Discovering a corner of Devon

There is a reason why everyone raves about Devonshire Cream. When you eat it, you feel like you have a direct connection to lush green grass and sunshine. Even though it was the end of October, the fields of Devon were welcoming and the cream was plentiful.

Visiting Tim’s cousin Pip and her husband Steven gave us a chance to explore a bit of the Devon countryside. There is a huge organic farm, Riverford, right near their house, with open fields that we could see from the back windows. Riverford runs a kitchen, restaurant, stores and box deliveries of organic produce.

The fields of Riverford farms in Devon

After our Looe cottage with no views, it was wonderful to see land in every direction. And after our focus on the fruits of the sea, it was good to come back to such wonderful fresh produce.

Pip and Steven live quite close to Totnes. “Did you inhale?” is the common question you get asked after you tell people you’ve been to Totnes. A town of only 7,600, it has a reputation as being a centre for the arts, healing therapies and alternative lifestyle choices. It’s an old market village, filled with “new age” stores, high end fashion, health food and book stores all set in the twisty streets under the shadow of a Norman castle.

Totnes High Street

Our mission, however, was only to find all of the ingredients to make Tim’s wonderful Thai fish stew. Tim’s Thai Fish Stew is our “default” meal – it is quick to make, comforting and delicious. In Totnes, the hardest ingredient to find on main street was the Nam Pla (fish sauce), but once we located a bottle of that, the rest was easy. The meal warmed up a chilly fall evening.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny and we were ready to head out for a walk and adventure. We started in the town of Ashburton, a lovely village of about 3,500. Formerly a “Stannery” town (the administration of tin mining), it has great produce stores, interesting crafts and a very welcoming atmosphere. Ashburton is on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, and we had hoped that there would be a good walk to near-by Buckfastleigh. But the only paths were along the highway, so Pip drove us instead to Dartmoor for a brief walk.

Dartmoor, with shadows from the clouds skittering across the land

This moor-ish adventure was quite different from our experience in Bodmin. The sunshine helped a lot, but there is defnitely a bit more colour in the surroundings. There was almost a lushness to the landscape. That is, if something can be lush and desolate at the same time.

Dartmoor is enormous. Vast. Once you are in the park, there is moor in every direction. But really, there is not a lot of variety in a moor. A little bit goes a long way.

Tim & Pip on a Tor

So after a great walk with Pip and Alfie the dog, we were fine to move on.

Pip dropped us in Buckfastleigh, a tiny town of about 3,600 that used to be a wool-producing centre. Now, however, the main attraction of Buckfastleigh (other than that the name uses half of the letters of the alphabet, and each only once) is the South Devon Steam Railway.

This lovely steam train runs from Buckfastleigh through Staverton to Totnes and having just seen the “Railway Children” in London, we wanted a chance to experience this adventure first hand.

Tim, in the train, waiting to leave the Buckfastleigh Station

The train hugs close to the river Dart on a former Great Western Railway branch line through the Devon countryside.

Chugging beside the River Dart

Filled with train enthusiasts and excited children, we chugged along, steam pouring from the engine’s chimney and the train literally making a “Choo-choo” sound. I stuck my head out the window to watch the sunshine on the steam, the image from so many classic movies.

South Devon Steam Train

And yes, I got a bit of soot in my eye just as they say you will if you stick your head out of the window to watch the train. But it was worth it for the chance to step back in time.

Author: Amanda West Lewis

AMANDA WEST LEWIS has built a life filled with words on the page and on the stage, combining careers as a writer, theatre director and calligrapher. Her new book, The Pact, (Red Deer Press) was released in the fall of 2016. It has been listed on the 2017 USBBY OUTSTANDING INTERNATIONAL BOOKS LIST; selected for the 2017 ILA YOUNG ADULTS’ READERS CHOICES LIST; Nominated for 2017 SNOW WILLOW AWARD; and listed in the CANADIAN CHILDREN’S BOOK CENTRE BEST BOOKS FOR KIDS & TEENS, Spring 2017. SEPTEMBER 17: A NOVEL was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Red Cedar Award, and the Violet Downie IODE Award. Amanda has an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In her theatre career, Amanda is the founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre, where she teaches and directs children. She has developed specialized drama and literacy programs for youth at risk, and for children with autism spectrum disorder. She has a Certificate in Theatre for Young Audiences with Complex Difficulties from Rose Bruford College, England. In 2015, Amanda co-produced the hit play “Up to Low” is based on the book by Brian Doyle. As a professional calligrapher and book artist, Amanda is passionate about the history of writing and has taught calligraphy courses to students of all ages. She studied with Hermann Zapf, Mark Van Stone and Nancy Culmone among many others. Amanda lives with her husband, writer Tim Wynne-Jones, in the woods in Eastern Ontario. They have three wonderful grown children. Find out more on her website at http://www.amandawestlewis.com/

2 thoughts on “Discovering a corner of Devon”

  1. Thanks for sharing the Thai Fish Stew recipe, Amanda. It’s cold and wet in Ottawa today–the perfect weather to try this out…?

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