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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dorset-Devon: Crossing the County Line (Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Axminster, Sidmouth, Ladram Bay)

Having enjoyed the bus journey to Axminster last week, and an excellent meal at the River Cottage restaurant, we decided to venture a little further into Devon, to Honiton, to see the Matisse paper cut-outs touring exhibition at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery before it closes on 7 February. This time we went by car.

I wanted to go to Ottery St. Mary, and to see the River Otter, to get a fix of Coleridge. Eventually reached the town, and saw the river, but not much else. But his poem conjures up the scene much more effectively.

Sonnet to the River Otter

Dear native Brook! wild Streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have past,
What happy and what mournful hours, since last
I skimm'd the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! yet so deep imprest
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that vein'd with various dyes
Gleam'd through thy bright transparence! On my way,
Visions of Childhood! oft have ye beguil'd
Lone manhood's cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless Child! 

The reason I didn't explore further? - My own visions of childhood called me back to the seaside at Sidmouth and Ladram Bay, where I once used to skim pebbles (in the years when there were very few caravans). 

Triassic Mercia Mudstone Cliffs

Sea Stacks at Ladram Bay, remains of collapsed arches

Caves at Ladram Bay, Devonshire, Engraving, 1859


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