Devon holiday (part 1)


I joined my parents on this year's Ashram holiday which was in Devon, near Exeter at a place called the Sheldon Centre.

Exeter 1

At Exeter station I met up with my parents. The person who'd kindly volunteered to give us a lift the rest of the way wasn't there yet; her journey down had turned into an epic due to holiday traffic, so we had time to spare. Mum and I walked into Exeter (which isn't particularly near the station) while Dad watched our bags and read a book.

We saw a few points of interest among the usual onslaught of tedious chain stores. For one thing, they've got an ugly brick shopping centre with a tiny old church left in the middle of it. They also have an extremely narrow street (shown later). And we walked back to the station along a road which had been taken over a dip in the land on an iron bridge and railway-style arches with lockup garages.

Lush and Santander reflected in the windows of the Guildhall.
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Underside of the iron road bridge. Ugly flats strewn with evidence of the Jubilee weekend.
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If anyone's reading this from another country this will probably have passed you by: the reason there are flags in some of these pictures is that it was the Queen's Diamond Jubilee four-day weekend. Not a royalist, but I'm all in favour of extra bank holidays.

Exeter 2

On Sunday morning, most of the party went to a Methodist church in Exeter. Dad and I skipped out of that and walked around the city.

Parliament Street. Wonder if anyone's satnav ever directed them down here?
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Blue gate, nice white bricks.
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Probably a youth centre or something. (BUG and MIDAS visible, but there was graffiti all over the yellow building.)
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Gatehouse (part of the old city walls, which survive in places).
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Cathedral side wall.
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We went down to the riverside. Unfortunately we didn't have time to cross to the other bank, which features a canal basin and at least two gasholders.

Weir (gasholders in background).
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Pedestrian overbridge support cables.
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Stencil on building wall.
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Returning to the church, we sat on a convenient wall in their car park to wait for the others. (According to the minister, that's where the drug dealers usually hang out. But probably not on Sunday lunchtime.) Then we had a quick look inside the old church next door, which was interestingly cramped.

View downstairs from the pulpit, which is on a platform above the entrance door.
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Stone stairs (which don't go anywhere).
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Sheldon chapel

There's a small chapel at Sheldon, which is a thatched building and quite nice.

It has this small slanted window with red glass.
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Doddiscombsleigh the most ridiculous placename we came across on the holiday. It's a village not far from the centre. Ian, who's familiar with the area, took us on a walk there and back in the evening.

Church entrance with fancy sphere thing.
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Roof of church porch.
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Village sign.
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Cattle in field on the way back.
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Trinity Marine

The road up to the Sheldon Centre is bizarrely awesome for two reasons. Here's one of them: Trinity Marine. It's a company that buys and sell old marine junk (despite being halfway up a steep hill nowhere near the sea). Most notably, they had literally dozens of small robot submarines - all yellow, of course. These appear to be Eca Robotics 'PAP' ROVs designed for mine clearance. So if you have a problem with underwater mines, you know where to go.

One of the yellow submarines outside the gate.
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Some convenient anchors.
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Another anchor and part of what looks like a ship's funnel.
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On the Monday we went to visit a place called Topsham, a slightly heritagey town halfway to the sea on the River Ex.

White wall. (We went to look, but the glove factory is now a private house.)
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Squiggly wire.
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Slipway to river.
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Rowing boats.
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Rowing boat with saucepan.
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Unrealistically pretty pastel houses, manicured garden.
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Transit van parked by the river. (It was low tide.)
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Fairly old bridge over another river that joins the Ex south of town.
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Sign by chapel. We like that they distinguish between 'religious' and 'Methodist' purposes.
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Caged windows.
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School chairs.
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Evening walk

Ian led us on another evening walk around the local area near the centre.

Tree reflections in the river.
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Which brought us eventually to the second awesome thing about the road up to the Sheldon Centre; there's a preserved railway on it. Well, sort of - it's on the site of a disused railway, but only has about fifty metres of track with a couple of diesel shunters and some wagons, so they're not exactly selling tickets. It appears to be run by a single eccentric. A footpath runs right through it. Pretty great.

Goods carriage and locomotive. (Photo taken from the road above.)
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Walk from Hennock in the rain

On Tuesday Mum and I got a lift to a village called Hennock, the intention being to walk back. It took a disconcertingly long time to drive there - I was worried that I had miscalculated the distance on the map, but this turned out to be because driving isn't actually that fast in a county where their idea of a road is basically everyone else's idea of a footpath.

We had a look around their church and then set off in the rain.

The famous Devon welcome.
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A road and rain.
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There's a large waterfall in a country park, which we had considered visiting. In the end that didn't happen. The waterfall was closed due to the rain. How does that even work?

Closed sign.
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Later we came upon a mysterious chimney all on its own next to a large old-mill looking building. Based on the map, we thought this might be part of an old mine. This turns out to be true; it was a lead mine called Wheal Exmouth and Adams, which closed in 1862. This is actually the smaller chimney (for a winding engine) - there's a larger octagonal one for a pumping engine a bit further from the road, which we managed to entirely fail to notice. It's clearly visible on Street View, but we may have been distracted by wading through a puddle at that point.

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Ancient barn with corrugated iron roof.
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Drenched flags next to ugly garage. That's some heavy duty jubilation right there.
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Jubilee with the wrong flag? Or is it about the football? We'll never know.
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Eventually we arrived at Christow. The village appeared to have had a scarecrow competition, possibly also in the name of the Jubilee. We found a few scarecrows, which looked appropriately creepy (but I didn't like the photos enough to include them here) and then visited their church.

Nice plaque.
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Bell ropes.
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Hard hat and the all-important clock chime disengagement hook.
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While we were in the church, it finally stopped raining. The sun even came out.

Gate with puddle/stream.
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Fence from sunken lane.
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Wood store.
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Top of the road to the Sheldon Centre.
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Continued in part two.

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.