Most of our Africa group was now gathered and we were on our way to spend some time in Devon and Cornwall. It was Friday, August 7, 2015. It was nice to meet up with Teresa, Andy, Lorraine and Anna again. Andy had graciously driven all the way from Devon to pick us up from Heathrow. We had previously offered to take the train but Andy was having none of it. He certainly is a glutton for punishment. Driving on England’s highways is not what I would call relaxing with all of the traffic and he had to put up with us for hours of driving back! I was quite the chatterbox and think I kept everyone entertained with stories of our previous adventures as well as my most recent travels for the drive back.
The plan for the weekend was to spend time with Scotty, Andy, the other Lorraine [Scotty’s significant other] as well as Nick. This was Scotty’s and Andy’s neck of the woods and we were happy to explore it with them. They had arranged several social gatherings and adventures for us for the time that we were there. Bless them! I had never previously traveled to this part of England and was looking forward to it.
Andy dropped us off at our accommodation which was a lovely refurbished old farmhouse [the Plantation House Hotel, Ivy Bridge] that was now a high-end restaurant and beautiful hotel. It was also located very close to Nick’s estate. It was a lovely hotel located on verdant, pastoral farmlands. We immediately felt at home. We settled ourselves and then got ready for a home cooked meal that was going to be prepared by the other Lorraine at Nick’s estate. Lorraine loved to cook and had a special affinity for Thai cuisine. Nick’s estate was expansive and was still being farmed with contracted farmers. Nick was still involved with puttering around the estate, pursuing retirement activities such as hunting, shooting, lamping [look it up] and wood work. He also had a beautiful boat [a very fast and sleek rib] which he loved to take guests out on. Lucky for us! His estate was located close to the Plymouth harbour.
Engaging conversation followed in the great room of the beautiful main farmhouse. Lorraine was the perfect hostess and offered us our choice of drinks to help lubricate the conversation. I have never enjoyed gin, however, when in England one must do what the Brits do so I graciously accepted a gin and tonic prepared by Lorraine using the local Plymouth gin as the rest of my travel mates did. Wow! That was the most amazing gin concoction I have ever had. Needless to say we were all hooked and this became the drink of choice for the remainder of our England visit as well as our subsequent African adventure. The meal that Lorraine prepared was fantastic. What an introduction to this part of England! I must say it was one of the best meals that I ever had. There is nothing like a home-cooked meal prepared by a cook with capability who really wishes to share her talents with eager dinner mates. It was a fantastic evening filled with laughter and the perfect tonic to the always challenging travel day. We returned relatively late to our hotel and fell into well deserved sleep.
We were up relatively early the next morning to enjoy a beautiful breakfast prepared at the hotel. As mentioned previously, this hotel had a superb restaurant and certainly they lived up to their reputation in terms of the quality of the food. Andy picked us up after breakfast and then we went to Nick’s estate and then proceeded with his boat to the Plymouth harbour for our tour up the coastline. Teresa had been on Nick’s boat the previous year and had certainly regaled us with stories of how much fun it was. We were excited. His boat is extremely powerful and fast and we were all hoping for calm seas so that we could really experience how fast it could go. We were rewarded with excellent weather and very little wind and even Teresa was allowed to drive the boat under Nick’s tutelage. That boat was fast! We had great fun touring the refurbished Plymouth harbour as well as zooming up the coast and stopping for a fantastic pub lunch and walking tour of Fowey. What a quaint seaside village! We visited a photographic gallery of a friend of Scotty’s inspiring us as photographers. He had some wonderful wildlife photographs that we would have been privileged to have captured. On the way back to Plymouth we visited the Eddystone lighthouse. This lighthouse is located on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks. The current structure is the fourth to be built on the site.
Soon we were back at the Plymouth harbour and then back at Nick’s estate. It had been a wonderful day and Nick had been so gracious to offer us the use of his boat. We were dropped off back at the hotel to relax for the remainder of the afternoon and prepare for that evening’s birthday celebration for Scotty which would be celebrated at the excellent restaurant at our hotel. We all got dressed up and enjoyed some gin and tonics at the hotel [we tried several variations and decided that either Blue Sapphire or Tanqueray gin with lemon and not cucumber was the best] before the arrival of the other guests. We had a wonderful birthday celebration and heartily toasted Scotty. Sleep came easily that night.
The next morning, after another stellar breakfast, involved a driving tour with Andy and Scotty of Dartmoor. Dartmoor is an area of moorland in South Devon, England. Protected by National Park status as Dartmoor National Park, it covers 954 km². The moorland is capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors, providing habitats for Dartmoor wildlife. The highest point is High Willhays, 621 m above sea level. The entire area is rich in antiquities and archaeology. It was very dark and grey and somewhat gloomy which provided the perfect mood for the moors tour. I simply cannot imagine the moors being bright and sunny. We had the opportunity to take some photographs. Scotty also related some of his early experiences to us spent on the moors. As I recall, it did involve the consumption of expanding fungi! We then drove off to Cornwall to an adventure centre in order to go down a zip line. Anna and I were paired up as well as Teresa and Andy. Lorraine and Scotty had no interest in zip lining. We all had a blast even though Anna completely smoked me in terms of speed on the zip line.
That afternoon we went back to Nick’s estate for a huge barbecue with roast boar prepared in a homemade spit [yum… crackling I can hear my coronary arteries saying], excellent conversation with invited guests as well as skeet shooting. These are certainly things we do not do very often at home in Calgary. Here, however, it is a common occurrence and builds strong social ties amongst the surrounding estate owners and friends. There is such a wonderful culture of community and generosity here. Little did we know that we Canadians where the guests of honour and everyone wanted to speak to us! We also met a physician- Dr. David- who had brought along his Merlin and was happy to explain the ins and outs of falconry and his particular bird to us. Teresa was smitten with this bird and even got to hold it. Scotty and Andy both owned birds and had been involved involved with falconry for many years. I have never been a fan of guns, but, I must admit I really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in skeet shooting even though my skills left something to be desired. Everyone was very supportive and we found out that our Lorraine had superior gun shooting skills. I think it even came as a surprise to her! There was also a home-made device for target shooting that involved a metal “boar” running back and forth down a rail track. I rapidly determined that if I was responsible for providing the boar for a future barbecue that everyone would go hungry. It was all great fun and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Nick is such an engaging, gracious and generous man. He welcomed us openly, despite his wry comments made with a smile, and really insured that we enjoyed our time in this beautiful part of England. New friendships were forged. We returned back to the hotel with a wonderful memories and full bellies relatively early as we had to leave early the next morning to drive back to Heathrow to hop on a plane and fly down to Africa. Andy would not be joining us but Scotty would be.
The next morning came much too early as we all packed into Andy’s truck with all of our gear. It was so full that unfortunately Scotty had to ride in the back with all of our gear which didn’t appear to be that comfortable. We said our heartfelt goodbyes to the other Lorraine and drove off to Heathrow. There we extended further goodbyes and thanks to Andy who had also contributed greatly to our time spent in Devon and Cornwall. It was time to get on with the next phase of our adventures….. Africa! We boarded the plane with high expectations. Would they be realized?