Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The saga continued...

So our first (and only) full day began on the farm. We got up early to help our host feed the animals - lambs, pig, ducks, rabbits and birds. We spent most time with the rabbits which were couped up in a smelly shed and just kept as pets, can’t say we were really learning much about smallholding life. And something about being instructed to fill up the bird feeder made me feel annoyed. A duck egg and bacon breakfast was definitely the best bit about our stay. For much of the morning we were away from the house which made it almost pleasant – we took the dog for a walk and then got taken to a local farm auction. We enjoyed going round looking at all the lots and listening to the strong Devon farmer accents. The homemade “Hedgecutting” warning signs went for £20! (Had my eye on them, gutted.) In the afternoon after a sausage roll and salad lunch back in the house of gloom, our thoughts turned to escaping! Our host gave us the perfect opportunity as she left us alone mucking out the lamb’s barn as she went to collect some straw. But we chickened out. And besides, both our postal votes were on their way to this address… Some more digging in the afternoon took us up to 5 o’clock when we were once again free to do as we pleased. After a quick shower (the toothbrush on the side of the bath covered in hair was my favourite touch), we escaped the house for a few hours.

We were given Wednesday off to do as we pleased once we had helped feed the animals in the morning. But something about repeating the same routine as yesterday, and the thought of having one more whole day of work (and meals in the house) to go secured in our minds our need to leave. There were several issues though: 1. How would we leave? We could do a runner and leave a note explaining why (the idea of telling our host that the state of her house was unsatisfactory did not appeal) or we could explain that the lack of organic principles meant we could stay no longer (which was partly true); 2. If we were going to leave we needed to do so before we had a day off (i.e. that morning) so that we did not owe her anything. We would already be leaving our host in the lurch, and we did not want to cause more upset than was necessary. However our postal votes were in the post to this address and we didn’t know when they’d arrive…we were willing to give up our democratic right to vote in return for not living in mould-ville but were less happy about leaving post with our home addresses in the hands of someone who might be a bit upset with us. So, we packed up our bags so that we could make a quick exit and planned to leave once our host took the dog for the morning walk. We even wrote a letter in preparation. All depending on the postal delivery of course. We waited, nervously in the garden, our favoured spot. The postman delivered! Both our postal votes arrived, so our plan could go ahead. We waited for our host to leave, but she remained in the house. Then she came out to say she needed to go into our bedroom to get something and before we could say “I’ll get it for you” she was off. Eek! She’d see our packed bags lined up by the door ready for their departure. Perhaps she’d just think we were exceptionally tidy? We waited further, sitting outside on a bench pretending to read in not exactly glorious sunshine until we had no choice but to tell her the truth. Well Matt did, I just kind of froze. We didn’t give her much time to react, just headed upstairs, got our bags, put them in the car and drove. It felt amazing, we really had escaped!

Looking back on this place, I can’t seem to describe what it was that made it so bad that we simply couldn’t stay beyond 48 hours. Yes the house was in a dreadful condition, there was mould on the kitchen walls, the table was piled high with stuff creating a barrier between our host and us, the farm buildings were in a dilapidated state, the smell of stale cigarette smoke seeped into every item of fabric, a crazy dog tried to bite your ankles every time you left the living room. But I think more than that was the depressing feel of someone who was living a life they didn’t enjoy. And that negativity really did infiltrate every part of that farm, making it a very unwelcoming place to be. (Laura)

After the escape: we drove to Bideford to take stock and get supplies for potentially 5 days of unplanned camping. But after the last few days it was a huge relief to be looking forward to being able to enjoy ourselves without huge amounts of negativity following us round. Luckily the weather was still lovely so we headed to the North Devon Coast near Hartland and found a campsite, set up camp and went for a walk past Hartland abbey to Hartland Point and back along the Coastal Path. We gathered wood supplies as we walked for the Kelly Kettle as we knew rain was forecast for later in the week. Then back to the campsite for some edible food, which made a very nice change!

The rest of the week went quickly. Thursday morning we woke up to thick sea mist, so we packed up and left, not quite sure where we were headed for. We decided to drive to Launceston for a pasty and a free cream tea while we worked out what we were going to do – whether to stay in the South West or drive 200+ miles to Oxfordshire. The weather was still looking a bit dodgy but we decided to stay in the South West and use these few days for a bit of exploring. We drove to Polzeath, walked in the drizzle round to Pentire Head then set up camp overlooking the beach. And in the evening the rain cleared to treat us to a beautiful sunset.

Friday we drove on down to Gwinear (to look for traces of my (Matt) family history) and on to St Ives for another Pasty lunch. Then we suddenly thought: we may well be going to John O’Groats sometime over the summer, so as we’re so close we should probably go to Land’s End! We parked at Senner Cove and walked round the headland enjoying the view out to sea and the odd squally shower. After that we drove to Mylor Bridge near Falmouth to stay for a couple of nights with Avril and Martin, my aunt and uncle. It was a relief to be in a normal, clean house once again, eating delicious food and drinking champagne cocktails.

On Saturday we explored Falmouth, ate Fal Falafels for lunch which if you’re ever in the area I can heartily recommend. It may be a big decision not to eat a pasty when you’re in cornwall, but these falafels were even better than the ones from Bristol’s Falafel King – high praise indeed! In the evening we ate delicious Sea Bass, celebrated Kip’s birthday and continued to generally enjoy civilization again – Thank you Avril and Martin!

Sunday was spent mostly driving over Dartmoor and on to Honiton, not a great day weatherwise. Ended up camping at a random holiday park near Honiton called Forest Glade – surprisingly nice despite hitting 4 degrees over night, Brrrr!

Monday morning we arrived at our next WWOOF host with trepidation… The Old Kennels near Honiton had come to our rescue at short notice, but what would they be like?? But no need to worry this time – lovely host with a very helpful (maybe!) 3 year old son, a nice annexe all to ourselves. Phew! Spent the day helping in the vegetable patch (watched by the alpacas), we built steps and washed the greenhouse then chilled out. And today we had another great day, followed by a HUGE lunch, I had to go and lie down afterwards!! Great to be back with a nice host, and to have our faith in WWOOFing restored – 2 out of 3 hosts have been great, and I’m sure the odds will improve further! (Matt)


  1. Aw, a good outcome after all. I am extremely jealous of your new host with the alpacas - find out for me whether they're easy to raise, I could have a herd & spin my own wool!

    See you on Friday :) xx

  2. Wow. Sounds like an interesting few days!! You guys are brilliant at story telling. I've been very busy this month preparing students for exams but am now hooked on reading about the past month I missed.