I think this may have been my first self indulgent holiday since moving to Skye. Don’t get me wrong, there is nowhere else I would rather be, but sometimes it is difficult to have ‘me time’ when there is the shop to be seen to, food to be cooked and housework to make an effort at. I took Wednesday to the following Wednesday off to spend a few days camping in the West Country (Devon and Cornwall) to visit some interesting gardens and see some plants that I have only seen in pictures or as my immature specimens. I was also able to sample some of the new fruits that I am, or am thinking of, growing.
I travelled down to Birmingham by bus and train on the first Wednesday, arriving a little more than an hour late in Birmingham due to issues with signaling at Euston (delayed staff handover). There I stayed with my friend AC, before travelling together to Tiverton in Devon by train. This journey went via Wales due to electrification works at Bristol, so amusingly I went through three of the four ‘countries’ that make up the UK in the holiday. Wales is technically a principality, but I’m not really sure what that means. Cornwall also used to be a separate nation and still has the remnants of a language closely related to Breton, but also with similarities to Welsh and Gaelic languages.
Near Tiverton I had arranged to pick up an electric hire car: a BMW i3. I have been interested in electric car technology since working in the automotive industry and since they can be considered a more environmentally friendly way of getting round (see here) I thought it would be fun (and it was!). I will post more about the car adventures here.
We picked up the car from Diggerland, which is a theme park just off the M5 motorway where you can play in various sized excavators. It was closed since I think it is only open weekends outside of the school holidays. Probably a fun place to take kids of all ages though! We noticed a huge monkeypuzzle growing in the lawn of the original house – a sign of gardens to come…..
We then drove the car a short distance to the East Devon Forest Garden. This wonderful oasis in a sea of horse paddocks was conceived and created by Sagara over the past eight years. There is plenty written about Forest Gardens and permaculture, so I will just write a little review of our time here later and put some links in. At EDFG I started to feel a little envious of the kinder climate and soil. Sagara has sweet chestnut trees that were probably bigger at three years old than mine are at nine! However, he has already had some mild overnight frosts and I don’t expect any till later in November….
We stayed with Sagara two nights rather than rushing off, and then drove down to the Agroforestry Research Trust’s 24 year old forest garden at Dartington. I had booked us on a tour of the garden with one of my heroes: Martin Crawford (I’ll put a review here). The date of this tour was what fixed the holiday date, since Martin only runs them a few times a year, and I had to fit it into off season for the shop. I’d love to visit his other sites, maybe next time.
We managed to charge up the car a bit at Dartington, since they have several charging units in the car park, although we arrived too late to get it set up whilst we were on the tour so didn’t manage a full charge. AC managed to arrange to stay at Sconner Down, one of the camp sites I had obtained details for. I think the others were pretending to be full, but had actually closed for the season. We got to the site in time to put our tent up before it got dark. A lovely quiet site up a single track road (sounds familiar…). It still seems to be lighter on Skye than further south, although this will soon change….
We drove to the Eden Project the next day. They have a number of charging facilities, although we had a bit of hassle with the rapid one which was a bit hidden away. Hopefully AC will be able to get back the fine that was imposed because we were late back for the first hour’s charge. Eden is just as fantastic as I remember (I will put a post here). They also gave us a discount off our admission to the lost gardens of Heligan which was planned for the following day. We wore ourselves out here; the extra trips back and forth to the distant charge point probably didn’t help.
After a second (early) night at the campsite we visited the lost gardens the following day (I’ll post a review here), also stopping at Eden in both directions to charge up at the rapid facility. The first time gave me a second chance to visit the wild Chile area, the second time we had a late lunch. It was amusing to me that the car used only ten miles of range to cover a twenty mile round trip. Unfortunately part of the gardens at Heligan were closed, but we probably wouldn’t have had time for them all anyway.
Our final overnight stop was at the plants for a future (PFAF) site where we helped Addy Fern harvest some apples and had a quick tour round (hopefully another review here). I’m sorry we couldn’t stay longer, because there was much more to see, and I think Addy would have appreciated more help. We managed a top up charge using a three pin plug on the car which gave us a full(ish) battery of electricity for the return to Diggerland on our way back.
We were able to go back via Bodmin moor, which I wanted to do since I had found one branch of my mum’s family originates from that area. A great great something….grandfather seems to have commuted with his family backwards and forwards between dockyard at Plymouth and farm work on Bodmin in the early 19th century. I had a look in the church and both graveyards and was surprised to find some family graves still there.
Overall I had a really great break, and have lots of exciting plants to think about and a few more seeds to sow!