10 Family Friendly Walks in Devon - a Devon Photographer’s Favourites 

These days for us, a family walk tends to result in a big game of trains regardless of the location but a recent such walk got me thinking about how lucky we are in Devon to have so many wonderful & varied walks within easy reach.  I’ve therefore put together the following list of some of our favourites.  I’d love to hear about any others you know of though…..trains are optional!

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The Delights of Discovering Somewhere New

Are you someone who gets stuck in a bit of a rut and goes back to the same places time and time again?  As a lifelong Devonian and landscape photographer, I would like to think I’m not and that I get out and about a lot. However, last weekend I was lucky enough to go to two family shoots in very different parts of the county and was blown away by how gorgeous each one was and how I really don’t explore enough.

On Saturday, Rachel and James introduced me to one of their favourite places, Blackbury Camp in east Devon.  I had heard of it before but had never been.  Wow!  What a time to visit for the first time. It is an ancient hill fort maintained by English Heritage and in May it is covered (almost literally) in a blanket of bluebells.  It was an extraordinary sight and the blue hue and vivid green of the new leaves provided a wonderful backdrop for a great shoot with a lovely little boy and his mum.  It is also a lovely, enclosed area providing a wonderful, safe environment for little people to run around and explore whatever time of year and I’m sure James would tell you that the stick-searching potential is second to none! 

The next day, as the clouds cleared, I headed off in totally the opposite direction, up past Winkleigh to north west Devon.  I don’t know that area at all, as the closest we usually get is sailing past on the A30, Cornwall-bound.  It is truly Devon at its best with almost empty roads, green fields and sweeping vistas south to Dartmoor and west to Cornwall.  The shoot was in the grounds of a stunning house, part of which dates back to the Doomsday book.  The family were as beautiful as the surroundings and I even got to meet a shetland pony!  Andrea wanted some images to show Devon to her friends and family back home in California and it couldn’t have looked any more quintessentially Devonian if it had tried.  The drive home on a perfect May evening left me wanting to stop round every corner to get a shot of a beautiful vista.

The conclusion I came to?  We really must get out and about and explore new places more often.  Maybe living here makes us a bit complacent?  I know as a family we end up going to the same beaches weekend after weekend, and they are lovely. However, Devon is a really big county and we must be more adventurous.  Maybe next time we should just stick a pin in a map and gamble?

If you are in east Devon, check out Blackbury Camp, and even if you aren’t, make a point of visiting in May, you won’t be disappointed! 

If you have a favourite place you like to go as a family, I’d love to hear about it.  Its always good to have new locations for shoots, but also because there could be a new favourite out there that we have yet to explore.

Great Community

When we moved to Heavitree a few years ago we didn't really give much thought to the local community we were moving into.  Convenience to the city centre was high on our list of priorities and access to the park was a big attraction.  However, the birth of our son a few years ago highlighted that not only was there a great community here but how important it is.  I love the fact that we can chat to our neighbours, bump into friends in the park and get involved in local events.  

However, for a long time, I, amongst many others, have muttered about how much the area needed a locally run cafe.  For most of us, this was just a passing thought, but fortunately some more motivated people have now taken this on and Faye and Matthew Rowbury have now opened the lovely Daisy Cafe at 98 Fore Street.  I and my camera were invited along to the pre-opening night where it really became clear how much Faye and Matthew value the importance of the local community as so many of the 'great and good' of the area were in attendance.  I've popped in a few times since and it always seems busy.  It's great to think that there is place to be able to meet up and have a chat with friends now, whilst at the same time helping out a new, local business.  I can highly recommend it to anyone living in the area.  The breakfasts are awesome! 

Whilst at the big opening, I got chatting to Kate from ParkLife, a great local organisation which aims to act as a 'community glue' with an aim to build a community cafe in the park.  From Spring to Autumn, they run a monthly event to bring people together and the first event of the year was Mother's Day.  I therefore agreed to go along with my camera and capture the event.  The team had put in so much effort and there were activities for the kids, drinks and amazing cakes and goodie bags for all the mums.  The morning was topped off by spring sunshine and music from a bygone era.  The main event was the planting of a new sapling oak tree.  This was donated by the University in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday and was planted next to the old oak that's stood since 1911, itself planted to celebrate King George V's coronation.  It's fascinating to think what that old oak has seen over the last century.  What changes will the new one see in the next 100 years?  Cllr Olwen Foggin cut the ribbon on the new tree and spoke of how she remembered the original oak from her childhood.  Hopefully the new one will become the background to the next generations of the local community.  

Both ParkLife and The Daisy Cafe are on Facebook.

Spring has Sprung

I love winter, there is something wonderful about a cold, bright winter's day or being able to draw the curtains on a chilly night.  That said, the novelty does wear off so its so lovely to see those early signs of spring gradually appearing.  The snowdrops have almost gone, the daffodils are in full bloom and the primroses seem to be in real abundance this year.  

We were lucky enough to be able to walk on the South West Coast Path in north Cornwall this weekend (something we used to do a lot but has become a rare treat these days) and being out in the countryside really enhanced some of the more subtle things that can so easily be missed in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  The tree and shrub branches, bare and sad looking for so long, now have a green hue to them as the leaf buds start to appear, the blackthorn is bursting with delightful little white flowers and there is a delicate but unmistakeable aroma of gorse flowers.  In a very sheltered spot I even discovered a couple of violets, and best of all was a field of lambs, just old enough to leave their mums' sides and leap and play around with each other.

It made me wonder what it must have been like in days gone by, before the benefits of central heating and supermarket deliveries, when so many people scrapped a living from the land.  The winter months must have been so tough and each of those tiny little signs so welcome.  This year, I'm determined to get out and about as much as possible and notice the little things that make this time of year so special. 

Today is the Spring Equinox so the days are going to get longer and the weather warmer - hopefully! - from now on.   Its seems an appropriate time to take a deep breath and publish my first blog post.  I hope the longer, warmer days will continue to provide me with inspiration.  

With a slight feeling of trepidation, I've turned Comments On. I'd love to hear what you love most about spring, but I'd also appreciate any comments you have on this and future posts.