So I am now a resident of Devon and living in the Exeter area! I’ve been here about a month now, but I am still adjusting and settling in. It’s been a busy few weeks, what with moving, a holiday to Italy and then starting my Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training. The latter has probably been the biggest and most prominent change of late – I am now officially registered as a postgrad student again and employed as a Trainee Clinical Psychologist. This is what I am getting used to the most I think – the fact I am really here and this is my path for the next three years – madness – but good madness!
Back to Uni
I am taking the course at the University of Exeter which so far seems fab. I’ve met some lovely people on my cohort and hope our friendships will blossom as time goes on. I am based at the Streatham Campus near the city centre and it’s a lovely campus. It’s quite green and has a cool mix of some enchanting old buildings fused with newer, more urban type structures. I have explored a little bit (there are so many fresh faced students who look about 12 who have made me feel rather old) but am aware there is a lot more of the campus to see. I’m just taking it one step at a time!
Located near the building we are having our teaching in is Reed Hall. The hall is a conference and event centre located on the campus and it’s available for hire for events such as weddings and educational conferences. It has a restaurant too which looks quite posh. It also has the most gorgeous gardens and architecture surrounding it which I discovered during one of the teaching days in my first week. There are leafy trees and fountains offering a calm oasis which is bliss amongst the hub bub of a busy and populated university. It’s quiet and a place for reflection and peace. I love it! I aim to try and take my lunch here during the teaching blocks at least once a week – this will hopefully encourage me to get outside during the lunch break (hard in the winter at times I can imagine) and take some time to sit, relax and eat among the squirrels and rabbits I’ve seen wandering around this lovely, tranquil green space.
New Home, New Adventures
Although I am going to be extremely busy (and probably rather stressed!) with all the university work, teaching, being on placement and my research over the next three years I hope to be able to carry on my adventures and love for exploring my local towns and county. I hope to make some Devon bucket lists and provide myself with opportunities to explore and get to know this beautiful county. Whilst I’m unconvinced it will beat Cornwall in terms of winning my heart, I hope it will give me a run for my money!
Can you recommend any places for me to visit in Devon? Ever been to Exeter? What did you think? Please share your recommendations and thoughts below 🙂
After exploring the sites of Calstock, Cotehele and Buckland Abbey the day before, we took off to the Dartmoor National Park to explore what it had to offer.
Our first stop was to the Dartmoor Prison Museum (well once we had found the right car park – we were definitely there to visit the museum and not the current inmates at the prison!).
You can’t take any photos in the museum and are told that this is because there may be current prisoners working in the museum! It’s £3.95 to enter and I think well worth the small fee to say you have been there and to have a look around. There is lots to see and read including information and displays dating back 200 years. There are walls full of prison memorabilia and information from when the prison was first established though to the current day – I hadn’t really realised it was still an actual working prison! Today the prison houses category C adult males and has a capacity of 640 cells. On the day we visited the staff at the entrance told us there was currently 637 cells being occupied meaning 3 were vacant and suggested should Nathan misbehave I could lose him there for a while!
The museum has displays which inform you about various notorious and famous prisoners including Frank Mitchell who was termed “the mad axeman”. He famously escaped from Dartmoor and was never recaptured despite a large manhunt. It was later learnt that the infamous Kray twins had not only helped him to escape but later murdered him – how confusing!
There’s also displays of both the prisoners uniforms though the ages and those of the staff too. You can see current riot gear the staff use and a cabinet full of old keys used to lock the prisoners in. My favourite display was probably the one where you can see all the contraband that has been confiscated over the years in the prison including mobile phones, homemade lights and a serious amount of weapons. Whilst this was a really interesting display it was also quite disturbing seeing the homemade weapons prisoners have created out of everyday items available to them such as tooth brushes, plastic cutlery and razor blades. It reminded me of watching Prison Break! I also found the information on prisoner diets and tuck lists interesting and it contrasted the difference of food that is offered to prisoners now nutrition and variety wise compared to the older days. It made me think about how prisons now have a lot more rights compared to times gone by and how human rights have to be abided by despite the prisoner’s criminal histories.
As if that’s not enough information on prison life there’s a mock cell to explore and the outside farm machinery area which shows you the machines the orisons used to use when they were put to work.
I left the museum feeling like I had learnt a lot and how I could have learnt even more if I had spent even more time to read every single display board – there were so many you could make the most of the entry fee and be there all day! Certainly something different for a mornings excursions!
After a lot of thinking about people who are locked up we made our way to the moors. We drove along the main road though the moor and were delighted to come across tonnes of sheep milling around on the hills, some very close to the side of the roads. We often had to quickly slow down as stray sheep meandered along the roads – it was funny to watch as they often didn’t seem too bothered by the cars and certainly didn’t hurry! There were also lots of gorgeous wild horses which again were right on the roadside you could have touched them if you stuck your arms out of the windows. They again didn’t seem too fussed by the close proximity of many passing cars and looked peaceful and settled as they chewed on the moors grass.
After taking a wrong turn and driving along some very tight narrow lanes we stopped at Princetown. Princetown is a small village which is highest village within the National Park. We briefly popped into Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre which is located here in the old Duchy Hotel. It has a couple of informative and interesting exhibitions and lots about local knowledge and the Dartmoor area. There’s a shop too full of Devon souvenirs and an all-important Dartmoor National park rubber and pencil for the collection! After looking around Princetown we realised that the Prison and Prison Museum were only up the road – somehow we had managed to do a big loop coming back on ourselves – thank goodness it was such a lovely drive through the moor!
We arrived at Buckland Abbey early afternoon and the sun had finally come out. We parked up and walked down to the entrance to the National Trust site which is in Yelveton, Devon. We showed our membership cards, saving us £12.10 on top of the £3 for car parking. We made our way into the Ox Yard area which houses a gallery, second hand bookshop and Ox Yard Restaurant with outdoor seating. There was also a small room which played a video all about the Abbey and its connection to Sir Francis Drake. It detailed the life and adventures of Drake and helped to set up the history of what we were about to look around.
We had been told at the entrance how there was currently an exhibition by contemporary artist Andrew Logan being displayed throughout the Abbey and surrounding estate. The exhibition is entitled “The Art of Reflection” and is said to tell the story of the spirit of Buckland through 18 colourful sculptures. Apparently the exhibition is one of the largest exhibitions ever hosted in a National Trust property and I overheard one of the staff members say it had been two years in the making. I was interested to see how contemporary art would fit in such a traditional and historical property.
The Great Barn was first port of call and we came across the first of the sculptures from Andrew’s exhibition – the huge golden corn strands with hanging glass butterflies and mice “Goldfield”. You could walk through the corn and see it close up; it was quite cool but possible looked slightly out of place in such a grand old barn?
We went on to enter the Abbey and walked around various rooms with lots of history, artefacts and art within them. There’s a lot to look at and there was the additional extras from the exhibition which I must say look slightly odd – they had placed the bright colourful sparkly pieces of contemporary art next to the old traditional artefacts. It was a little hard to see how the items placed together were related. The large unicorn sculptures were quite random too “Pegasus – Birth, Life and Death”. Whilst I liked the ideas behind sculptures and they were interesting to look at, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would have been better placed in a room on their own as part of an extra exhibition instead of trying to be integrated into the existing and traditional displays – unfortunately I don’t think they quite fitted.
We walked around some of the gardens and saw the large glass sword “Excalibur” from the exhibition placed in the Cart Pond. There’s various walks you can take from the Abbey which one day I’d like to return to partake in. However, for today we had done enough walking and decided it was definitely time for an afternoon tea!
Nathan and I were lucky enough to stay 2 nights in a glamping pod at the lovely Old Rectory Caravan and Camping Site and we had a great time!
The site is located in a quaint, easy to find area of Devon called Gulworthy. It’s near the historic market town of Tavistock and is quiet and peaceful. The site is small, family run and has only 11 touring pitches, 20 camping picthes and 4 timber glamping pods. The site is owned and run by couple Declan and Sara who also offer a holiday let onsite in a former coach house. The site is home to pigs, Shetland ponies and lots of free range chickens who roam around and as we found, like to try and jump on your BBQs! It also boasts fantastic views and a generally relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
When we arrived we called the number at the entrance as instructed and were greeted warmly by Declan and Sara. They showed us around the site including the facilities and Declan told us about the many places of interest nearby. There’s a big map and loads of leaflets available too – Declan mentioned enough places to visit to last three weeks I think! The campsite only offers small facilities (one toilet / shower and one disabled toilet shower room) but I didn’t find them to be too busy and there were clean.
We stayed in pod number 3. The four pods are all situated in the same area but they feel spaced out just enough to feel private and not overlooked. They each have an outside decking space and a picnic bench where you can eat your meals. There’s not much inside the pods so you have to bring all your sleeping stuff and cooking equipment – basically everything you would normally take camping except the tent! I would advise an air mattress too so you don’t have to sleep on the floor, even better, a mattress that doesn’t deflate throughout the night like ours did! There’s a heater and a small lamp provided for you so you are able to see what you’re doing and can keep yourselves warm.
I would recommend this campsite due to the friendly hosts and its relaxed nature. It’s also nice and small and the pods make the camping experience a bit more special. Just try and pack the good weather with you too!
Whilst we were in Devon we visited the following places. Click on each place to find out more about what we got up too.
After lots of walking around a couple of National Trust properties (Cotehele and Buckland Abbey) we thought we thoroughly deserved a rest and something yummy to eat.
We made our way to Tavistock and to the Bedford Hotel. The Bedford is a 3 star hotel located in the centre of historical market town Tavistock. It has a large car park, garden area and restaurant serving evening meals. We were able to sit in the large, grand lounge area where a plentiful selection of books and board games were available for you to borrow.
We decided to order the full afternoon tea which included pots of tea, finger sandwiches, salad, parsnip crisps, a variety of cakes and macaroons and of course the most important part – scones with cream and jam. All this was presented beautifully on a stylish slate cake tier and looked super impressive. It all tasted really good too and we were stuffed; so much so we didn’t manage to finish both the scones and took one back to the campsite in case we got a case of the midnight munchies.
Apparently the Bedford Hotel is where the Devon cream tea originated from. The hotel states the building originally formed part of Benedictine Abbey which is located in Tavistock. History tells us that the Abbey was badly damaged by Vikings in 997AD and that local monks and workers who helped restore it were rewarded with bread, clotted cream and jam. And the rest is history in terms of cream teas. Whether this is really true or whether cream teas were established elsewhere I don’t know, and to be honest I don’t mind really, it was a good excuse to have an afternoon tea and I would recommend!
The price of the afternoon tea was £12.95 per person which I think for what we got, was a really reasonable price. The hotel was comfortable and relaxed and the lady who served us was friendly and engaging. The added bonus of being able to play a game of Scrabble whilst we scoffed cakes and tea really made it.