Home / articles / A Monday Meander

A Monday Meander

I don’t know how old this door is, but at a guess, several centuries.  It is in the entrance to The Salutation Inn in Topsham, the small coastal town on the banks of the River Exe, here in Devon.  Topsham is just four miles from the city of Exeter, so is a dormitory town for the city and, consequently, properties there are very expensive.  Furthermore, a lot of gorgeous new houses are currently being built, some of them with ecology in mind and are zero-carbon rated.

The door above, as you might’ve already guessed, leads to what was once the carriageway to this inn, where carriages would’ve been brought, by horse, the horses then attended to by grooms and perhaps stabled for the night, and the large door – or gate – closed for the night.  Today, what had been the carriageway has been transformed into the Glasshouse, a lovely conservatory area for meals (although dinner in The Salutation is served in their very smart restaurant).

The glass roof has some large white artificial ‘clouds’ attached …

I don’t know the reason for this, perhaps to afford slightly more shelter from the sun?  Simply for fun?  But I like the shadows of the support ironwork on the white walls.

This is really a very nice place to have a meal, and there are some sofas and tables at which customers can have coffee (the view above is from where I was sitting at our table.)  Fresh flowers on all the tables, too, is a nice touch.

Husband chose an omelette for lunch and there was a choice of several fillings, and customers could choose up to three, so he chose ham and tomato.  He said it was very good, but it was huge!  We are so use to our smaller portions at home that when faced with cafe and restaurant portions, we are somewhat over-faced.  I chose what I’ve had a few times before and really enjoy – the cheeseboard.  The five small cheese portions (all of different westcountry cheeses) come with delicious home-made wafer thin biscuits, but I asked for some extra bread, which we shared.

We didn’t have a dessert although the desserts here are wonderful, just a pot of tea for two.

After our lunch we made our way to the Quay Antiques Centre, passing some interesting shops in this little town.  I noticed above one shop, where there was perhaps a flat, someone had put topiary on the balcony, and it looked really attractive:

And the florist’s shop, close by, had a lovely display. I particularly liked the white hydrangea plants.

And a very pretty floral display outside a kitchen shop …

Once inside the Quay Antiques Centre, we had a good browse.  Where there used to be household linens, these have now gone, and there is silverware (and silver plate) in their place. I saw a little butter knife, and although by no means perfect or expensive, I thought it would go rather nicely with the little cut glass salts I bought on my previous visit (which I use for butter) and at £2 how could I leave it there?

Husband soon became tired, wandering around at snail’s pace, so he took himself off to sit outside in the sunshine, as the old warehouse in which the Antiques Centre is housed, overlooks the River Exe, and this view is looking downstream to the seaside town of Exmouth, on the coast.

Meanwhile I had a good wander around, seeing several things I quite liked (and they were at very reasonable prices – such as lovely cabinets for around £125, which considering what modern furniture costs, is a giveaway price … the one below is such an example). I especially liked a set of 6 perfect- condition cut glass dessert bowls for £38, but I sensibly left them there (lack of cupboard space for them.)  But oh, how lovely they would’ve been for trifle!

Of course, not everyone likes mahogany reproduction furniture, but I quite liked this display cabinet. There is nothing wrong with reproduction furniture if well-made.  We can’t all have original Queen Anne or Georgian, can we?

The view from one of the windows on the first floor, overlooking the River Exe

Facing inland, across from the Quay Antiques Centre, is The Lighter Inn, and customers were enjoying the late summer/early autumn sunshine, having meals and drinks outside.

Although it isn’t Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday until November, there were garlands of poppies on display, perhaps they have been there all summer long in commemoration of the end of WW1, in 1918, exactly 100 years ago.

The day had become very hot and humid by the time we left the Antiques Centre, and made our way back to the car, not far away but far away enough for us to feel hot and tired by the time we got back to it and had a welcome drink of water.  We had forgotten to take our water bottle with us.

Once home, I saw that two books had arrived.  I knew of Jill Barklem’s lovely Brambly Hedge books, which she wrote and illustrated in the early 1980s, but had never bought one, but I saw an illustration from her lovely Autumn Story in the current issue of House & Garden, and immediately went to www.abebooks.co.uk and found a fine-condition copy for just a few pounds.  I am delighted with it and have since ordered the four books (of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) in one volume.

The illustrations are exquisite, you can look at them over and over again and still find something amusing or interesting you had previously missed.   Jill sadly died last November, aged only 66, of pneumonia.  I was reading her obituary online and a writer, Julia Eccleshare said: “Inspired by her observations of the countryside around Epping in Essex, where she grew up, Jill created the series on the underground as she commuted to her degree course at St Martin’s School of Art in central London.  Hating the overcrowded trains, she transported herself to a place of her own imagining that offered peace, space and friendliness, populating it with a community of mice.” 

The book is small format, only approximately 6 inches by 7 inches, just right for small hands to hold them.

The other book that arrived is Shelfie, and I had a quick look at this yesterday evening, but while nice for a quick read, I don’t think it will be one I will be returning to again and again.  (But my very slight disappointment in this book – only slight, I’d not wish to put anyone off buying or reading it- has been dispatched this morning by the arrival of a lovely book but I will talk about that next time.)

After such a lovely, and very filling, lunch, neither of us wanted much for our supper and so I defrosted some watercress soup I had in the freezer and we enjoyed that with a couple of warmed cheese scones (these keep well, for a few days, because of the cheese, i.e. fat, content; they don’t go as stale as plain or fruit scones, with their lower fat content.)

Husband then decided he would rehang the pictures, the two for which we’d had new mounts made and two others.  The one on the left of the photo below (The River Severn in Worcestershire) was a gift to my husband from his employers after 30 years’ service (he could choose his own gift; others at that time who were also receiving gifts for their 30 years’ service – there were just a few – chose electrical goods, but I am sure that those would have long ago been dispatched to the tip)  and the one on the right  (above the TV) is another which I inherited from my mother.

My husband was right (although I won’t tell him so, don’t want him getting big-headed!) insofar as I am now used to the new mounts and don’t miss the dark green ones, which over-powered the delicate watercolours.  You can see by the clock that it was ten minutes to eight, and already we needed the lights on.  The picture directly above the TV is, so I always understood from my mother and from the person who gave it to her, a local scene of Churston, an area between Brixham and Paignton.

After that I made a cup of tea and we watched a lovely TV programme with Philip Spencer, best known for his property programmes with Kirstie Allsopp, Location, Location, Location. This time a series on Stately Homes.  Last night’s programme, number 4 in the current series, was on Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.  I do enjoy listening to Philip, talking to those involved with the running of these great houses, and last night he chatted with Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill – an interior decorator in her own right – and others, such as the house manager, the family’s butler/valet, estate manager, etc.  He is a natural in front of the camera and, just as we would’ve been,  he was totally awe-struck when arriving at Blenheim, at the end of the long drive, seeing its magnificent edifice on the horizon as he drove towards it.   He asks pertinent questions in a friendly manner, and does his best to find out what such houses would’ve cost to build today.  Blenheim was not in the millions, dear friends, but in the billions of £s (in today’s money.)  At one time, over 1,500 people were working on the project.  If you missed this programme on More4 (UK), then do see if you can see this series on catch up.

And did I buy anything other than the little butter knife in the Antiques’ Centre?  Of course I did. I spied three little Vaseline glass dishes and at first I thought they were being sold as a set, but no, fortunately, you could buy them individually.  A good job, too, as I couldn’t have afforded all three, but one of them was within my budget (the smallest one.)  It is now partnered with the little bowl that belonged to my mother, the little basket I bought last year, and now the new dish.  Is this the beginning of a collection, I wonder?

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

Check Also

Getting Ready for Christmas

Plans were changed somewhat today.  I was going to sort out our wardrobes, taking all …


  1. I think thoses clouds may be acoustic clouds, possibly in place to reduce an echo. A few of the local schools have had them installed in the high ceilinged halls.

    I quite like some of the reproduction mahogany furniture. I am currently looking for a low level unit for my living room but not having much luck so far. I want to see it before I buy it as the quality varies so much, but most of the showrooms are too far away. I’ll just have to keep looking.

    I have unwelcome news for you – the problem with another persons details displaying hasn’t gone away. I’ll have to overwrite Lyn King’s details this time.

    • Margaret Powling

      Ooh, Eileen, I’d never thought of that! I’ve never even heard (pardon the pun!) of those, but what a very good idea! I wish they could be adopted in other places!
      Yes, some repro furniture is very well made, such as that by the company Strongbow in the 1950s and 1960s and today by Brights of Nettlebed. Some if very ornate and totally OTT for 21st century taste, but then, think of how OTT some of the work of Thomas Chippendale was! Yes, keep looking for the piece you want, it will turn up someday.
      Oh dear, I’ve had my computer man working on the problem, and he tells me it’s all OK now. I shall have to go back to him again. It has cost me dearly, too.

  2. I’m afraid it’s the same for me – Jayne Forbes this time. I wonder if it’s the immediately previous reader? What a nuisance for you.
    That door looks wonderful. It makes me think about the people through history who have walked in and out on their daily affairs. And a lovely meal to go with the surroundings.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh dear, Joy, still gremlins … as I say to Eloise, I shall tell readers what the webmaster has told me about this in my next post, as it’s a continual problem.
      We really like The Salutation Inn. A set meal for lunch would be too expensive, we think, unless for a special occasion, but not overpriced when you consider the quality, and the excellent staff. Here, the female waiter actually told us the soup of the day without having be asked and then rushing to the kitchen “to find out”! (Yesterday is was celeriac and truffle, which sounded lovely!)

  3. I’ve been on holiday for the last three weeks and am enjoying catching up with your blog. I love Topsham but haven’t been for ages. I find it more economic not to go!!! 🙂

  4. Yea! No rogue email info on the comment form here; nice and blank! Your paintings on the wall look very nice, and I love the items you purchased at the antiques place. I also had bought the omnibus, if that’s the correct use of the word, of Jill Barklem’s stories, shortly after I read she had passed. I thought maybe the prices might go up. They had not then, but I haven’t looked since. I think the Autumn scenes might be my favorite. Eager to see what book has arrived for you…do tell!

    • Margaret Powling

      That’s great that you had no rogue emails, Bess, but it’s still happening as a reader has emailed me to say she can still see these emails. I am going to post about this and give readers the advice that the webmaster has given me and hope that will help. I’ve been assured that it’s not my fault nor my computer doing this.
      I now feel sorry that I didn’t push the boat out and buy all three of the little dishes. Not that I actually wanted all three, but I thought “They have been together since they were made, and now I’ve split them up!” So I have ended up feeling guilty that I’ve bought just one! But someone else will love the other ones, I’m sure. I also saw a pale blue Vaseline class basket, similar to the one I have in yellow, but I already have one in the loft, packed away, so why buy another when I’ve not even put the one I have on display? No, I didn’t need another one! Wallet stayed in my bag!
      I think the prices of Jill Barklem’s books won’t rise simply because so many were printed in so many editions, similarly the Edwardian Lady diary, and other books which were top of the best-seller lists for months. I will write about my latest book on my next post (it has triggered me ordering yet another! Oh dear …!)

  5. Margaret Powling

    Hope you have had a good holiday, Fiona. Yes, I love to visit Topsham, but we often go just for a look-see. Fortunately, I have control of my wallet, not my wallet controlling me. I saw several things I liked but I asked myself “When would I use that?” “Where would I put it?” “Do I really need another one of those …?” and left some pretty things where they were, including a bird painting from British Colombia, which had appropriate feathers attaches to the bodies of the birds, really pretty. But with a loft with excess paintings stored away, I said an emphatic No to myself!

  6. I wonder if the clouds are to absorb some of the sound. I notice there are many hard surfaces which noise echoes and can really impact on diners’ amenity. Some restaurants place high density sponge-like material on their ceilings to dampen the noise levels. Those chairs look very comfortable – a nice place to sit chatting with a friend.

    The front windows of the florist and kitchen wares shops are very pretty. I like poking around kitchen shops as they have so many nifty gadgets ! The butter knife is very pretty. The display cabinet is beautiful. I really like second hand furniture as it’s generally better built than modern furniture. I know there are many who like all things new and scoff at ‘old’ stuff but not me. I have a few pieces of Brambly Hedge china, gifts from friends and family over 25 years ago and much loved.

    I also am a fan of Phil Spencer – ‘ Location Location Location’ is a very popular series in our pay tv (Foxtel).

    ps ‘Pam Monks’ name and email address (rsmonks…..) appears below.

    • Margaret Powling

      First of all, Lara, in my next post I will tell readers what the webmaster has said about these emails appearing, and how readers can delete them. I’m not a computer person, I use use it, a bit like driving but not knowing how to strip an engine down. I hope it will be helpful, but he has assured me it’s not my computer doing this, and it has cost a lot of money for me to get it all checked out.
      Yes, I think those ‘clouds’ are sound absorbers, Lara. And a very good idea, too, but quite frankly if Monday was anything to go by – and the place was by no means full, they didn’t work! There were four people on the table next to us, dare I say rather loud people in every meaning of the word, but at least they were having a good time. But if you wanted a nice, quiet lunch, that was out of the question.
      I liked the display cabinet, if I recall it was £125 compared with what could be over £1,000 if it were brand new in an up-market shop.
      Hurrah, another Phil Spencer fan! I love the Location prog even more than Escape to the Country but one house prog I cannot stand is Homes Under the Hammer, which has been going for donkey’s years and bores me witless. I don’t watch it now (it used to be on early morning and I’d watch it if I woke up early) but it was on in the waiting area in the hospital where I went for an appointment last week
      and there was no escaping it!

  7. I enjoyed reading about all your interests. Last spring I saw a lovely tea set with the Brambley Hedge imagery at an antique store. I think the books will be more within my budget, but I’m glad I saw the tea set.

    • Margaret Powling

      The Brambly Hedge merchandise which followed the books is very pretty, but I never wanted any of the merchandise and I hadn’t even bought any of the books until this week, thinking them – a bit like Holly Hobbie (or is she Holly Hobby?) which was also popular in the 1970s, at the height of the nostalgia craze exacerbated by the ‘milk maid’ look of Laura Ashley fashions and so forth, Holly being a little girl dressed – if I recall – mainly in dresses of a patchwork design.) I thought it all a bit twee, and especially having sons couldn’t even contemplate buying any of it for them (sorry, that is sexist, but they’d certainly not have appreciate books on little mice in bonnets!) but now I can appreciate the quality of the art work by Jill Barklem. I think, as well as Laura Ashley fashions, it was The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (first published, if I recall, in 1977) that really set the gold standard in this kind of countryside nostalgia, but again, far too much merchandise followed. But this doesn’t mean it wasn’t pretty; it was. Just that rather too much was produced.

  8. Looks like the data problem might be ok now?

    Have been to the Salutation Margaret, nice place, we sat in the courtyard as we had the dogs with us, very nice coffee and cake. Must go in the warehouse another time, have been told it’s hard to leave without something! Anyway here goes, a post from me without someone else’s appearing?

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, I do hope that the data problem has been solved, it’s been awful for those who have kindly left comments to had had personal details published or those belonging to someone else.
      Glad you agree that the Salutation is a nice place. The first time we went there we had one of their wonderful desserts; we had one each, and then cut them in half and had half each, so sampled two different ones! We didn’t sit in the courtyard, it was far too warm on the day we were there. Yes, do go into the Quay Antiques Centre, it’s well worth a visit. Let’s hope someone else’s details haven’t appeared – I can’t tell as I’ve been unable to see these ‘rogue’ emails.

  9. Your Monday meander sounds delightful. I’d like to have been there too! The cheeseboard lunch looks delicious and I’m sure it tasted good.
    I love the vaseline glassware. Coloured glass (pink pressed and uranium mostly) is my vice and I have to rein myself in since I have nowhere to put it, though I do have quite a number of pieces.
    I DID buy the Brambley Hedge books for my eldest son, though I confess that mice in bonnets did not particularly impress him. Perhaps they were really for me! I love all the tiny detail in the drawings.
    I too like Phil Spencer – I think he has a very gentle way about him and his voice is so smooth.

    The autofill boxes are no longer filled with other people’s details – at least, not on my computer. How strange that was.

    • Margaret Powling

      How coincidental we both like vaseline glass and pink pressed and uranium glass, Eloise/Karen. I have a pale blue pressed glass basket in one of the boxes in my Resources Cupboard but I have few pale blue items, so it remains there until I find a suitable companion for it, or other blue/green items. And pale blue isn’t really an autumnal colour, so it mightn’t get an outing until next spring!
      No, I would imagine that many a mummy has bought Brambly Hedge books and merchandise for their little sons only to have it damned with faint praise from said sons! They’d much rather have Batman or Paw Patrol or something like that!
      How come we all seem unanimous in our liking of Phil Spencer, a middle-aged, balding chap with a bit of a lisp, but oh, he’s got such a friendly personality and never really makes fun or talks down to any of the people on Location, Location, Location and he was such a lovely person to have front the Stately Homes programmes, asking the right questions and being, as indeed we would be, in awe of such great buildings and those who created them.

  10. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    I am completely stumped as to why my responses are showing as Karen. Never happened before and the boxes I fill in clearly say Eloise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *