D is for Devon

Devon is a beautiful county positioned perfectly for a family holiday. It has gorgeous coasts, the unique and desolate Dartmoor with its ponies and Prison (just in case the children are particularly awful) and plentiful walks, and many many attractions. From when the children were tiny through to when we decided holidaying further afield worked, we took one or two weeks in Devon as part of our summer’s break.

Not long after we started these sojournes, we found a village called Kingston near Buckfast (famous for its Abbey and their brain rotting tonic and honey to die for, as well as its butterfly farm and steam, and model railway). Kingston really just comprised the Manor House, outbuildings and a few farms. Some of those outbuildings had been converted to holiday cottages and we rented one for our small family.

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At the end of that first week we were told by the owner that he was selling timeshares and were we interested. We mulled it over. We knew we would come back for several years and agreed to buy one week in a four bed cottage for 25 years, the week to commence at the start of the school summer holidays. We reasoned we would probably do ten years and maybe sell it on. In the meantime we could bring friends or family and fill the other rooms.

One year we brought mum and dad. This was the first time I showed my propensity for travel incompetence. Dick Head Tours was born. I was asked about how the term came about and here is a post I wrote explaining it.

It was an idyllic spot. The road to the house and grounds was a steep, a one in three hill. At the top, left or right you could see for miles. The roads were blissfully empty and if you wanted there was an undulating course of about four to four and a half miles through gorgeous fields, across steams and up past the local church.

For those who don’t know Devon, its hedgerows are, if not unique, uniquely impenetrable. They are tall and you cannot see oncoming traffic except (a) if you happen to be higher up and can look down onto the winding tarmac or (b) when the other car is wrapping itself round your bumper.   As a driver you go verrrrrry slowly unless born within the county boundaries when you drive with a faith based on some obscure deity that miraculously keeps you safe. As a runner, taking in the clean country air – that was me back then – you keep your fingers firmly crossed and try and take as many off road opportunities as possible.

This particular day was sunny after overnight rain. The tarmac was steaming in the heat that was lapping over the hedges even at eight in the morning. I could have sung to myself so happy was I.

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A later Devon holiday, with the Vet and friends – it s still the perfect place

After the climb from the cottage the first bit of road, about half a mile, took me past a few houses and a farm entrance. A tractor waited until I had jogged past before pulling out. It would have been a challenge to get past and no runner fancies backtracking even two hundred yards to find a gate. My lucky day? Hmm, you be the judge.

I was now on a footpath, dodging puddles where I could, loving the insect buzz and the isolation. Out once more onto the road, this was the safest section as it curved downhill. I could see what was coming and, as importantly anyone behind me could see me bobbing along like a little moustachioed cork.

As I curved round a long left hander I spotted a figure on horseback up ahead. He was an odd sight, as he appeared to float along on the top of the hedgerow. However in my experience riders hereabouts were cheerful and courteous and I looked forward to sharing a little of my bonhomie with him.

We gradually approached each other, he from a side road and me down the hill. He reached the junction about one hundred yards in front of me. In the field next to us a tractor ploughed back and forth.

The tractor noise, the blood pounding in my ears they all deafened me to the reality heading my way for this was no ordinary rider. This was the whipper in, the member of the hunt responsible for the hounds. I ground to a very rapid halt as, following the rider round the corner came the pack of dogs, tumbling and twisting across, under and on top of each other.

The rider held up his crop. ‘You ok with dogs?’

‘Sure.’

‘Ok. Then pull into the hedge as far as you can and get as high as you can.’

‘Should I go back?’ There was a gate some quarter mile up the road.

‘Not if you don’t want them chasing you. These are still learning.’

So I reached high for a branch and pulled myself up. I was about four feet up the bank when the first dogs reached me. They scrabbled over me and each other. A couple, essayed licks at my face but I managed to dodge them.

As they passed the rider grinned and rode on. He seemed happy.

It was only then I looked down and at the same moment registered that very obvious dog crap smell. It was coming from me. I was smeared from my new Nikes to the collar of my formally white T shirt in canine faeces. I learnt later that hounds cannot stop for a discreet number twos and have to be trained to go as they run. Any object in their way is likely to benefit from such excretions.

The last section home was not so jolly. The kids thought it disgusting. I was with them. The Textiliste? Well what do you expect? Sympathy? No, a cold bucket of water and old rag and soap. I never really enjoyed that run again.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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30 Responses to D is for Devon

  1. lucciagray says:

    Oh dear:( I’ve never been to Devon, I think, if I do, I’ll be careful with the hounds…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. roweeee says:

    Doggie do in Devon…They don’t mention this in “Escape to the Country” which has featured Devon on a few episodes. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry reading about your encounter. It’s one of those terrible events which do make for a strange sort of humour…schadenfreude.
    I’ve been cogitating all day about what I’m doing to write about D for dogs. I think it wil be a complaint from the dogs for not being allowed into my parents’ beach house. It’s cold, wet and miserable but Dad isn’t a dog person and he’s also selling the place so the dogs have been left outside to soak up the water views.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. vanillabean says:

    oi. now that’s mental picture I’m not going to forget anytime soon! a totally different image to the usual “idyllic” images of hunting hounds. thanks for sharng it in such a humorous way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sacha Black says:

    I’ve finished sniggering….! We had a hunt run straight through our garden horses dogs the lot Hacking up the garden and jumping over (smashing down) our garden fence. I lived on a farm at this point

    Next time they came round my mum went out with a shot gun cocked over her arm to make sure they didnt come into the garden!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. rogershipp says:

    Yuk! A very enjoyable— disgusting— read!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Sorry I can’t write much laughing too much!! ..
    we lived in Exmouth for a few years and loved it . We moved there from London due to hubby’s work. After two years he was moved back to London but we could not sell our lovely bungalow. Said bungalow was situated one and a half miles from the nearest village and three from Exmouth! I walked everywhere running with the pram on the outward journey as it was all down hill and struggling back up hill with a pram full of baby and shopping !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anabel Marsh says:

    Hilarious! But I’m with the Textiliste. I could not have offered sympathy either.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Autism Mom says:

    Oh my goodness – that must have smelled truly awful! I have to say, I commend the Textiliste – I am not sure that I could have kept a straight face.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. njmagas says:

    This story started out so happy… and then quickly went down hill. I suppose I should have been tipped off at the “ponies and prisons” comment, but I went walking forward, oblivious anyway. Oh well.

    N J Magas, author

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve been to Devon a few times (and am going again in early July). Thank goodness I’ve not bumped into a pack of dogs…yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. EeeeeeuW! You poor thing… I used to live in Devon, then Dorset, as a child, I know the areas well. Now we live in Somerset, nr Bristol. Will enjoy your blog. Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    There’s actually a job title, “the whipper”? Now that’s got to be fodder for some future fiction! Beautiful seashore, though! Your kids must have loved visiting the way mine loved the Northshore of Lake Superior.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I’m sorry you had that unpleasant experience in my county, those hunting types have a tendency towards arrogance and I have a tendency to turn into a fishwife when I see them in the countryside. As a driver i fall into the second category, there’s nothing I like more than barrelling through a single lane track with high hedges, especially at night 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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