September is beckoning and August seems to have disappeared before it has begun. So much has been going on down here in the valley. The Abbey has been full with visitors, friends and our growing family who come in search of the sun and sand. Sadly the former has been in short supply, but every cloud has a silver lining and this has been the year of the hydrangea! The Shrubbery has been a sea of blue with the Blue Wave lacecaps
and the inky blue of the mopheads but almost the prettiest are the white lacecaps with their beautiful blue eyes. Those of our visitors who have ventured over the Abbey river have been enjoying them enormously. The Walled Gardens are still looking stunning with the peppery-smelling purple phloxes in full bloom and helianthemums, penstemon, japanese anenomes, fuchsias and lots of autumn flowers coming into flower. Nigel has created a wonderful, rather Victorian, display in the summerhouse which has been a lovely refuge to garden visitors who are caught in the not infrequent downpours of late. The greenhouses are stunning with huge displays of geraniums and many beautiful tender and rare plants. At last the vegetables too are in full production; we have gone from famine to feast and will have plenty to sell to visitors.
Thank you to all our wonderful visitors who have written such kind and encouraging comments in our book. It means such a lot to the whole team here. Our room stewards, who have spent the last six months, mainly on their feet, explaining the finer details of each room to visitors, do such an amazing job and it is particularly nice to read such complimentary comments about them. Also what people seem to appreciate so much here is the fact that we are a real family home and not a ‘museum’ and we love to meet as many visitors as possible. The only family member who is no longer able to be on public view is Alice, our adored Jack Russell, who has sometimes let the side down in the past by a nip here and there. Sadly I can no longer risk an increased 18 month prison sentence so she will either be seen firmly on a lead or will be in her very comfy basket out of sight!
During August we have had two brilliant theatre productions for children, The Twits and King Arthur. Both afternoons were dry and were fantastically well attended with 400 here for The Twits and slightly less for King Arthur. We are so thankful to The Plough Arts Centre for bringing the productions here and to Illyria and the Cambridge Touring Theatre for putting on such stunning
performances. Mr and Mrs Twit were truly disgusting! On Saturday September 1st we will be putting on a Heartbreak Theatre production of ‘Private Lives’ by Noel Coward which we are all looking forward to so much. We will be sad when the theatre season is over as it has been such fun; the front lawn has been a great stage. We will again be providing the barbecue and the Pimms and Wine Bar and so it is uneccesary to bring a picnic if you are feeling like a real night off. It really is such a lovely evening out.
Blackpool Mill cottage and The Bear have been full up during the summer with some lovely families. Thank you all for coming and we hope to see some of you back in the future. Next year is bound to be wall-to-wall sunshine! We have a few autumn weeks available in the cottages when it is lovely and quiet and normally beautiful weather! Everyone this summer has been very stoical when it has poured with rain and Hartland has been lucky with much less rain than inland. However we were pretty envious of London during the Olympics which
seemed to be almost totally dry.
Hartland village and the surrounding peninsula has so much to do for families nowadays in any weather; the Abbey with its gardens and walks are great fun for exploring, the village has great galleries, the Springfield pottery and no 39 pottery (where you can also learn to be a potter yourself), really good small shops, a good pub with good food,
Hartland Quay with rooms overlooking the Atlantic, masses of sand on the beach at low tide and a great Wreckers Retreat bar and Tea Room, two really good camp sites: Stoke Barton overlooking the sea and Hartland site in the village and masses of really first class B and Bs. St Nectan’s Church in Stoke has a most beautiful screen and ceiling decoration. The church is huge and is known as ‘The Cathedral of North Devon’ with its tall tower reputedly used by wreckers in days gone by to lure unsuspecting ships onto the jagged and deadly rocks at Hartland Quay. Docton Mill with its working mill and delicious refreshments has a really beautiful garden too. Last but not least some of the best beaches and surfing in the west country and Clovelly close by. Our children and grandchildren adore it here and never want to leave as there is so much to do. The Flower Festival in the church, the Craft Fair and Car Boot Sale this weekend have been enormous fun and there is another wonderful Farmer’s Market coming soon so never a dull moment! Both the holiday cottages will have many more books on their shelves thanks to the Car Boot Sale where there were nearly as many books on sale as in a large high street bookseller!
It is only a month now until we close at the end of September but there is still lots to look forward to in the gardens and ‘Private Lives’ on Sept 1st should be great fun. We still have on show the small exhibition of John Bampfylde’s recollections and mementos from the 1936 Olympic Games in which he was a membert of the British Fencing Team. He was my husband’s uncle who was sadly killed in the same year in a steeplechase at Taunton.
Thank you to everyone who has visited and supported us this year. We hope to see many more of you before we close and the Abbey and all our wonderful staff have a well earned winter rest. But there is all the redecorating and gardening to do so it is only a momentary rest…..! Angela Stucley