Pickwell life

Lovely Local Food - Going East

We have been struck since we moved to North Devon by the array of good quality local food shops that surround us. So we thought it might be nice to give you a whistle stop tour of some of our favourites in case it inspires you to make a visit and try them out. There are so many wonderful local places to shop, I am going to split the post into two parts....'Going East' covers Barnstaple and Braunton and 'Going West' will cover Ilfracombe and the surrounding area.

South Molton is a lovely little market town about 30 minutes drive from us (or you will pass it on the A361 from the M5). It is well worth a visit as it has some lovely little shops including antiques, interiors and clothes boutiques.
Griffin's Yard

Some of my favourite food shops are the old-fashioned sweet/ chocolate shops; the delicatessen specialising in cheese; Griffin's Yard (photographed above) which is a health food cafe and shop selling lots of great local produce; and last but not least, the Thursday morning market, selling all sorts including local meats such as Exmoor venison.

Now to Barnstaple, our closest market town. Butchers Row is one of Barnstaple's treasures. This historic row of little shops can pretty much sort all your culinary needs in one sweep, with everything from local game to Devon wines; locally caught crab to Devon grown chillies.

Then our much loved bakery 'East and West'. Everything they do is delicious, our current favourites are their low GI bread and a loaf called 'Pantique'. They are both delicious wholemeal loaves with lots of seeds and yumminess. Graham and Claire, who run East and West, are delightful and they supply all of our scones for the cream teas we host for our guests in the school summer holidays. They have recently won the prize of 'Best West Country Baker'. Well done guys, it is well deserved!

If you are a cheese lover, like me, you will think you have died and gone to heaven when you enter this shop. Wall to wall deliciousness! Debbie Priestley the owner has a passion for West Country cheeses, why not go in and try some!

They have a deli, as well as cheese, and a fabulous website where you can pre-order or have a local cheese selection sent to you.

'Passmores' is a great fish shop with a wide range of locally caught fish most of which is landed from small boats at Ilfracombe and Bideford. In season they sell Lundy crab and lobster as well as mackerel, turbot, brill, gurnard, sea bass, mullet, cod and haddock. They have a 'wet fish van' that visits the village car park at Croyde on Thursdays at 11am (ish). They also do home delivery in our area on Thursdays, ring 01271 343677 to make an order.

Opposite Butchers row in Barnstaple is the 'Pannier Market', a magnificent indoor hall dating back to 1827. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays there is a mixture of stalls including fruit and vegetables;  Wednesdays has largely antiques; and Fridays has most of the local food suppliers.  Keep a look out for the 'Food Festivals' they hold which are a wonderful showcase of local produce. Their website lists up and coming events.

So a little closer to home is Braunton. Above are the boys from Reed's Butchers who as well as meat do the most yummy homemade pies.

'Cawthorne's' is a small family run private supermarket who sell a great range of products including local food, organic and health foods. I am always surprised at how much I can source for an obscure recipe from here. 

'Devon Made' specialises in local nibbles. There is a super range of local preserves, oils, chocolate, bread (from East and West Bakery) and much more. Why not pop in and have a coffee and cake whilst you take a look around.

Just outside the main village of Braunton is 'The Great Field' a source of much of our very local veg. It is treasured as one of the only two surviving medieval open strip field systems in England and is believed to date way back to the 1200's.

Local Farm Box is an online shop and box scheme that sources from 'The Great Field'. We have weekly deliveries as families and also stock up on dairy products, meat, preserves, bakery items and eggs from them from time to time. A veg box delivery is ideal if you are coming to Devon on holiday. Pre-order and it will be here for your arrival.

Last but not least is our 'Georgeham Stores'. Tracey and Paul, the owners, are really helpful and friendly. They have a good selection of provisions including local bread, meat, cheese and milk. If you are coming on holiday and would like to pre-order a shop to be delivered as you arrive, then please ring 01271890534 (they can email you a list of produce on request).

So why is it helpful to shop locally? I love this list produced by the 'Crystal Palace Transition Group' outlining 10 great reasons........enough said!!:

1.       More money stays in the community: When you spend £100 at an independent business, £68 returns to the local community, compared with £43 if you buy from a national chain

2.       More jobs are created for local people, including architects, designers, sign-makers, accountants etc.

3.       Local businesses offer a greater diversity of products and there is more scope for innovation

4.       Local businesses are more likely to get involved in community action and to offer financial support for community initiatives

5.       Local shops help maintain the area’s distinctive character and flavour

6.       Local businesses are more likely to source from the local area (including edible gardens)

7.       The more people that are employed locally, the fewer need to commute, saving on energy consumption

8.       Fewer people will use their cars

9.       Local traders are more likely to chat to their customers to find out what their interests are and to respond to their needs and their values

10.   We can build up a relationship with local businesses that will help support them in a transition towards sourcing more locally, sustainably and fairly

Happy shopping!!

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!

Dance for Gaza

You may have seen in previous posts that Steve and I are both part of a group of local runners here that have become known as the 'Baggy Breakfast Club'. Earlier this year seven of us entered the Gaza marathon to raise money for the UN's humanitarian work with refugee children in Gaza.  
After several months of hard training we were all really disappointed, on so many levels, to hear the news that the UN had been forced to cancel the marathon after Hamas took the decision to ban men and women running in the event together.
Undeterred, we quickly focused on trying to find an alternative marathon and were amazed to find that just two weeks later was the inaugural 'Right to Movement' Palestine marathon in the West Bank in Bethlehem! Really sadly Steve is not able to make the amended date - which is really gutting!  
 On Friday night the runners, along with the Pickwell crew, hosted a local fundraising night here at the Manor called 'Dance For Gaza'.
 We chose a few themed elements to the night to try and give it a middle eastern feel. Firstly, we served Arak - a traditional aperitif from the region. A translucent coloured, aniseed flavoured drink of about 57%.... It is definitely an acquired taste!
 Mind you Katie definitely looks like she is making a good job of acquiring it! 
 So to go with the Arak a few delicious Mezze, courtesy of Damian & Ali (thank you guys!). 
Then to follow magnificent lamb kebabs, courtesy of the culinary skills of Tracey and Jake. 

"Oh no they've caught us.... quick back to the bar and look busy!"

 Sa'ad bought Fezes for the running boys on the bar. The look was much more Tommy Cooper than 'authentic Turkish headwear'! My favourite Tommy Cooper joke of the night: I said to the gym instructor 'Can you teach me how to do the splits?'. He said 'How flexible are you?' I said 'I can't make Tuesdays'.

It wasn't just the Fezes as uniform. Dave (our Kiwi runner) insisted on wearing his now infamous 'stubbies' for the night. A 1970's trend that perhaps should have been left there rather than resurrected!

If proof were needed it looks like Nige in his pullover is having more luck with attracting the 'ladies' than Dave in his stubbies!

The final key middle eastern theme of the night was our 'Shisha Palace' (lovingly created in Sa'ad's bell tent).
Many thanks to Medhat from Bar Venezia in Exeter for his very generous loan of the Shisha pipes and to Sa'ad for his kind donation of the tobacco.

Damian was a natural in his role as shisha host for the evening "You want hubbly bubbly?"

Anna looks like she was particularly enjoying the experience.

Nige adopted a less traditional grip on the shisha pipe.

Whilst it took Susie a while to realise that her pipe had got disconnected "This apple tobacco is so smooth... its like the air".

Damian's role as Shisha host made him the most popular man of the night. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him.

His popularity was closely followed by Pete Cox whose dance offs are not to missed.
Throughout the night great tunes were spun by DJ's Pete Robinson and Steve Baker. Thank you guys! It took a while but eventually everyone did 'Dance for Gaza'.

There were a couple of reminders throughout the night that this was all to try and help give Gazan children the opportunity to have some glimpses of the sort of childhood that our children take for granted.

Thank you to everyone who came and made Friday such a fun night and helped to raise over £1300.

So on Sunday 21st April we will be attempting to  run 26.2 hot miles around Bethlehem. If you want to check out more details or throw in a few quid you can find our giving site here.

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 raised...my 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 Devon...now 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 http://playeatlaughsleep.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/heddons-mouth-walking-with-friends.html