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Whitstable – Waves and more

We recently went away for a weekend break with our good friends Daisy and Gav….AND COUSIN ALF!!!

There is no real reason for me to write anymore, after all, you just want to see a picture of Grenson and Alf together, and who am I to deny you?!

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Yes this post could simply be filled with gratuitous cuteness, but that would be unfair, because I’ve lots to tell you about Whitstable.

First off, if you haven’t been then sort it out, you need to go! Secondly if you do go then check out Waves self catering holiday cottage. Not only is it a beautiful little cottage and super dog friendly…

…but it also happens to be in the most amazing location, with a brilliant little dog friendly pub literally stumbling distance from the front door!

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Good pubs, with scratchings and pool tables literally across the road are always going to make me and Gav happy. Alf too was having a good time, as he realised that he was able to steal big cousin Grenson’s lamb dinner (turning his white beard a shade of orange!), and then spend the night climbing all over his Uncle!

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Where do I start with what makes Whitstable so great? Is it the oysters that are as fresh as they come? Or the beach that even in the snow is still lovely?

Well actually for us it’s probably the shops! I mean you can’t really go wrong with Ruskin, a shop that not only welcomes dogs but also has a copy of one of En Brogue‘s books in the shop window!

I have to say for me the cafes and breakfast stops are also a highlight. We found a lovely one just around the corner simply monikered Cafe + Kitchen, that did a brilliant bacon sarnie.

Then we found the Windy Corner Stores & Cafe on the last morning, a cute little retro corner shop/cafe that was very much appreciated after a brisk walk along the beach. The mushrooms on toast went down a treat!

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Oh yes! There are also the pubs and food!!

A visit to the Lobster Shack is an absolute must for all seafood (and beer) lovers.

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And we can highly recommend the Pearson Arms too. We popped in for a lunchtime drink and found more dogs in there than people!! Any place that dog friendly is going to get our custom. So we booked for dinner, and boy we did not regret it.

Absolutely deee-licious!

So there you have it. So much to see and do (and eat and drink), and I didn’t even have time to tell you about the wine shop with a fine selection of sweets! But no fear, we plan a return trip in the Summer, this time adding our other friends and their little ones into the mix (that’s kids, not dogs). So I imagine sweet shops will be high the list for the kiddies (and the wine will be a priority for the adults!).

Meanwhile Grenson finally taught Alf the joys of Schnauzer wrestling. This led to Alf spending the entire last two days jumping on Grenson’s head until eventually we had to prise them apart and make them take a break and have a drink of water…before they went straight back to wrestling.

BFFs!!

 

The Man and the Dog.

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The Crown and Greyhound – Dulwich Village

We recently decided to take our afternoon walk in a more (for want of a better word) posh direction. So off we trotted to Dulwich Village.

For those of you who are not aware of this pretty little spot, think of an upmarket town in the Shires and then imagine it dropped slap bang in-between Catford, Peckham and Brixton.

If nothing else it’s worth a visit just to have a good nose at the plush houses. Every once in a while the kind owners may leave the curtains open and the lights on, so that you can have a good old gawp at their fancy kitchens (note: Man About a Dog Blog does not in any way condone snooping or peeping Tom-ing, just good old fashioned appreciation of interior design).

But the real reason for us dog lovers to visit begins with the exquisite Dulwich Park. There is almost 31 hectares of wide open spaces to be explored here, and if your dog is anything like Grenson, they will attempt to sniff/wee on every hectare.

Our favourite part is the nature walk that goes all around the outer edge of the park, but venturing into the centre to check out the pond is also well worth your while.

Of course the greatest thing about a nice big long walk around a beautiful spacious park such as this, is the fact that you can then feel totally justified in visiting the pub!

This brings us to the second reason to visit Dulwich Village. The magnificent Crown and Greyhound.

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This is a proper big old London pub. You can totally imagine horse drawn carriages pulling in for the night on their journey into London.

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I love all the dark wood interiors and the ornate ceilings. It’s definitely the type of pub that you could lose yourself in for an entire afternoon. Literally, actually. It’s huge, with not only a large seating area out front, but an even bigger one out back.

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It’s a perfect spot for a summer pint, but I have to admit that I’m particularly partial to visiting here during the cold months to enjoy a winter ale and bar snacks in one of the nooks and crannies that you can find indoors.

Oh and what’s that you say? Tell me more about these bar snacks? OK then, I will. They are flipping wondrous!!

Hannah went for the fish croquettes and a cup of tea, but none of that fancy stuff for me thank you very much. If someone is offering me a plate of pork crackling, then I am having a plate of pork crackling and nothing, nor no one, is going to stop me! The marmalade/apple sauce thingy to dip them into was pure genius. I admit that by the time I finished the plate I was beginning to feel a little sick, but it was well worth it!

Oh, and we also spotted comedy superstar Micky Flanagan sipping a pint in there too. He left quite early though so he mustn’t have been ‘out, out’ (an in-joke for Micky fans there).

So there you go. I can’t guarantee that you’ll see a comedy celebrity when you visit but if you’re up for property porn and plates of pork you can’t go far wrong.

Enjoy.

Grenson Dulwich

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

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The Horse Guards Inn – Tillington

As you all know by now, the Man and the Dog spend a lot of time between the Isle of Wight and London. This means that we spend a lot of time on the M25 and the A3. This also means we spend a lot of time in traffic jams.

If we are ever lucky enough to be forewarned of trouble ahead, we have on occasion diverted our path and braved the ‘b’ roads of West Sussex. This generally leads to an even longer journey, but at least we’re not spending all our time in stationary traffic. The other advantage is that by diverting from the beaten path you do sometimes discover things you didn’t know were there. Little gems. Gems that you would have missed forever if you’d stuck to your usual route.

One such gem that we’ve recently found is The Horse Guards Inn in Tillington.

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Set in a quiet little back road opposite the quintessential village church, this is not a place you find easily, but once you do, you’re never going to forget it!

If you happen to visit at a time when the weather is being kind then there is a wonderful pub garden.

If, however, the weather is being typically British, then enjoy the beautiful interior instead (but booking ahead is advised).

What you must certainly do is try the food. The first time we visited it was meant to be a stop off, just for a quick drink and a break from driving. However, once we saw the menu and blackboard of local suppliers, a light lunch could not be avoided; I chose a venison burger from the herd at Petworth Park around the corner, and Hannah had an incredibly delicious crab linguine. Once we had tasted the food, a return trip was duly booked in for a proper full on nosh up!

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On the second occasion, we brought along the in-laws as we knew they’d love the place too (they did). And as always with those two in tow, it led to an amusing story.

On entering and being shown to our table I remarked how familiar the waitress looked. A number of times I wondered aloud if she was an actress. Several times I enquired if she was the girl who starred in Foyle’s War. Despite these constant pleas for help in discovering why she looked so familiar, it wasn’t until dessert orders were being taken that my fellow dining companions suddenly noticed that the waitress looked familiar. ‘Is she an actress?’ they all asked. Realising that I had been ignored for the entire meal (and probably for the last 20 years, in all honesty), I exclaimed that I’d been saying that she was the actress from Foyle’s War for the past hour! At that point a neighbouring diner on an opposite table piped up that it wasn’t actually her (Honeysuckle Weeks) it was in fact her younger sister (Perdita Weeks), who is also an actress.

This intervention was very welcome as it helped to solve the mystery, but also made us wonder how much of our conversation for the last hour had the entire room been earwigging in to!

Anyway, it then happened that a few weeks later we saw Perdita on the old tellybox in an episode of Grantchester, which just so happens to be written by our very good friend Daisy Coulam!

So what do you think of that then? Small old flipping world isn’t it?

I can’t guarantee that when you visit you will be served by someone off the telly, but if you are, at least you now don’t have to rely on earwigging neighbouring tables to set you straight. You can just concentrate on enjoying your time at this fantastic pub.

 

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Get your eyes off my beer Grenson!

The Man and the Dog.

 

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The Portland Inn – Isle of Wight

Weekends are great. Of course weekends are great. Everyone loves weekends. And what part of the weekend does everyone love the most? Yes that’s right. You’ve got it. Sundays. Lovely long lazy Sundays. And the single most important thing that makes Sundays so great? Why of course it’s the holy, venerable, magnificent… Sunday roast. Where would the world be without the Sunday roast?

I love a Sunday roast.

When first introduced to my in-laws, many, many moons ago, the number one culinary shock for this boy from the Black Country has to have been Taramasalata:

‘Ar, they gid me some pink stuff called tarasatomata, I think it wuz fish eggs! It wuz bostin tho, fair play.’

But a close second was the revelation that they didn’t ALWAYS have a roast on a Sunday. Sometimes they just had a normal dinner! I mean, how crazy is that? Surely that way madness lies? How is anyone supposed to know what day it is? When does one week end and the next begin?

As a result, whenever I get a chance I try to remedy this lunacy by suggesting that we incorporate a pub roast into our Sundays when I’m hanging with the in-laws on the Island of Love, a.k.a the Isle of Wight.

A few weeks back, after a lovely walk in Parkhurst Forest, we settled on the Portland Inn in Gurnard for my Sunday roast fix.

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We chose this pub because we’d driven past it recently and spotted that it had been given a bit of a makeover. Obviously someone had decided to show it a bit of love, and it’s always good to support that kind of thing.  The other reason, (blatant ‘shout out’ alert!), was that we’d heard that they were displaying and selling art work on the walls by En Brogue‘s cousin The Wight Pencil. If they’re supporting ‘da family’ then we can at least eat their roast.

Inside, the place was buzzing. Clearly in a short space of time they’d already begun to generate a good rep. We were shown to our table and Grenson made himself comfortable.

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The mother-in-law was impressed straight off the bat by the fact that they offered a smaller plate for £9. She has a very small appetite, which generally sees her ordering starters instead of mains…then of course, hovering over everyone else’s main for a little taster once her starter is devoured.

She once ordered a child’s Sunday roast and confidently proclaimed ‘If I’m still hungry I could always try a little bit from all of yours’; as she said this and looked around the table for signs of acquiescence to the deal, she locked eyes with me. I steadily and calmly informed her that ‘If you try to take anything from my plate I will stab you in the hand with my fork’. I was very ‘hangry’ at the time, and as I have made clear, I do like my Sunday roast…our relationship has never been the same since, sorry Mother-in-law you’re the best…just don’t try to touch my food!

Anyway, for me it was obviously going to be the full size £12 version, and when it arrived at the table, holy flip, it was a work of pure genius!

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Now, I’m pretty good at cooking a pork dinner, even if I do say so myself. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. My dad claims that the pork roast I once made for him was ‘really good, the best he’s ever had’. To put this praise into context my dad’s usual level of critique for any meal ranges from ‘it was alright’ to ‘it was alright’. If you listen carefully there is a slight difference.

So I know a good pork dinner when I see one and this was a good pork dinner. Generous servings of pork with a very agreeable amount of crunchy crackling, parsnips (which I’m not that keen on usually but these were good), fantastic fluffy potatoes and lashings of gravy ( I do like a lot of gravy, fill the boat up, don’t be stingy). Then on the side, red and green cabbage, cauliflower cheese and those lovely little carrots you only really get with a pub lunch. There was no way anyone was going to be leaving this table anything less than full to the brim.

Oh, and just take a look at those Yorkshires! Take a second or two to really appreciate their beauty. That is pleasure on a plate right there! That, my friends, IS Sunday! If only there really were such a thing as a month of Sundays. What a dream scenario? I could have this for lunch every day for a month!!

But do not fear. Whatever day you’re reading this you can be sure that you’re not far away from a Sunday. That’s the beauty of them: you get one every week. So no excuses. Gather the family, put your walking boots on and loosen your belts, then head to the Portland for ‘the best pub Sunday roast ever’ – En Brogue’s verdict – and you may even feel like picking up some art whilst you’re there.

Just remember, if you see me there tucking into a roast…don’t try to take any of my food!

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

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The Cary Arms – Babbacombe

Recently it was our anniversary … that’s me and En Brogue, not me and Grenson.

As a result we decided to return to Devon for the weekend. As you may well have already read on this very blog, we had not long returned from a road trip to Devon and Dorset. When planning that holibob we had considered the Cary Arms, but after much calculator bashing, we had finally decided that it was the kind of visit that was only justifiable if attached to a special occasion. Now, a few weeks later, we came to the conclusion that a wedding anniversary fitted this criteria perfectly. So we all jumped in the car and after a short 7 hour drive (damn you M25), we found ourselves descending a familiar hair pin, vertically challenging lane, (that they love so much in this part of the country), down into Babbacombe Harbour.

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The problem with those cliff face descents is that it can only mean an equally hairy ascent awaits you at the end of your stay (see our previous Devon ascents here). Luckily all of those fears were forgotten due to the magnificent Cary Arms. It really is difficult to know where to start with this place. It’s like falling in love at first sight three times in a row. First with the stunning bay, then with the atmospheric bar and finally when presented with our magnificent accommodation.

I think I’ll kick off with our room, which in actual fact was a beach hut. Now if you’ve suddenly had an image enter your head of a small little wooden hut, half filled with deckchairs, and with a bbq pushed into a corner, then banish those thoughts immediately. I think the fact that they refer to their brand spanking new accommodation as ‘huts’ may be simply an affectionate touch. They are anything but hut like. Not that I have anything against huts, you’ll know that if you’ve read about our stay in a Herders Hut on our last expedition to Devon and Dorset. But check out the pictures below! This is no beach hut.

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With the most dreamy soft bed (facing the porthole that gives a view of the bay the minute you wake), a plush wet room, mini bar, HD TV, Wi Fi sound system, and balcony with a view to die for, this is accommodation on the luxury level.

And this isn’t even the fanciest of the accommodation on offer. If you really want to put your fancy pants on then there are suites available to hire too!

We were all very happy with our beach hut, especially Grenson who was provided with biscuits, a bed and a ball. Look at the bottom left picture above to see just how happy he was with all of this!

Once settled we enjoyed a complimentary sloe gin on our balcony and fell in love with the bay. Truly stunning. I always thought that they referred to this area as the ‘English Riviera’ in an entirely ironic way, but it turns out it’s totally justified. Apparently you occasionally get pods of dolphins in the harbour and there is even a bell that should be rung to announce a sighting.

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Unfortunately there was to be no ringing of bells during our weekend. Luckily though, we didn’t miss out on the sea-life, as there is a local celebrity seal called Sammy that regularly hangs around by the fishermen waiting for scraps. And he’s flipping magnificent!!

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We kept Grenson well away. With his new found love of the water he’d have been straight in there looking to make friends.

Finally the main building. It’s a ‘proper job’ type of place. The real deal. All dark wood and low ceilings giving the impression that it’s been here as long as the cliffs that circle the bay. It’s lovely to have the new mod-con, stylish, accommodation alongside a no nonsense main bar. I could have spent a lifetime in that bar looking out at the bay trying to spot dolphins.

And the food!! Flip me it’s tasty fare.

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Grenson also had a dinner brought out to him during our evening meals. Lamb and cous cous no less. Fine dining even for the dog!

He also managed to somehow get me to share a bit of that sausage with him that you can see on the mightily impressive breakfast above. It’s hard to resist him when he looks at you like this…

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As for doggy friendliness? This place is off the scale. As one fellow dog owning guest put it, many places advertise as dog friendly but turn out to be more along the lines of dog tolerant. This place is really and truly a doggy paradise.

Upon arriving Grenson was immediately greeted with a wrestle from a cute little curly haired blonde!

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Then we realised that pretty much all of our neighbours had dogs. And one of them turned out to be really quite special.

En Brogue returned from taking Grenson for a little morning walk in a state of unusual excitement. ‘I think our next door neighbour is Tuna the Chiweenie’ she exclaimed. As you can imagine, this caused a reaction from me that ranged from ‘Eh?’ to ‘…’. Who was Tuna and what the hell was a Chiweenie?

I was to find out later that evening as we met Tuna the little Chihuahua / Sausage dog cross in the residents bar. This was no ordinary dog. This was a mega star! It turns out that Tuna (or tunameltsmyheart as he’s better known) currently has over 1.8 MILLION followers on Instagram.

Here was I thinking Grenson was doing pretty well by edging nearer to 1000 followers, when this swaggering superstar has 1.8M! That’s ONE POINT EIGHT MILLION!!!

I immediately set Grenson to the task of picking up some tips.

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He obviously needs a fancy jacket and neckerchief!

From superstar dogs to celebrity seals, this place has it all. So if you also have a special occasion (or just fancy being fancy) then I can highly recommend you make your way to Babbacombe and this really special place .

Oh, and even the climb back up the hill wasn’t all that bad in the end. I don’t know what all the worry was about really!

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Devon and Dorset – Part 5

I left you all in Part 4 with the tantalising promise of pie. Unfortunately pie o’clock wasn’t until midday, and so in an effort to speed up the hours after checking out of the Whitehouse  we travelled a little way to the nearby village of Slapton.

I’d heard tales of this village before we set off on our little road trip, and when I spotted the Sherman tank sitting opposite the long wide sandy beach, I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

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Back during World War 2 the military had basically commandeered this village and most of the surrounding area, forcing all of the inhabitants to leave their homes behind. The reason for this was the fact that Slapton Sands bears an uncanny likeness to the beaches in Normandy, in particular Utah beach. In 1944, the US army were conducting top secret dress rehearsals for D-Day – code named Exercise Tiger – in this area. Unfortunately on one of these practice runs they ran into a German E boat squadron, who attacked and sunk three of the vessels. This one incident led to the death of 639 soldiers and sailors. Due to the top secret nature of the preparations any survivors were sworn to secrecy.

(That is the very abridged version of events, to read more click on this link – Exercise Tiger.)

Many years later a guy named Ken Small heard from local fishermen about a strange object off the coast. He organised a dive and they found a Sherman tank. After much hard work and perseverance on his behalf, he eventually was able to buy the tank from the US army, get it brought to shore, uncover the history and set up this memorial. Basically if it wasn’t for Ken Small many US families would have never found out what happened to their loved ones back in 1944 off the coast of Devon, and the whole of Exercise Tiger may still be a secret. (Again this is the short version of the story, please do read his full story by following the link above, the guy deserves it!).

After this sobering little history trip it was time for pie, and so we travelled back to the Tradesmans Arms. Upon arrival it seemed as though we had inadvertently entered a Schnauzer festival. There were only two other couples in the pub, both of whom had arrived separately, and both of whom had a little schnauzer in their family.

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This shocking coincidence managed to distract me for a few seconds before I remembered why I was there – PIE. I placed my order and mere moments later was presented with this picture of wonder and beauty.

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Now that is a proper pie. Proper pastry, excellent chips on the side and washed down with a pint of Tribute. All was good….goodish. I have to admit that on closer inspection I was a little disappointed to find that the pastry was really only a lid, and once broken through, the filling was a little more watery than I would have preferred…but hey, maybe I’m becoming overly picky about my pies? (And of course by finding a fault it allows me to carry on my grail-like search for the perfect pie). At the end of the day, look at the picture – no one could be disappointed with that bounty for lunch.

Feeling a little wobbly after dinner (from food, it was only a Tribute shandy – which I fear is an admission that may well get me lynched by the real ale brigade), we headed over to the most fancy stop of all our accommodation on this trip, the Salcombe Harbour Hotel. And when I say fancy, I mean this hotel should be wearing fancy pants. For example, the car park is very narrow, so narrow that you can only really drive in one way and once inside it’s very difficult to turn to face the opposite direction. To combat this problem there is a revolving circle just outside reception, the cars simply drive on to it, sit still as the entire floor spins and then drive off facing the correct way. Can you imagine how much the small boy inside of every man staying there just wanted to play on that all day? Luckily the luxurious and comfy rooms manage to drag you away from this engineering marvel.

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Grenson absolutely loved his view of the harbour from the room and spent a very pleasant afternoon watching a sailing school messing about in their boats. Meanwhile I took advantage of the swimming pool (I didn’t just sit outside the room watching the turning circle car contraption thingy, honest), and En Brogue took advantage of the complimentary in room Gin (Warning: tonic not complimentary).

To be fair to En Brogue, that’s me being slanderous, she didn’t really just sit in the room swigging back G & T. She had a little wander around town and found a surprise place to book for our evening meal…then she came back and we swigged G & T together.

We also had a very pleasant pre dinner drink in the garden of the Ferry Inn, despite it not really being garden weather, what with the now omnipresent grey drizzle. But lets face it, if it had actually been as sunny as July is meant to be then we may not have got a seat in the garden (I think that is called grasping at silver linings).

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We then headed further down into the very pretty town to find our dinner destination. I was ensured that when I saw it, I’d know where we were going. This indeed was the case.

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How could we possibly not be eating at a place with an ‘A la Bark Menu’?

The Victoria Inn is as dog friendly as you’re ever going to find. Not only do they provide aforementioned a la Bark menu (pig’s ear, rawhide chew, bonio – all proceeds go to a hearing dogs charity), but also inside you’ll find towels and blankets alongside water bowls, and a fine array of doggy themed cushions. Grenson was in heaven as he curled up on his blanket under our table with a pig’s ear to chew on. As for us humans, the beer is pretty special too, and I highly recommend the Salcombe potted crab. Delicious.

Again, feeling very wobbly from over consumption we slowly made our way back to the hotel, and settled down for an early night with our complimentary gin for company.

I knew that I needed to make the most of this luxury, for over the next two nights En Brogue had booked us in to stay in a ‘Herder’s Hut’. I’d have no electricity for the next two nights, let alone free gin and floors that turn cars around. How would I cope?!

To be continued…..

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

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Devon and Dorset – Part 4

We awoke to find that the drizzle of the previous day had disappeared … to be replaced by a full on downpour. Not to worry. On the way to The White House we had stopped at a service station called Ashby’s. On entering the shop we were amazed to find that it was in fact an Aladdin’s cave of ALL the outdoor clothing and equipment you could ever need (including doggy lifejackets!). I was very happy for the opportunity to rectify my mistake of relying on the British summertime, and purchased a rather snazzy new ‘mac in a sac’.

We had planned a walk in Dartmouth for our morning adventure, and the rain was not going to stop us, not now that I had my trusty waterproof jacket. Smugly I removed it from its ‘sac’ and shook it out … only to find two legs of a pair of trousers unfold themselves! Damn it! Off we set on a detour back to Ashby’s with the full intention of trying to negotiate an exchange. By the time we’d driven there through the pounding rain the more sensible option was clearly to get a coat as well as the trousers. In fact Hannah and Grenson were so jealous of my full on waterproof suit that they had to purchase themselves waterproofs too!

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Who was it who said ‘there is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong type of clothing’? Whoever it was they were an idiot.

Our walk took us up a path around the back of Dartmouth Castle and on to Compass Cove following part of the South West Coastal Path. The walk itself wasn’t too bad but I’m sure the views of the harbour would have been much more impressive if not covered in cloud. To make matters worse, halfway along our route we found our path blocked by a gang of very suspicious looking cows. We didn’t like the look of them. They looked shifty.  So we abandoned the walk and turned back.

It wasn’t a full disaster. The woods were lovely, the totally justifiable use of full wet weather gear is always good for making you feel like a proper adventurer (Bear Grylls eat your heart out), and Grenson loves a walk in long grass and the rain. It is guaranteed to send him ‘cracker dog’ (i.e. he runs around at full speed with his bum tucked in under himself, like his front legs can’t quite keep up with his back ones!).

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Another reason for our return to the car may have been to do with a recommendation we had been given for a fish and chip restaurant in nearby Beesands. By now it was way past lunchtime and there is nothing like a bracing walk to whet the appetite (even if it is only half a walk).

The Britannia @ The Beach is also known as ‘The Shack’, and when I first caught sight of it I realised why.

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We were shown to a table in the gazebo that serves as the main dining room. My expectations weren’t soaring, but by now I was literally starving (and by literally I mean I was slightly hungry having not eaten for a matter of hours).

There was no need for fear. I should know by now that unassuming little places like this often serve up the best food you’re likely to find, and this place did not disappoint.

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Look at the batter on that haddock. GET IN MY BELLY!!

We returned to our accommodation and an afternoon snooze may or may not have been enjoyed by all.

Once we awoke we decided that a nice evening stroll to the local pub was in order.  The Tradesman’s Arms was flipping brilliant.

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We found ourselves a couple of stools at the bar to perch on, and having not long consumed our fish and chips settled for a couple of packets of crisps with our liquid refreshment (dinner of kings). However, whilst sitting at the bar enjoying my beer I spotted the pies that were coming out of the kitchen. Oh my! They looked absolutely delicious. Add to this the fact that behind the bar hung the sign pictured below.

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That settled it, we immediately booked ourselves in for lunch the next day.

Tune in next time for a full pie review!

To be continued…..

The Man and the Dog

 

 

 

 

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