Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Devon Odyssey Part II: Hope Cove And Other Seaside Places, Canonteign Falls (yuk), Dartmoor, And At Long Last! A Painted Lady Butterfly

One of my favourite things to do is go rock-pooling, and the Devonshire coasts are really very obliging when it comes to Leaving Interesting Rock-pools Behind for people to explore at Low Tide. The tides were very generous too, more or less accommodating our preference for morning seaside adventures.

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

Three Crabs

 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.

Red Admiral


Small Tortoiseshells

Wall Brown (first sighting of this butterfly for me)

Painted Lady
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.


  1. Lovely photos CT. The Wall Brown is a very pretty butterfly with a terrible name! Sorry the hols went so fast but it seems you all have a great time together. Your butterfly spotting was very successful.

    1. I remember seeing a Wall Brown on your blog a while ago and agreeing about the name. Such an unimaginative one for such a gorgeously marked flutterby. There were also several moths who obligingly came into the cottage at night. The boys had an antler moth who dive bombed them until I rescued him, and a beautiful brimstone moth flew into me when I was going swimming one morning. I have missed them this week so it was lovely to have some moth contact!

  2. You are more than welcome to come and view Phoebe and Tybalt's water fountain for free. It isn't Victorian, I am afraid, but it is making interesting noises at the mo which probably means the filter is bunged up with cat fur.

    Thanks for the mention of the whelk sneeze with accompanying picture. I ought to know better than to read your blog at tea-time!

    1. I expect Phoebe and Tybalt's fountain is a lot nicer than that Victorian monstrosity. Will they have to share it with Miss FBM eventually?

      At least it was snot and not poo!! x

  3. That's a lovely pub in Widecombe - Rugglestone Inn? Do they still have the ducks and the silkies roaming the beer garden?

    You had some great beach weather.

    My moth companion last night looked for all the world like one of those things you scan with your phone and get taken to a website. I did offer up my phone to see if all would be revealed, but it flew off.

    1. It was the other one, which doesn't get great reviews and the bar girl did have a face on her that looked like it might crack if she so much as risked a small smile. I think we'll try the Rugglestone next time we're up that way after your recommendation!

      Your moth may have been a Black Arches? They are rather splendid black and white people.

  4. Wonderful pictures again have you taken the close up ones with the P setting of your camera on the Lumix camera? Ie also love the one at the rock pools at Hope cove with the spectacular scenery in the distance.
    Sarah x

    1. Hi Sarah :-)

      Yup, all the close ups were with the "P" setting on the Lumix. Have you tried yours out yet? I've been very pleased with the results I've got from mine.

  5. Terrific photos of your holiday. I'm glad you all had a great time - with good weather, it looks like. I'm quite envious you saw all those lovely butterflies. I'm fascinated by rock pools and tiny seashore creatures; but, apart from the well-known ones, I would need a good ID book with me if I wanted to know what they were.

    1. We were unbelievably lucky with the weather- wall to wall sunshine all the way through. I've got a collins gem pocket guide for the sea which is brilliant for the basics. It's getting a bit dog-eared now though as it's been dragged out to beaches so many times! Very useful though.

  6. Lovely photos - so glad you had such a good time and great weather :) Love the stuff on rockpools - such a great ecosystem to explore :)

    Well done on the Painted Lady (only seen one this year) and Wall Brown.

    1. Sorry for the late reply to this it must have slipped my radar!

      I was thrilled with the Painted Lady, all the more because it remains the only one I've seen this year so it was worth the holiday for that alone! ;-)

  7. What a wonderful hol you seem to have had! Fab weather by the looks of things too! Great that you saw a new species of flutterby and a painted lady too! Your rock pooling activities sound fantastic fun too! All these tremendous things shown off by some brilliant photos :)

    1. We were SO lucky with the weather Lou, and the butterflies were lovely. Thrilled with the PL, still no other sightings of one x


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them. CT.