When we were telling our families about our proposed anniversary trip, poor Carl kept getting confused as to whether we would be in Devon or Dorset. How he smiled when we reached the Inn at which we were to stay; there was a turning off of a little windy country road. On one side of the turning was a sign saying 'Dorset' and the other side was 'Devon'. I am not quite sure where the road that led to the Inn was, as it was right in the middle! The Inn was another mile or so down this even smaller, twistier country road. I had the most wonderful feeling of being nestled in the depth of the countryside.
The Inn itself was just what we were hoping for. There were a few annexed rooms in which you can stay, which formed a courtyard at the back of the Inn. The courtyard was filled with flowers in pots and hanging baskets. Because we had a much longer trip down than we had imagined, thanks to some awful traffic, and because we had got rained on when we stretched our legs in Axminster, we decided to eat our dinner at the Inn, and I am so glad we did. I had home made steak and kidney pie, and we shared a chocolate orange gateau slice for dessert, which again was home made. A Tia Maria coffee was just the thing to finish with, and I went to bed feeling very warm and at home.
Our Sunday appointment at River Cottage HQ was not until the afternoon, so after a homegrown home cooked breakfast (the sausage, bacon and egg came from the farm next door) we headed off to Bridport. We soon discovered that the reason it is only 40p to park there on a Sunday is that everything is closed! I found a marvellous shop called Girls World that I really wished was open. The window was full of crocheted blankets, flowery flasks and other such wonderful vintage lovelies! I loved how as you walk up the high street, you can see rolling hills and country side; the town really felt like a little island amongst the fields. We had a cup of coffee and then set out for River Cottage HQ.
Although we left plenty of time to get there, we nearly did not make it at all. You see it is very secluded, and my directions from google maps were not all they might have been. (I was flummoxed by being told to leave in a South Westerley direction, when the choice I had was left or right!) We finally asked for directions at a petrol station, who kindly said that people often got lost, and pointed us in the right direction. When we turned onto the road it was on, we realised that although we had been driving for 40 minutes, it was only 10 minutes away from the Inn! The thing is, it is not a big tourist attraction, and apart from when there is an event it is just a working farm, so there were no big signs. All of a sudden, I spotted 'Park Farm' on a gate, and we were there!
We parked the car and went to join a group of other people in the field, and admired the view. The farm is down in a valley, and there were rolling hills, and a clump of forest, and just breathtaking beauties all around. Because it was such a steep descent to the farm, we were collected in a converted trailer attached to a tractor, and taken down that way!
It was so amazing to actually be there, and although we only had a few hours there, I felt like we were really immersed in what they are doing there. We caught the end of a jam making demonstration, and got to sample runner bean chutney and strawberry jam, both very delicious. I bought a copy of the Preserving Handbook that has just been published by River Cottage, and now have lots of plans for blackberry brandy, apple and lemon curd and rows of shining jam jars. I had some local cider, and Carl had elderflower bubbly while we waited for some lunch from the Barbecue, and then we had an ice cream each. I really wish I had not had the vanilla; whilst it was scrumptious, it could not compete with the Somerset Cider Brandy and Raisin that Carl had! There was a self guided circular walk that took you around the farm, past the orchard, chickens, goats, pigs, a cow, and polytunnels. Unfortunately part of the path that made it a circular walk was closed because of all the rain, but we still got to see lots and lots. When we came back to the cottage area, we saw a bit of salami making demonstration, and then went to explore the cottage garden, and I must confess to shamelessly peeking through the cottage windows!
After that, we had a cup of tea while we watched a demonstration of how to prepare fish. We were lucky enough to be given some crab and some lobster to try, and then before we knew it, it was time to catch the tractor back to the car park!
We decided to eat out that evening, but found this more of a challenge than we thought. Everywhere was closed in Axminster, so we drove over to Honiton, where it was exactly the same story! By that time, I was just too hungry to wait until we got back to the Inn, so we pulled over into a Little Chef for tea!
By Monday morning, it felt like we had been in Dorset for weeks, and I was really sad that it was our last day. I am happy to say that lovely Carl has promised me that we can go back! We went into Axminster in the morning, and I fell even more in love with the little town. There was a barbers with a sign in the window saying that they also sold farm eggs, and a chemist where the windows displayed only pink toiletries. There was a craft shop which had shelves floor to ceiling, and was a delightful jumble of wool, fabric, and odds and ends. There was a little library, and so few chain stores it was wonderful. My favourite shop was the River Cottage Farm Shop and Canteen. Now there is somewhere I could happily shop every day, and I really wish that we had taken a cool bag, as the cheese and meat counters looked amazing. We chose some things to take home for us (beer, cider, spiced apple cake) and for our families (honey biscuits) and after dropping them back in the car, returned for elevensies.
We had tea and scones in the garden at the back of the canteen, and I enjoyed it so much. The pot held three cups of tea each, the scones were big and light, and there was cream and jam too. The garden was so pretty, and I ended up taking pictures of the fruit-and-vegetable shaped bunting!
After this, we drove to Lyme Regis, where I got to walk on the Cobb, which was something I had wanted to do for a long time. The weather was blustery and showery, but the crashing waves and wisps of mist on the sea made it so beautiful that I really didn't mind. We discovered a little second hand book shop, and had fish and chips and tea for lunch before setting off for home.
Happily the journey back was much shorter than the journey down, and we spotted a three wheeled bubble car on the motorway! Of course, the first thing we did when we got home was to put on a kettle for tea, and as this was the actual day of our Wedding Anniversary, we opened our cards, and felt very blessed indeed to have so many thoughtful friends and family.