Category Archives: Travel

A Warren Walk

When I was child, if you lived in Exeter, to the east of the river Exe, your beach was Exmouth, to the west and it was Dawlish Warren.  Both beaches are around 10 miles from the city. Back then, in the dawn of time, most people didn’t have cars, but there was always the regular train or bus service, and there still is.

Summers were longer and warmer then, and the sunshine was, well, sunnier somehow.  Families would pack up their bags with sandwiches, homemade sausage rolls and cake, kids would take their buckets and spades. Sun lotion didn’t exist, so many would burn and peel a few days later, the lucky ones would just tan.  No-one thought anything of it, other than a touch of calamine lotion if it was sore.

Nowadays the Warren is a National nature Reserve and protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and along with the rest of the Exe estuary, a Wetland of International Importance. Last weekend I took advantage of a few dry hours and took my camera for a walk.

In winter Dartmoor ponies are kept on the Warren to help maintain the grassland, I’ve seen some in the past but not on this visit sadly. The wetlands are teeming with wildlife, mostly elusive except to the ears.

I walked on past and got a glimpse of the beach.

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dw8Before striding on eastwards towards the golf course and a view across the estuary to Exmouth.

dw9So, I’m on the crest of the dunes surrounded by beauty

dw10Maybe this will help explain where I was

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The wide area at the top is the sand spit right opposite Exmouth, but I pretty much stayed on the red path.

There are thousand of wildfowl and wading birds, I saw Oyster catchers, Wigeon, Brent Geese, and others that I don’t know the names of. The visitor centre had recorded far more that week than I was able to see because the tide was low, even though I walked around the curve of the sand spit to the bird hide.

The wind was getting up and the light was changing, so I headed back before the rain came in. So walking west, the beach was on my left. The big old terrace houses at Exmouth were clearly visible behind me

dw17and my path back to the car park

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Looking inwards I could see the grassland again.

The Warren got its name because centuries ago, probably back to the middle ages, rabbits were raised there on a commercial scale, for both food and skin.

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This is part of the holiday makers area, with amusements, cafes, a pub and several caravan parks nearby.The tide was right in, but there is sand under there! The bright beach huts are a fairly recent addition. In the 1970’s there were hundreds of traditional beach huts down here behind the beach.

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I can’t remember them though, I was an east of the Exe girl and still am, you know how much I love Exmouth!

I hope you enjoyed my walk. It’s either one day late or six days early for Jo’s Monday Walk  but I’m never on time!

A tale of a favourite city

Accor Hotels have a competition that invites bloggers to write about one of their favourite cities.   The idea is to show three reasons why you love it and the prize is three-night stay for two, in London, Paris and Amsterdam. They’re including transport by Eurostar and even spending money, doesn’t that sound wonderful?

One of my favourite cities is Marrakech, a passion that began way back in 1969 when Crosby, Stills and Nash released the track Marrakech Express. I was very young, but something in that song intrigued me, from then on Marrakech seemed like a very exotic destination, even though at the time I would have struggled to find it on a map.

A few years ago I finally made it and it didn’t disappoint one bit, in fact I loved it so much I returned for a second visit.  It’s difficult to narrow it down to just three things I love about it, but the first I’ve chosen is Les Jardins Majorelle. Originally created by the artist Jacques Majorelle, who devoted forty years developing it into a lush paradise. The intense ultramarine cobalt colour that he used abundantly through the garden, later came to be known as Majorelle blue.

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When Majorelle passed away, the garden became neglected and would have been destroyed and replaced by an hotel, had it not been for the vision of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, who bought and began the restoration process.

There is now a memorial to Saint Laurent in the garden and  Berge gifted it to the Foundation Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent.

Bahia Palace – meaning ‘the beautiful’ was built in the 19th century by Grand Vizier Si Moussa. It has two acres of gardens and around 160 rooms, some of which are open to the public. The main attraction for me is the ornate tile work on floors, walls and ceilings. These are multicoloured Zellij mosaic, in Islamic, Andalucian and Moorish style, with green ceramic roof tiles.
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There is also some delicate stucco work that reminds me of the jail screens in Rajasthan – used in the womens quarters of major palaces as well as havelis. Naturally the Bahia once had a harem filled with concubines.


The palace can be found in the medina, next to the Jewish quarter and is open daily, unless there are royal visitors. It is one of the cheapest places to visit in Marrakech, about a pound, plus a small tip if you have a guide.
Last but not least on my list, is La Place Jemaa el Fna, a UNESCO world heritage site for ‘the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. I think it’s a love it or hate it kind of place, that many would describe as crazy and impossible. By day the vast square is a sun trap, only copious quantities of the best and cheapest orange juice ever will keep you going. Luckily the stalls are everywhere, as are the caleches, ready to take you around the city for a negotiable fee.
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As the sun begins to go down, if you want to take it easy, head for one of the roof terrace cafes, and sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
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Every night, La Place is transformed into a huge open sea of eating places and it has to be tried at least once during your stay. The food is freshly cooked and the air quickly fills with smoke, but its tasty and authentic. Anything thing you want, and an awful lot of things you didn’t know you wanted, can be bought around the square and the souk. If you show any interest in an item they will do their utmost to get you to part with your money, but I found it to be good natured haggling.


Before you leave the square, have a wander through the crowds. You will find snake charmers, tooth pullers, henna artists, story tellers, fortune tellers and monkey handlers – I’d avoid those if I were you!
I hope you enjoyed visiting Marrakech with me, the competition ends tomorrow but if you’re very quick . . .

 

Hive Beach Stroll

Friday was the most perfect winter day here and I had an extra day off, so it couldn’t be wasted! My friend and I set off heading east with a vague idea of perhaps Lyme Regis or Charmouth. Leaving the A30 at Honiton and taking the A35, a winding, up hill and down dale road passing through little villages, Wilmington, Kilmington and Raymonds Hill. Enjoying the view, high and wide, of east Devon and west Dorset, Golden Cap, a hill and cliff which is the highest on the south coast of England, waiting for me to climb one day.

Something took on us past the Charmouth and Lyme turning, towards Burton Bradstock, ten miles further and passing through we stopped instead at Hive beach which has a National Trust car park and access to the South West Coast Path. Hive is a noisy beach, not human noise but nature’s noise, as the waves crash onto the shore and then rush back down the steeply shelved shingle.

Shingle beach
Shingle beach

There were quote a few people walking off the seasons excesses on the beach so we thought we would check out the view from the cliff path.

Looking back onto Hive beach
Looking back onto Hive beach

We climbed quite high and Lyme Bay opened up.
Lyme Bay

A gap along the path
A gap along the path

At the highest point we looked north towards Bridport.

Countryside around Bridport
Countryside around Bridport

In the distance stands Colmer Hill, somewhere else I’d like to visit.

Colmer Hill
Colmer Hill

Then we circled around common land on the side of the hill.

The flat top hill is Golden Cap
The flat top hill is Golden Cap

And retraced our steps.

Lyme bay view
Lyme bay view

We had already sampled the Hive Beach Café’s coffee, so we set off to find tea and cake, tomorrow I’ll show you where!

We only had time for a short walk because the daylight was fading fast, but the area deserves some serious hiking, there is so much to see in West Dorset.

Wistman’s Wood

It is believed that Dartmoor was almost completely covered in forest thousands of years ago, but it was gradually chopped down and used by the people living there at that time. Nowadays there are evergreen plantations and just a few natural woods remain, Wistmans Wood for one. It is a small, remote wood, just eight acres at a height of 1300 feet above sea leve,l with mostly oak trees, stunted by the poor soil and altitude. The surrounding area is open moorland, grazed by sheep, cattle and ponies. Without the clitter, fallen from the tors further up the hillside, the grazing animals would have put paid to Wistmans long ago. As it is, the clitter makes it impossible for them to gain foothold there.
Wistmans is one of many Dartmoor sites that is shrouded in myth and legend. Its name derives from Saxon wissen, to know, so Wissman’s or Wistman’s Wood, means wisemans wood and refers to the Druids and their sacred grove. You may indeed encounter the ghosts of druids past, if you dare to visit in the dark of the night. Far worse might be an encounter with the devil and his pack of fearful wisht hounds, Wistmans may be where he keeps them.
Rumour has it that adders lurk between every boulder, ready to strike if you dare clamber over, to find a path through the wood. What’s more likely to happen is that you will slip on damp moss and break an ankle, or worse, between these ancient granite rocks.
So brave traveller is you visit, listen for baying hounds, keep your eyes out for serpents, be careful what you turn your back on, and most of all if there’s a red flag flying stay away – the military have a firing area nearby and you don’t want to get shot!

Scarce hoarier seems the ancient Wood
Whose shivered trunks of age declare
What scath of tempests they have stood
In the rock’s crevice rooted there;
Yet still young foliage, fresh and fair,
Springs forth each mossy bough to dress,
And bid e’en Dartmoor’s valleys share
A Forest-wilderness”.
Sophie Dixon -1829.

Il Parco Dell’Etna

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and last year, just after my visit, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As recently as last month it was putting on a pyrotechnic display, closing the nearby airport at Catania. All was calm when I was there. Travelling friend and I stayed in an hotel with a distant view – if you craned your neck a little on the balcony, and ignored the buildings in the way.
We went up twice, first of all independently and we couldn’t resist a guided tour a couple of days later.
Here are some photos taken at about 2000 metres, cool and grey with mile after mile of lava from various past eruptions.


In June there were miles of empty roads, lots of stopping places for photos and an almost creepy stillness.
You quite quickly descend to sunshine and there the flora and fauna is pretty.


Etna can be seen from all over the east of Sicily and when you’re up there the views down are amazing.
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Going down.

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Towards the sea.

I enjoyed  looking back on my time on Etna, I’ll post some photos of the guided tour soon!

An English Market Town

Do you have towns that you regularly drive by and just don’t get round to stopping? I have several, and on Saturday I did get round to this one! Bridport, in Dorset (my second favourite county) is just 40 miles from home. I bypass it nearly every month on the drive to see my daughter, often wondering what it’s like. This time I got to visit because my friend and I had a table at a craft fair there, for the first time.
Bridport is known for its thriving arts and hosts the prestigious Bridport Prize for writing each year, I’d like to be good and brave enough to enter one day. The craft fair took place in the Arts Centre, where Dee, the manager fell for my hand made cards, thanks Dee :-)
Saturday is market day and this particular one was also the annual carnival, so the little town was positively bursting at the seams, buzzing and vibrant, with tourists mingling with locals and market traders.
I love markets and dashed around like a headless chicken, wanting to buy, see as much as possible and soak up the atmosphere. All the time I was aware that my friend was on her own and possibly busy while I went walkabout, snapping away with my phone camera and wishing I had my big girls Canon. Never mind, here are some of the things I saw.

I managed to resist buying anything! The book stall was most tempting – of course, but I’ve forbidden myself from buying any more until I’ve reduced my unread pile. And stuff? well I mustn’t take anything home unless I’m prepared to take something to the charity shop. What I did get though was bread, glorious locally made with green olives, sun dried tomatoes and cheese and the most heavenly texture. I wish I’d bought more. I won’t be bypassing Bridport on a Saturday again.
Hope you enjoyed my visit!

Early Beer

On a sunny Sunday at Beer in East Devon, it pays to be around bright and early to enjoy the peaceful beach. With blue skies and the crunch of the waves on the pebbles and just a few people it’s a perfect spot.

Looking east
Looking east
A shimmering horizon
A shimmering horizon


The stuff of coastal folk

As blue as can be!
As blue as can be!

Busying up, it's 10 am and there must be 10 people on the beach!
Busying up, it’s 10 am and there must be 10 people on the beach!

Looking West, Branscombe is around the corner, I don’t think you can walk it at beach level, but you can always climb up to the South West Coast Path.
I hope you liked an early peep at Beer?