White Cliffs of Dover, a country wedding and an eccentric village

I can’t deny that I felt a little thrill come over me when the white cliffs of Dover came into view as we sedately chugged across the narrow channel on the car ferry between Calais in France and that iconic part of England.

The iconic white cliffs of Dover

It was the first time that we’d arrived in Britain as tourists. Sure, we had flown in from Australia scores of time to visit family and friends but this time was different as we had planned to tour round parts of the country we had never seen before.

Heading off the ferry into Dover

Of course we were going to spend time with our loved ones and attend a family wedding, meet new babies and have reunions with friends but there were also going to be some tourist adventures that we were also really looking forward to.

The narrow lanes of darkest Devon

Our first foray into unknown parts was to darkest Devon for the wedding of my nephew to his lovely partner. It was held at a beautiful grade II listed farmhouse in a secluded valley, set in over 90 acres of farmland.

Westcott Barton farm house
The glorious grounds at Westcott Barton

The whole wedding was fantastic from the birdsong-accompanied ceremony in a small quarry to drinks in marvellous sunshine in the gorgeous garden and and a fabulous meal and party in the converted barn.

The bride and groom arrive at their celebrations
The orangery and garden at Westcott Barton

After a great weekend at the wedding venue in Middle Marwood we traversed the super-narrow high hedged lanes (seriously narrow – our camper only just squeezed through and at one point we lost part of the rear mudguard on a tree root) and made our way to the nearby surfing beach of Woolacombe.

Many of the lanes in Devon were only just wide enough to allow our campervan to travel along them!

This glorious North Devon beach was awarded the accolade of Britain’s Best Beach in 2015 by TripAdvisor, while also ranking in their polls as fourth in Europe and the thirteenth best in the world!

Buckets and spades are a must-have at the beach
Gorgeous Woolacombe Beach
We started our walk way off in the distance

We had a wonderful walk along the beach which is three miles (4.8 km) long, enjoying the beautiful, almost empty, stretch of sand and the small waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Voted one of the world’s best beaches’

That night we used our newly acquired book “Brit Stops” – a piece of travellers’ gold. This volume contains details of hundreds of pubs and other businesses that are willing to have caravans and motor homes park in their car parks overnight – mostly for free.

The Loder’s Arms where we stayed the night

Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch – the pay off for the pubs, farm shops or whatever, was that you bought some drinks or had a meal.

Given that we all have to eat anyway, the whole concept worked excellently for us, especially because in Britain there are no Aires like the ones in France, no free camping on the side of the road as in Scandinavia and very few 24 hour parking as found throughout Europe.

Loder’s was a delightful village
A very cute Robin redbreast

Our first Brit Stops night was in an eccentric and delightful Dorset village (population 500) called Loder.

A babbling brook in Loders
This cottage was almost hidden by an incredible display of Wisteria
There were many pretty cottages in Loders

As we were driving through the start of the village we noticed a couple of strangely dressed scarecrows outside the typical Dorset country cottages.

We wondered what this guy was up to. Turns out it was a scarecrow!

It wasn’t until we got into the local pub the Loder’s Arms, that we found out that the scarecrows were part of their annual village scarecrow competition!

No, not an old codger taking a break it was another scarecrow
One of the Leonardo da Vinci entries in the scarecrow competition

Held every year since 2011, this quirky (and typically English) competition has been held in the village with everyone from the pub to the vicar, the school and a large number of the households taking part.

There were scarecrows everywhere!

Each year there there is a theme – on this occasion it was Jack of All Trades. There were many extremely inventive entries including “Bob the burglar” A Zookeeper/Big Game Hunter, two Leonardo Da Vincis, “Do it all Dan” “Jack Bungle” (previously a Carpenter, painter and now plumber), the local Methodist Church Minister, and many more.

Mt Bean the gardener!
There were some very inventive entries

….including a Methodist Minister
Several handymen!

The village itself was very pretty and it was easy to see why it had won several “best Dorset village competitions over the years.

A prize winning village!
“Jackie” of all trades
Bob the burglar!

It was a great couple of days what with walking the scarecrow trail, visiting the local church, parts of which dated from the 12th century and with some enchanting stone carvings, and a lovely dinner at the Loders Arms.

The local Church in Loders
Parts of the. Chutch were very ancient

These carvings were very old

All too soon it was time to move on once again and we set off to brave the narrow Dorset lanes in our what felt like our far -too-large van.

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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