My mum and I were keen to go back to Devon, where we had lived many years ago and where I spent the vast majority of my school days. It was the memory lane trip and, although short, was wonderful and we visited many old places.
Although we only had from Saturday morning to Monday afternoon, we managed to visit Tiverton, Barnstaple, Bideford, Ilfracombe, Braunton and surrounding beaches whilst staying in Woolacombe. The weather forecast was, well, one which we hoped would be wrong and indeed we were lucky. When the wind came, we were safely within the hotel and enjoyed some really rather pleasant weather. I donít mind wet and windy weather by a beach and the North Devon coast is quite a place to enjoy fairly spectacular weather and scenery.
Our first stop was at my old school, Blundellís, in Tiverton. It made sense to go to Barnstaple through Tiverton and I have to admit to hoping to stop there as it was not only convenient to stretch our legs but also to set up the Sat Nav... Even I can Ė usually Ė find my way along a motorway but I wasnít entirely certain about the onward journey to Barnstaple. I was surprised to find the relevant road soon after the school and, with the Sat Nav not working, the break might have seen wasted but it was anything but.
Blundellís has always been extremely good with its former pupils and, having been in touch, I was encouraged to pop in to say hello. On the way back when I had expected us to stop which, as it happened, would not have worked out. Anyway, I gave Mum a guided tour only to be politely stopped by the archivist who understandably wondered who on earth we were walking around after the summer term had ended. He happily offered to show us around and was not only a font of knowledge but was someone with whom I could share many happy memories. I regret to say that I didnít do well in Barnstaple and made a bit of a mess. We knew exactly where we were heading for but, okay, didnít look too closely at the map placing our trust in the Sat Nav which we had given up on. Turn round when convenient... Anyway, Mumís gut instinct turned out to be correct and, after going to Bideford and all set to try the next day, we worked out how to reach St. Michaelís Prep School in Tawstock and subsequently found it comparatively easily thereafter. Memories of Devonian country roads were rekindled also. I was a pupil there from 1972 to 1978 and Mum taught French there. I only once made a mistake calling her Mum instead of Mam and a host of happy memories returned for both of us. Sadly, the school closed four years ago and is now, I believe, being made into a private residence. Mum felt that, with a gate being open, we could go further in having a perfectly reasonable excuse for entering. We were stopped but by a family who lived there who couldnít have been nicer.
Itís funny how memories are revived after forty odd years. The lanes and hills reminded me clearly of a time, when around ten years old, and friend and I made off in our distinctive grey and pink sporting outfit and headed for glory. We made it to Barnstaple somehow by which time police had been alerted and search parties sent out and were probably found after my friend suggested buying cigarettes from a newsagent to keep us warm. Not that I touched one and, after a trip which seemed to last an eternity to us youngsters but was probably only a few hours, we were soon back at school. Another enterprising soul once hid up a tree directly opposite the school entrance and watched as police and further search parties scurried around looking for him. Raiding the kitchens was fun: the food was good even though the headmaster once sent back the eggs at breakfast. Unwanted food was flicked by some with sleight of hand out of open windows behind the long tables but the ruse was badly interrupted one day when a fried egg failed to make it and was left for all to see. They were happy days.
My old school, Blundellís, in Tiverton

My prep school, St. Michaelís, at Tawstock near Barnstaple

Suitably unprepared for the Saunton Sands beach

The impressive Baggy Point near Croyde

Looking towards Croyde from Baggy Point

The wonderful view of Woolacombe Bay from The Royal Hotel

The rocky coastline at Ilfracombe

Woolacombe beach

The idyllic Grand Western Canal at Tiverton

We went to Woolacombe via Braunton where we lived when my father was based at R.A.F. Chivenor and found the house where we once lived. I remembered the way to it pretty well but, having expected to continue along the same road to Woolacombe via Saunton and Croyde, we were slightly perplexed to be sent a different way going close to Ilfracombe. There was a reason and a good one too. Country roads. They took us home eventually but, heck, you hoped that you didnít meet anything.
We stayed at The Royal Hotel and our entrance wasnít a grand one. Plenty of parking is provided but involves a steep and winding driveway to it. I got half way up in second gear but froze when I saw the second half of it and felt obliged to stop only to remember that our car doesnít have a physical hand brake. It meant reversing down to the road and, the aborted dress rehearsal over, I managed to make it to the top in first gear all the way at the second attempt.
The hotel is a bit dated but the rooms were an excellent size and the breakfast, served only from 8.30 am, was wonderful. The hotel has terrific views of Woolacombe Bay and Baggy Point.
There are many aspects of travel and different experiences which I enjoy and Woolacombe and Devon in particular added to them. Fish and chips, a stick of rock and, although I didnít participate this time, I loved those amusement arcades with their penny machines. We enjoyed ice creams and walks (although later our legs may not have appreciated the uphill sections). I had forgotten how long and magnificent Woolacombe beach is and actually how comparatively big the place is.
On Sunday, we took the back roads to Croyde and enjoyed a bracing walk along Baggy Point, a promontory between Croyde and Woolacombe beaches and a place where my parents took me to play in the rock pools... The scenery was wonderful and windy enough to make walkers exercise due caution near the steep drops. We drove to Ilfracombe in the afternoon and were again lucky with the weather. For some reason, I had always fancied other towns and villages but I am more than happy to say that I enjoyed it much more than I had perhaps bargained for. The rocky coastline, albeit without beaches, is impressive and I have always had a soft spot for the souvenir shops. Window shopping usually, of course. Our last day started as soon as we had had breakfast as I had to be back in work in the afternoon. We stopped at the Grand Western Canal just outside Tiverton which, for me, is one of the most idyllic spots anywhere. I go back to Tiverton as much for a walk along the canal as anything. We had a wonderful morning and, although the walk could be no longer than forty-five minutes, we managed to see flora and fauna, moored barges and the lovely rolling Devonian hills. We decided that we could happily move back to Devon but, at the moment, future weekend breaks such as this are probably more likely.