North Devon: Verity, pasties and sandcastles

Our half term break was spent in North Devon at Woolacombe to be precise where we have visited before but never tire of returning.

North Devon section

This break was unique in as much we towed our caravan down there for the very first time so a massive step for us and it all went amazingly well apart from putting up the awning inside out after an 8 hour journey but *ahem* moving on …

We booked into Woolacombe Golden Coast resort as other family members were staying there and it has some excellent facilities onsite for us and the kids to use, three swimming pools to start with, an amazing adventure playground and the beach balls that our girls tried and LOVED.

Woolacombe Golden Coast

On the Wednesday we took to the coast and starting at Combe Martin a beach dear to my husband’s heart as he spent a lot of his childhood there, it was a cold grey day but we managed to play on the sand and the tide was out so we went to look at the rock pools.

combe martin beach

When the tide goes out, there is a cement walkway to the right looking out to sea that takes you round to some fabulous rock formations, caves and rock pools.

combe martin rock pools and sea views

We jumped back in the cars and drove a short distance to Hele Bay passing Watermouth Castle and stopped for lunch at the beach cafe – £5 for scampi and chips and delicious it was too. We played ‘Pooh’ sticks before leaving and the dads got very competitive :)

hele bay north devon

Our next stop was Ilfracombe, we drove down and parked by the harbour and were able to see Damien Hirst’s controversial statue that upset the locals when erected in October 2012.

verity ilfracombe

I like it. Yes, it’s different, some say macabre, I say unusual, in fact it got me thinking. There was no plaque and no information so I added the photo to my Facebook stream and there I learnt her name, Verity and her meaning. I find her protective over the baby she is carrying and trying to do the right thing, but that’s just my definition, each has their own.

The statue of Verity pregnant holding a sword aloft and standing on a base of legal books is meant to be a ‘modern allegory of truth and justice’

The figure’s stance is taken from Edgar Degas’ late 19th Century Little Dancer of Fourteen Years and is referenced by Damien Hirst in his earlier bronze Virgin Mother from 2005.

The title ‘Verity’ is from the Italian word of Truth, while she holds the traditional symbols denoting justice – a sword and scales. – Visit Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe was also an ice cream stop, I tried Tia Maria.

ilfracombe harbout

Our next journey was down the narrowest country lanes, with husband moaning a little bit whenever someone dared come in the opposite direction but the end was Lee Beach. The tide was out, the sky was grey and it was very cold but what a picturesque spot and well worthy of a day trip with a picnic on the beach. When you do get down there, there’s a car park but if it’s packed you will then have to retrace your steps or take the other single file lane out, might be worth leaving this spot for a quiet day ;)

Lee Beach Devon

Last stop on this tour was Woolacombe for some fudge and some pasties

fudge and pasties woolacombe

But before we got there I asked husband to stop at the top of the hill descending into the village to get this shot, if you take a look at the map at the top you’ll see how large Woolacombe beach is.

wollacombe north devon

If you’re passing on a sunny day of course it would look like this …

woolacombe beach

Woolacombe Devon budget holiday

North Devon coast

Not all of us have pots of money ready to spend as much as we’d like to on holidays but quality family time together is pretty high on everyone’s list, so if the only option is a BUDGET Holiday, what exactly are we letting ourselves in for?

Many holiday companies are offering cheaper deals so I thought it would be a good idea to try one out for myself and report back to you with my findings.

This year Other Half and his twin hit the big 4-0 and it gave us all a brilliant excuse to book up a Bank Holiday weekend away. We looked into it last year and as North Devon is a place where they spent many of their childhood holidays it seemed the perfect place to go back to plus the fact I love a cream tea and a Cornish pastie.

Each family booked their own accommodation with Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks and we went for the very lowest which was scary in itself, what would we find? Would it have a roof?

budget holiday home - Woolacombe Bay

Woolacombe has four parks to offer each with it’s own unique set up but you can cross from one to the other as and when you please. We stayed at Twitchen Park. The site is set around a beautiful manor house of the same name which dates back to 1881. One set of our group stayed in an apartment in the Grade 2 listed building and I was fascinated to see so many original features. An enormous apartment which sleeps 8 in three bedrooms plus lots of extra space to enjoy. You could have fitted our minuscule mobile home in the kids bedroom and still had room to spare :)

budget holiday home

Budget holiday home with a million dollar view

But what is budget accommodation like… booked up almost a year in advance we took advantage of a special early booking discount and paid £96.70 for a 3 night Bank Holiday weekend break. Which is an excellent price. The mobile home sleeps four in one double and one twin bedroom, it has a bathroom with a shower and a main living area with divan seating, a dining table and a galley kitchen. It’s perfectly acceptable for a short break and comfortable too.

budget holiday home inside

The kitchen even had a microwave which surprised me as many holiday parks see them as extras and for upgrades only.

My only quibble that really turned my nose up was it stank of stale smoke and being a non smoker it made me feel sick every time I entered, sadly it was a very cold weekend so I didn’t have the opportunity to open the doors and windows and in all honesty I think you’d need more than fresh air to take away that smell. Oh and the windows had definitely seen better times

budget holiday home window

The site has a very helpful reception, amusement arcade, clubhouse, TV/sports bar, swimming pool, launderette, take away/eat in fish and chip shop (which was so packed the first night with people queueing up to 40 minutes it was quicker to drive into town and get fish and chips from Woolacombe) and a children’s activity park.

We visited the clubhouse every evening so the girls could join in the Tots disco which they adored and the entertainment was good.

Marianne Weekes and twins

North Devon is packed with all sorts of activities for all ages so very well worth the visit.

My tips would be to ask for a non smoker van on booking if like me you are anti-smoking and if you’re in for bad weather take a small electrical fire to keep the place ticking over nicely.

If you can get past the stale smoke smell this was an excellent budget holiday.

Devon family holiday

F is allowing me the perfect opportunity to show you a stunning part of the UK which I visited recently for the first time. Devon, a county in the south-west that bulges at the seams with beauty, quaintness and quintessential Englishness.

We were staying in Torquay on the English Riviera and although it was late summer, September, we did benefit from some gorgeous sunny days along with the odd rainfall and grey skies that us Brits are so used to. When visiting a new area I love to do a bit of research before I leave on internet, asking friends who have already been there and picking up thousands of leaflets from reception on arrival to read whilst dinner is cooking the first night.

The first holiday snap I share with you is one of a fishing boat in Torquay harbour, I really like this photo even though Paul was standing in the background asking ‘Why are you taking a photo of that?’

An overall recommendation was Dartmouth, a beautiful, picturesque village at the mouth of the River Dart and apart from the boutique shops, fabulous eateries like Cafe Alf Fresco for example I was fascinated and taken back in time when I saw the car ferry being pushed and shoved by a tug boat back and forth over the River continuously. I just had to share this bizarre ferry with you.

The ferry is being pushed by the tug boat

arrives on the other side

One coming, one going

…and yes I did convince Paul to take us back via that tug pushed ferry just to try it out! Amazing the skill Captain Tug had, he made it look effortless.

Finally’ fuel’ to finish off with the F’s this week. Tea is my fuel, a good ol’ English cuppa with milk and no sugar and as we cannot survive without fuel especially after a day of sightseeing, walking around the town center and visiting the amazing art galleries, we jumped in the car and headed back home. As always is the case the girls were really grumbling and we still had a good half an hour to go, so we stopped off at Paignton beach and headed for the Cafe on the seafront for quick refreshments, isn’t it absolutely gorgeous? A typical British seaside cafe, advertising all their wares on blackboards and brightly coloured letters on the woodwork. I love it and couldn’t refuse it. I probably paid double for my tea and the crab sandwich was extortionate but hey, nice photo for a lovely memory.

These are my ‘F’s for Alphabe Thursday over at Jenny Matlock’s blog go and have a look what everyone else comes up with for the ‘F’ Fiesta today

How was Torquay?

boats fishing nets

Well, it’s taken until Sunday this week to find time to write about our trip away as the past week has flown by.

It’s a good spot to drive to from North Kent as it took us just under 5 hours. In fact we arrived early at our Parkdean site and although check in is not until 4pm, you’ve got to try haven’t you?

So off we all traipsed to reception, the girls happy to be let loose at long last, where the lady on duty there told us quite abruptly that housekeeping wouldn’t be ready till 4pm. And that was it. No alternative, no map of the site passed over, no mention of the cafe, the soft play area, the restaurant, the swimming pool. Not a peep. So I asked for a map, tilting my head in the girls direction trying to give her a clue that we had two hours to kill with little ones in tow. You’ll get one in your welcome pack.

playing with bricks

Bessie the builder

‘Yes, thank you for that but I need one now?’ ‘Please?’

She did hand over a map but it was obvious that we were breaking from her tightly run reception rules. She was hard work and funnily enough later in the week I noticed a form to fill in on reception asking ‘Have one of our staff walked in your shoes this break?’ Please tell us who and when. Well obviously she hadn’t thought about a long journey two tired, grumpy toddlers and two parents in need of a suggestion or two. It’s not rocket science is it?

We did get settled in, housekeeping were marvellous and had all the statics done by 3pm so we were able to move in early and settle ourselves in. Our new home was lovely, a three bedroom, one bathroom with a galley kitchen and a large dining/lounging area which the girls filled immediately with toys.

torquay

Cafe Alf Resco, Dartmouth

Our first outing was into Torquay itself which if I am truthful left me a little disappointed. It may have been for the rainy weather but I don’t think so, you see the words “English Riviera” had evoked a beautiful image in my mind and that’s not what I saw. I saw a large seaside town like many others, the British high street and a harbour. I had imagined boutique shops, eateries, cafes and beauty all around.

I did find these things the very next day when we ventured on to Dartmouth. Exquisite settings and the novelty of getting a ferry both there and back. There were two ferries to choose from so we took one there and the other back. My favourite has to be the tug pulled/pushed ferry, see my photo below. Dartmouth is full of gorgeous shops, art galleries (one with Rolf Harris’ art in it) , fabulous restaurants and beautiful scenery and houses to look at.

torquay

Tug pulled/pushed ferries, Dartmouth

We also visited Pennywell Farm and had a marvellous day out there which was so lovely to see the girls enjoy. We watched the goats being milked and got up close. We collected the chickens eggs still warm and were allowed to hold them, we then fed them to the pigs along with apples from the surrounding trees, the girls were fascinated with the real noise of a pig’s snort being louder and harsher than that of Daddy Pig’s in Peppa Pig! There was a large play area with picnic tables and an enclosed space with sit on tractors which they both adored. We watched a trainer flying a falcon and we stroked an owl he held for us, I was surprised at how warm he was (the owl that is!) and interested to learn that owls are really dumb, so dumb they don’t know how to hunt but wait for something to pass under them and go in for the catch. Talk about lazy!

torquay

Egg collecting – Pennywell Farm, Devon

Pennywell Farm was a brilliant day out for us. We took a picnic but there are a few places on site where you can buy and eat food and many more activities to do than I have listed here.

So would I go back to Torquay? Probably not but I would go back to that area again and try to visit Salcombe a little further down the coast from Dartmouth.

Would I use Parkdean sites again? Yes. I would. this is our second Pardean trip the first being to West Bay also in Dorset. At this particular site I was very impressed with their indoor swimming pool which the girls adored, their clubhouse with entertainment for the little ones – we had some very wiggly bottoms on the dance floor – and the shops and restaurants on site. I did have to buy a bottle opener but now every time I travel I shall pop it in my First Aid bag and never ever be without again. Phew! Thanks Francesca for that tip :)