Lovely Local Food- Going West

Back in March we did a blog post on 'Lovely Local Food- Going East', which gave a taster of foodie things in a Barnstaple and Braunton direction. This time we are going West, to give you a flavour of lovely things available in Ilfracombe and Mortehoe. It feels to us that we need to treasure these little food havens and encourage more options to flourish and grow, to nourish our  community and our guests.

Ilfracombe is a fishing port situated 8 miles along the coast. The high street, it is fair to say, has seen better days, but the harbour and Fore Street in particular are on their way up. Ilfracombe's heyday was in the Victoria era when droves of holiday makers came down on paddle steamers from Bristol to 'sample the sea air'. The beautiful but ageing architecture of the houses give hints of its splendour in days gone by. It remains a popular holiday destination to this day. The Ilfracombe shops are an eclectic mix from typical holiday 'bucket & spade' and gift shops through to lovely galleries and craft shops (4 new galleries have sprung up in the last 6 months). 

The Deli is one of my favourite Ilfracombe treats, with great coffee and yummy food. 

Lisa the owner and chef, seen here peaking out over the crisps, has created a vibrant hub in the high street. 

This is a taster of what they have to offer plus....

 a host of delicious and interesting other things too.

Next is an extraordinary shop 'The Walkers Chocolate Emporium' . When you go inside you will see what I mean. They make all their own chocolate in all sorts of shapes, sizes and mixtures. There is even a chocolate museum out the back and you can, at times, see them making their next batch.

For something a little healthier go to 'Nana Sue's Sunfoods'. They have a wide selection of health foods, gluten free products, supplements and all things natural and organic. The owners are on hand for helpful advice if needed.

Now to the most excellent Mike Turton and his butchers shop. He not only sells meat but a wide selection of homemade pies, pasties and cheeses.

Mike makes all his own sausages and burgers. There are so many sausage options the choice is almost overwhelming. We have been known to have a couple of each and do a BBQ 'pick and mix'.....the meat equivalent to a packet of Revels (you don't know what it is until you bite into it!!)  If you are doing a large shop and you know what you want, Mike is even happy to deliver out to Pickwell (you will need to give him a few days notice). This would mean, however, that you don't get to see his lovely shop!

The 'Harbour Deli' is a delightful little shop, nestled in one of the side streets leading to the harbour. Again the deli counter has meats, cheeses, quiches, etc and the shop stocks a host of jams and other lovely items. They are a cafe too, serving all sorts, but the meat or fish platters look particularly delicious. I keep meaning to go back there for lunch.

Down on the Harbour side is S and P Fish Shop. A family run business who have 2 fishing boats that supply their fish. 

If you like a lobster then here's your spot, sadly I am horribly allergic so have to keep well away!

What is more you can sit on the tables outside and sample the fresh delicacies whilst.....

enjoying the view and the bustle of the harbour.

Next stop Mortehoe. No ordinary fish and chip shop, 'Mor-Shellfish-T-Eat', sell lots of amazing seafood to take away. This father and son team (who also have a boat catching some of the Seafood) have recently opened, having moved from their restaurant around the corner.  

Rich took this photo of the lobster and crab platter that he bought last week. He said it was scrummy (he didn't eat the whole platter himself!!)

Last, but not least, is Little Comfort Farm, which is situated between Ilfracombe and Braunton. In their farm shop they sell their own organic meat, anything from large joints to their home made sausages. They also have home made 'ready meals' to take away, the price list and more information is available on their website

We hope you enjoy perusing round some of these local eateries. Happy Eating!!

50 Things To Do (Part 1)

Since we have come back from holiday we have been excitedly working our way through the wonderful list of '50 Things To Do Before You're 11 3/4' ,which has been produced by the National Trust. We started at Pickwell Manor before venturing further afield.
Number 33 Catch a butterfly in a net
The girls got lost for hours fishing around the flowers... Beautiful!
 Number 19 Swing on a rope swing
 It does help if you've already got one made!
 Number 1 Climb a tree
Number 35 Discover what's in a pond
Number 17 Set up a snail race
 "On your marks...Get set..."
 We're not sure what Millie-grace fed her snail.... It really was a one snail race.
 The undisputed champion
 We also managed to continue the sex education from the end of term:
Child 1 - "Look daddy these snails are cuddling."
Child 2 - "No they're not... they're having the sex!"
 Number 4 - Build a den  
(thanks to Wild About for giving the girls such a great day at Forest School)
Number 41 - Plant it, grow it, eat it
Time for some honesty here.... Steve has done the planting and the growing... but we're doing quite well at the eating. Thanks Steve!


Watersmeet for a cream tea

Two weekends ago Sus and I  had our annual girls weekend away with our wonderful friends Gemma and Toria. We travelled a GREAT distance (approx. 20 metres) and stayed in one of our apartments at Pickwell for the weekend. It felt like we were properly on holiday and we got to actually enjoy the experience of being a guest. All of us love walking and like to do a long walk each time we meet up. Although we have lived here for almost five years we have never walked to Watersmeet, despite soooo many recommendations, so the time had come!
Watersmeet is where the two rivers of the East Lyn and Hoar Oak Water meet together just above the picturesque village of Lynmouth on Exmoor. I am not sure which one of the two rivers this is but it certainly makes a dramatic backdrop.

I made a bit of a mistake with the walk route and for some reason we found ourselves accidentally  parking at 'The Valley of the Rocks' (spectacular though!!). My poor navigation skills had lead me to believe they were close (but they are actually on completely opposite sides of Lynton). Undeterred we set off along the coastal path determined to get to Watersmeet, whatever the distance!

The path takes you out along the dramatic coastal path to Lynton with the most incredible view.

I have to say my fear of heights did slightly get the better of me, I had to work really hard not to ask to hold onto one of the girls. I am sure this is getting worse as I get older!?!.

The path then takes you through a magical wood as you drop down into the back of Lynton. Both Lynton and Lynmouth are well worth a potter round, but we had a goal to reach........ the promise of a cream tea!

So we hopped onto the Cliff Railway which takes you from the village of Lynton down the 862 ft cliff to Lynmouth nestled at the bottom by the sea. Opened in 1888 the cliff railway is an incredible and beautiful feet of engineering.

Every time I go on it I always get that childlike sense of excitement!
A little picnic on Lynmouth harbour, Gemma was obviously telling an intriguing story by the look on Susie's face.

Our sights were on the prize, we set off across Lynmouth towards the valley that leads to Watersmeet.

Lynmouth had a terrible freak flood in 1952, where the river swept away the houses up stream and on the left of the river bank. Thirty four people sadly lost their lives and there is a memorial to them just by this bridge.

The footpath up to Watersmeet follows the river up stream through the most wonderful Gorge.

So beautiful!!

Gemma and I had to keep stopping to take photos.

"A sheep loose in the lane!!" We were a bit scared she might butt us on the way past, she had a bit of a menacing look!

This walk is truly enchanting.

What more can I say?!? I am planning a return visit with the children and Rich for some wild swimming when the weather warms up. There were some gorgeous little beaches on the edge of the river, just right for playing.

Then if the beautiful walk was not enough, there is a National Trust tea room at Watersmeet itself, yipee!!

This beautiful waterfall is next to the tea room, how amazing!

Here we are decked out in 'country casual'...Gemma might apreciate me mentioning at this point that she had to borrow my wellies (complete with lurid wellie socks!)

Yum! It gave us just the right amount of fuel for the walk back to the car.

Three beautiful girls on the cliff railway on our return journey.

Just time for a quick girls weekend away photo, thank you girls for another great and memorable time!

A Royal Visit to Braunton!

Ever-since I can remember I have been a fan of the Royal family. I have to say now, from the outset, I am not representing the whole of Pickwell in this blog post! I think the rest of the team feel warmly towards our monarchy, but really it is only me who has the level of excitement that warrants a whole blog post. 

It is no wonder when you see how I was mum was ever so fond of a home-made hat.

This is me, in 1977. It was the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne. Our village celebrated with a street party. As you can see, I had a GREAT time!

 In 1980, the village all turned out again, this time for the wedding of Charles and Di. This is my sister. Despite my mum's best efforts, I'm not convinced she felt at home in that strange ensemble.

I mean, it's no wonder I get so excited about the Royal family, it was ingrained in me right from the start.  So when I heard that The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were coming to Braunton (a village just up the road), in the wake of the terrible flooding there, you can imagine my excitement.

My friend Sarah and I were determined to get there to see them. Sarah's husband Pete Cox was the official photographer for the visit. I'll point him out later.

We could see the crowds as we approached in the car.

It looked like everyone was waiting in anticipation..

Which was a relief because we were late and we thought we were going to miss them.

As we walked from our parked car towards the village, a policeman said 'Watch your backs ladies, you're about to be run over by the Royals!' As I turned, I saw a very smart car heading towards us..

and THERE THEY WERE! Even though I was holding my camera in my hand, all I could think to do was drop it and wave madly (and in a slightly unhinged manner) into the window straight at Camilla. I thought that was bad, but Sarah said she found herself jumping up and down...I think I came off lightly!

It must have looked terrifying to poor Camilla to have these middle-aged women leering in at her. I'm not sure we painted Braunton in the best 'first-impression' light. Afterwards I was so cross I didn't get a picture of it. I think it was the shock.

The sleek black car pulled into Caen Street and we heard the crowd cheer and applause as Prince Charles stepped out...

and there he was! (not sure where Camilla was at this point, possibly trying to get over the weirdo's she just saw in the car-park?)

Flanked by security, it looked impressive.

I didn't think they looked that scary. In fact one of them could have been my Dad, and he's got muscles like a sparrow's knee caps.

You could feel the electric atmosphere in the crowd. My heart was beating in my chest.

He started to head straight for me! I did wear my bright blue hat, in a hope he would be drawn in my direction.

I struggled to get through the crowd. 

This lady was my final obstacle, but she was moving for no-one, hat or no hat.

So this was as close as I got,

Before he moved away :(

The car moved along very slowly behind them the whole way down the street.

As it passed by the school children, they noticed they could see their reflection in its black, shiny body.

The girls found this to be most entertaining,

and the boys started an entire silly face-pulling and dance routine. It was hilarious to watch.

I took a picture of the driver because he had a spirally white ear piece, that reminded me of Jack Bower.

There were so many cameras and microphones.

Camilla is in the red coat (in case you hadn't noticed).

I recognised quite a few of the photographers from our weddings.

They went into five shops along the road and met some of the worst-affected flood damaged businesses.

The Gulf Stream Surf shop boys looked very pleased to have met Prince Charles! This shop is the place to go for the best board shaper in North Devon. Steve got his 'fish' board from here for his 40th Birthday Present.

Next stop, the Newsagent.

I was quite pleased with this pic!

You can see Pete Cox (Sarah's husband and official photographer extraordinaire) in the background here, in a smart grey suit! Prince Charles and Camilla went in and out of the shops,

While everyone waited patiently for a glimpse

and occasionally they would cross the road to the crowd and say a quick hello.

I really felt the whole village had risen to the occasion, 

with the great turn-out of people,

 the decoration and the welcome notes everywhere.

This one was in my favourite 'home' shop, Kittiwakes. Despite being devastated by the river water, they have cleared it all up, totally refurbished and just launched a beautiful new shop. 

The stationary shop even had a revolving crown in the window!

The end of the day brought a last highlight. I spotted the wonderful lead singer of the Military Wives Choir! The choir all live at the Army base close to Braunton, and one of the singers used to be in our cleaning team, so we have been following their progress with excitement.

This was Pete's favourite picture which he felt summed up the day. Prince Charles had commented that he loved her hat. (That's the last time I wear that blue hat, I'm getting one with plaits for his next visit).

 Great work Pete


Heddon's Mouth

In the winter, if the sun is shining you have to be outside.

It was so lovely on Saturday, that we got together with our friends, drove 30 minutes to the edge of Exmoor and rediscovered one of our favourite walks.

It is a gentle and scenic walk of about 25 minutes each way. The walk follows this rushing river 

which leads you to Heddons Mouth -a beautiful wild and rugged beach that can only be accessed on foot.

It has now become tradition to take stuff to make a fire and a big bag of marshmallows to toast over it. 

In fact, I think that's the kids favourite bit.

This is the sound. It is only after you have left that you realise your sore throat is due to you shouting for 2 hours!

 While the kids toast, we make our own fun...

Dave found this unusual stick so hey presto! Game no.1, can you throw the stone through the hole without knocking Jacs unconscious?

Game no.2, what has Mark found? Is it just a big piece of driftwood? 

Nope, its a GIRAFFE! (He was so proud of this)

Game no.3, Can you get across the torrent of water without getting wet? Of course New-Zealand Dave made it...

Err, Steve where are you going? Its the OTHER WAY!

Bottled it.

Mark tried but I don't have a memory of him making it?

Dave entertained us from the other side of the water by creating this sculpture from the washed up debris.

So, game no.4, was trying to knock it down with pebbles.

Game no.5, introduced by the more genteel Ben, started like this...

Then progressed to this..

and once the kids cottoned on, they popped up 


Kieran even began his own 'extreme' pebble piling. It didn't last long..

I'm still unsure as to who did these...but i have my suspicions...Ben?!

This is what happens when you ask a couple of pre-teens to pose for a photo!

 The incredible hulk has nothing on Zac.

So, if ever you were to think life was a bit dull in you can THINK AGAIN!

Oh yes. You can keep your cinemas and theatres and restaurants and funfairs and beautiful parks and amazing coffee shops . We got it going on here.  

(We had fun anyway!)

For more on this walk, you can see another blog post from last year

Not your ordinary day on the beach

Last weekend we headed down to Saunton Sands to join one of the local legs of the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Autumn beach cleans.
There was a great turnout with over 100 eager volunteers, young and old, getting stuck in.
"Well done Liza and Millie! What have you found there then?"
The general idea of the morning is to get your gloves on, grab a bucket (and a friend!) and go fill it with as much marine litter as you can possibly find.
A couple of hours later and the bucket is full.... But what sorts of things did we find?
A smelly sock - OK not so shocking (apart from the fact you're holding it in your hands, Daisy!)
And who hasn't left a pair of flip flops on the beach before? (OK maybe that's just me). We did check that the owner hadn't just gone for a paddle!
Some of the items left on the beach can however be very damaging to the environment. For example, plastics make up the vast majority of marine litter and they never truly break down. Experts suggest plastic left in the environment will be with us in some microscopic form for many thousands of years.When in the sea, plastics can adsorb toxic chemicals, becoming increasingly harmful over time, and often enter the food chain when mistaken for food items by marine life. Over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million seabirds die every year from ingestion of or entanglement in marine litter.
A closer look along any of our beaches is likely to provide you with a history of modern packaging and branding. Remember the ''Its the real thing!' strapline? Apparently that stopped being used in 1985!!!
It may take as long as 500 years for an aluminium can to fully break down and the rusting process obviously poses risks to both humans and marine life (notice the irony of the only legible thing left on this can!)
Along the edges of the sand-dunes we began to find dozens of these tiny plastic pellets. One of the SAS staff told us that these have been dubbed 'Mermaids Tears' and they are used in the manufacturing process of plastic products. 
Once you begin to recognise them you won't be surprised to learn that the Marine Conservation Society found them to be the second most common litter item found on UK beaches
There is a competitive element to add to the fun of the SAS beach cleans and a prize is given for the oldest item found. You can check out the Sun newspaper's report about the 45 year old Golden Wonder crisp packet found during one of last year's cleans of Saunton beach.
There is also a  prize for the finder of the item likely to have travelled the furthest....
As well as the most bizarre find of the day.... Somewhere out there is the fridge to go with this door!
Tides, currents and storms can also sometimes cause marine litter to gather in alarming clusters.
Our friend Jo took these shocking pictures the previous week at 'Crow Point' (just round from Saunton)
At the end of the clean it's time to gather the buckets together....
To survey the contents of the trailer......
And to guess the weight of the finds.... In total our marine litter experts at SAS estimated that we found almost one tonne of litter in the space of 2 hours on Saunton!
There is then time for a little creativity....
Great work kids!
Look at that beach - spotless!
Thanks to SAS for continuing to educate and activate us. They have got some great information and resources so check them out and support in any way you can.
 If you fancy looking further at the global impact of marine litter then you can watch a brilliant BBC documentary called 'Hawaii: Message in the Waves' here . We recently had a showing at the Croyde Deckchair Cinema which was followed by a really interesting discussion time.