NEW – Postcard from Barnstaple, Devon
Thank you to everyone who responded to my last postcard.
I have now been here more than six weeks, during which I’ve been busy getting to know people and places. Also doing a lot of walking. Some of you commented that I seem to have made friends quickly. As well as being a lifelong nosey parker (sticky beak) people watcher, and explorer I also made contact with the local U3a (University of the Third Age) before I left home. I am a member at home and I was warmly welcomed by local people and attended their quarterly lunch a week shortly after I arrived. Since then, I have joined the literary circle, the strollers’ group and taken part in their open day last week to help recruit new members.
I am doing quite a lot of walking but decided to try out the entrance level walkers first. Figured the Ramblers (lovers of hills and dales) and the trekkers (intrepid mountaineers) was not for me. Just as well as my first stroll was at Instow on the River Taw. The “stroll” was actually a two hour walk on even ground followed by lunch at a local pub. Much more my style.
Afterwards the leader, Pam, took me in her car to see the towns of Bideford, Appledore and Westward Ho. The latter was the home of author Charles Kingsley who was visited from time to time by his friend Rudyard Kipling. Sadly, Westward Ho has become a hideous holiday town with high rise flats and rows and rows of monotonous chalets. Each little town is different and being a passenger, I have the luxury to enjoying the rolling hills and lovely old villages as we drive through the countryside.
Several weeks ago, another member who has become a good friend, Sue Thomas took me to the National Trust property Arlington Court, about half an hour away. It was a magnificent day, visiting the house, the carriage museum and best of all the walled garden where I spoke to some of the volunteers. As I volunteer in the garden at Harper’s Mansion in Berrima it was good to swap notes. I always keep my Australian National Trust membership up to date so I have free access to NT properties here.
So, with all this activity am I getting much writing done? I am, but not a lot as I am spending time at the library doing more research and talking to some of the local historians. So much so that I have developed several new characters from this area for my book. One is based on a real character who lived in Greater Torrington which is about half an hour from Barnstaple.
You guessed it; no sooner did I mention my new character than a day out was planned for me by two of my new friends. We had an amazing day in Great Torrington, famous as the site for the final battle of the English Civil War between the roundheads and the cavaliers. The local people supported the cavaliers so Cromwell’s men blew up the local church which resulted in hundreds of deaths. For those interested, contact Google for the Battle of Torrington 1646. GT was also famous worldwide for making gloves.
The local museum was a great source of information and the guide said that when many more people turned to gardening during Covid more 1646 cannon balls were dug up as people dug deep into fallow ground!!!! Mmmm.
Afterwards we went to the Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Rosemoor, a few miles out of town. What a treat. I was able to wander around this place for several hours on my own. Bliss; I could have stayed there all day.
I have joined the monthly writers’ group at the library and met some very talented people, three of whom read out part of their work for critique. I look forward to going again.
One of the unexpected benefits of this residency is having the time to read uninterrupted by daily life. While here I read the second book The Heron’s Call by Ann Cleeves, set around Barnstaple. Knowing where things are and having visited some of the towns mentioned made it very enjoyable. As Di Yerbury also has hundreds of books here in the flat there is no shortage of reading material.
In my last postcard, I mentioned I had met and planned to interview the Melody Appleton the author of Go Home Blackie, living in England in the 1950s and 1960s. I spent several hours talking to her recently and we have become firm friends as we have much in common.
Given Wimbledon is over and the political crisis is on the slow boil, I am hoping to having a quieter week, but given the Green Man Festival nearby Pilton is on here next Saturday and the North Devon Show in two weeks, there is no shortage of further distractions.
Di Yerbury grew up in Pilton and many of her ancestors are buried in the local church so I will certainly visit it and some of the places Di explored as a child.