Moor to Sea

Third leg of our west country odyssey spent in the highly entertaining company of our old friend Michael, staying over at his home at Landkey near Barnstaple.

Michael’s low beamed cob walled cottage faces directly onto the road at the front but out back a long narrow garden stretches gently down to a footbridge that crosses the leat which once powered the village’s old sawmill three doors down. This leads to an attractive stream, wavering with weed and water crows foot, forming a boundary with pastures the other side frequented by sheep and rabbits.

Luckily the bunnies aren’t inclined to cross the watery barrier so the small patches of produce Michael grows on what is effectively an island are not unduly threatened. This quiet secluded spot also has apple trees set in a mini-meadow and is the perfect spot to relax with a Pimm’s on a sunny afternoon!

We took a stroll around the lovely Millenium Green, in the creation of which Michael played a key role and is chairman of the charitable trust set up to plant and maintain its local distinctiveness. Mazzards are cherries peculiar to north Devon, first recorded in the 16th Century and a commercial crop in these parts until WW2. The flowering season draws sightseers to admire the mass of stunning blossom.  The green (orchard) has become a source of great pride to the villagers.

A return trip to RHS Rosemoor in the Torridge valley is always a pleasure. Love the wonderfully varied well curated horticultural environments. Each leads artfully one to another, and are full of interest, whatever the season. Am especially drawn to the rise of meadow field, damp stream side, generous ponds, orchards of regional apple varieties and classic cottage garden…No doubt subconsciously seeking further inspiration and making comparisons to home.

Visiting over the platinum jubilee holiday so amused to encounter this neat and witty leafy tribute to HM The Queen from the gardening crew…

Next day Michael gave us a whistle stop tour of Lynton and Lynmouth in the car, so we could get our bearings. Climbing out of the super steep valley of the Lyn River on the A39 we came up to the hamlet of Countisbury on Exmoor.

Parked at the Blue Ball Inn, a Grade II listed building dating from the 17th century, and clearly popular with visitors down the years as this wonderful photo from late Victorian times shows. We returned for an outside lunch here after a walk round Countisbury Head, which is in the care of the National Trust.

At nearly 1,000 feet this is the highest point on the whole south-west Coastal path, and not to be traversed if you’ve no head for heights. We were blessed with good weather to enjoy fabulous vistas up along the Somerset coast eastward (above) or looking back along the Devon coast westward (below) while across the Bristol Channel the extensive expanse of South Wales clearly presented itself, from Glamorgan to Pembrokeshire. The imposing mass of Exmoor too looked stunning seen from the television mast on the high point that commands a 360 degree sweep over valleys hills and sea.

Countisbury’s name is deprived from the old English Cune + Burgh meaning camp on the headland and it was here that the Saxons defeated a Danish invading force in AD878. The little parish church of St John the Evangelist, tucked into the hillside with its graveyard just above the pub car park, was a modest but charming old place and we particularly liked this sign by the alms box.

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