Back To The Sea

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Hartland Abbey, Devon


One of the delights of living in Devon is the comparatively short distance to the coast. Both sides of the county are accessible enough but we tend towards the North and West. Β The terrain is rugged and dramatic, yet away from the tourist beaches it’s a lot less crowded. Even at this time of year.


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And so, as a bit of a break from the current hard graft, we decided to take a day out.

Built in the 12th century as a monastery, in 1539 Hartland Abbey was gifted by Henry VIII to the Keeper of his Wine Cellar. It is still a family home. The plan was to arrive early, though all things being relative in this remote part of Devon the gardens don’t open until 11.30 a.m. and the house not until 2.00 p.m.

Plenty of time for a stroll down to the sea. It takes about 25 minutes each way, but is so worth it.


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The rock formations at low tide

Going early paid off. Even on this sunny day in August, for a precious few minutes we had this cove virtually to ourselves. Just the sound of the waves, the wind and the gulls.


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View back through the trees to a folly perched on the cliff top


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After lunch in the cobbled courtyard and a tour of the house (no photos allowed), we walked back up the drive to the walled garden.


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Quite delightful.


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Artichoke flower


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Back down by the house, donkeys graze. Approach them from the tea room side and they will come up to the fence to say hello. Hmmm..


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A peacock seemed to have assumed guard duty beside our car.

And still we had the shrubbery, bog garden, stream side and fernery to explore..


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Perhaps a Gunnera or two for the river side back at home? Not much room for weeds under there.


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A day well spent.


2017-12-01T17:40:08+00:00August 22nd, 2013|Tags: |


  1. Joanne August 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Oh wow it all looks wonderful, I do love the look of the rocky beach, I could spend hours there.

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      It’s a characteristic feature of this area of the coast. Very dramatic, it needs a camera that does a panorama shot really!

  2. Pauline August 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    Love your photo of the peacock, my favourite colours! We have never visited Hartland Abby, we must rectify that and put it on the list, sounds delightful.

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      I was surprised at just how much there is to see. It’s spread out though, quite a bit of walking. Wore me out anyway!

  3. Denise August 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    I too love living on the coast line. I spent many years in Nottingham in my first teaching job and it was the sea I missed so much. Have to have my daily fix now. Loved all the blue! Right up your inspirational street eh?

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Seems I’m going through a blue period, figuratively speaking!

  4. elaine August 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    How lucky you are not to live too far from the sea – a day out becomes a mini-holiday. Love those gardens and the donkeys

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      The gardens were lovely, the veggie plot too. Comforting to see though that salad leaves bolt for everyone at this time of year, professionals included!

  5. Jo August 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    It looks fabulous. I can’t believe we missed this, we visited Hartland Quay last year and never considered Hartland Abbey. I love the north coast of Devon.

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      We toyed with the idea of going on to Hartland Quay yesterday, but ran out of time. I’m thinking I’d like to go back one day soon and walk the coast path back to the folly. The views of the rock formations from on high must be fabulous.

  6. Rosie August 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Looks wonderful! The peacock certainly fixed you with his beady eye. A few gunnera plants would look good down by your river – glad you had a restful day out:)

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosie. I shall look out for some gunnera next spring, so they have plenty of time to establish. They need a bit of winter protection.

  7. ournewlifeinthecountry August 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    ‘shrubbery, bog garden, stream side and fernery’ …. do you realise how much this sounds like your home. You too have created a wonderful garden, and one that you don’t have to pay to get into πŸ™‚

    We are off to the Devon/Dorset border soon for a wonderful day out at River Cottage HQ for the Autumn event, our last chance for rest and something completely non ‘housey’ for a while, although as usual when we are there we will be looking for inspiration in everything we see. It’s a weekend we’ve both been looking forward to for ages and yes, while we’re there we’ll be driving down to see the sea. How can we not!!

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue. We do seem to end up in places like this, much to learn.
      Your trip to River Cottage sounds really good though, how can you fail to get inspiration there!

  8. Justine August 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    How beautiful it looks. Is it an NT property (she asked, being too lazy to look it up!)?

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Not NT, privately owned. Which means we had to pay. A lot.

  9. Jenny August 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Looks like a perfect day. I do love north Devon coast – so beautiful.

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      It is very scenic, and all the better for being relatively uncrowded.

  10. haggiz August 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Oh that walled garden is just perfect. I agree with you about Devon, it is so green and rolling, but the coast is so close… the best of both worlds. Julie x

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      I’d love a walled garden. We were looking at a very large fig tree and trying to decide where we could put one. Nowhere suitable, unfortunately.

  11. Denise August 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a quite, quite perfect day. I am always amazed at how large gunnera can grow.

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      I know, absolutely massive. I think that’s what they call an architectural plant!

  12. Crafty Gardener August 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    What a gorgeous place to visit.

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      It was. Like you, we have done quite a few daycations this year!

  13. Rosemary August 22, 2013 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    What a lovely day out, well worth arriving before everyone else. Hoping that my artichokes will give me thistles too, that is if the ants don’t eat them all. My Hydrangeas are pink but would must rather have blue ones. How is it we always want what we can’t grow?

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Perhaps these were getting a helping hand with a bit of acidifier.. there were others with a distinct pink tinge! Mine sit on the fence, neither pink nor blue.

  14. Em August 22, 2013 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    There is nothing I envy more than a walled garden! Lovely pics of a lovely place. What is it with you and originally Asian birds? They just can’t get enough of you!

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Possibly they spot a soft touch Em. If I had had something to give it, I would have.

  15. CJ August 22, 2013 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    It’s beautiful. I do so love Devon, it’s a lovely county, and Hartland Abbey looks stunning. We visit North Devon from time to time, and it’s always a wonderful place to be. Lucky you living in Devon. The countryside is gorgeous. And the clotted cream. Oh the clotted cream…

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      OK I confess. I had a clotted cream ice cream. Cappuccino crunch. Mike had raspberry..

      • CJ August 25, 2013 at 10:29 am - Reply

        That sounds beyond delicious. I found somewhere on holiday that was doing ice-creams rolled in clotted cream, so that the outside was all clotted cream. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed one though… It might be something I can recreate at home I think.

        • Jessica August 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm - Reply

          If you crack the technique, make sure you blog about it!

  16. Vera August 22, 2013 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed sharing your day. It gave me a lovely treat. Meanwhile, back on the farm…….(I’ll be alright when this time of harvest is done with!)

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      I’d better pop over and make sure you’re OK..

  17. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA August 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    It looks like such a lovely day! I do think I was a Brit in a former life. Love the landscape there thanks for sharing. Yes, gunnera would be great stream side at your place. maybe add in the peacock to amuse your resident pheasant?

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      I stood watching the peacock for a while. It had all the seed heads off a nearby grass. It would save on weeding I guess..

  18. John going gently August 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Jess.. I have said this before.. But your photos are lovely
    Can you enter the photo class in our flower show next year?

    • Jessica August 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks John. If you would accept a joint entry.. me & Mike.

  19. Wendy August 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Lovely photos of your visit. What a treat finding a quiet place on the coast in August! The walled garden looks beautiful. And I love the donkeys.

    • Jessica August 23, 2013 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Walled gardens are very special. Here it is probably necessary too, to provide shelter from salt laden winds.

  20. snowbird August 23, 2013 at 12:20 am - Reply

    A day very well spent. I loved the donkeys, and the walled garden, especially the feature in the middle, and I would have loved to walk along those rock formations at low tide.xxxx

    • Jessica August 23, 2013 at 8:44 am - Reply

      We will have to go back for a longer walk. I wonder what creatures lurk in all those rock pools.

  21. woolythymes August 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    you are so lucky to have something like this so close!!!! what a lovely day—-and thanks for taking me along! πŸ™‚

    • Jessica August 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      You’re very welcome!

  22. Simone August 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    I’ve got my eye on some Gunnera for the garden. I love them! What is it with birds latching on to you Jessica? First there was Ptolomy and now a peacock! He didn’t follow you home did he? Lovely post! x

    • Jessica August 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      I quite fancy the idea of peacocks on the lawn. They are noisy though..

  23. frayed at the edge August 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful day out! I love the colours of the hydrangea and the peacock. The house is stunning – it is doubtful if current buildings will survive that long and/or look that good!

    • Jessica August 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm - Reply

      You’re right Anne.

  24. Sarah August 23, 2013 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    We always tend to visit the South coast of Devon rather than the North. I can see we are missing some delights! it must have been wonderful having that cove all to yourself. Are the purple flowers in the walled garden phlox? You always seem to attract the animals I’m glad the peacock allowed you back in your car!
    Sarah x

    • Jessica August 23, 2013 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      We’ll be back to the South Coast after the peak holiday season, but I do like the scenery of the north too. There are some wonderful walks along the cliffs. The purple flowers are indeed phlox.

  25. BadPenny August 24, 2013 at 9:05 am - Reply

    What a delightful place to visit. Just imagine being gifted that house !

    When my mother lived right by the coast on Anglesey, I loved getting little coves all to ourselves ( though I also enjoyed chatting to other holidaymakers too ! )

    • Jessica August 24, 2013 at 10:17 am - Reply

      Sounds bliss Penny!

  26. knitsofacto August 24, 2013 at 11:23 am - Reply

    A day well spent indeed! I adore that stretch of Devon coast … I grew up on the Somerset/Devon border and it was a favourite day trip away πŸ™‚

    • Jessica August 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      The sad thing is we don’t spend nearly enough time there, or indeed any other part of Devon. It’s all too easy to get caught up with everything that needs to be done around the house and garden.

  27. CherryPie August 25, 2013 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    It looks like a great day out. I love your photo journey of the day πŸ™‚

    • Jessica August 26, 2013 at 10:10 am - Reply

      Thanks Cherie. A day out now and then is good for the soul.

  28. Anna August 26, 2013 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    What a great destination Jessica for a day out πŸ™‚ Seems a while since I’ve seen the sea apart from crossing it. Must do something to remedy the situation.

    • Jessica August 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      We have done better this year for days out and I do love being beside the sea. I hope we can squeeze in a couple more trips before the weather turns colder.

  29. Linda August 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    I don’t know how i managed to miss this interesting post. Your photos are so good, especially the peacock and i would say the same for your veggie photos in other posts. Hartland Abbey looks my kind of place and with the sea nearby, follies on the horizon and interesting plants in the garden it looks like a dream visit. Wouldn’t be happy about no photos in the house though! Henry VIII must have appreciated his Keeper of the Wine Cellar!

    • Jessica August 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      It is a private house, so I suppose in this instance I did understand the no photos rule. The peacock seemed to love posing for the camera! If you are ever down this way it is well worth a visit. Thanks Linda.

  30. Natalie August 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous pics! I love Devon. Haven’t been since 1988… need to get back! One of my Mum’s favourite place in her homeland, too.

    • Jessica August 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      High time you were back!

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