It is obligatory when holidaying by the sea with children for at least one of your brood to give you a significant dose of heart failure at some point in the proceedings. This is usually directly related to both seawater and sharp rocks. This year it was L's turn. He accomplished it by comprehensively disappearing while climbing some very high spiky rocks that towered imperiously above the sea that in turn swirled dangerously over more sharp rocks hiding just beneath the surface.
Given that he'd last been seen leaping like a mountain goat from one spiky boulder to another in the direction of a crumbling Civil War Tower decked with signs proclaiming calamities of hideous proportions for anyone who ventured in to it (surely a beacon for any self-respecting 12 year old boy) my mind very quickly started to run towards panicky conclusions helped along by frightening and insistent visions of him slipping and falling from the tower onto the rocks below and thence into the sea. These only got worse when yelling his name at the top of my voice produced no results whatsoever.
Fighting panic and not really winning on that score, I ran back to base to raise the search party, only to discover said 12 year old lying casually on a blanket nonchalantly munching his way through a packet of crisps. I bent over in relief, heaving to get my breath back. He gave me a hard sort of a look.
"Where have you been?" he asked sternly. "You disappeared and I've been worried about you."
Now reasonably confident that I'd had my quota of children-related scares, I got on with the happier activity of searching rock pools for Interesting Sea People, and taking pictures.
A lonely limpet and a circle where his friend once was
J and F rock-pooling at Hope Cove
At Hope Cove looking out towards Bigbury Bay
Now this surely qualifies as an "Interesting Sea Person" but what is it? Some form of sea jelly? Or has a whelk sneezed perhaps?
This is the sea road to Hope Cove, which is impassible when the tide is up, which is All Rather Thrilling if you are me, or M.
Beaded Sea Anemone, pretending to be a blob of jelly
The Beach at South Sands
We like to play Boules whenever we visit the sea
A bed of thick seaweed at Mill Cove (or Bay) opposite Salcombe
An upside-down limpet
After seeing the sea at various beaches we decided to head off to Canonteign Falls on Dartmoor, which gushingly advertises itself as "the largest waterfall in the UK." Except that it isn't. Or more accurately, it is "the largest artifically man-made waterfall in the UK" which is not the same thing AT ALL.
Canonteign is an example of a bored Victorian aristo with too much money meddling with the natural environment and diverting the river away from its original (and much more interesting) course to make a "better view". A more accurate description would have been "a hosepipe pouring out on the top of a cliff." And they charged us thirty quid to go and see the bloody thing!
We left feeling swindled and more than a little disgruntled, but had soon decided to call it our "joke of the holiday" (every good holiday has to have one of these: it is a necessary ingredient). We headed off to Dartmoor to Ann-Widdecombe-In-The-Moor instead (as we all call it) and a well-earnt drink and some crisps in the pub. On the way we stopped to admire Haytor and Hounds Tor (waving at Em in case she was looking). Both were predictably crawling with people- there was even an orderly queue to climb to the top at Haytor.
Arriving back at the cottage an hour or so later M decided to take the small rowing boat out on the lake. I started off being brave and having a go at rowing, but as I am not really safe to be let loose in a boat soon decided I'd have much more fun hunting butterflies instead so I left him to it...
The butterfly thing was a Good Call because I finally found one I have been looking out for all summer: the Painted Lady. The buddleia bush beside the cottage was a favourite haunt for the butterflies and I saw Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Large Whites, Small Whites, Brimstones, Wall Browns, Silver Washed Fritillaries, Speckled Woods, Meadow Browns and Ringlets over the week.
Wall Brown (first sighting of this butterfly for me)
This amazing migrant butterfly comes over from Africa by laying eggs, hatching out as caterpillars which pupate and hatch out in turn as butterflies, in repeated stages across the land, and has been recorded flying at heights of up to 3000 feet and speeds of up to 30 miles an hour, which is twice their normal flying speed. I was made up to see one.
Silver Washed Fritillary
So all in all a fabulous holiday which went by in the flash of an eye and now, in the way of such things, almost feels like it didn't happen! We will all treasure fond memories of our time in Devon, but it's always nice to be home.