Perfect October short walk

Perfect October short walk

Oh what a beautiful day! 
Perfect October Indian Summer, and a perfect Devon walk from Slapton to Torcross, along the beach there and along the shore of Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve on the way back.

The contrast of crunching on pebbles with silently padding over rich, reedy, soft loam; salt sea and musty marsh edge with reeds whispering in softer waves than at the shoreline.  Cicadas still in the grasses …

It was hot and sunny, a breeze to refresh but not to chill, and the sloping October afternoon light gifted fabulous colours.

And just a five-seven minute drive from the valley tranquillity of Watermill Cottages.  The Gara Brook runs through our land and feeds into the Higher Ley, which is why we’re so careful about what happens to our water and land.

Higher Ley
Lower Ley

This is a level walk apart from the slight slope from the free Slapton Park and Walk car park, on the right as you leave the village and head to the sea, and is beach/shingle one side so not great for pushing wheels of any kind.  There are loos at the memorial car park five minutes from Slapton and at Torcross which has a village shop, tea rooms, restaurant & pub.  And the tank of course…  and a seat with a view over the Ley by the Slapton Ley sign – this is another nature-rich diversion.

Start Bay towards Strete Gate and Dartmouth

This walk forms a short stretch of the South West Coast path – you can continue beyond Torcross, over the crest to Beesands and Britannia on the beach fish shack/café and The Cricket Inn (dogs welcome in the bar). Or the other way, to Strete and Dartmouth – the bus route here runs regularly through the day so it’s easy to go one way (it doesn’t reach Beesands…).

Or you can walk a long loop from Watermill Cottages, up the 4WD track between Quack Cottage and Rose Cottage behind it, via Strete, the beach and Slapton.  Good refreshments on the way!

And the whole length of Slapton Sands from the flowery, grassier end at Strete Gate to the narrower beach at Torcross is dog-friendly all year round, all 3 1/4 miles of it! 

You can see why it’s designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Ley, sea and Torcross
R.I.P. Specs …  Obituary

R.I.P. Specs … Obituary

Specs in spring 2013

Sadly, Specs our big old grand daddy Muscovy drake went downstream and into eternity in August.  He was very old and had struggled to maintain his  rightful place at the peak of the pecking order for some time – John had to help him out with the aid of a gentle broom in the spring battles with the new boys.

He was named ‘Specs’ because he looked like he was wearing red glasses.  He needed them really, as this year he lost the sight in one eye.  It only added to his allure with the ladies, a charming wink still won them over.  During the summer, we noticed he was missing his landings – a few scrabbles up the netting meant he made some ungainly entrances to dinner. But when he very publicly missed the fence at Quack Cottage and fell into the garden we knew he was not long for this valley.

He’s been our emblem for years, standing his ground with all doggies great and small and unfazed by most.  Specs was already here and senior when John and I arrived five years ago and luckily he took to us quickly.  Corn played a big part in his choice of ‘friendships’.

His progeny clearly go marching on …

Hail, Specs ….

Tikka Chicken Grows Up – Meet Rita and Ora

Tikka Chicken Grows Up – Meet Rita and Ora

Tikka Chicken

Well, Tikka the chick who hatched at Easter at Watermill Cottages, has turned into a handsome cockerel with a splendid plumey tail just like his Dad, The Red Admiral.  Tikka’s Mum is a white Leghorn (pronounced L’gorn, looks like a cartoon road runner) called Marigold because she looks like she’s got a rubber glove on her head. 

Marigold, Mum, and Tikka

Tikka has turned out to have the Rhode Island Red russet breast which is speckled with soft grey; his magnificent tail, is pure grey.  His voice is breaking, producing rather squeaky cock-crows which are increasing in consistency and decreasing in warble.

The Red Admiral

As Tikka hatched in a duck nest and was raised by us (we didn’t want the duck to leave her eggs; hens take 21 days and Muscovy ducks 34 days to hatch) we found some two day old chicks to keep him company so he was socialised as a chicken not a human.  They are pretty tame and still come running when I call them, and RonnieBarker and The Other One will happily let me cuddle them and enjoy perching on my wellies. 


Of the four chicks we bought, Versarchie with the fabulous feathers is a cockerel, Pingu is a hen and RonnieBarker and The Other One we’re not sure about yet.  If they start laying eggs before the end of the month then I’ll be right about my hunch that they’re girls…  The Red Admiral has done some tango around them so I’m going with his sense.

We think RB and TOO are Australorps,  Versarchie (we don’t want a copyright issue do we) has some Wyandotte in there and Pingu – who knows, though all possibly have some Bantam in there somewhere as they’re small. 

Rita and Ora

A few weeks ago, Rita the Buff Orpington, hatched a couple of chicks though one was too weak and died when its yolk sac food had run out as it couldn’t eat.  The survivor is a feisty auburn chick which is just beginning to grow adult feathers.  It’s with Rita in the fruit cage which we’re using as a broody coop as it’s netted to stop overhead predator attacks.

No sign yet of a plumey tail like The Red Admiral, dad again, so I’m really hoping this one’s a girl, as some of my other hens are getting a bit old and don’t lay as often. 

We’ve called the chick ‘Ora’ thanks to Megan in Quack Cottage who informed me there’s a pop star called Rita Ora… fancy! I like to think it alludes to her golden colouring …

Glow worms in the lane

They’re back!  Glow worms spotted at dusk last week and this week outside Rose Cottage in the four wheel drive track.  Last year, they appeared in the sage bush outside the old mill house.

Like everything else in nature this year, they’re a bit later than usual  and we’re so glad to see them 

We’re generating our own electricity now the water turbine is live!

We’re generating our own electricity now the water turbine is live!

The Turbine Shed

Well, we’ve overcome floods, high water and manufacturing delays and at last our new replacement water turbine is generating power at Watermill Cottages.

We’re generating enough power to run our house and Barleycorn Cottage which has an ‘Everhot’ Aga-style electric range designed to run on self-generated power.  Excess power is exported to the grid – a ‘Wattson’ meter shows us how much power we’re generating and whether it’s being used here or exported.  We’re trying to use as much as we can on site as it’s more economic.

The old mill leat which used to channel water to the long-gone waterwheel now channels water to the forbay from where it is fed by pipes to the turbine.  It is so lovely to see the water flowing along the leat and trout making the most of a new shady place to swim.  And to hear the conversation, it is a real chatter, as it runs over the old leat stones.

To stroll from Crownwheel Cottage over the plank bridge and along the short track between the leat and the stream through the woods is a delight to the senses – deciduous woods, water gurgling, wildflowers, and dappled sunlight.  The bench by the weir, made from a fallen tree pulled from the stream, offers a place to rest and nourish your spirit, it is so relaxing there.

So once again, the old mill is in production, not corn but electricity.  A few steps closer to being self-sufficient and living more sustainably, harvesting the power of what flows naturally. 

Power to the people, as John says!

Devon Restaurant Month is June!

Special offers this June at many of Devon’s leading restaurants – have a look at Devon Restaurant Month website for deals, discounts and taster menus whilst you’re staying at Watermill Cottages

Blackpool Sands – Venus Café every Thursday night in June (6, 13, 20, 27), Devon organic 28-day-aged grass-fed sirloin steak with half a Start Bay lobster at the special price £19.99 per person. Booking essential.

Gara Rock Restaurant offer is 20-23 June

Local to Watermill Cottages are Waterside Bistro in Totnes, the White Hart at Dartington (in the beautiful grounds of 13th Century Dartington Hall) , Venus Café at Blackpool Sands, Gara Rock Restaurant (dog-friendly, on the Coast Path too) and The Old Market House Brixham.