Tag Archives: Torbay

15/52

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

I will never get tired of being able to just pop to the beach on our way home from whatever else it is we’re doing. And I love that this one thinks it is entirely normal: sand in his toes and the sea stretched out behind him, his world an ocean of possibilities just waiting to be explored.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Brixham: the next big thing?

When we first chose to move to Brixham, almost four years ago now, it struck us as a place with so much potential. That has only been confirmed by the people that we’ve met since, and the exciting businesses and events that we have watched grow out of the community. I’m only just beginning to work out ways in which I can contribute to this, but I still felt a swell of pride when I read the feature on the ten best up-and-coming seaside towns in this month’s Coast magazine which put Brixham at number one.

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As part of Leigh’s birthday celebrations last weekend we were able to treat ourselves with meals at not one but two of the brilliant new restaurants that have opened up in the town.

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First, Bistro 1909. Up until the end of last year this was Brixham Deli – it was the only place to get a decent coffee when we first moved here, and a real sign that there was maybe more to this sleepy little seaside town than met the eye. When its owners, Roy and Gill, decided it was time for a change it was hard to hide my disappointment at first… But the restaurant they’ve created in its place makes it more than worth it.

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Delicious locally sourced food cooked to perfection – Leigh declared the pate the best he’d ever had, the steak and mussels were seriously good, and the chips are, I have decided, the best in Brixham. The setting is classic and cosy: custom made leather banquettes, industrial chic lighting and old Brixham photographs. With their own twist on a traditional formula they have hit upon something that works very well indeed. We’re already trying to work out when we can go back…

The other place we had to try – this time with Arthur in tow – was the latest addition to Mitch Tonks’ Rockfish chain, right above Brixham fish market.

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There’s been an understandable buzz about this place – it has after all been a long time coming. Mitch Tonks lives in Brixham, and has had his eye on this site since it first went out to tender. Unfortunately Torbay Council had other ideas, and we ended up with a really disappointing restaurant in there for a while – all style over substance, with no attempt to make the most of its unique location. Every time I looked at it across the harbour I grumbled with a sense of missed opportunity, so it was brilliant to see the site finally occupied by a restaurant that does it justice.

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It looked great, the fish was (of course) supremely fresh, and the atmosphere was buzzing. We shared a fruits de mer starter which was a real treat (it was Leigh’s birthday after all) and then went for classic fish and chips to follow. I’m very glad they offer the option of replacing batter and chips with grilled fish and salad as again this is somewhere I imagine we will revisit often!

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In conversation over both of these meals the subject of how our town is changing was never far away. It is one that is naturally taking on increasing significance with the possibility that I will soon have a role on the local council and actually be able to play an active part in the decisions that shape Brixham’s ongoing regeneration.

There will definitely be some difficult decisions to be made.

Brixham is regularly compared to nearby Devon towns like Dartmouth and Salcombe. In a lot of ways it has much more in common with them than it does with the other two towns in Torbay. But when we chose to move here, it was precisely because it wasn’t like them: it has a thriving, year-round community, fed to a large extent by its fishing industry. It attracts a diverse range of tourists, not only those with huge amounts of money to spend. And it is still reasonably affordable as a place for young families to bring up their kids.

Lots of the changes that we’ve already seen have been incredibly positive: the new selection of local eateries, the coffee shops like The Bay Coffee & Cake Company and Millie & Me that mean I no longer need to wait until I’m in London for my flat white fix, tired drinking establishments transformed into inviting pubs like New Quay Inn and The Manor. Shoalstone Pool is going from strength to strength, our theatre is full of ambition and ideas for the future, and Brixham YES is doing increasingly impressive work with young people and their families.

But there have been conflicts too, particularly around proposed developments which appear to meet the needs of some but for others cut right through what they perceive as the heart of our community.

As Brixham rises to the challenge of becoming the next big thing, we must remember that it’s not just its physical heritage and charm that needs to be protected. It is the local community that gives our town its soul, and as we continue to move forward we can only do so together.

A breath of fresh air and friendship

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We haven’t got out enough so far this year. There have been plenty of reasons why: the weather’s been pretty pants, sniffly colds have never been very far away, and on top of that there is of course the small matter of a novel that needs editing…

So when this week we had friends to visit and the sun came out to greet them we breathed a sigh of relief and headed out into the fresh air.

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There’s nothing quite like hanging out with old friends to rejuvenate the soul. Emily and I were partners in crime when we were sixteen, and I feel so lucky to still have her in my life twenty years later.

She is about to embark on an uber exciting house-building project with her family, so they began their stay at my folks’ place to get some inspiration from the major renovation they’ve just completed. Whilst we were there we made the most of the beautiful countryside: feeding the chickens, seeking out snowdrops, and exploring the deep dark woods.

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Arthur spent a while at one particular tree, scratching away with a stick. I asked what he was doing and he said ‘writing’ (silly). When I asked what he was writing he said ‘the story of mummy and daddy’. Nothing like the great outdoors for a bit of inspiration.

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After twenty four hours in the beautiful South Hams we headed back to Brixham. There had been much talk of penguins, so there was nothing for it really but to head for Living Coasts. We finally got to try out the new year-round ferry, and spent a day in beautiful sunshine in Torquay.

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We had a bit of a stroll (and the obligatory fish and chips) and then headed to our awesome coastal zoo. The toddlers were in their element here, and it was so lovely to watch them explore and bond.

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On their last day we stayed closer to home. It was properly freezing, but we made it to Breakwater beach for some bracing pebble throwing.

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Though our friends were only here for three days, I feel like we’ve crammed at least a month’s worth of adventures into that time. And on top of that I’ve been reminded how lucky we are to live where we do: we will most definitely be getting out more in February, whatever else the world throws at us.

 

My word of the week this week is friendship.

The Reading Residence

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

Choosing a Christmas tree

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With me and Arthur heading up to London this weekend, we realised we were going to have to get our tree organised early if we were to have any hope of having it up before the middle of December. That might not have been a problem in the past, but what with it being only Arthur’s second ever Christmas, and the first where he’s really beginning to be aware of what’s going on, we are keen to make the most if it.

Preparations began on Thursday morning, with a perfectly timed session at Music with Mummy in which Arthur and his friends read a book about choosing the perfect tree (well, Carol read it to them – and of course Arthur was straight in her lap as soon as he got the whiff of a story).

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Then we all sang a song about decorating the tree, and there was even a little tree to decorate!

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So Arthur knew something of what to expect when, that afternoon, we headed to Marldon Christmas Tree Farm. We got our tree from there last year as well, and it really is quite an experience from the moment you turn into the fir-lined drive.

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They had only just opened for general business that day so not everything was up and running, but the main attractions were very much in place. I was all set to spend a while umming and ahhing over the perfect tree, but as soon as we were directed towards the ones that fitted our criteria (6 foot-ish with non-drop needles) Leigh made a beeline for one he said was calling to him. He’s half Canadian, you see.

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It it was a very beautiful tree, and Arthur seemed to approve. Whilst Leigh was arranging to get it all packed up, we thought we’d better go and have a look at some of the others anyway. Arthur had great fun weaving between the trees, camouflaged perfectly by his jacket and adding to his disguise by picking up fallen branches along the way.

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He was fascinated by the whole process of getting the tree ready to transport too – watching as it was trimmed and wrapped and more than a little confused when it was strapped to the top of our car.

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We were just about to head home when I remembered the reindeers. They’d only just arrived from the North Pole, and weren’t strictly ready for visitors, but we were told we could take a little stroll down to say hello if we really wanted to. I didn’t need any persuading!

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Arthur toddled off between the trees, still clutching his branch and stopping every so often to smell the fragrant leaves that lined his route. We could hear the reindeer calling in the distance, their voices getting louder and louder. And then we saw them.

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They are such beautiful animals, and I could have watched them for hours. But darkness was rapidly approaching so after a quick chat we headed back towards the car as the moon rose above the trees.

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It was a magical little adventure, and the perfect start to the festive season. We will definitely go back to the farm over the next few weeks once things are up and running – there’s a German market I’m looking forward to exploring, and we’ll have to let Arthur have a ride on the land train to see how the reindeer are settling in. There was something very special about being there right at the beginning too though, when there weren’t so many people around and it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves.

And as for the tree? Well that’s pretty magical too. It looks a little bigger in our lounge than amongst its friends – we might have got just a little carried away… But it’s going to look incredible all lit up and decorated – I can’t wait to dig out all our sparkly supplies when we get home next week!

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Word of the week: cold

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I’ve been struggling a bit with my first cold of the season this week: a sniffling, lethargy-inducing, lingering cold, not enough to really stop me doing anything but certainly enough to make it all that bit more difficult. But that’s not actually what this post is about.

What I’ve really noticed this week is just how cold it’s becoming! It was like someone flicked a switch, plunging us from unseasonably warm vest-top-in-November sort of weather into the (admittedly far more appropriate) biting winds and deepening chill that requires layers and hats and a brisk pace to escape its grasp.

But this post isn’t actually about the weather either. It’s just that the cold seems to be the common link between my favourite moments from this week.

One of which was the arrival of Arthur’s first ever pair of slippers. We have wooden floors in most of our house, so slippery socks are not really an option to keep Arthur’s toes warm. He wasn’t even walking this time last year so it wasn’t really an issue, but now with the hurtling up and down the corridors I needed to come up with something. And I found these.

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They’re by Living Kitzbuhel, soft and cosy enough to be comfortable for hours of wear yet tough enough to stand up to the endless energy of a toddler. They certainly seem to be doing the job.

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The other memorable moment from this week, when the three of us all wrapped up and ventured into the cold, was bonfire night. We went to see the fireworks at Sherwell Valley Primary School. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but we had a brilliant night. When we arrived, Arthur was enthralled by all the lights flashing in the darkness.

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He was cosied up in the sling beneath our brilliant babywearing coat, and was very happy for a while to watch the gathering crowds from there. He did start to get a little bit restless, wondering I think why we were all standing around in the cold and the darkness, but fortunately the explosions of colour distracted him before too long.

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It was a brilliant display – and whilst Arthur spent most of it looking more than a little bit shell shocked, he still hasn’t stopped talking about the fireworks.

We’ve had a couple of wintery walks as well, and I have to concede that there’s something rather lovely about the crisp, refreshing air that I may even have missed, just a little bit.

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So bring it on winter – we’re ready for you!

The Reading Residence

A halloween trail and a pumpkin parade

With the weather being so unseasonably warm recently, we’ve had a brilliantly outdoorsy halloween.

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It began on Thursday with a visit to Occombe Farm’s Bewitched Trail. It was aimed at 4-12 year olds, so Arthur and his friend were a little young to really make the most of it – but they still had a great time running around in the woods whilst us mums chatted and ‘helped’ them fill in the quiz sheet!

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Arthur had his Gruffalo outfit on (I suspect he’d wear it permanently given half the chance) so the woodland setting was just perfect. He loved exploring around all the trees – I only noticed when I looked at the pictures that this one had a particularly spooky face on it…

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There were some conveniently placed tree stumps too so he could take a rest from all the running around.

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The trail was perfectly integrated into the natural environment, and whilst the toddlers couldn’t manage all of the challenges they were delighted to come across a little mouse hiding in a fallen trunk!

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Arthur managed to hold onto his own mouse for almost all of his adventure, though there were points where the excitement got the better of him and poor mouse was left lying in the leaves…

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Even the Gruffalo ran out of steam eventually, snuggling up in the sling for the rest of the trail.

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On halloween itself we went exploring a little bit closer to home, heading up to the Guardhouse Cafe on Berry Head. They had all sorts of family friendly activities on offer, including a ghost hunt in the Napoleonic fort which I wish we’d managed to take part in. We ended up though focusing on the pumpkin parade – Arthur wasn’t really aware of halloween pumpkins last year, but this year he was fascinated by them – and just a little bit scared.

By the time we wandered up it was already beginning to get dark. Our local woods were feeling very creepy, but it was still incredibly warm and clear giving us some stunning views when we reached the headland.

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We headed straight for the cafe, where parents and children were hard at work carving a spectacular array of pumpkins. Leigh and I settled down with a very welcome glass of wine and with only half an hour before the parade – and despite Arthur’s interventions – Leigh managed a very respectable effort of his own.

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As soon as he was done it was torches at the ready to head out into the night. There was something very magical about walking out towards Berry Head itself in the dark, a weaving line of glowing lights with the hushed chatter blending with the wind and the lapping of the waves far below. These sounds were punctuated with Arthur’s little voice calling out ‘what is this? What is this?’ as he took in the latest bizarre experience we were exposing him to!

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We formed a circle when we got to the end – not too close to the cliffs – and our guide regaled us with a ghost story before we turned and made our way back in the dark towards the cafe.

There it was time for the judging of the fancy dress and pumpkin competition. Arthur was again dressed as a little Gruffalo, backed up by our own efforts as the fox, snake and owl to complete the story (more on that in another post). The other children were wearing some really amazing costumes – there was a general spirit of gothic spookiness going on – but I think Arthur’s cuteness factor gave him the cutting edge because he was judged the winner.

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It was a lovely end to a brilliant couple of hours of halloween fun. The party was continuing with a suitably spooky dinner but we thought we’d better get our little Gruffalo home. It was a good thing we left when we did because the woods really were pitch dark by the time we made our way back though them… But you’ll be glad to hear we all made it back in one piece!

 
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Our Shoalstone summer

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Yesterday marked the end of the season at Shoalstone Pool. It seems to have come round far too quickly, especially with this gloriously warm September. But it has been a fabulous few months, and I think we can safely say we made the most of the incredible facility we have on our doorstep.

It feels like a very long time ago that we were doubting whether the pool would even open this year at all: when there were still wranglings with Torbay council over funding and the fallout from their ill-omened deal with a local dive company.

Luckily Brixham town council came to its rescue and it opened for the season at the end of May: we took our first dip of the summer a couple of weeks later.

Since then we’ve been there as often as we can. Arthur’s swimming has come on in leaps and bounds: back in June he was still holding on to us as we took those first dips in the then icy water.

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But then came his float suit, and with it a whole new lease of life. He loves the independence it has given him, and confidently navigates himself around the pool as we hover nearby.

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It’s been fantastic to see the pool so busy over the summer holidays – kids learning to swim or splashing about under the watchful eyes of the lifeguards, adults doing lengths with a look of bliss on their faces, locals and tourists alike enjoying the safety of the enclosed pool whilst still getting the invigorating benefits of the seawater.

I reckon we’ve toughened up quite a lot over the summer. The water has actually been pretty warm at points – well, for the UK anyway – but even recently, when our miserable August weather cooled it back down, it’s actually started to feel quite amazing. I certainly don’t flinch so much when I’m walking in with Arthur…

And of course the location is all but impossible to beat. When he’s not in the pool itself Arthur has loved gazing over the wall to the sea, watching boats or fishermen and even catching the odd glimpse of our local friendly seal.

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With a summer like this, it was apt that our final swim of the year should be particularly special. We were determined to get down there yesterday but as so often the day ran away with us and it was almost five o’clock by the time we were walking out of the door. As we approached the pool it became clear that it was an especially high tide: the sea was lapping over the wall by the deep end, and even the shallow end was not particularly shallow.

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Although it was a gorgeous afternoon the water was rougher than usual, and we did wonder the wisdom for a moment of taking a toddler in for a dip. We needn’t have worried though: Arthur of course took it in his stride, loving the novelty and the sense of occasion and happily swimming along beside his daddy.

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He ventured out on to the ‘poolside’ too, splashing through the water to take a peek over the sea wall.

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As the sun began to set and the tide continued to rise, it was almost as if the sea was reclaiming the pool for another year. As the summer fades and autumn turns into winter those sea walls will be battered by storms, and we will marvel that we ever swam in sunshine there. Shoalstone Pool is such a very precious place, and I cannot wait for it to be reborn again next year.

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 To find out more about the pool and how you can help support it go to www.shoalstoneseawaterpool.co.uk

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall