Marple, Mole and Me

One final trip into Dartmouth town before leaving for the next leg of this “freewheelin’” journey that has no real plan other than to follow the plan we set on the bikes…go where the road takes us.

The final visit to Dartmouth gave me a final warm glow, because of the wonderful people we continue to meet, who either give us a laugh or a lovely moment. We called into a supermarket to pick up some road supplies and as I put the items through the checkout, the lady serving me finished every question or statement with “me loov”, “swee’art” or “darlin’” 

“Would yer like a bag darlin’?”

“That’s £5.34 me loov.”

“Pop your card in darlin’. Now your PIN swee’art.”

“Thanks swee’art”

She was utterly delightful and once again I walked out with a big smile!

Then, while we were in the town, Steve popped into  the Visitor Information Centre and guess what the lady asked him?

“Are you from the yacht?”

Yep, she actually asked Steve if he was from the super yacht moored in the estuary! I think Steve was quite chuffed that someone could look at him and think he and a super yacht could be in any way connected! Maybe he considered, for a split second, living his fantasy life and saying yes he was, but truth prevailed and he said that no, he was not from the boat. It turns out the super yacht actually belongs to a Kurdistan billionaire, not a touring cyclist from Tasmania! Shame.

We left the town via the car ferry and set off for our next stop, Greenway, the holiday house of Agatha Christie. Another charming person greeted us on arrival, as we drove towards the car park to the historic house.

“Good morning and how are you this morning?” enquired the man with the clip board.

“Very well thank you,” we replied in unison. “How are you?”

The man absolutely beamed, and looked a little stunned, as if he wasn’t used to having someone enquire about his own health or general wellbeing. “I’m very well indeed, thank you, very well lad,” he replied to Steve, whose window he was standing at. “What time is your booking for the car park?”

“Oh, we didn’t know we needed a booking.”

“That’s all right, that’s not a problem. As a general rule we do require bookings but I happen to know there’s quite a bit of scope up there at the moment. Where are you from?”

“Tasmania.”

“Hell’s bells! Crikey! Not from anywhere nearby then! Crikey that is a long way! We’ve had a few people from Tasmania come through during the year but not a great number. Crikey! Just follow the road along to the car park. Do enjoy your visit, have a lovely day and enjoy your holiday.”

Oh, he was so lovely! I just love, love, love how friendly and chatty the people are here. It makes even the simplest exchanges so memorable!

We had a pleasant stroll through the house, which was exactly as Agatha Christie left it when it was given to the National Trust. Games were set up, as if the family had just popped out for a walk, her books were on the shelves and the rooms were full of the collections of various things the family had accumulated, as avid collectors of everything from papier mache furniture to silverware. It was so interesting, to walk through the rooms where she lived while on holidays, and where the family sat to listen to first readings of her manuscripts when she was in the process of writing her novels. Apparently she didn’t actually write while at Greenway, it was her retreat and holiday home, where she often went when she had completed a book and spent spring, summer and Christmas there.

Greenway
Greenway
The Steinway piano. Agatha Christie trained as a concert pianist but was too shy to perform in public, even for her own family.
The Steinway piano. Agatha Christie trained as a concert pianist but was too shy to perform in public, even for her own family.
The dinner gong, which is the gong described in the story The Second Gong
The dinner gong, which is the gong described in the story The Second Gong
A painting of Agatha Christie as a four year old, and the actual doll she's holding in the painting
A painting of Agatha Christie as a four year old, and the actual doll she’s holding in the painting
A script signed by David Suchet who played Poirot
A script signed by David Suchet who played Poirot

The only place I didn’t get to see, which had been on my “want to see” list, was the boat house, which was the scene of the murder from the Poirot story Dead Man’s Folly, but it was closed for conservation work. After walking through the house, we strolled through the garden for a while, even though it was raining and bitterly cold, but the estate was so beautiful with glorious views down to the river. It was such a terrific experience to visit and see the house and gardens that were inspirations for, or included in, the stories of Miss Marple and Poirot. I can continue reading them now with a real image in my head of the places that are described.

I loved this tree in the garden, with its intriguing intertwined trunks
A fascinating tree in the garden

On we went, along those narrow, winding country lanes with frequent whiplash-inducing braking, each time another car suddenly appeared around a blind corner in front of us. This would require one vehicle to edge into the hedge to allow the other car to sneak past, or reverse into one of the spaces in the lane, created as a pull-in area to get out of the way and allow a car to get past. It’s a bit hazardous at the best of times, but in the pouring rain, it required a lot of Steve’s concentration and again, he did a stellar job. I sat in the passenger seat, assuming the role of seat belt tensioner tester, as each time Steve had to hit the brake, I was propelled forward at a rate of knots, forcing the seat belt stoppage feature to go into action!

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We continued our literary journey by detouring through the tiny little village of Lerryn. This is thought to be the setting for The Wind in the Willows and Kenneth Grahame holidayed often in Lerryn and was married in the church there. Apparently while there, he wrote letters to his son who was at boarding school and the stories he included in the letters, eventually became The Wind in the Willows. It was a tiny little village of just a few houses, a pub and a couple of stores sitting on the riverbank. The little stone bridge and the river looked just as if Ratty and Mole might walk along the river bank, off to visit Badger.

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It was still freezing cold, but once again, we saw some hardy ramblers out for a walk, making their way across the stones to cross the river and ramble on the other side. Good work people! Hardy and determined to ramble in all weather…champions! They had an elderly looking dog with them, who didn’t appear to be quite so keen on the chilly walk. Maybe he was just a bit put out that he hadn’t been given a woolly hat with  a pom-pom and was just feeling a bit under dressed!

Round of applause for the ramblers!
Round of applause for the ramblers!

After a visit to the home of Agatha Christie and a visit to the home of Ratty and Mole, it had been a delightful literary journey. Also, I should have mentioned that Dartmoor, the beautiful moor we travelled across yesterday, was the setting and inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and the windswept, menacing landscape certainly looked the perfect setting for a monstrous hound to run wild. So I have had a couple of days of travelling through the pages of some famous settings from literature and some of my own favourite stories.

It rained, it was grey, it was freezing cold, but it was a splendid day. I met some more delightful people, I visited some more wonderful places, I smiled, I beamed, I clapped my hands and had more memorable moments in this gorgeous country and the delightful Devon. We have now crossed over into Cornwall and have a nice room on an estate that includes woods, two badgers’ sets, squirrels and a multitude of birdlife. Wonderful. We’ve now left the lovely Devon behind us and will move on to explore the Cornish coast, an area we didn’t get to on our last visit. We’re in the home of stories and legends of rascals and smugglers now and I just know our own treasure is there to find, just around the corner. Golden moments await!

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