We have had a lovely day. OK, the weather could’ve been better – it was dull but that didn’t darken our spirits and we really enjoyed ourselves.
First of all we had a few errands to attend to in Torquay, and then we decided to visit the gardens of Dartington Hall which are just a few miles from the town of Totnes.
However, as it was nearing lunch time we decided to stop en route and have a light lunch at the Steam Packet Inn which is situated close to the River Dart in Totnes.
It has been several years since we visited this old inn and today we went into the conservatory restaurant which overlooks the river. Even on a dull day the river view is always pleasant.
We chose ham hock, pea, and black pudding hash with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce (that is, for each of us) and a cup of Americano. This was a ‘starter’ course but it was quite sufficient for ourselves for lunch, and it was delicious.
After our lunch we drove the short distance to Dartington, parked our car and strolled around the gardens. We were between the crocus going over and the magnolia not quite being in bloom, but nonetheless we saw many flowers including snakeshead fritillary, camellias, and hellebores. Once the magnolias that border this flight of stone steps (below) are in bloom, we hope to visit again.
I cannot begin to tell you how lovely this flight of steps looks when all these trees are smothered in pink and white magnolia blooms. For now you will just have to use your imagination!
Here (photo above) is the area known as the Tiltyard. It is reputed to have been the site of an ancient tiltyard (or tournament ground) created in the 14th century by John Holand, Duke of Exeter. Knightly contests were very likely to have been held here, spectators assembling on the surrounding grass terraces.
And here is a small pavilion half-hidden in a woodland glade.
Here is Dartington Hall, from which the estate gets its name. It was in a state of ruination until the American heiress, Dorothy Elmhirst and her husband Leonard, bought the estate in 1925. When they arrived the grounds were neglected and overgrown. The shrubberies were laid out in the Victorian manner and the tiltyard was a pattern of formal flower beds but they could see that underneath all this was what has been described as an “extraordinary dramatic landscape setting – a coombe [valley] with terraces flowing into a wider river valley, whose folds drifted away southwards to the sea.” And so they set about not only the restoration of the hall, but also the gardens, and today they are a lovely place to visit, especially in spring and early summer.
Around the grounds you will see various pieces of sculpture. The bronze donkey is by Willi Soukop (1907-1995) and the reclining figure (known to all as the Fat Lady) is by Henry Moore.
After our stroll around the gardens, we visited the Cider Press Centre, an area of old buildings with some new additions, a lovely area of shops and cafes. We were on the look-out for a suitable retirement gift for someone, and found just what we wanted in the Dartington Glass shop (and yes, it’s a lovely piece of Dartington crystal.)
We then made our way home, and enjoyed mugs of hot chocolate by the fireside while the England v. Scotland rugby match was on TV. What a lovely day we have had.