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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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Margate & the Botany Bay Hotel

Margate! Margate! Margate! I am of the firm opinion that when saying the name of this little seaside town it is the law that you must say it as Danny Dyer would say it. Margate! Try it – it’s fun!

Anyway, Margate (did you do a Danny in your head there? I hope you did) seems to be the latest ‘in’ place if you spend a little time scanning Instagram. Everyone seems to have been going there just recently.

Well, clearly En Brogue, Grenson and I needed to go and see what all the fuss was about (baaaa!).

We arrived and parked up next to the Dreamland theme park.

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It’s basically this place that has brought the onslaught of Instagrammers. Dreamland is a retro, kitsch, seaside theme park for hipsters to create great ‘content’ in. They even have an event called ‘Hipster Seaside A-Go-Go’ happening later this year. In all honesty it does look well cool (as I believe literally none of the kids say anymore). As I myself have a beard I’m virtually a hipster too so I’m totally down with this place…unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed. So we quickly moved on, vindictively hoping that all those hipsters get candy floss tangled in their beards.

Strolling along the sea front, Morrissey entered my head and wouldn’t get out. Specifically a certain line from one of his most cheerful songs found itself on repeat in my head:

‘This is the coastal town, that they forgot to close down’

To be fair, I don’t imagine that there are many coastal towns that are looking their best in the first week of January, but I had been led to believe that Margate would offer more than just boarded up shops, tired amusement arcades and ‘caffs’ that probably haven’t had a new menu printed since Del Boy came on his jolly boys’ outing in 1989.

Luckily it didn’t take us long to find our first planned stop, a sweet little coffee shop called The Proper Coffee House (you can’t go wrong with a name like that!).

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At last things started to look up, not only does a ‘proper’ coffee always help, but we found this sign very welcoming.

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Take note Dreamland!!

Our next stop was the Old Kent Market and the slight uplift in morale nosedived again. There is no doubt that this is a cool little place and I’m sure that it is a brilliant, vibrant, hang out in the summer months. However, on a Thursday afternoon in January it’s somewhat lacking its spark.

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As we began to think that we had caught Margate at a time when it really should have been in hibernation, we wandered down a side street away from the sea front and the attraction of the place revealed itself. Suddenly we were surrounded by the most beautiful shops.

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Not for the first time we came across antique shops that welcomed Grenson inside with open arms. I have to admit that this does surprise me. At times I’m not sure whether or not even I should be allowed inside antique shops. I fear that at any moment I may spontaneously fall over, dragging a cabinet of priceless glassware down on top of me. They make me nervous. And yet, very much like when we visited Rye (click on the link for a read), all the shops seemed to be totally relaxed about Grenson having a peruse around inside.

TAKE NOTE DREAMLAND!!

En Brogue now went into retail mode.

Morale then went through the roof when she spotted Doggie Apparel. O…M…flippin G!

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In this amazing little doggie nirvana you can watch the collars and leads being handmade at the back of the shop. And beautiful they are too. Needless to say, Grenson got utterly spoiled in there. But it’s virtually impossible for any dog person not to pick up something, from doggie bottle stops, to felt doggies. Personally I’m surprised we left without the woolly schnauzer in the window display.

Thankfully, when we did eventually leave it was with merely a small fortune spent rather than a flipping massive fortune. Heaven help the bank balance when their online shop is up and running!

Suddenly, Margate had come up trumps. We decided to end our visit the only true way that any self respecting traveller can. A visit to the pub.

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The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House (what a great name) was a perfect venue. A fine selection of ales, craft beers and ciders (as you’d expect from that name I suppose), and a hearty menu on offer. The only downside was the sawdust on the floor. It played havoc with Grenson’s beard!

It was now time to head to our accommodation for the night. The Botany Bay Hotel situated just along the coast, on the way to Broadstairs.

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This, my friends, is where the madness of going away on a damp Thursday at the beginning of January suddenly makes sense. We got a double room here with breakfast included for £64 (+ extra £5 supplement for Grenson). You cannot argue with that.

On top of that bargain price you can add the fact that it’s a lovely hotel too. Very friendly and helpful staff, comfortable spacious bar, lovely clean rooms, top-notch breakfasts (unfortunately we were not allowed in the main breakfast area with Grenson, but our set up in the bar was probably a better view anyway), and some prime dog walking beaches literally on the doorstep.

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It really was a great visit, and I haven’t even told you about the meal we had at Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs yet! Because that requires a whole blog post of its own.

Until then, despite a bit of a rocky start, our little trip had been a roaring success. And it’s at this point that I wanted to cleverly sum up our satisfaction by referring to a happy Morrissey lyric…unfortunately I couldn’t think of one.

So instead I’ll just use this picture of Grenson. Could there be a happier doggie?

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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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