A bit of living above the dead

This evening, we were sat outside an isolated house, watching a big red sun slowly sink behind the distant hills of Devon. Our vantage point, on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park, was a perfect end point for our drive to the south west.

It was 20 years ago that we drove down to Devon and had the misfortune of staying in the infamous Cats Piss Place. This place, however, not far from Okehampton, promised to be a lot nicer and a little less odiferous.

Of course, there was the 500 yards of crumbling unmade track we subjected poor Max to, in order to reach the house. Fortunately, though, we didn’t see or run over the metal post we were warned was in the middle of the road at the entrance to the house.

I can only think it all means there won’t be a lot of passing traffic.

Having unpacked Max and worked out how to open all of the windows, we sat outside for a drink, soaking in the slowly sinking sun before walking back down the unmade track. We had decided to have dinner at the very popular Fox and Hounds for dinner and drinks.

There is a skittle alley next to the Fox and Hounds. We know that because the directions to the house use it as a landmark. Once you recognise this plain, nondescript building as a skittle alley then it’s fine. Needless to say, it took us a couple of goes to do so.

It was at the end of a drive consisting of lots of traffic including one stretch that was so bad that we turned off the A303 and drove through the Deverills instead. We also discovered that Maxine, the satnav in Max, displays bad traffic issues by outlining roads in bright orange. The toxic nature of the colour makes it clear the area should be avoided at all costs.

Not that a short trip through the Deverills wasn’t pleasant. It just added a lot of mileage to the day. There’s a rather interesting website about the series of villages collectively called The Deverills. It can be found here and may be worth a browse when there’s more content.

Of course, Stonehenge was appalling as usual and we also had a few other sections of road that were reduced to unexplained crawling but, generally speaking the drive down was reasonable enough.

We’ve travelled the A303 so many times that it has become a bit too familiar. Because of this familiarity, I mistakenly decided we should stop at the known Podimore Roundabout Services for petrol and a break. It was here that we discovered, possibly the worst services on the planet.

It’s not so much the ghastly choice of shops it’s also the queue for the toilet. And it’s not just the queue for the toilet it’s also the fact that there’s nowhere to sit but broken brick walls. And it’s not just the broken brick walls…I could go on but there seems little point.

In a world where services are made to be welcoming and somewhere to take a proper break from driving, the Podimore Roundabout Services has been left a long way behind.

Still, it was just a blip on an otherwise pleasant enough drive. A drive which featured a rather jolly Summer Fete at Hale Church. Stalls, musicians and dancers were spread out among the graves in the churchyard in a wonderful display of rubbing the salt of the living into the wounds of the dead. I thought it looked delightful.

Of course, before heading off there was the matter of sending the girls on their own little mini holiday from us. They are staying with Sue for most of the week but, for the weekend, they had to go to the Frensham Ponds Kennel, where they are well known and greeted with great joy.

We followed this farewell with a delicious breakfast at the Holly Bush in Frensham just because we were driving by on the way home. We then slowly packed Max before hitting the road.

There is something very satisfying with a trip that ends in an excellent view. The one out of the window of our accommodation was glorious.

I have to admit that, after our mammoth trips across Europe lately, I did check for the girls in the back seat a number of times.

Dinner at the Fox and Hounds was lovely, no nonsense country food. The beer was Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and the walk back after dark was exactly that, very, very dark. Mirinda was very excited about being able to see the Milky Way in the clear, black sky.

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