Sidmouth Literary Festival  23rd-25th June

The programme for the 2017 Sidmouth Literary Festival is now available to collect from Winstone’s bookshop or various outlets around East Devon.  Alternatively you can have a look at the Events page at for full listings.  The line up includes Sophie Hannah, Adele Parks, The Unmumsy Mum, Tim Pears and Bryony Gordon plus, in partnership with Radio Devon, an opening event featuring Christopher Biggins and a trio of Devon focussed authors.

Why not come along and listen to one of your favourite authors in this wonderful setting?


Posted in Uncategorized

Lee Bay

Lee Bay is a delightful place to visit at any time of the year.  The rocky cove is great for rock-pooling and as the tide falls a sandy beach appears.  It’s a great place for kayaking too, especially with a boat rod or line when the mackerel are running.  Visit on the falling tide and you can take a ‘secret’ path cut through the rock to neighbouring Sandy Cove with its wonderful flat stone shingle.  You can either have a stone skimming competition or challenge each other to see how high you can stack them.  Don’t worry about getting cut off as the tide comes in.  There are wooden steps up the side of the cliff you can climb up then walk back into the village.

Smugglers Tea Room overlooks the bay and is open during the peak season, serving teas, light lunches and, of course, the compulsory Devon ice cream!

There’s more to Lee than just a beach, the village itself is very pretty and well worth a walk round.  Be sure to call in to the Grampus pub, a proper, traditional hostelry with great beer and delicious food.  Drop in on open mike night and the landlord, Bill, is sure to be up there playing his fiddle.

The Old School Room Craft Gallery has a wealth of beautiful things where you can choose yourself a souvenir of your holiday in North Devon or a gift for someone at home.

Locally Lee is often referred to as “Fuchsia Valley” – during the flowering season, many of the hedgerows along the lanes and in the village are ablaze with the scarlet flowers.

If you enjoy walking then Lee Bay is a good place to start, with free parking down by the bay and opportunities for coastal as well as countryside walks.  Head eastwards along the South West Coast Path to Ilfracombe or west towards Mortehoe and Bull Point, then make your way inland and return to Lee through the beautiful countryside.

On a hot summer’s day there’s no better place to be as Lee remains relatively undiscovered and, as you swim out to one of the rocks, you sometimes feel you could be on some exotic foreign shore!Lee Bay

Posted in Beach, Pubs, Restaurants, Retail, walks

Visit RHS Rosemoor in all its glory!

Take a trip to RHS Rosemoor near Torrington at any time of the year and you are guaranteed a great day out.  Whilst it is a true plantsman’s garden there’s always plenty to keep everyone amused with workshops, children’s activities and an award winning garden restaurant where they cook fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the gardens. There’s a wonderful plant nursery too with a very diverse selection of plants and shrubs for sale.

It’s great to explore the varied garden spaces which change with the seasons and contrast each other beautifully. The traditional cottage garden with its brick pathways and beds crammed with a classic mix of flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals and biennials contrasts with the hot garden, where in summer the vibrant colours and ornamental grasses are at their peak. The peace and tranquillity of the woodland garden with its huge variety of ornamental woodland trees and shrubs is a joy.

For those who have difficulty walking there are wheelchairs and all terrain Tramper mobility buggies to hire for a small fee.

It’s worth having a look at Rosemoor Garden’s What’s On Guide, as there are always some really interesting events happening throughout the year too.RHS_Rosemoor_2

Posted in gardens, Member Farms

A thief in my lambing yard!

Here at Yellingham Farm we always lamb indoors, which makes it easier for me.  It also means any problems, particularly in the night, can be spotted early and dealt with.  Yes, it costs more money because of bedding etc. and yes, the risk of infection is obviously higher, but with the highest standards of cleanliness and good shepherding the process works for us.  It had been a particularly busy day in the lambing yard so husband Edward kindly (not really!) offered to do the night… actually, he was ordered to do the night, and given my mood was tetchy to say the least, all family members knew that if you did what you were told, life would be much more pleasant.  However, if there was a problem I always want waking, whatever time of night.  It was just after 6am and I heard the kitchen door go, which meant only one thing.  Quietly Edward said there wasn’t a big problem, but he was concerned about a ewe.  Every night before I go to bed I lay out my work clothes so that it is a quick process to get dressed.  Actually, it’s normally only socks, jumper over the pyjamas and rubber trousers – what a sight!  He informed me that a short time ago, a ewe that had been scanned for twins had only had a single, wasn’t pushing and he thought she seemed to have given up – so could I take a look at her.  It was light, at last, after the long dark mornings of the winter.  The early morning sun was streaming in through the wooden slats in the barn, lighting up the interior – it always makes me feel good and glad to be in a position to enjoy it. Leaving my warm bed didn’t seem so bad after all.  On spotting us human beings, the ewes first thought was food – the bleating began and reached a deafening crescendo in no time.  The peace and quiet of that stroll down to the barn was over.  Before any feeding commenced I was keen to look at the night’s activities and check on all the ewes that had lambed. We prioritised and I asked Edward to show me the ewe who had the single but was scanned for twins.  He said she was showing no typical signs of having another and therefore decided to move her out of the large pen where she had lambed and put her and the lamb into one of the small pens where they stay for 24/48 hours to mother-up.  Slightly concerned that she had only one lamb he thought he’d, “call the midwife”, which is exactly what he did.  The rules are, if you call me in the night, don’t expect too much conversation – just give me the facts, short and sweet – no banter and certainly no jokes. The scanner we use is brilliant and normally very accurate. The ewe in question had been penned up with her single lamb. It was a cracking large single lamb and my immediate thought was that the scanner was wrong, but I had a niggle at the back of my mind.

Yellingham thief“Can you check her to see if she has another inside?”

My hands are so small and perfect for the job which lay ahead. The ewe was still looking huge and I suspected there was another inside.

On examining the ewe, it was evident within a second that there was a problem. Well, in fact there was no problem. I hadn’t checked her back end as she was stood facing me when I first saw her in the pen. There was no visible evidence that she had lambed, no blood, no afterbirth, nothing.  I didn’t think I needed to examine her, but just to satisfy my theory, I tried; my little hands weren’t going anywhere… she had not lambed. I looked up at Edward and was about the mutter “idiot”, but decided to smile instead.

“What are you smiling at, why don’t you examine her?” My dear husband was confused.

“That lamb is not hers, she has stolen it from another ewe, which means there is a ewe in the big pen where she came from that has lambed and literally has been robbed and this ewe here has yet to have her lambs”.

Edward shook his head in disbelief.  He explained that he didn’t see the ewe lamb but had found her cleaning it up when he came down to the barn and did a check. I asked him if he had his glasses on when he checked!  I nearly added that if he had looked at her back end, I might still be snuggled up in bed, but thought the better of it!

Yellingham-Lambing-YardOur ewes are housed in big pens and no one is perfect – things do get overlooked. We both went into the big pen in question and sure enough, there sat in the corner, quite unperturbed was a ewe pushing and in no time at all a lovely large Jacob lamb was born. On getting closer, I said, this is the mum of that other lamb you penned up. She was scanned for 2, the first she had was stolen by a very jealous mother to be. Edward was obviously upset and still waiting for an earful, so with a cheeky, sympathetic grin I said,

“This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it isn’t the last, so don’t beat yourself up – you did the right thing by calling me, otherwise I might have beaten you up!”

All was well in the end.  I was right with my prognosis.  At least that ewe had one lamb to look after, even though she should have had twins!  We let the thief keep her stolen goods until she lambed herself and, because she did have twins, sadly “orphan Annie” as we called her was taken away and put on the bottle with other motherless, but very happy lambs.


Janet East


Posted in Lambs, Member Farms, Sheep, Shepherd

The dramatic history of Hallsands…….

A century ago one of our local fishing villages was struck by disaster.  South Hallsands was one of several small communities dotted along the coast that relied on the sea for its living and supported 128 inhabitants, 39 houses and a pub.

Hallsands originalIn the 1890s it was decided to expand the Naval dockyard at Devonport,  Plymouth for which sand and gravel was needed.  Dredging of the shingle bank began offshore from Hallsands in 1897 and soon up to 1,600 tons of shingle was being removed each day.  Much to the alarm of the villagers the level of the beach at Hallsands began to drop. In the storms of the 1900s some of the sea wall protecting the village washed away, causing villagers to petition their member of parliament and complaining about the damage to their properties.  In 1902 the dredging licence was revoked and the beach level recovered somewhat.

On the fateful night of January 27th 1917 a combination of strong easterly gales and an exceptionally high tide ripped through the village. Seawater swirled through the houses, enveloping the village and wreaking a trail of devastation. By midnight four houses had gone. The inhabitants gathered the few belongings they could and assembled on the cliff tops above to watch the horror unfold.  By the end of the night only one house was left standing.  Miraculously no-one lost their lives.

The villagers fought for compensation for years and many resettled in North Hallsands and Beesands.

Today, there is a viewing platform at Hallsands where visitors can learn the history of the village and look out over the ruins.

Hallsands 2To commemorate the centenary of the disaster the occupants of the remaining house (used as a private holiday home) allowed guests to come in to the old village.  It was a suitably atmospheric day – the sky was grey and the wind bitingly cold.  It was fascinating to step back in time and to visit the old village, to pay respects to those who had their livelihoods taken from them and to consider the impact man’s actions can have on the natural environment.

Young readers may enjoy “Wings to fly” by Patrick Cooper, a touching story about the night of the storm.

Posted in Beach, Boats, Member Farms

Spotlight on Ilfracombe………

Damien Hirst’s Verity definitely has the Marmite factor – whether you love her or can’t stand her she’s extremely popular and draws people to Ilfracombe.   However Verity, as statuesque and commanding as she is in the harbour, is not the only reason for visiting this interesting town.  The harbour area itself is great for a wander around, with fishing vessels and passenger boats plying their trade, as well as privately owned sailing boats coming and going with the tide. Verity

Ilfracombe Aquarium will keep most children and adults occupied for an hour – longer if you spend time in their café which overlooks the harbour.  Situated in the old lifeboat station, the aquarium provides a fantastic insight into the wonders of the aquatic world found locally around North Devon.  Its beautiful exhibits are in carefully recreated natural habitats, providing home to over 75 species of fish, some of which, for many visitors, have never been seen before.

A short walk away is the entrance to Tunnels Beaches.  Step back in time as you walk through the tunnels, hewn through the Ilfracombe cliff face in the 1820s by the Victorians to get access to the beach and tidal bathing pools.  A great place to sit and admire the lovely rugged scenery while the children play in the tidal pool or explore the fantastic rock pools – it was rated the 3rd best beach for rock pooling in the UK by BBC Wildlife Magazine.

There are still echoes of the traditional English coastal town as you walk along the promenade with its crazy golf, amusement arcades and formal planted gardens.  The views from Capstone Hill are stunning and on a clear day you can see across the Bristol Channel to Wales.  Looking back on the town, with its abundant Victorian architecture, it’s not hard to imagine what Ilfracombe was like in its heyday.

In recent years Ilfracombe has developed something of a foodie culture, with some really good restaurants, including the Michelin starred The Olive Room and 11 The Quay, where you can dine surrounded by Damian Hirst’s Artwork. There’s also a fabulous fish restaurant, Take Thyme and many more besides, all offering good quality food at reasonable prices served alongside a warm North Devon welcome. the olive room

Local’s Tip: Park up by the swimming pool near Larkstone one evening and walk down to the harbour via Rapperee Cove.  Take in the atmosphere of the harbour at the end of the day, grab some fish and chips and enjoy them on the harbour beach if the tide is out or sit on the harbour wall by the main car park facing out to sea.  Be sure to take something warm, as the onshore breeze can make it quite chilly, even on a summer evening.

Posted in Beach, Boats, Member Farms, Restaurants, walks

Chocolate cake recipe, courtesy of Mincombe Barn:

Luke’s chocolate cake with chocolate ganache.  Can be decorated according to the season!

Mincombe Barn choc cake


225g Butter or baking margarine

225g Caster sugar

225g Self-raising flour

50g Cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 large duck eggs or 4 chicken eggs

Dash of milk if required



Cream the butter and sugar

Slowly add the beaten eggs

Fold in the sieved flour, baking powder and cocoa powder

Add a dash of milk if mix looks a little dry

Split the mixture between two lined cake sandwich tins and bake for 20-25 mins at gas mark 5 or 190c.  To test your cake is cooked it should spring back to the touch

Once cooked leave cakes in the tin on a wire rack to cool for 10 mins, then take out of the tin and leave to cool completely


To make the Ganache you will need:

100g Dark chocolate

100g Butter

100ml Cream


Heat the cream and butter until boiling, take off the heat, add the chocolate and leave to cool.

Spread some of the ganache on top of one of the cakes put the second cake on top, spread the remaining ganache on the top of the cake and around the sides.



  • Take butter/margarine out of the fridge in advance so it’s at room temperature
  • Use ready-made cake liners.  They are so quick and easy
  • You don’t have to decorate the whole cake with ganache if you are pushed for time.  You can always just do the filling and dust the top with icing sugar
  • You can put marmalade as the filling and use the ganache for the topping – yummy chocolate orange!


We like to have this cake with clotted cream, or my sister likes it served floating in double cream!

Enjoy and don’t think about your waistline!!





Posted in Member Farms, Recipes

P-p-p-pick up a penguin on World Penguin Day!

Living Coasts is an all-weather attraction, located on Torquay seafront in South Devon.   There’s always plenty to see and do – mingle with the playful penguins, get up close to the otters, octopus and seals, and much more.  Visit Penguin Beach to walk with the African and Macaroni penguins and catch the entertaining feeding time

Below the decks the fun doesn’t stop, with more fascinating habitats and creatures in the aquariums, games, activities and panoramic underwater viewing areas for the diverse array of stunning species.

Open to all, the Living Coasts Café has free entry to non-visitors too, so go in anytime for family friendly, local food and drink with panoramic sea views overlooking the Bay.

You can also grab some retail therapy at Tradewinds Gift Shop anytime without having to visit the zoo.  It’s packed with wonderful products to suit all ages, from plush toys and games to books, clothing and confectionary. There’s also a huge range of Fair Trade jewellery and local art.  All profits go towards their conservation work.

Today, 25th April, is World Penguin Day!  Why not visit Living Coasts to help celebrate these amazing birds.  There will be a puppet show at 14:50, Mac the Penguin mascot will be doing his rounds twice on the day.  There will be lots of penguin things going on, penguin touch trolley, games and enrichment for the penguins too with the bubble machine and disco ball – they love a bit of sparkle!

Posted in Beach, Member Farms, Restaurants, Retail, Shopping, Wildlife

Easter at Little Comfort Farm means egg hunts and plenty of chocolate

The Easter egg hunts have always been popular with our holiday cottage guests at Little Comfort Farm and we hold one each week throughout the Easter holidays so everyone staying on the farm gets a go. Clues are hidden around the farm, there’s a fiendish anagram to solve and of course plenty of chocolate eggs at the end of it.  Chocolate is so much a part of Easter for many people and for a serious chocolate hit, our brownies are always right on the money so we thought we’d share the recipe with you…


170g dark Chocolate
115g Butter
2 Beaten eggs
55g Plain Flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt and a few drops of Vanilla extract
115g  Muscovado or soft brown sugar
55g   Granulated sugar
115g chopped nuts, cherries, raisins, dried fruit of your choice.

Preheat oven to gas 4 ,175C, 350F
Lightly Grease and line 20cms square baking tin
In a bowl over a pan of hot water, melt the butter and the chocolate. Take care not to allow the bowl to touch the simmering water. When the chocolate has melted take the bowl off the pan and beat until smooth.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs and the sugar until they are light and fluffy. Spoon in the chocolate mixture and fold in the flour, salt and baking powder. Finally stir in the nuts and dried fruits of your choice and the vanilla.
Spread into prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes approx or until a dull crust is formed on top. Allow to cool, then cut into squares or fingers and store in an airtight container.
(Brownies are supposed to be soft in the middle so please don’t think that they are not cooked enough, the proof is in the tasting!)

The credit for the recipe goes to Mary Bailey who wrote a lovely book called ‘Granny Mary’s Baking Secrets’ filled withe traditional recipes from her home in the Peak District where she is famous for her contributions to the cricket teas.

Posted in Member Farms, Recipes

The story of a castle as told for children and then for the adults!

Entertain your children over Easter:

The story of Lawrence Castle (Children’s Workshop)

Have you spotted the big white castle from the viewpoint on the Discovery Trail at Haldon Forest?  Why not learn a little bit about its colourful history and its links to India?

Come rain or shine, have fun discovering colourful local history through art, stories, crafts and games.

The age guide for this event is between 6-11 years (children need to be accompanied).

This event will take place in the Ridge Studio’s and is being hosted by the custodians of Lawrence Castle.

Booking is essential so please e-mail

When is the event?

Tuesday 11 April 2017

What time is it on?


Who is this for?

6-11 years (must be accompanied)

How much?


Where to meet?

The Ridge Studio’s (next to the café), Haldon Forest, EX6 7XR

Dogs Allowed:


Lawrence Castle

Information for the adults!…………

The Haldon Belvedere (also known as Lawrence Castle) was built in 1788 at the height of the Romantic Period of the Georgian age.  It’s a much loved, iconic landmark sitting high in the hills of Haldon Forest above Exeter, with breath-taking panoramic views over the Devon countryside.  Even in pre-history the high piece of land on which the Belvedere sits was seen to be important. 5000 years ago the earliest Neolithic farmers occupied the ridge and excavations which took place in the 1930’s found pieces of very early pottery.  Worked flints were also discovered. The ridge continued to be occupied during the Bronze and Iron Ages and the Romans left trackways over the hills.  During the Civil War the Haldon Hills provided a natural barrier making troop movements difficult when the Parliamentarians tried to stamp their authority over what was mainly a Royalist area.  Following this torrid period a time of relative peace saw the laws of the land change and the growth of the great estates with the Enclosure Act passed by Parliament from 1750 onwards.

The Tower is open on Sundays from 2pm to 5pm from 16th April to 24th September 2017.  The grounds are open daily, but the upper lawn may be closed and clearly signed as such.  It is also open on Bank Holiday Mondays.  It can also be booked as a unique and spectacular venue for weddings and civil partnerships.



Posted in Member Farms, Uncategorized