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.