We have just arrived in Holsworthy, North Devon, after a bus from Camberwell to Paddington and then a train from Paddington to Exeter and then a bus from Exeter to Holsworthy. And now, after all this bus and train and bus, we are stuck: stuck in the dog-friendly Corner Cafe in Holsworthy’s main square to escape the rain.
Our stuck-ness is a result of Jane’s inability to drive. She has taken lessons over the years – lots of lessons over lots of years – and once, in her late 20’s, reached the heady heights of actually sitting a driving test. It lasted five minutes.
She will try again, she tells me. One day…
Until that day, our researches are often undertaken by public transport. Jane and I are plucky by public transport. Whereas other travellers might say ‘it’s too complicated to get there without a car’, Jane and I will find a way, even if it means planning our trip around a bus that runs once a month.
Sometimes, of course, we’ll reach somewhere by train and bus and then have to splash out on a taxi for the last straggly few miles – which can be expensive, but is worth it, if it means we can go somewhere we really want to go.
And, today, it is those last few straggly miles which are a problem because, in Holsworthy, on a Saturday afternoon, there are no available taxis to splash out on.
‘Taxis need to be booked in advance round here,’ a pleasant local lady informed us when we arrived in Holsworthy and asked where the mini-cab office was located. ‘This is North Devon.’
The pleasant lady did furnish us with a couple of taxi numbers but, sure enough, one answer phone message relayed that the drivers only worked week days. The other phone number rang out. And out and out as Jane tried repeatedly, sipping her coffee and beginning to fret. Her fretting was fizzing down my lead and I was beginning to fret too.
Problem was our holiday cottage for the weekend was about five miles out of Holsworthy – and, even though I wouldn’t have balked at hiking such a distance, Jane was balking big style. It was raining, hard. Only three hours of daylight remained. She’d been to Waitrose and bought two heavy carrier bags worth of provisions.
Minutes turned into half an hour turned into a whole hour and Jane dialled and dialled the ringing out phone number. She dialled it until, an hour and a half after we’d arrived in Holsworthy, a man answered and said – yes, he was a taxi driver but, sorry, it was his day off and he couldn’t assist.
At that, Jane put every ounce of passion into a description of our beleaguered situation. My little dog and I are stranded. (I wasn’t too thrilled about the little but she was utilising it for artistic purposes so I let it go.) It is raining. We cannot attempt to walk the five miles to the cottage as the provisions I have purchased in Waitrose are very unwieldy.
Half an hour later the taxi driver pulled up and rescued woman, dog and Waitrose bags. He’d forfeited his day off when faced with the emergency Jane had outlined.
‘You can’t just turn up in North Devon and expect to find a taxi,’ he told us kindly as he drove us up a long farm road and deposited us at our cottage. ‘We work more slowly round here.’
We were stranded in our cottage for the whole weekend! Amaze-bones. This was an adventure on a grand scale – an adventure on a farm with fields and walks and rabbits in the hills!
But, for the first few hours, Jane was tense. She couldn’t settle to the idea of being miles from the nearest corner shop or pub. She ate the cream tea Anita, the lovely lady in the farm next door, had left out for us hungrily, as if it might be her last meal on earth. (This despite the Waitrose bags!)
And then Jane started to relax. There were so many aspects to the farm that she liked. A Shetland pony (who I did not like). A full size pony. The farm dogs, Billy and Merlin. (Billy was something of a nosy neighbour, taking great delight in peering through the patio windows at the front of our cottage to keep check on what we were up to.) Oh and there was a swimming pool and hot tub – although sadly they weren’t for canine use.
That night, Jane enjoyed the sense of being warm and safe in the cottage as a great storm from neighbouring Cornwall battered against the top of our hill.
She settled into our seclusion and when, the following morning, Anita very kindly offered to drive us to the nearby beaches of Bude, Jane said no – she was enjoying just pottering about.
We walked two miles to the nearest village – Bridgerule – to buy a newspaper in the local shop. It had closed, at 11.30am, half an hour before our arrival, but because Jane was used to North Devon and its ways by now, she didn’t stress or grow irritated.
Instead we went to Bridgerule’s pub – the Bridge Inn – where a group of men were sitting around discussing the great issues of the day and Jane drank a cup of coffee and shared a packet of crisps with me.
Everybody in the pub was very friendly and we were invited to the pub quiz, that evening. Jane politely declined, reckoning that two miles was a long way to walk for the humiliation of coming last. (General knowledge isn’t my strongest suit.)
When the day of our departure dawned and the hour of our pre-booked taxi was upon us, Jane did not want to return to the metropolis of Holsworthy. She wanted to stay on the farm a little longer. But the contents of our two Waitrose bags were depleted so move on we must.
Jane had, she said, de-stressed in just 48 hours. The remoteness of the farm had proved a positive rest cure.
Me – I never had any doubts.
Phileas Phacts: Holsworthy
Holemoor Cottage, Holemoor Farm, near Holsworthy, Devon
Book through Toad Hall Cottages on 01548 202020 or 0800 6101122 and at www.toadhallcottages.co.uk
***Phileas Dogg Paw Print of Approval for Services to Holidaying Hounds
Price: starts at £370 a week.
Charge for dogs: £25 per dog per week.
Extras for dogs: biscuits and towels.
Access all areas: not upstairs.
Number of dogs: ask at time of booking.
Late night pee: out on to the third of a mile long farm lane (set back from the road). There are also enclosed paddocks where dogs can run off lead.
Owner’s dogs: Billy and Merlin