The background: How did this trip come about?
In Mid-March this year my brother John called to say he had been invited to attend the tour de France as a guest of the Cannondale Drapac team owner as well as explore the various saddleries and tanneries in both France and England. John was a little hesitant to make his first overseas trip on his own as invited me along to assist with the planning and logistics. What a never to be topped sporting opportunity?
On 17th July we collected John from his airport hotel (flew in from Dubbo previous night) headed to the International terminal and after a smooth (nice and early always makes it some much easier). Our flight was on time and pretty full so we settled in for the long haul. The only break in the 24 hours flying was 1 hour and 45 minutes in Dubai. The first leg was uneventful food was good and we got some sleep before landing in Dubai.
Enough time to have a drink stretch our legs and return to go back through security screening to rebound our plane for the final 7 hours into Heathrow. Again another uneventful flight that seemed to pass relatively quickly after some sleep and a couple of movies. I must the A380 are great planes to fly on and having plenty of entertainment choices always seem to make for a good trip. Well done Qantas QF1 we made it and within no time at all, it seemed we were through customs and on our way (Via shuttle) to pick upper hire car for the next 2 days.
Collected our little car from Avis and in no time at all, we were motoring south headed for Colyton in Devon. Navigation (I always bring from home cheaper than from daily rate hire company). First stop is to hopefully early access to our B&B Spillers Farm just out of Cloyton. It was a very easy drive and not much traffic so we made good time even found ourselves driving right past Stonehenge. Note they have changed the access to Stonehenge used to walk from the car through the gate and up to the site. Now you park literally miles away then catch a bus up to the site, there is no such thing as popping in for a quick visit anymore.
The aim for this part of the trip is to visit the J&FJ Baker & Co Ltd John has an appointment Friday morning before we head back up. We were greeted by the owners of Spillers Farm Jayne and Carl who readily allowed us to check in and freshen up before heading out to explore Colyton and find something to eat. It was interesting just driving around the are and amazed at how close all these small villages are to one another, no wonder people cycle or walk between them.
The roads have not gotten any wider since our last visit to England and the hedgerows certainly provide many moments of not knowing whats around the corner, anything from header to a double-decker local bus negotiating the narrow roads and streets in the villages. We settled on a sandwich at the tea rooms as we just missed lunch at the pub.
The tea room in a very very old building and it was like stepping back in time and into the private drawing room of a family and being looked after by the cook of the house. I had the best ham salad plate and a huge pot of tea which was just what I needed.
Feeling much better we drove around for awhile checking out the area and finding the location of the tannery for tomorrow’s meeting before went back to the farm for a bit of rest before heading out to find something for dinner.
Found a pub overlooking the river that served reasonable meals and cold beer. It wasn’t long before we headed back to find our beds Thursday 17th seem to go on forever.
We woke up quite early but this allowed us to sort the phones and the technology in readiness for the rest of the trip before a very ample breakfast in the dining room of Spillers Farm. The pot tea was so good and the full breakfast set us up for the day, we took our time, as the tannery didn’t open until 10am. We now felt as if we knew our way around all the little lanes and roads between places such as Axmouth, Beer, Seaton, and Colyford ….
We rolled into the tannery only find that the guy that John had an appointment with had flown to Italy to look at a piece of machinery that had just come on the market.
Disappointing for John as he specially came to England first to make this previously set appointment. Another guy showed him some stuff but not really able help much. We will try and get back at end of the trip. The lady in the office did give John another lead so we decide to start heading North again via a quick look at River Cottage which was just a few miles from our B&B, it is pre-bookings only but we bumped into the head gardener Will who gave us permission to have a look around. Rough road in lucky we are in hire car but worth it to say we have been there, will come back one day with Ian to explore the Devon area in more details and yes visit River Cottage properly.
A little further North we found a commercial leather place that John spent an hour or so going through. Just bulk leathers, no tanning onsite. It was time to start heading back to Gatwick to return our car another late lunch at the Fox and Goose somewhere. Sandwich for me with local cheddar which was yummy but didn’t agree with me later but that was side point still delicious.
After negotiating a fair bit of traffic we finally checked into the Hilton (the worst Hilton ever but the location was right in terminal clean but old and shady and spread out) We were in the new part miles from reception and it was far from new. I would say again for sheer location but I would be looking for a decent deal on the room rates. It was impossible to get room service had to go to reception to order. It was okay and all we really needed. Very early flight next morning to Bordeaux…
The road in and out of river cottage