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Tiverton,  Sidmouth and Stonehenge
Devon, England
24 - 26 Sept 09

Jim and I arrive back in Heathrow Airport, rent a car and head off to Tiverton, Devon where his aunt and uncle live.  We visited here on our France/England trip in 2004 and it is a wonderful place to decompress after our trip to Turkey.

Tiverton, on the River Exe, was one of the first settlements established by the Anglo-Saxons after their 7th-century conquest.  It is small and old, and we remember the place well from our last trip.

On the 25th we all head to Sidmouth, a seaside village on the Jurassic Coast and 15 miles south east from Exeter. Sidmouth boasts over 500 listed buildings, many of which are relics of Sidmouth's heyday in the Regency era.  On our walk down on the Esplanade we visit the Old Ship Inn, once a monastery in 1350, which has also served time as a handy smugglers' rendezvous.

In the early 19th century when Sidmouth was popular with royalty, young Princess Victoria and the Duke and Duchess of Kent stayed here. Years later, Queen Victoria's third son, the Duke of Connaught came to Sidmouth to visit the place where his grandfather passed on and lent his name to Connaught Gardens where we had lunch.

We have lunch in the Connaught Gardens, built around 1820 on the headland at the western end of the Esplanade.

Connaught Gardens are located in an important strategic location, looking out to sea and along the coastline for some distance. During the Second World War, they played an important role in the defence of the south coast. They were closed to the public and two 138mm swivel guns, taken from the French battleship ĎParisí were installed looking out to sea (although a lack of shells meant that they were only fired a few times!). The clock tower was fitted with a searchlight and another gun was placed in the Sunken Garden for practice. A concrete emplacement was built near the main entrance to the Gardens and this can still be seen today.

A feature of the garden is Jacobís Ladder, a tall white set of steps that have been constructed to link the Gardens to the beach below. This is not, however, the first structure in this location. An access in this area actually dates back to the mid 19th Century when steps were cut into the cliff to give access to the beach below which had been largely inaccessible until then. This developed into a cart track that was used to transport lime (brought in by boat from places such as Branscombe) to the lime kiln which has now been converted into the Tea Rooms. The ongoing cliff erosion caused the path to fall in 1870 but access to the beach had become so popular with the Victorian population by this time that an extremely long ladder was built, like Jacobís ladder to heaven, hence its name. The steep ladder was not popular though, being difficult to use in the dress of the day, and so a new ladder was constructed in much the same style as the steps of today. The chine with the zig-zag path down to the beach was not created until the 1950ís, the esplanade walk around the base of the cliff being completed a few years later.

The next morning we are up early for the return leg to London, passing Stonehenge along the way. Somehow, l thought it was going to be 'different' somehow....l had visions from Spinal Tap in my brain at the same time as druidic sacrifice:)

click on a picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.

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Devon coast. Jim and l assist a woman who has a bad fall in front of E9

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