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Published: April 8th 2012
Stepping off the plane on UK soil swamped me with a multitude of emotions; excitement at the prospect of seeing my family waiting the other side of the airport (complete with huge banner), surprising my boyfriend that evening (it was his birthday and he had no idea I was back), wracked with nerves at the prospect of a job interview the next day, yet all the while I did not have a moment to breathe in the realisation I was now thousands of miles away from a continent I called ‘home’ for the last seven months. So, it was with short sightedness that I 'completed' my travel blog at the end of February upon my return to the UK. I closed my mind to the possibility of continuing my adventures closer to home based upon the assumption that no one would want to hear about what I got up to anymore now that I was back in England. This saddened me; it was through my blogs that I developed a love of writing, focus, and loved sharing my experiences with not only friends but also strangers. I was delighted to influence other travellers to go to places they would otherwise miss
because the travel guides over looked it and it gave me the opportunity to share my experiences with my family, which would otherwise be lonely.
After a month of teaching back in the same school I worked in previous to my travels, I was ready for the Easter break. I have been exhausted in my seven years as a teacher and the holidays have always served as a much needed escape from the toll of anxiety and constant awareness of thirty-five teenagers for seven hours a day, easily enough to shatter anyone’s nerves. But, after seven months ‘out’, it was proving tough to get back in to the swing of things. After only one week my travels seemed so far away, a distant dream, almost as if I had never left. It wasn’t an issue of behavior management; it seemed rumors had spread of my return so had little to do in establishing myself with new students, instead it was the constant focus, talking, planning, noise, and movement. I forgot how much we do as teachers and how little I did in my days away. My voice strained not because I was shouting, I didn’t do any
of that, but just through talking constantly to my students; something I did little of when I was travelling alone when instead I found myself spending more time alone and enjoying the silence of observation.
When my Mum asked Carl and I to accompany her filming, I jumped at the chance. We knew we wouldn’t see much of each other considering she would be working the camera and busying herself with the show from the early hours until late at night, but it would be good to have some time with her and it gave me the chance to see parts of England which I love and are absolutely stunning, beautiful enough to rival anywhere else in the world.
An early morning start, 6am, too early, but with very good reason; to beat the traffic on the M25 motorway circulating London. There isn’t too much to see along this concrete boulevard aside from the constant heavy stream of traffic and continuous road works, which forever delay the flow and prevent most successes of arriving at any destination in appropriate time. With the odd stop-off at service stations to fill the guzzling car with much
needed fuel as well as our rumbling stomachs we finally make it to Devon from Kent within six hours. Not a personal best but the weather was good; skies were blue and the sun was shining down upon us radiating her heat as the smell of fresh air filled our lungs. Knowing this would be the only day to really see the seaside and re-visit the towns we went to as children, we sped along tiny country roads surrounded with tall hedge rows, the tree branches interlocking their sinewy fingers in arches above us as ‘Tom Tom’ directed us towards the Devonshire coast along the most interesting of routes. Vibrant greens, translucent yellows and blood-red soil shrouded the hilly pastures. Cows lazily munched upon fresh grass completely unaffected by life driving past. The seaside neared us as we climbed high cliffs crumbling in to the sea and the familiar seaside smells enveloped me.
Narrow coastal roads wound their way through green fields, the blue sea in the distance ever nearing us. We stopped off at a tiny town called Stoke Gabriel positioned neatly along the River Dart and watched children crab in amazement as time and time
again they pulled out one after the other in a continuous stream. They squabbled over who would release the net and who would grab the bucket to put the unsuspecting crab into. Along the length of this ridge, only visible in low tide, children cast their crabbing wires in to the water whilst their parents watched with a steaming cup of tea warming their hands. The wind bit at us but the sun bright warmed the bare flesh exposed to the elements.
We continue our whistle-stop tour of the south Devonshire coast and pass Slapton Leys, an area I remember fondly from my Geography field trip when I was seventeen. Having been educated at a Girls school for the last year, it was exciting to find scores of boys from Dulwich college at the same accommodation centre. It certainly added to the Geography field trip. Slapton Leys is of key interest to a Geographer considering it is an area of outstanding beauty as well as an area sadly being eaten away in huge chunks each year by the natural erosion, which occurs from the vicious winds and relentless sea hurling itself persistently against the steep cliff sides.
Further down is a little town called Beesands, which has nearly disappeared to the point that empty houses are half standing and half fallen whilst others completely washed away; a sad but incredible sight to see. If anything, the south Devonshire coastline is a reminder of our insignificant place on earth; we might think we are mighty and powerful but in reality there are forces on this earth far greater than us, that will out-do us and will always win.
We pass Dartmouth crossing the River Dart on a car ferry before heading to Salcombe. Once a sleepy fishing village, now a fashionable hang-out for city bankers who enviably own a house there and as a consequence, tiny two bedroom properties can reach near one million pounds. The popular fashion label “Jack Wills” was established here as a simple store selling clothing for sailors and coastal inhabitants but in the last ten or so years has shot to fame as a ‘university outfitters’ and can be found in most cities in the UK. In a way, Salcombe can be personified through such preppy institutions and a reflection on how Salcombe has developed in the very recent years.
Having been there only eight years ago, it was a different town. But that is life, we develop and things change. This is not always negative, though whilst it is irritating to see a beautiful village over run with over priced fashion shops and filled with the WAGs of the city dwellers, Salcombe is hard not to like. The sun still shines here even when it is raining.
We stop off for lunch at the Winking Prawn, what used to be a little coffee hut opposite one of the bays, now a bustling restaurant selling tasty food and filled with hungry locals and tourists; a definite place to stop if you are in the area. The wonderful thing about Salcombe is that whilst it caters for the sickeningly wealthy, there are alternatives in accommodation such as a hostel, which is far more affordable for travellers. One thing I have found hard to stomach is just how expensive life is in the UK, especially for tourists who want to see and experience life in Britain. Everyone I met in S.E.Asia who had been to England only went to London before having to head to France because it was just too
expensive to stay and see anything more. Accommodation, food, travel, all of which leave the average tourist with very little left to do any sightseeing. Salcombe redeems itself with the local campsites and hostels which make travelling the south coast a little more affordable, if only more Americans and Australians would escape London and brave it. But who can blame them?!
Feeling brighter after a cup of hot fruity tea at delicious food at the Winking Prawn (sitting outside like all British do when they see an ounce of sun) we headed off on our jaunt through Kingsbridge before stopping off at Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island for yummy honeycomb ice cream. We stand wrapped tightly in our coats and hats watching the few holidaymakers stripped to their swimming costumes running about the sandy beach. They are clearly British, only we would something as ridiculous as this when it is snowing only a matter of sixty miles north of us.
I forgot how beautiful England was. I simple case of the grass is always greener on the other side. Whilst Asia is a delicacy for the western traveller, England (home) is actually pretty remarkable
too and can easily compete for the natural beauties that exist here. I would whine at the Americans, Australians and the Europeans who had been to London but not braved outside of the M25 ring road (for whatever reason) and spend hours imploring them to return and visit the south coast, Wales, Scotland or the Lake District. Day one of my whistle stop tour has already reminded me of just how beautiful England is and how lucky we are to have such incredible landscapes. It’s just a shame about the weather….
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