J.

  42. Loved this post, many interesting things and lovely photos. We almost visited Agatha Christie's house a few years ago....I would like to see it next time we go to that part of Devon. Glad you had such lovely weather too :)
    Helen x

  43. Wowza, what a trip you had. Egads I love Great Britain.........I would so love to live there for the summer and here in Arizona for the winter......if only I were rich! So many pretty finds, and thank you so much for taking us along for the trip.


  44. Wonderful post & I did read right to the end! Have a great weekend, I have pinged you an email about a rather fun happening this weekend! Lizzie x

  45. You certainly know how to spend! You have a good eye for loveliness too!!! x

  46. Sounds like you had an amazing time! Those fairs looked fab! Great finds too!

  47. Wow, who needs to go abroad!
    Highly recommend leaving the A303 at Tidworth-ish and rejoin at Deptford. It may not necessarily be shorter, but at least you'll avoid the dreaded Stonehenge/Countess/Winterbourne Stoke section and at least you'll be moving along! (Sorry, I'm a biased local)


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