I may have lived in Devon for ages and ages, but as the proud owner of a sheeny new driving license I decided it was time to get behind the wheel and celebrate my freedom by visiting one of those National Trust properties that dot the South Devon countryside. So, as the sun shone defiantly in the face of autumn, I grabbed a friend and headed for Coleton Fishacre, the former home of the D’Oyly Carte family who once owned The Savoy.
Now, before I go any further I should say this – if you love all things Art Deco then you’ll be in Heaven. Built in 1926, this country property once rang with the sounds of clinking glasses and the tinkling of the Bluthner piano that still sits in the living room as the family entertained friends from London, and there’s a nod to the style of the time in Every. Single. Room.
Feeling outdoorsy and like an adventure, I spent most of my visit in the gardens, and the best bit about them is that they’re big enough to have a pretty decent walk (and a workout thanks to the fact that they’re set on a hill), and you can follow the pathways through woodland right down to the sea. Start at the top where bright, exotic flowers hang over winding paths and make your way steadily downwards, past bamboo and scented bushes blazing with colour – and every now and then you’ll catch a glimpse of the sea in the distance to spur you on.
The beauty is, the further down towards the sea you wander the less formal the gardens become, but they’re every bit as pretty as the well-tended terraces closer to the house. Eventually, you’ll find yourself at Scout Point just on the other side of a wooded area, and if the fence didn’t stop us in our tracks at this point the view would have.
Friendly small talk with a couple visiting from Yorkshire who were walking their dog through the gardens turned into a long, animated chat while we all took in the peace and quiet (and put off the uphill walk back to the house if we’re honest!), before they disappeared through the gate to pick up the South West Coast Path and we made our way back out of the valley and to the real world.