We’ve just spent the weekend away in Dartmoor. The main purpose of the visit was for Mr FH to take part in the sort of life-affirming event that only a forty-year old can. We were lucky enough for this event to take place close to some old friends who have settled on the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park. Our friends are a successful painter and a writer/internet marketing expert and this place provides them with the haven they need to be creative and take part in the outdoor lifestyle they so love.
If you’ve ever been to that part of the world you will know the roads are narrow, windy and often steep. The house they rent is a vast, old, Hardy-esque stone farmhouse with views over the valley and the beginnings of the moor in the background – stunning. It is surrounded by derelict outbuildings and stores, few of which are in use and mainly provide lodgings for local wildlife (we saw a barn-owl!). The over-grown kitchen-garden has been converted into a small vegetable patch, pig pen and chicken coop. Our children loved going out to feed and pet the animals, an experience a world away from what they are used to! Inside, the farmhouse has large rooms, long dark halls, thick curtains hanging over door-ways to keep out the cold. The enormous kitchen is dominated by the Aga, there are basic, thrown together units and shelving, plumbing open to the eye, all a bit shabby but so welcoming, comfortable and right for its situation that its shabbiness becomes its charm. There were several bikes in the hall, one blocking the entrance to my friend’s huge study/library, where books are stacked neatly in handmade shelves and piled on almost every part of the large desk, leaving a small space for working on. Walking, riding and welly boots scatter the corridors. The house is cold and with the first bite of autumn in the air we spent the weekend in the kitchen where the Aga warmed us, wearing a couple of layers. It was a fabulous weekend. As soon as I walked through the kitchen door on Friday evening, I had a feeling I might see Cassandra curled up on the window seat, pen and notebook in hand. It was a weekend of living like the Mortmains and I loved it!
Seeing and spending time with our friends was a lovely aside to our real reason for being there. On Saturday Mr FH took part in a 10k swim along the river Dart from Totnes to Dittisham, where the Dart widens before curving round the headland to become the estuary mouth. Swimming 10k is the equivalent of running a marathon, but in quite rough conditions. This swim was the culmination of months of hard work and training. It was great to see him so up for the swim on Saturday and we were so excited and proud to watch him emerge from the water about 2 and a half hours later, that I forgot to take any pictures! To find out yesterday that he was in the top 17% of swimmers that finished (651 finished), makes us even prouder of what he achieved (he also raised a lot of money for his chosen charity). Although I am particularly in awe of Mr FH, I am blown away by all the swimmers who took part for their determination to push their bodies to the extreme. The water was cold, current quite strong, the wetsuit chaffed and it took him 10 minutes to stop shaking with the cold, but he had a smile on his face. Watching him at that moment, I was reminded of a line in Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Well done, darling!
Pictures courtesy of the Open Water Swimming Society website