On Wednesday, we discovered what could be one of the most perfect places in the entire world.
Enchanted bluebell woods, a pebble beach with caves, cliffs, and some of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen in my entire life.
Having had our fill of surfing for the time being, I suggested that we take a drive to Hartland Abbey, a nearby stately home with pretty grounds, a walk to a nearby beach, and (of course) a tearoom. A gentle morning’s entertainment. Except we ended up spending the entire day there. I ended up taking so many photographs that I’m not sure my favourites will all fit into this post. And we didn’t even go into the house.
I want to live here!
The house itself is nestled in the bottom of a valley about a mile from the sea, surrounded by green fields full of new lambs. It was built in the 1100s as a monastery, but after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries he gifted the Abbey to the Sargent of his Wine Cellar at Hampton Court, a Mr. William Abbot. Nice work if you can get it!
We arrived quite early in the day, but the kindly staff allowed us early access to the beach footpath, a magical little trail straight out of the children’s story book that wends its way through woods carpeted in bluebells. Every book I ever read as a child about a group of children going on holiday to a cottage by the sea and having all sorts of adventures immediately came flooding back to me.
When we emerged from the woods we could see the sea. The path plunged down through the trees to the cliff edge, and on to the beach. Jane Austen fans might recognise some of the scenery from the recent Beeb adaptation of Sense And Sensibility, as a nearby cottage starred as Barton Cottage, the exile home of the Dashwood family. Also Top Gear pushed some home made motor homes off the cliffs.
With rock pools like that, you know that there was some serious exploring to be done. I can’t get enough of these rock formations that look like books leaning up against each other. The shapes are so beautiful. And they form caves. Which is awesome.
Once every rock pool had been thoroughly investigated, we wound our way back through the magic woods for CREAM TEA. Well, a savoury version with cheese scones, sour cream and chutney. Mmmmm. Also some chimping at the morning’s photographs.
Re-fuelled, we set off to take in the gardens.
Now I’m not much of a botanist, despite the biology training. I can tell you the difference between an elephant and a stalk-eyed fly, but my ability with plants extends to “daisies” and “not daisies”. But even I can tell that these gardens were something really special. We started off in the walled gardens, which are south-facing and perfectly positioned to capture the sun. The first garden contained vegetables, organised into perfect rows. All I wanted to do was charge in amongst them and start sampling everything, but I restrained myself to taking only photographs (lots).
Even the biggest veg hater ever would surely be tempted by this sexy row of Swiss chard? Check out those beautiful colours. Why have just green veg when you could have red and purple too!
Through a not-so-secret door we came to the rose garden. Although at this time of year it was more like a tulip garden. So many beautiful, fat, colourful tulips.
Finally we came to my favourite part of the gardens: the green houses. Don’t ask me why I love greenhouses, but I really really do.
I spent the day in a blissful, disbelieving haze, trying to drink in as much of my incredible surroundings as I could. One of my favourite holiday experiences is the moment that real life and work dissolve away, leaving you feeling completely rudderless and blissed out. That happened today. And it was wonderful.
Some of us even conked out before we got home!