Monday 19th April – A beautiful, clear day. A little warmer than of late, but still cool out of the sun. In the hide on Bicton’s nature walk we sat and watched great, blue and coal tits flitting to and from the feeding station. A nuthatch entertained us for a while, as did a grey squirrel feeding on the ground, as cute as a button. I spotted a warbler of some sort, it may have been a chiffchaff but it made no attempt to sing so identification was not really possible – small, light brown, pale breast, narrow beak. Could be any one of them. A stately cock pheasant stalked through the clearing, languorously herding two females ahead of him, occasionally shaking his feathers and scolding ‘kerrkuk, kuk’.
Tuesday 20th April – A trip to a specialist plant nursery today – Plant World, a little way outside Newton Abbott. We are having some work done in the garden at the moment and have plans for growing things rather more unusual than is found at the garden centres; palms, exotic, large-leaved plants, plus a selection of the more unusual varieties of herbaceous perennials. If you’re ever near this place, I do recommend you pop in and have a look around. There is an interesting garden with plants set out according to the part of the world they come from, and a lovely nursery with a great selection of really healthy plants on sale. The plants are decent sized specimens and not expensive. We couldn’t resist a digitalis ferruginea gigantia, a giant foxglove with orangey-brown flowers and reaching almost 2 metres tall; an unusual form of red hot poker, kniphophia uvaria; a white goose-neck loosestrife, lysimachia clethroides; and a spiky bromeliad, puya berteroniana. They should all be ok in our bit of mild, temperate climate if we find the right spot, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do. There was also this bucolic view across the fields towards the Teign estuary. How very Thomas Hardy. It just needed Gabriel Oak to step into the picture.
Wednesday 21st April – A real treat today. A trip to Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens just across the county border into Dorset. I’ve never visited here before but we will be sure to visit again and again. Fabulous gardens – even this early in the year when the sub-tropicals are not really doing their thing, there was so much to see. Huge tree ferns, palms, magnolia, rhododendron and azalea, really interesting ground cover plants and spring bulbs, delightful sculpture perfectly placed, a restaurant, a shop and a small nursery. Having loved the gardens, the nursery was a bit disappointing and we didn’t buy anything. If you are in this part of the world, I highly recommend the gardens, well worth the (current) £10 entry charge. We have so many fabulous places within easy distance, everywhere mentioned this week is less than 20 miles from us.
Thursday 22nd April – Today we visited our most local National Trust property – Killerton House and Gardens. You may be wondering why we’re out visiting gardens so much. Well, apart from the general pleasure of a garden visit, we are having work done in our own garden at the moment and so we’re spending this week on ‘home holiday’. Out every day so we’re out of the way of the work, no housework, no cooking allowed. Just seeking garden inspiration and eating out. What could be nicer? And we have such divine weather for it. Today cloudless, deep blue skies, the zinging green of freshly unfurled oak leaves, bluebells nodding over the grass with primroses at their feet. Tiny violets reflecting the sky, the last of the cyclamen under the trees and birdsong everywhere. It’s good to be alive.
Friday 23rd April – Another lovely day and another drop in the temperature. After an expensive visit to our local cheese shop (so many things are irresistible -Nanny Goat, Manchego, Dolce Latte) we picked up coffee and tried to find somewhere to sit out of the freezing wind. There was warmth in the sun if the wind dropped a little but blimey, it was cold otherwise. After freezing near the east beach we drove up to the town gardens and found a sheltered bench overlooking Jacob’s Ladder beach. Much better. We watched the unending, soporific roll of the waves, felt the sun on our faces (and on my ankles, exposed for the first time this year), and spent an hour in quiet relaxation. A lovely end to a lovely week.