So, Hastings Battleaxe goes onwards to Devon. This is the second blog about our holiday. We left Sennen Cove after a week – see the last post, and journeyed on to Torquay. Our friends asked, why Torquay? Well, my maternal grandparents lived there when I was a child, and I used to go and stay there often, but have not been back since I was about 10. Also, we had never explored that area of Devon.
So, visiting Torquay was a bit of a personal pilgrimage as well as an expedition…
We drove down via Totnes, and oddly, passed the place where Philosopher’s first mother-in-law lived – Shinners Bridge, Dartington. She was the well-known potter, Marianne de Trey, and she lived in a little wooden cabin for much of her adult life, running the nearby pottery. Here is some information about her. Philosopher was in a right old mood – it was hot, he was driving and the traffic was heavy, so when we got there he didn’t want to stop at all. However, I insisted, and we found the cabin, now in a back lane off a public car park. It looked abandoned. We did not visit the pottery, but it seemed to be still thriving.
We arrived in Torquay and found our apartment, in an area called Wellswood on the way to Babbacombe. I had chosen it because it was near the grandparents’ old place, and I vaguely remembered it being a nice area. Well, indeed it was – beautiful old big Victorian houses with views down to the sea. The Muntham Apartments, were in one such house – very nice. Our bedroom was in the projecting bit over the porch in the photo below.
Nearby there was a lovely little shopping street, with a deli, restaurants, a Co-op, a nice pub etc etc.
Battleaxe would recommend Wellswood, but Torquay makes Hastings look flat… it was a real puff up to our place from the shops and the bus stop, and an even bigger puff onwards up to my grandparents’ road. I must have done the walk many times when I was little, and don’t remember the effort. My grandparents moved down to Torquay from Birmingham (Solihull, dear,) when my grandfather retired – probably before WW2. Both of them died in the 1960s. I remember their bungalow ‘Glenthorne’ had a view of the sea, a long drive leading down to it, and a garden leading steeply down to a pine wood, where I made a den, but found it quite scary because it was so quiet, and so far from the house. The top garden had a rockery with steep concrete terracing bounded by little paths, where I used to play endlessly, and a summerhouse full of ear-wiggy old deck chairs.
To my surprise, the road looked very much as I remembered it – the houses looked the same, and the huge old conifers must have been there all the time. It is clearly a very affluent area now, and must have been so then – but children don’t take account of that.
‘Glenthorne’ still had its name on the gatepost, and the same gates leading to the same drive. However, some of the garden had been swallowed up by a new housing development. The bungalow looked very much the same – new plastic windows, obviously. Nobody was at home, so we had a little snoop in the garden. The summer house was there, some of the concrete terracing, and looking up from the bottom, you could still see part of the wood.
The next day we walked down to Kents Caverns in Wellswood, which again I had visited as a child. I remember the stalactites and stalagmites, and they were still there, looking just the same. Duh, scarcely surprising considering we were told that this big one is at least 50,000 years old, and they grow less than 1 centimetre in a thousand years… in 60 years they will not have altered at all. How alarming is that. Puts one’s life somewhat in perspective.
Then, we walked down to Anstey’s Cove. Yikes, steep….
Then we briefly inspected the derelict Palace Hotel – which, interestingly, you can also see in the lower centre of the photo of my grandparents’ garden above. I had no idea it was so near. There is something very poignant and mysterious about deserted hotels….
We caught a bus up to Babbacombe and went down to Oddicombe beach on the cliff railway, where there was a nice restaurant for lunch.
Next, onto the bus again and down to Torquay town centre. Well, we didn’t reckon much to it. There were some nice classic seaside gardens (see the top photo in this post), and I saw the sadly derelict Pavilion Theatre, where Battleaxe made her stage debut aged about 6. Ugh, how could I forget it. It was a summer show, starring, would you believe, Flanagan and Allen. They were my grandparents’ favourite… I still remember them, arm-in-arm, singing ‘Underneath the Arches’. F and A must have been well old when we saw them in the 50s, and the show also starred a well-known comedian, I think it was Arthur Askey, who dragged us children on stage to sing ‘The Happy Wanderer’. He was a horrid little man. He held the microphone under my chin while, knees knocking with terror, I feebly warbled ‘Fol de ree, fol da raa..’
There was a sort of Pier, with nothing on it, and lots and lots of expensive boats moored in the harbour.
The next day we drove over to Paignton, of which more later, and caught the steam train to Dartmouth. Well, Battleaxe readers will know she just loves a steam train, and this was excellent. On the outward journey we sat at the very back of the train, in an old ‘Devon Belle’ observation car, and watched the countryside roll away behind us. It is a grand ride – the coast on one side at first, then down beside the Dart.
The train took us to Kingswear, and we then caught the ferry across to Dartmouth. I have not been there for years, and it is a lovely place, full of interesting shops. I think another visit is needed.
We returned on the train and had a wander round Paignton. Oh look, this post is getting too long. I think we are going to need one more – from Paignton to Poundbury – a country of contrasts….