Friday saw the last minute preparations for our couple of nights away in Devon with the Geological group. The kids and I dashed about and had everything, bar dinner, done when Michael got home in time to bring Hazel to ballet. Once Hazel was dropped off he and Kieran dashed back to the house and we packed the car. Kieran was surprisingly helpful-he loves holidays, no matter how short. It is amazing how much stuff you need for two, possibly three nights away. Not knowing what the weather was going to be like you need to take all the outdoor all-weather gear, and the spare set of clothes, plus the ‘just in case’ spare set of clothes. And yes-we did need those!! Everyone needed a minimum of three sets of outdoor shoes, hats, scarves, gloves, the list is endless. How do campers pack all that and all the camping gear? I’d have to be committed to an asylum if I had to organize all that. Did I forget to say I had to pack our hard hats? Oh the joys of modern explorations!
We set off right after ballet-so during the main rush hour we tried to get past Bristol. We ended up getting off the main highway and detouring a bit through Bath and the outskirts of Bristol. Michael will do anything to avoid a traffic jam. For our pleasure though, we were able to go over the Clifton Suspension Bridge at night. Yes-I really like things like that! For those of you that don’t know, it was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a very impressive engineer in my book. If you hadn’t guessed by now-I have a thing for really smart guys. I don’t have the mind of an engineer and have always admired the way they can calculate all those details. I was having dinner once at my SIL’s mothers house and I was talking about how clever I thought the engineers were who designed the local main highway’s enlargement (a main thorough way to NYC)-and it turned out to be her uncle–who was sitting at the table! I knew I liked him. Then of course I felt like a real yutz for having known him for a bit and had no clue what he did. Yes-I’m a social incompetent!
Back to the story: after we crossed the bridge Michael outsmarted the Sat Nav and actually found the IKEA. Goodness only knows where the Sat Nav would have taken us. No-we weren’t shopping-we were there for a quick dinner. We had Swedish meatballs and chips all round. Once we had our cup of tea we were on our way. Actually-we only got as far as the car. Hazel needed to go back to the toilet as soon as we got to the car. Argh! So, after a small delay we were on the road again. The kids were great in the car, and neither fell asleep even though it was just after 10pm when we checked in. I was pleased that they remembered some of the road signs, etc… as we were driving down. They really do pay attention to what we are passing by while we drive. It had been 2 months since we drove through Exmoor to get to Cornwall, and they remembered.
Once we checked in I organized all the clothes and the food for breakfast and snacks for Saturday. Had to make sure all the spare clothes and the spares for the spares were ready. While I played with all that, Michael programmed the Sat Nav for the morning and planned our route. We needed to be in Torquay by 11am.
Saturday dawned-and we all still slept. (For some unknown, but wonderful reason-the kids have been sleeping till after 8am everyday for weeks!) Luckily Michael had set the mobile phone alarm, or we might have been late. We had a quick breakfast in the room and dashed around trying to leave before 9:30am. We always have cereal, fruit, dried fruit and things like rice cakes and peanut butter with us. That way we always have something quick and healthy with us- but of course, if they had American Diners here we’d skip all that!
The first scheduled visit of the day was a trip to Kents Cavern in Torquay, Devon. It’s a cave that was formed over 2 million years ago and has been used by animals and people for shelter for over 500,000 years. The oldest part of a human remain they found there was over 37,000 years old. (Michael will do more detail of the cave make-up on his page, hopefully!) We managed to get there with about 10 minutes to spare. The guide for the tour was very good, and had a decent sense of humour. He was good with Kieran-who kept talking to him the whole time. He even let Kieran take the torch/flash-light and lead the group on his own to the next cave. Kieran listened to his directions and just set off! Michael and I were about 10 people behind Kieran. I was so proud he turned right where he was supposed to! There was a left turn as well-but he chose the correct turn. He was mighty proud of himself.
Both kids did wonderfully-especially as they don’t like anything scary-and we were taken to a very deep part of the cave and all the lights were turned off. I really thought one of them would scream/cry, but neither did. They were a bit wide eyed with some of his tales-but they didn’t take it too literally. Though I think they are convinced there really are pixies in the cave. Hazel seemed to really enjoy the calcite formations. That’s geological talk for stalagmites and stalactites. Especially the one shaped like a wedding cake.
After the tour we had our lunch in the cafe. It took them a long time for our meal-so we left a bit late to get to the next destination, which was Hopes Nose. The leader of the group and his wife waited for us on the roadside, and we all walked down the hillside together. Mike & Ruth are very nice-and seem to enjoy the kids company on the outings. You’re never too sure when people say it’s ok, if they really do want them along-but they did. There was also another girl there of about 13yrs, and by Sunday she and our two were having fun together.
The walk down to the cliff was a bit treacherous for Mike as he broke his ankle last spring, so Michael helped as needed and the kids and I wandered down. While I was going down I pretty much didn’t think about the walk back up. We could see the group down below and it looked like a fairly safe area to be, no major cliff side next to it. Just as the kids and I were getting close, they all started to walk towards us. I thought that it seemed too quick for them to be done, and was thinking I’d missed the main talk. Not to be. They had come across a fence they couldn’t cross so they came back towards us and we all started to walk uphill in the other direction, but alongside a cliff. Have I mentioned how nervous they make me? Especially when the kids just skip and run along as if there isn’t the scariest drop in the world right beside them.
We get to the top of the cliffside, literally, for me to realize they were going to be climbing down it a bit. OK-how not too look too cowardly in front of everyone? I did manage to get down a bit of it-but not where the group was, but not too far from them. Michael insisted I had to come down and see the cliffside-and I’m glad I did, as it was worth it geologically. Then of course my husband wants to give me a heart attack-because he lets the kids climb down to the rocks at the very bottom. I felt sick, and yet extremely proud watching them scrambling about the rocks below. We had a great look around and the weather, though chilly, was very sunny.
The group then headed off to the Torquay Museum which was supposed to have some artifacts set out for us. They didn’t, so we had to settle for walking around on our own. They have a lot there-just wasn’t labelled very well in my opinion. Ruth had fun with the kids-taking them aside and looking at things with them. She was surprised at how interested they were in everything, and how much they knew. She loved their inquisitiveness. I found out a bit later from her husband that she was a retired teacher and that she was really enjoying having the kids around. Then I look over and see she had taken Kieran to a display and was on the ground with him looking through some peep holes at animals.
When we left the museum we all went on our own way. We went near the marina and had a small dinner. The kids had a great dish of pasta, and we, well we were wishing we had the same thing. Oh well-can’t win them all. We found a Sainsbury’s on the way back to the hotel and got some carrots for a snack and some more fruit for the next day. We decided to go home after the walks on Sunday-so we arranged all the bags and clothes for Sunday’s walks on Dartmoor. Did I mention they do these rain or shine?
Sunday dawned, and once again we were very happy the phone has an alarm. We had to be at Cox Tor by 9:30am-which was almost a 45 minute drive. For those of you who don’t know what a tor is-you can click on this link. Basically-it’s a rocky outcrop generally, but not always, on the top of a hillside. Everything of geological interest in the UK seems to be at the top of a hill or at the bottom of a cliff. I prefer the hills.
We managed to get to the parking lot on time. It was a cold and wet morning-everyone was wearing extra layers. The weather report did say it wasn’t supposed to rain-but Dartmoor pays no mind to the weathermen. I was a bit upset we didn’t have waterproof trousers, but as it was a misty rain we didn’t fare too badly. On the walk up it was a bit foggy. I only know what the hill looks like from the internet links- we couldn’t see too far ahead. Hazel buddied up with Ruth for the walk up the hill. I kept hearing things like: ‘My mommy says…’, ‘My mommy does..’ and ‘My mommy told me…’. It’s moments like that that you hope you haven’t said anything too idiotic or too controversial. Like the time my son told my mom there is no such thing as a god. Anyway-the walk up was actually fun. There was another group in the parking lot setting off for a walk, and quite a few families with young children were out enjoying the rain with us. In England they really don’t let the weather stop them from getting out an about-something I’m learning to adapt to; now that I know that waiting for a sunny day can be a bit futile!
The kids and Amy climbed about a bit and had fun chatting. On the walk down we had glimmers of sunshine, so we hoped the afternoon walk would fare better. Kieran had a tumble coming down-he was running and his naughty shoes made him fall. He must have handled it brilliantly, as I didn’t hear him cry out at all.
We then stopped off at a small ex-quarry in Two Bridges . It was an interesting site, and had no hills or cliff sides that needed to be manoeuvred. Kieran was running down the centre gravelly area a couple of times-like in the photo. Luckily enough he fell when I wasn’t taking the photo of him running downhill. He wasn’t as brave this time-probably because everyone was watching.
My teacher had mentioned a pub for lunch and a few of us thought it sounded good-so we all took off to where he said it was. I was hoping they’d have a fire! We went about a mile and Michael decided as their car wasn’t to be seen-we must be going in the wrong direction-like the two cars behind us. We all pulled over and decided to carry on as we were on the right road to the next tor. We had a pleasant lunch with Amy and her parents and another member of my class. It is always nice to meet people who will engage the kids in a conversation. Poor Kieran very excitedly ordered the chilli con carne. He was really disappointed with it. My children know good food-and that chilli wasn’t it. It was very bland and must have come with boil in the bag rice-tasteless! We ended up giving him some of ours, so he was full when we left-but he won’t go back.
Hay Tor was our next and final stop of the day. The sun had come out during lunch time, so we had only the cold breeze to contend with while we had sunshine on our walk up to the tor. Along the way Amy (a real outdoorsy child!) was telling me she liked this tor best as it has ‘built-in’ steps and that even I could climb to the top as well. Silly child! I did let Hazel and Kieran go most of the way up with her. Then I did get a bit panicky and sent Michael to follow them.
It’s a beautiful tor, and I was glad the sun was shining so we could see it and the views. Once again-the tor was teeming with people out for a Sunday ramble. Our discussion was good-informative and quick so we could get out of the rain. Kieran managed to go down the hillside without falling-yeah! There was an information centre with toilets just down a bit from our parking lot. We saw almost everyone from the outing there. We all had a quick change into some dry clothes and sweaters for the drive home. We didn’t hit any Sunday traffic, so made it home just after 7pm. A quick, but fun weekend.