Tag Archives: childrens hospice south west

Wellington

View at dusk over Wellington, Somerset, by IDS.Photos. Pic used under Creative Commons licence, click for link.

View at dusk over Wellington, Somerset, by IDS.Photos. Pic used under Creative Commons licence, click for link.

“I’m so sorry,” my wife said as we drove past the Wellesley cinema on our way into Wellington; “looks like I chose a bad one.” We’re building up quite a catalogue of towns just off the M5 these days, on our semi-regular jaunts down country to visit either or both of our families. Usually, as resident geography nerd, I take the initiative about a town to visit as a stop-off en route; it’s not my fault if these typically have some sort of canal connection or industrial heritage (Bridgwater for example, or Tiverton). This time though, my constant charity-shopping companion made the choice out of the various promising destinations on offer at junction 27, and off we came. Quite why Wellington is signposted at this point, requiring a lengthy drive along the A38, when junction 28 is located just outside the town is anyone’s guess, but never mind – the Somerset/Devon border is plenty attractive.

As it turns out, Wellington wasn’t a bad choice at all. At first glance, it’s just one more of a multitude of similar small towns with similar amenities, similar histories and a similar. Wellington features in Anglo-Saxon records as a village in Kilmersdon Hundred owned by the Bishop of Wells, and grew mostly because of it’s handy position on the Bristol to Exeter road – the modern A38. It later became famous for cloth manufacture; for being the seat of one Arthur Wellesley, the first duke of Wellington; and for its connections to the Grand Western Canal and Bristol to Exeter Railway in the first half of the nineteenth century. See? not my fault that there’s a canal connection.

What it means for today is that Wellington is a fairly bustling little Somerset town with a small shopping area, some interesting shops, alleyways and buildings, and a decent place to wile away an hour or two on a journey home. First port of call was lunch, and we stopped at the extremely pleasant Garden Cafe – there’s a garden, as you might guess, with shady benches, but we stopped on the pavement tables. We’re getting used to carting a small dog around with us these days, and the staff here very kindly brought her a big bowl of water, as we munched our toasted tortilla and baguette. Then: on to the charity shops.

The first three of these are found on Fore Street, along from the slightly incongruous South African food shopSue Ryder was nice but ordinary; St Margaret’s Hospice was big and stuffed with stuff, including a rather nice Ercol table for a fiver, which has buffed up lovely. Also here is Children’s Hospice South West, which helpfully yielded up a 7″ single of The Specials doing Too Much Too Young, which is nice.

On South Street, just beyond the Wellington Cheese & Wine Shop and across from Artfully Made crocheting shop (it’s that kind of town, clearly) is Oxfam, replete with an antiques shop-looking display out front of various demijohns and contraptions for making fire-logs – plenty of goodies inside too. That just leaves the RSPCA – like the Sue Ryder shop, dog-friendly, only with the addition of a pet equivalent of an auntie – you know, the one that fusses the child, winds them right up then hands them back to their parents. Biscuits definitely exchanged hands/paws, I’m sure of it.

We had a lovely time in Wellington, as it turned out. Sometimes an ordinary little town is just want you need, because really, what is an ordinary town? Everywhere I’ve visited has been unique and memorable in its own way and despite the best efforts of chain pubs, shops, banks and everything else, that’s what our towns remain – each their own place.

Find: Wellington @ Google Maps
Get there: For us, the point was that it’s close to the M5. However- there’s plenty of buses.
Consume with: plenty of options, but we chose the Garden Cafe.
Visit: how about the Wellington Monument, perched on the highest point of the Blackdown Hills to the south of town.
Overall rating: four Ercol tables

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Filed under 4/5, Somerset

Tavistock

Tavy Toy Town by Jamie Henderson. Image used under Creative Commons; click pic for link

Tavy Toy Town by Jamie Henderson. Image used under Creative Commons; click pic for link

There are some towns which are just lovely, and Tavistock’s one of them. It’s found secluded in the Tavy valley, nestled amongst foliage at the foot of the Dartmoor hills – just a short drive from Plymouth, but a world away in character. The town centre is chock full of local granite buildings, many of them named after the Russell family, Earls of Bedford and lords of the manor, who held great sway in this stannary town from Henry VIII onwards. The towns roots run much deeper than that though – today’s pannier market was charted in 1105, and the ruined abbey goes back to 961; but there’s plenty of evidence of habitation way before recorded history. It isn’t just an olde town though – Tavistock’s history continues through its favourite son, Francis Drake, a wide range of mineral mines, even a canal and two railways – although none of these are functioning today. These last do make for some highly attractive features though – you can walk the canal for several miles through this part of the UNESCO world heritage site. In fact, any direction you wish to strike out from the town you’ll find something rather beautiful.

So – plenty of history and plenty of scenery. But that does not make a charity shop tourist destination in itself, does it? Happily, Tavistock is just as good here. The outermost shop here is Children’s Hospice South West, on West Street, on the corner of Russell Street (that name again…). A large shop this, with some huge linguaphone sets and mad Pyrex dishes causing certain individuals trouble here. On the same stretch is Sue Ryder, opposite Brown’s Hotel, which served us very well for a coffee stop.

Further down there are two Oxfams, an ordinary one and an Oxfam Bookshop with a collection of beautifully illustrated children’s books. Thankfully, at this stage on our holiday we had convinced ourselves that when we returned to civilisation we were going to go and live on a boat, which rather limited our purchases (and somewhat relieved our bank accounts). I’m not even joking; if Diglis marina weren’t so overlooked, we might well have been living afloat by now. St Luke’s Hospice is large and bright and well-stocked; Woodside Animal Hospice is almost its exact opposite, dingy, cramped and crowded, and filled with all sorts of amazing gubbins you had no idea you needed.

We found several secondhand-by-commission shops in this part of the world – Handmedowns takes a small cut on any children’s clothing you want to sell on, which doesn’t seem a bad idea (although I’d a bit rather donate to the charity shop). That just leaves us with MacMillan, tucked away up a little shopping alley called Paddon’s Row, surrounded by hifi shops, art shops, vintage clothes shops and the like. In fact there’s plenty of this sort of shop scattered through the town. A few chains aside, the majority of shops here are independent concerns, some of a highly excellent nature – the cheese shop and health food shop in the market come very much recommended. The market itself is, to be honest, a bit pricey for the likes of me; but again it’s mostly individuals selling their own crafts and produce, and there’s a very lovely atmosphere indeed.

I feel I’ve probably failed to sum up Tavistock’s charm. We spent a whole day here, which is very rare for us, not just pacing the charity shops but exploring the alleyways, browsing the market, walking along the river and canalside through the very charming Meadowlands Park. We certainly have plans to return and will be walking the canal route, as well as lunching in the Tavistock Inn on Brook Street, home of pretty much the biggest pub grub portions ever, and a lovely pub to boot. If you’re ever in Devon, try and make a detour, this is my advice.

Find: Tavistock @ Google Maps
Get there: no railway connections anymore (as yet) – you’ll be after the A386 halfway between Okehampton and Plymouth.
Consume with: definitely lunch at the Tavistock, though bear in mind you’ll need that riverside walk afterwards.
Visit: plenty to go to, but to be honest our loveliest time was spent walking the canal and riverside paths in the park, trying out the outdoor gym equipment and chasing ducks.
Overall rating: five mad pyrex dishes

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Filed under 5/5, Devon

Truro

 

Truro_S09044, from Ennor (unwell-resting)s photostream, under Creative Commons. Click pic for link.

Truro_S09044, from Ennor (unwell-resting)'s photostream, under Creative Commons. Click pic for link.

Truro’s famous neo-gothic cathedral rises above this medieval city a little like the Emerald City over Oz; a 250 foot jewel rising over the old county town, and Britain’s most southerly city. John Loughborough Pearson’s triple-spired Victorian edifice looms large over the town but the kink in its design belies the fact that Truro is much older than the cathedral and the designers had to fit the church to the town, and not vice versa. The ramshackle spread of Truro’s streets makes reveals the medieval structure of the town and as such, it’s quite a charming place to visit.

 

As the big town of Cornwall, it’s also a heaving mess of people on this sunny Easter holiday weekday. I can’t imagine it of a weekend – chances are I’d be less keen, having inherited a charming misanthropy from my father. But, it’s a pleasant diversion from the dusty wastelands of most of the Cornwall that the brochures don’t show you, so I’ll poke around further.

The plan of Truro has changed dramatically since Google’s satellite imagery was last updated. Gone are the huge building sites, replaced with the biggest Marks & Sparks you ever saw and a host of other large scale shops and eateries. The plaza in front is now the central part of this new development, and it’s an attractive arena with an outdoor market to complement the indoor pannier market. You can cut through the pannier market to the older, smaller town centre section of Boscawen Street, and between the two you have all the chain stores you’d hope for in a town of Truro’s size (probably more, even).

It’s worth having a poke through the side streets though, because it’s here that you’ll find the little retailers and cafes that make Truro actually quite pleasant. There’s a few crafty jewellery types (crafty in the make-their-own-wares sort of way, not suspicious) and handmade toy shops, that sort of thing. There’s also our lovely charity shops, and many of them – too many to give a run down of pro’s and cons, I think. I failed to make suitable notes, sadly.

At the top of Pydar Street we have British Heart Foundation and a teeny Cats Protection League. There’s a couple of shop-laden snickets through to The Leats, and at this end of town (mostly around River Street, heading back towards Boscawen) you’ll find the Cornwall Hospice, Cancer ResearchSave The Children, Barnado’sAge Concern and CLIC Sargent Hospice. That leaves Children’s Hospice South West, and finally an Oxfam that proved a significant iPhone/GPS fail. But, worth it, because it was a nice shop over the bridge.

That’s not a lot of information, true, but Truro wins on quantity rather than quality. If you want a pushchair, or a particular necklace, or a particular book, chances are you’ll find it somewhere in Truro, just be the law of odds. Plus, it’s an attractive enough town with its neo-gothic/middle ages mash-up architecture in abundance and plenty of things to do.

Find: Truro @ Google Maps
Consume with: something chocolate based in Thorntons Cafe, perhaps?
Visit: Has to be the cathedral.
Overall Rating: four convenient pushchairs

   

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Filed under 4/5, Cornwall