Old haunts, dear friends

Last week I was in Devon, visiting old and dear friends – people and places.

I lived and worked in Mid -Devon for over thirty years. My first husband was a keen sportsman, so I knew the sporting venues.  In later years and after a second marriage to a secondary school teacher, I got to know the local schools well as my children grew up. We were involved with the local churches, brownies, cubs, schools, the local community. So there are many, many places and people I know there.

I usually pay an autumn visit to Devon.  It suits me because our own garden isn’t so demanding at this time of year.  And I must also confess to a longing for trees! If you live by the sea, as we do, you may understand this yearning.  However, beautiful and refreshing the sea is, we need green.conker-tree-in-shobrooke-parkSo Shobrooke Park was probably top of my list of places to visit.  Few things give me as much contentment as a walk down its lime walk …lime-avenue-at-shobrooke-parkSo many memories come flooding back. My children when small making dens …making-houses-in-shobrooke-parkIt’s a wonderful historic park with several lakes … lakes-in-shobrooke-parkOne winter, it was so cold and snowy that we did the unforgiveable and let our small children play on the ice …walking-on-snowy-ice-at-shobrooke-parkAnd here is one of most beautiful settings for a cricket pitch, surely, in all Devon ….shobrooke-park-cricket-pitchMy first husband was an enthusiastic cricketer, so I was regularly involved in the making of cricket teas – quiches, cakes, sandwiches, pies – the cricketers were wonderfully fed!  I don’t think today’s partners slave as biddably as we did in the cricket pavilion then.shobrooke-park-cricket-clubroomIt’s all very superior nowadays – they even have proper nets!nets-at-shobrooke-park-cricket-clubBut somethings don’t change – isn’t this the grass roller I perched on in my 20s?pitch-roller-at-shobrooke-parkkatherine-as-a-young-mumWalking round Crediton, I passed our old home – why they’ve repainted the front door pale blue!western-villasPast the school where Stephen used to teach …qecc-boardTrees round the old buildings (which we could glimpse from our house) looking fine in the autumn light …old-qecc-and-treesOn the nearby green is the Millennium Cross …millennial-crossWhich I lovingly garlanded with a primrose wreath one Easter …primrose-wreath-on-millennial-crossNext a small detour to see the Chapel we used to look after …st-lawrence-glimpsed-from-the-gateThe sign we wrote is still there …old-st-lawrence-signThere’s some new-fangled QR reader sign now there as well!qr-sign-outside-st-lawrenceWe looked after the Chapel and its garden for twenty years, and over that time the garden really blossomed.  Here is the younger me, one springtime, weeding there.k-gardening-at-st-lawrenceIt was a fabulous place to garden – a small enclosed space …st-lawrence-gardenAnd the plants set against the warm Devon red stone of the mediaeval chapel wall …st-lawrence-with-our-house-in-backgroundWhy, in my mind’s eye, I can take myself back to this very same spot twenty-five years ago when Stephen and I were married here, bringing our two families of six children together …getting-married-at-st-lawrenceOn then to visit one of my oldest friends (literally). For a while Eileen was my neighbour, and, perhaps most preciously of all, she taught me to spin. What a debt I owe her! My spinning was never anything like as good as hers, but after all she was President of the Devon Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.  And here she is, well into her nineties, inspecting my latest knit of my own homespun wool.showing-eileen-my-knittingThen lunch with some more of my dear Devon friends, the Shobrooke Ladies  – we all lived in that village when our children were small.  We have shared each other’s lives as our children have grown, settled, married, moved, our parents have passed on, grandchildren have appeared, and we have all finished our working lives, and moved on to retirement.  How special to catch up – it was just as though we still met up once a month to share the latest news in our lives!shobrooke-ladies-lunchingThen time to visit Topsham where I stayed with another dear friend, one of my old library colleagues.  Such a magical view out over the Exe Estuary from her home!sunset-on-the-exe-estuaryAnd a beautiful walk round the estuary the next day.  Topsham fascinates me with its similarities to Berwick-upon-Tweed where I now live.  Both are estuary towns, – and both have a fine collection of swans …swans-awakening-in-topshamLike Berwick, the buildings in Topsham reflect the pursuits of local business.  In Berwick there are red pantile roofs that merchants brought back as ballast from their business trips to Europe.  In Topsham, you can see the Dutch gables the merchants learned to build after their continental travels.  What struck me particularly is the wealth here in affluent Devon compared to the poverty of north Northumberland – these buildings are so well kept.  dutch-houses-in-topshamWe had a magical walk, along the estuary, turning off to see the fine display of cyclamen near the Goat Walk.walking-with-jenny-amid-cyclamensAre they not a delight?!wild-cyclamen Our walk took us further along the beautiful Exe estuary …information-board-at-exe-estuaryBack down woody lanes – I was drinking in the greenery all the way. What really struck me was that this was almost the first sighting of trees colouring that I saw.  What very late autumns we are getting …autumn-coloursAnd past the Shrubbery house where Stephen’s Aunt Barbara used to live.shurbbery-house-where-stephens-aunt-livedAnd back to Shobrooke village for my last night in Devon, and a glimpse of the beautiful red Devon hills from the cottage.devon-red-fields-glimpsed-from-devon-cottageA hug and a giggle with an old friend – indeed, we were flatmates together in London in the 1970s so we go way, way back – before I caught the train back to Northumberland …girls-gigglingSo why – I hear you asking – don’t you still live in this lovely county with these dear folk?!  Ah well, I have been seduced by a small Northumbrian cottage with the sunrise in its windows …dawn-reflected-on-our-seaview-cottageand our view of dawn over the North Sea!east-coast-dawn


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Lost - and found.

10 thoughts on “Old haunts, dear friends”

  1. [J&D] It’s a privilege to be sharers in this wonderful promenade of your old haunts and friends! We do from time to time (especially at this time of year!) wish at least to revisit some of the many places we’ve previously lived, especially Cumbria and Shropshire. Or just to go off exploring … rediscovering trees – big trees. Coming here to the islands was definitely NOT a mistake. We have no desire to go ‘back’. But we may yet go ‘forward’ …


    1. I love the way you write about never going back but have possible plans to go forward! We too have never longed to return to live in places where we’ve lived previously, but I do love seeing old friends …. and trees! I did think of you when I wrote about missing trees (actually there are plenty not very far away from us) and wondered how you felt about them 🙂


  2. A couple of things really struck me about this post, which, as usual, I loved. One is that you are so lucky to have your Northumberland cottage to come and go from (it is picture perfect), and Devon to root you with history and friends. Knowing every inch of a place you love is a precious thing. The second was how connected you are to your whole life of friends. I have moved many times so there is no one place I can go back to to get that connection. My four or five closest friends are, literally, all over the world, apart from each other and me. My great fantasy is to get them all together in one room, once, for a love-fest of remembering! Thanks for all the photos too.


    1. Thank you, Frith, for your kind words about this post – and our little Northumbrian cottage too. Yes, I am lucky with all those special places and good friends in Devon – and I guess that’s why I try to make the effort each year to go and see people. It’s definitely not easy when you have good friends all over the place – I really hope that you can get them all together as you would like. And I’m wondering how the Bowie costume is coming on …. 🙂


  3. When I read your blog, I’m slightly envious of your wonderful seaview but then I read that you long for trees – I’d never thought of that. It seems we can’t have everything! Loved accompanying you on your trip.


    1. The grass is always greener, isn’t it, Anne?! It’s a terrible truth about human beings that we are never satisfied with what we have. I always think your life in your blogs looks pretty idyllic too!


  4. Thank you, Sheryl. I was so pleased to find that pic in the old photo albums – really brought back to me what it was like in the park with small children – so much fun, such happy times.


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