Saturday, 26 December 2009

Eventful Christmas

Well all I want for Christmas now is a new rear light for my car! My silly BMW that really has to go hasn't moved for a week (well until yesterday) as it is rear wheel drive and we have had so much ice that taking it out would have been a major mistake, I just never expected to crash it when parked in our driveway!

Yesterday we woke to blue skies and having had sleet overnight this had frozen over the already frozen driveway leaving a glassy finish. We were due to go to see our friends and have a Christmas cup of tea with them and distribute some pressies. We got in the 4x4 and started off up the drive, almost immediately we started off back down the drive as the 4x4 decided to go its own way right into the back of my car shunting it forwards about a foot. I thought we would find a tangled mess on the boot but (thankfully) it was only a smashed light. It was a bit scary at the time but afterwards it was just funny. We still had the 4x4 at a precarious angle on the ice so cleared out the fire and used the ash to try to melt the ice a bit and got the big beast back onto a safe patch of driveway. Our trip to our friends cancelled.

We had nice drinks with our neighbours who had invited us round too and then M had a crunchy walk round the fields whilst I started on Xmas dinner. Why is it we try to cook something we are not used to cooking on Christmas day? We thought a whole turkey too much for us so I had ordered a boned turkey breast, bit of a mistake as I hadn't a clue how to cook it and in the end had to do extra roasties as they were ready about an hour before the turkey was and then the turkey was overdone! The stuffing was nice though. Thankfully both of us had enjoyed some bubbly before dinner so the whole thing was in the rather funny.

We had a good glut of lovely pressies, many of them pratical but you get to the point where you don't want fancy pressies but those that are useful, ie new hot water bottles and waterproofs.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Beach walk cancelled

Snow yesterday+ light rain overnight + drop in temperatures = icy roads!

This morning despite the ice and the remains of the snow we thought it was a nice day to go for a beach walk, cold but sunny. There is a 2 mile drive (at the least) to get to the main road along little Devon country lanes, no gritters come down here! So off we go and it is sheet ice, I mean sheet, like glass! We have the 4x4 of course, and in manual and 4 wheel drive and going slowly it wasn't too bad, but the skid lights on the dash board were going off like a Christmas tree. We rescued a driver who had slid off the road into the hedge (M rescued two drivers yesterday when he went out - thank goodness for the beast, my BMW is going nowhere!). So we got to the main road and thought, if it sleets (forecast) and then freezes getting home will be fun! We have a nice shoulder of pork ready for Sunday lunch and the cats and the hens to think about so after picking up the Sunday paper gave up the idea of the beach - although the 4x4 is good it can still slide and there are some pretty big hills to negotiate on our 2 miles to the main road, also 4x4s are heavy so when they slide they really can slide alot.

Instead we have had a nice crunch round the fields and down to the river, the snow and sleet showers waiting until we got back home. Now it is looking very broody and we have had two sharp showers. Fire is lit, oven in on, there are pressies round the Christmas tree and probably a rubbish film on the tele, so I am now going to have some 'quality time' with the cats!

By the way if you are going out in the car in this weather, particularly on long journeys make sure you take some spare warm clothes, food, water, hot drinks, a blanket, a shovel, a torch , mobile phone and if you have one a high vis jacket, and of course a tow rope. You just never know!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Winter mornings

I have had to get up very early (well early for me) for work this last week and the mornings have been just beautiful. On Thursday I had to go to Bridgewater and was up horribly early, it was a misty foggy cold morning with thick fog at ground level but blue sky above (well when it got lighter). It was such a foggy morning even the sun seemed reluctant to get up and didn't appear over Dartmoor until nearly 9am!

This morning we had a beautiful sunrise with the moor standing out black against a red sky, there was a gap between the top of the moor and the cloud and it was stunning.

Something we have noticed living here, and I may have mentioned it before, is that we appreciate the passing of the seasons more and the different in the rising and setting of the sun. In the summer it rises and sets almost behind the house, now it seems to almost rise and set in the same place, just peeping over the horizon for a few hours before going somewhere warm again. Well that is what it seems like. I would love to go North where it only just breaks the horizon in the winter. I think though the total darkness that some places get in the winter would be a bit difficult to live with. Shortest day soon then summer on its way, possibly after another cold and snowy winter.

Hope everyone is warm and dry, very cold here, the kitchen doesn't seem to get above 8 degrees unless we are cooking. Thankfully the big wood burner in the sitting room keeps the bedroom at a temperature that is just about OK for going to bed. Big hot water bottles are definitely the thing. The cats love the woodburner!

If I don't post again, happy Christmas to all and wishing everyone a happy 2010.

Postscript. Since I started writing this post it has been snowing, quite hard on and off. Now settled and still snowing. Ooh how I wish for a white Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A good day out with the kids

As we are finally having some nice (but cold) weather we thought we should go for a walk yesterday but the tide times were not good for beach walking; so where else do you go when you have a 7 and a 4 year old to take into account? Well Dartmoor is out really and a long way to drive, same for Bodmin and Exmoor. There are some nice coastal cliff path walks around Hartland and Morwenstow but can be very hilly and some of the walking is quite tough. So we decided to have a look at the Tarka Trail The nearest place we can get onto this is only about 10 minutes drive for us, near Torrington ,so our friends loaded the kids bikes and we set off. The entry point for us is a place called Watergate Bridge and from there you can go north - towards Torrington and eventually Bideford and even Ilfracombe, or south towards Meeth. We chose the northern route as there appeared to be a couple of pubs on the way - good for a rest and maybe some lunch.

The Tarka trail is a bridle/cycle and walking route along the old railway line. The first part was particularly lovely walking though a wooded section with a fast flowing river close by. You then get to a bridge crossing the Torridge River close to Torrington. You can walk then down to Taddiport where there used to be a great pub but we understand it has recently closed. We kept going along the route north towards Bideford. As you go under the main road from Bideford to Torrington there are the remains of the old station complete with a carriage. There is also a pub called the Puffing Billy but sadly this was closed too (we think it has not closed completely but it certainly wasn't open yesterday). There is also a cycle hire shop here and this was open.

Our aim was to get to Weare Gifford, further along the line and this route crosses the Torridge River several times. The countryside opens up to fields here too. In order to get to Weare Gifford itself you will come to a path on your right signposted to the Village just before a bridge over the river. Take this path if you want to got to the village, do not be fooled by the Explorer map which seems to suggest there is a path closer to the village, there isn't any way to cross the river here and the path refers to a ford. There is NO way, you can cross the Torridge on foot, we made the mistake of thinking perhaps there was a footbridge and found of course that there wasn't so had to turn back. We did follow the path signposted to the Village and this takes you through managed woodland (you can't take your bikes through here, there is a place to lock them up if you have brought locks with you just before you leave the old railway line).

The walk was lovely and luckily the path is quite easy to follow on the way to the village, on the way back the path is signposted by use of white painted dots on the side of the trees, it could be quite easy to get lost in the forest without them I think. Once you get out of the forest turn left onto the road and follow this through the village for about half a mile, you will then come to the Cyder Press the local Pub. Note, it closes at 2.30 and stops serving food at 1.30, we were too late for food but the cider was good and many packets of crisps consumed. It is a lovely old pub and we can say that the landlord was very friendly, next time we will leave earlier and have some lunch here.

By the time we got back to the cars it was getting late, I reckon it takes about an hour and 45 minutes from Watergate Bridge to Weare Gifford on foot, obviously on a bike it would be a lot quicker. M and I plan to try the southerly route from Watergate on our next trip and this time we will take our bicycles.

The Tarka trail is great for kids on bikes, no cars to worry about and this time of year it was quite quiet. I imagine in the summer it could be quite busy. Maps for the route can be downloaded from the website inserted above. Apparently the council is opening up more off road cycle routes so you would be able eventually to cycle off road from Barstaple all the way to Bude via Hatherleigh (the Barstaple/Ilfracombe section of the Tarka Trail is on road); there are also quite a few cycle routes round here as part of the sustrans project, but some of this is on road and you have to watch out for the tractors and the hills!

I would recommend this trip to anyone who lives in this area or is visting, we had a great day and the kids had fun, the 7 year old managed to cycle nearly the whole way, which we think was about 6 miles round trip (apart from the forest section of course).