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south devon

Meandering through South Devon

I am about to leave beloved England and was delighted that my wonderful friend, Gillian, offered to take me out meandering through South Devon for a few hours this morning…

We did not have a destination other than seafood for lunch!  So, the following photos are from our lovely little journey…

…and this was our fabulous curl-up spot for a delicious lunch!

The Lighter Inn in Topsham.  Here is a blurb from their website that gives you a little of its history:

“The Lighter Inn takes its name from the Lighter, a flat bottomed boat used at Topsham to unload larger ships that had to anchor in the middle of the channel. Until 1958, the quay by the Lighter Inn was still served by a railway siding, and the area not so developed for tourism.

A former landlady of the pub was mentioned in a police report as early as February 1832, as is displayed on our wall, “Mrs Perriam, of the Lighter public house, Topsham, was fined 1s for allowing tippling in her house, from which arose the row we stated in our last.””

This photo (below) is of the ceiling!

…and of course, every pub needs a cow.

Thank you, Gillian, for a most glorious day!

Agatha Christie and Dartmoor Ponies

What do Agatha Christie and Dartmoor Ponies have in common?

Well, normally I would imagine the mystery writer and Dartmoor ponies would have very little in common, but yesterday they both featured in a family reunion of sorts…

As you may have read, I have been tracing my ancestry and some of my distant cousins decided ever so thoughtfully to get together and take me out touring for the day while I was still in Devon.  I felt so blessed and had a wonderful day!

After being collected in Torquay, our first stop was Agatha Christie’s house, “Greenway” on the River Dart.

(…and if you look carefully at the photos of my steam train and river cruise day, you will see a photo of the house taken from the river)

According to Wikipedia, the house was first mentioned in 1493 as “Greynway”, the crossing point of the Dart to Dittisham.

Below, my lovely extended family…


The painting below is of four-year-old Agatha…

This, below, was my favourite room…  The lovely library – and note the paintings around the top of the walls…

During the Second World War Greenway was requisitioned by the US Coastguard and one of the men stationed here, Lt Marshall Lee, painted a beautiful mural.

You can read more about the mural here:  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway/features/greenway-library-frieze

My studious crew…

Some very straaaaange walking sticks…

We made a new friend while enjoying a cup of tea…

Then off exploring…

…and off exploring through several towns, including one of my favourites – Tavistock.


This below is a statue of Francis, 7th Duke of Bedford in front of the Magistrate’s Court, Tavistock.


Dartmoor Ponies…

…and delight upon delight…  We stopped for an ice-cream in the middle of a herd of wild Dartmoor Ponies!

When Agatha Christie and her husband bought Greenway in the 1930s, the population was over 25,000 – but alas, according to several sources, only around 800 ponies were known to be grazing the moor by 2004.  Thankfully, they have since been granted ‘Rare Breed Status’ and efforts are in place to ensure the continuation of this lovely creature that is native to Britain.

You can learn more about these beautiful animals here:  http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/learningabout/lab-printableresources/lab-factsheetshome/lab-dartmoorponies

…then back to my cousin’s lovely home to chill before heading out again for dinner…

…to the delightful Artichoke Inn.  The Inn dates back to 1165 when it was used as a recruitment outpost for the crusades.

…a perfectly glorious way to end a perfectly glorious day!


steam train travel Devon

Steam Train Travel Through Devon

Glorious Steam Train Travel!

Being a lover of the Victorian era, it is not surprising that I adore steam trains…

Yesterday, I went via regular train from Torquay to the next stop being Paignton where I boarded the Dartmouth Railroad’s “Braveheart” steam train, bound for Kingswear, then across by ferry to Dartmouth.  Lunch beside the river then a cruise along the River Dart before returning via steam train back to Paignton.

As soon as I get a chance, I will add commentary to the following, but here are the photos of my amazingly wonderful day…  If you get the chance, you absolutely must do this journey!





…and here is a photo taken a day later from the Imperial Hotel in Torquay, looking across the bay and seeing the lovely plume from steam train making its way along the coast…

John and ann parnell

Visiting My Great-Grandfather’s Great-Grandfather!

What an extraordinary day!

Parnell FamilyAs you may know, I have been tracing my ancestry and one of the reasons I came to stay in Devon for a couple of months is to investigate and actually (hopefully) find the grave of a particular ancestor and the church in which the family worshipped.

The photo on the left, taken in around 1925, is of my great-grandmother (who largely raised me), her husband and their daughter.

This particular quest was following my Pop’s line (the man in the photo – my great-grandfather who died four years before I was born) – the Parnell family, who hail from Devon; in particular, a small village just a few miles north of Exeter called Brampford Speke.

While still living in America, I was blessed to find online a genealogist, Graham Parnell, with the same last name from the same area as my ancestors (although we have yet to find how we are related) and finally the day came when we would meet and he and his lovely wife Jan had offered to take me to see the area and to (fingers crossed) find the grave of my great-grandfather’s great-grandfather!

Parnell Family Quest Adventure…

Beginning at the beautiful Victorian Torquay Railway Station, I boarded a train for Exeter St David’s.

Opened in 1859 and rebuilt in 1878, the station is a lovely piece of Victorian heritage.

As we travelled along the coast, it was amazing to see the sea SO close to the train as we went through Dawlish.  Just yesterday, the waves were so fierce, they were breaking over the top of the carraiges and actually broke the window on a train!

You can actually read more and watch a video of the trains being hit by the waves here.

Mother Nature is quite magnificent!

Well, finally reached my destination, Graham and Jan found me and we set off on our adventure.

Parnell Family Church

First stop, the beautiful St Peter’s Church of England in Brampford Speke.  This is the very place John and Ann Parnell – my great-grandfather’s great-grandparents – not only worshipped but were buried.

First recorded in the early 1100s, when Walter de Treminet gave it to the monks of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter, the church was largely rebuilt in the 1400s and then again in the mid-1800s when unfortunately most of the building – apart from the tower – was demolished.

My extended Parnell Family - Graham and Jan

My extended Parnell Family (even though we have yet to find the actual link) – Graham and Jan Parnell.  We have only just met, but I love them dearly.

I was curious about the term ‘speke’ and discovered that from the time of around King Henry II, 1154-1189, the manor of Brampford Speke belonged to the family of Especk, from which the family name Speke later derived.

The population of the village is only around 300 but the church is still a lovely centre of the community.

It’s times like these I wish I had paid more attention in Latin class!  I did some digging, and according to my rough translation, it reads, “Be Faithful To The Dead And I Crown You Life” (although if anyone reading this has a better grasp of Latin, please feel free to comment with a correction!)

In the (rather blurry – sorry!) photo below, you will note that it is a “free” pew.  From the beginning of the 1800s to the 1960s, many churches ‘rented’ pews as a way to increase revenue to cover the rising costs of maintaining the buildings.

If you want to know more, there is an excellent article on the renting of pews here.

I love this church – it is simple yet elegant, unassuming and beautiful.

Then we proceeded outside in an attempt to find our target – John Parnell.

Although you cannot see over the wall, the church is built on the red sandstone cliff overlooking the River Exe, after which Exeter was named.

Parnell Family Ancestor – FOUND!

Although largely overgrown, this is the resting place of John and Ann Parnell – my great-grandfather’s great-grandparents!

Graham and Jan have said they will come back, clean up the grave and take some photos for me (so will post them at that time).

I cannot begin to express just how lovely it was to find them!  I will be writing a whole post on them at some other time – and several of their children and grandchildren (my 2x and 3x great-grandparents) will be featured in a future edition of Bridgit’s stories!

I could have stayed here all day – I love this place!

Then it was on to see where many of Jan’s family were buried – and along the way, so many beautiful buildings – I mean, just check out the roof in this one below!

…but first, a spot of lunch!

‘The Ring of Bells’ pub dates back to around the 1400s and was such a treat.  We had a delicious plowman’s lunch, equally delicious glass of wine (ok, two)…

Located in a lovely village called Cheriton Fitzpaine, this Grade II listed pub has been serving the local community literally for centuries.

This long building below used to be the pub’s skittle alley…

…and just around the edge of the building is the church!

…but before we get to the church, check out the old school next door – in particular, the pigs on the roof!  Seriously!

Parnell Family Church

…and from there it was off to St Mary’s Church in Upton Helions where John and Ann were married in 1805.

On the side of a steep hill looking over the River Creedy, Upton Helions is a small village with less than 150 people.

Now, while this may seem a narrow Norman door, it is not until you have something – or in this case some one with which to compare it, do you get a sense of just how small it is!

15th century lion carving at the end of the pews…

This was very interesting…  Carved from alabaster and though to commemorate Richard Reynell of Creedy Wiger (d. 1631) and his wife Mary. Typical of the Jacobean era, they face each other across a prayer desk.

I traced this organ down – it is a thirteen stop foot pump organ, purchased from Chicago Cottage Organs’ distributor in London.  As best I can tell, it dates from the end of the 1800s.  Here is a rare find where you can even view one of their entire catalogues from 1890.

What’s that saying about “measure twice and cut once?”  Obviously someone had a challenge somewhere when the church was being restored…

…and on our way back to Graham and Jan’s home, we crossed the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – yes, the song.  Bickleigh Bridge in Tiverton, Devon is ‘the’ bridge.

…and then………  I made a new friend!  Isn’t she BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!  This is just one of Graham’s much loved automobiles.

…and then a lovely ride back home on the train to Torquay.

Valentine’s Day 2017 will always hold a special place in my heart, for this was the day I met my ancestors and my Parnell Family history really came to life.

~ Bella

torquay pavillion

Sleeping Beauty – Torquay Pavilion

The Forgotten Torquay Pavilion

Sleeping peacefully on the shore in Torquay, Devon in the United Kingdom is a once magnificent building – the Torquay Pavilion.

torquay pavilion

Although it has been closed since 2015, this Sleeping Beauty has thus far had a very checkered life, first as a theatre, then an ice-skating rink, amusement park and shopping arcade…

torquay pavilion

Built in 1912, originally the lounges and cafe were all lined in oak and it was home to performances from many notables, including Sir Lawrence Olivier.

torquay pavilion

Saved from demolition in 1973 and now a Grade II listed building, it sleeps peacefully with its statues of Mercury reaching to the sky, awaiting someone with the passion, money and foresight to awake her from her slumber.

torquay pavilion

torquay pavilion

langtry manor

Langtry Manor

Staying in the Prince of Wales’ own suite!

Have you heard of Lillie Langtry?  Perhaps if I said she was in a relationship with the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VII and who built Langtry Manor for her – or perhaps if I told you she was the face of Pears Soap?  But she was soooo much more.

I am such a fan of both King Edward VII and Lillie Langtry and when moving from St Leonards-On-Sea to Torquay in early January, I decided to treat myself and not only stay in Langtry Manor (that the Prince had made for the two of them as their private retreat) but also to say in the Prince of Wales’ own private suite!  Seriously!


langtry manor

Upon arrival, the manor is very quaint…

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

Upon arrival, I was ushered to the lounge for a complimentary tea/coffee while my luggage was taken from my rental car and deposited in my suite…

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

…and then down the hallway, and up the stairs to my suite…

langtry manor

Upon walking in the door of my suite, I started to giggle…  It was soooooo lovely and I felt so very blessed…

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor King Edward VII

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

This photo does not do justice to how incredible delicious this was – such a finely balanced delight of taste and texture…

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

The King (Prince of Wales) had a private peep-hole where he could see who was in the dining room and decided whether he would enter based on the occupants!

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

…breakfast in bed, of course!

langtry manor

langtry manor

langtry manor

Simply stunning!

If ever I am in Bournemouth again, I would be honoured to stay at Langtry Manor.



hastings castle

Historic Hastings Castle

A visit to Hastings Castle is not only interesting from an historical stand-point, it is also a tribute to the people who essentially uncovered it from being largely buried for centuries. While there is not a lot left of the Castle itself, what is there, and the video that has been put together, are definitely a must-see.

Will add more info later – here at least are the photos…
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cliff railways

Victorian Era Cliff Railways

I love funicular railways and have even been on the world’s steepest in Tennessee.  These lovely railways connect Hastings Old Town with the top of the cliffs where you find, among other things, historic Hastings Castle.

From Old Town Hastings, you can take the West-Cliff Railway up to the top – and from there it is a relatively short walk to Hastings Castle. Also, one of my favourite places to sit and work is the cafe at the top! Magnificent views, great food, terrific service… I love it! The line was opened in 1891 and the carriages still have a Victorian feel…

I will provide more information later – here at least are the photos…

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London’s Hop On Hop Off Big Bus Tour

Just about every major capital city will have some form of tour bus and London is no exception.

I spent several hours sitting on top of a double-decker bus touring through London and below are the photos (I will add additional details later).

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