A Famous Five Style Holiday (4)July 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Cycling, Eating and Drinking, Fun and Games, Travel | 3 Comments
Tags: A la Ronde, Budleigh Salterton, Cosy Teapot, cream teas, Exmouth, Lympstone, National Cycle Route 2, National Trust, Peters Tower
We arrived at Peters Tower full of curiosity and anticipation. Turning the key in the big red door, we stepped inside and began to explore. Inside it is like being in a vertical boat. The interiors have been done in teak and brass, and in fact, the Landmark Trust’s architect spent time in boat yards gaining inspiration for this project.
Tower living is spread across four floors, all of which are united by one single majestic ironwork spiral staircase which takes up about a third of the floor space on each level.The bathroom is located on the ground floor, the kitchen on the first floor, a snug sitting and writing room on the second, and two bunk beds on the top floor, right behind the clock face and directly underneath the bell (which chimes between 7am and 11pm).
This was our view on the first morning from the kitchen. Being right on the estuary meant we were witness to the extreme ebb and flow of the tides. At low tide there is nothing but mud, sandbanks and the odd stream dividing you from the far shore, at high tide the water comes within metres of the base of the tower. Across the water we could see an old tower on the hill – but would mysterious lights shine out at night, a la the lonely Wreckers Tower in Five Go Down to the Sea?
The tower is located in Lympstone, an excellent village with a train station, four pubs (three within a few minutes of the tower), and a post office that does really sell ices. Because it is so close and therefore commutable to Exeter and Exmouth, it is also a place where people actually live – it’s not one of those lovely but slightly sad villages that are deserted all week and only fill up when people arrive for the weekend.
Nearby is the National Trust property, A la Ronde, built to house the Grand Tour treasures of cousins Jane and Mary Parminter. It’s yet another quirky building, filled with unusual objects and famous for its shell gallery which contains nearly 25,000 shells. Because it is so fragile the gallery can only be viewed on close circuit television. Unlike George, Jane Parminter thought that girls were ok and in her will stated that only unmarried female relatives could inherit A la Ronde. In 200 years only one man, the Rev Oswald Reichel, owned the house. He improved its home comforts by installing a massive central heating system and replacing the thatched roof (seen in the model, right) with a tiled one with lots of windows. Like Uncle Quentin in Five on Kirrin Island Again, Reichel also asserted his masculine presence by adding a phallic tower to the property, although not to the house itself but in the form of a laundry building just behind.
While at A la Ronde we felt it was our duty to sample a cream tea. It was a beautiful day so we were able to take it outside with a gorgeous view of the sea and distant harbour. This was our second cream tea of the holiday. The first, and best, was at the Cosy Teapot in Budleigh Salterton. Budleigh Salterton is a seaside town renowned for the beauty of the pebbles on its beach. It is very quaint and somnolent, perfect for a seaside holiday with rowing, fishing, ices and all of the sorts of the things the Five like (no dreaded piers etc.).
The Cosy Teapot has been voted one of the top three places to have a cream tea in Devon with impressively light (and huge) scones served on Mrs Layman-esque rose patterned crockery. If you don’t fancy a cream tea, the Teapot also sells other delicacies such as crumpets with actual ‘lashings’ of butter. You can even buy vintage crockery, butter dishes, telephones and assorted knick knacks which are all arrayed inside the tea shop.
As well as eating we did do lots of walking (honest). We also took a boat trip so we could see ‘our’ tower from the water (and we spotted a shipwreck), and caught a steam train from Paignton to Churston from where we walked to Greenways, Agatha Christie’s old summer house. One thing missing was cycling – I think this would be a good cycling holiday. National Cycle Route 2 runs along the south coast from St Austell to Dover, or it least it will do when fully linked up. At the moment it’s possible to cycle car-free along the western side of the Exe estuary, plus down the eastern side from Lympstone to Exmouth, and then from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton via a disused railway line. One folding bike would fit in the tower but no more than that (even large suitcases are problematic in such a bijou space), so if you plan a cycling/tower holiday do bear this in mind.