Its very rare Anna and I get a few days off together (other than booked holidays), so it was nice for us to spend two days (nearly) in one of my favourite parts of England - the north Devon coast, a few days ago.
We booked a room at a hotel (pub really) called "The Smuggler's Rest", in a sleepy little (almost model) village called Morthoe just north of Woolacombe Sands - where I've been to quite a lot over the years...
You takes yer luck with April weather. We rolled the dice and came up with a double six as far as I'm concerned - lovely sunny weather for one and a half days, and a band of rain when we left on thursday.
Its a strange year so far.
Snow (quite heavy you'd call it for Britain) AFTER the Easter celebrations, and staggered Easter holidays for the nation's schoolchildren have combined to really strangle the coastal tourist industry in the UK.
Do YOU celebrate Easter? (Other than breathing a collective sigh of relief for a quite ridiculous period of about ten bank holidays in as many weeks if you're an office worker).
As I've mentioned on BG before, the arcane rules governing when EXACTLY we celebrate Easter laid down to us by the Roman Catholic Church are a bit silly really - the first sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox etc... etc...
Easter this year was the earliest its been for about 95 years, and the earliest it WILL be for about 100 and something - and I can tell you with absolute certainty, the very early Easter this year, combined with the cold snap (remember last years April - hot and sunny ALL month?), AND the staggered holidays, will have put many businesses that rely on tourists, OUT of business this year.
I've been going to north Devon at various times of the year (high season and low), and I've NEVER seen it as quiet. Never.
On Wednesday, we had sun pretty well all day (with a cool sea breeze granted, but bright sun nevertheless) and there were maybe a dozen people on the 2 mile stretch of Woolacombe sands.
Granted there was no surf to speak of, so the "dudes" and "dude-esses" were not there either, but there was quite literally no-one in the pubs or restaurants.
Well.... Anna and I liked the privacy of course - no kids running around, very few dogs, no drunks.... very nice, but slightly unsettling, in a strange sort of way.
The Ewes have obviously just had their lambs in the south west - much gambling, sorry, gamboling, was occurring in the fields, and speaking of the fields, Devon is lit up at present with the wonderful yellow Gorse bushes.
The Swallows and Sand Martins have arrived in force over that neck of the woods - we were surrounded by them on our ten mile trek around Baggy point on Wednesday, and its always nice to see Stonechats and Ravens at the coast.
We were HOPING to see a Grey Seal or two - I've spent many an hour perched on the end of Baggy Point Cliff peering down at Seals, but I'm told its just a little early to see them there with any regularity.
What we DID see though, I haven't seen since I was eighteen - a wonderful bright green male Common Lizard, sunning itself on a molehill, and sloughing its skin at the same time.
I'm lucky enough to have seen both Common Lizards and Sand Lizards at Braunton Burrows (a HYOWGE set of sand dunes near Saunton sands - a mile or so down the coast from Croyde and Woolacombe), when I was about 17, but none since - that really made up for the lack of seals!
No Peregrines either (which I've seen in the area before) or Wheatears (strange that), but Sparrowhawks, Buzzards, Kestrels, Ravens, Fulmars, Herring Gulls, Stonechats, Swallows, Sand Martins, Foxes, Bees and Butterflies all were just what the doctor ordered. As was the wonderful light down there and the sea air. We'd love to live near the sea when we can. We'd never watch television again!
Click on any of the photographs above to enlarge them, or click HERE to immediately be transported to my online photo album where there are many more photographs from our two days in Devon, all in their original, large size, and all with explanatory text.
Before I disappear briefly though, I should point out the wonderful beetle in the photo above (as that photo is NOT in th online album).
Anna found that chap in the Marram Grass deep in the dunes behind Woolacombe beach - its a "Bloody-Nosed Beetle". Its elytra are fused together, so it cannot fly, and instead ha a defence mechanism which means if stressed it "bleeds" a quasi blood from its nose.
This beetle was great! It didn't bleed on myself or Anna I should point out, and we popped it back in amongst the Goose Grass, on which it feeds...
Please DO visit my "New Warren" (online flickr photo album) - to see more photographs, like I said - of a few spectacular sunsets and a vampire spostle, if nothing else.
Finally - I can heartily recommend the "Fillet of Gurnard Broth" that the "Ship Aground" pub in Mortehoe serve as one of their specials. Sounds a bit dodgy doesn't it.
It was beautiful!