Having fun in today’s busy world is all about taking those opportunities when they occur. One such activity is the “Ultimate Taste of Devon” offered by Monty Halls’ Great Escapes team from his Dartmouth location. The Ultimate Taste of Devon is precisely that - a chance to experience the sea, the coast, the coves, the wildlife, the paths, and - best of all - local produce from Devon farms and fishing boats. Julia and myself were on the first Ultimate Trip back in May and although the weather did everything possible to ruin a great day out we had such fun that we just knew we had to return when the sun was out and both the sky & sea were blue. Our first trip was brilliantly written up by Monty and can be found at http://montyhalls.blogspot.co.uk/2012_05_01_archive.html. I hope that this account of our second trip will truly convey the sense of discovery and enjoyment that we all enjoyed.
So on Sept 18th we set off through the lovely streets of Dartmouth to the Great Escapes shop. Once again we were warmly welcomed by marine biologists Monty and Rachel. There were both delighted to see us wearing sunglasses and that we had packed the suntan lotion. The whole essence of the Ultimate Great Escape is that the activities are not tied to a strict timetable and therefore if you’re looking for a fabulous wildlife and food experience this is one to go for. We were joined on this trip by a family of five and all listened to the important briefings as lifejackets were handed out. Fitting the lifejackets proved the first entertainment of the day, I think that I initially had mine on the wrong way round, still this was soon corrected. Just in front of the desk, which incidentally is the back half of a boat, was a large hamper containing the delicious lunch and drink provided by Helen from the Dart to Mouth Deli.
Off then we all went, chatting amongst ourselves, on the short walk to the jetty on the River Dart where Monty’s boat Jason was ready and waiting. The Ultimate Trip starts on the harbour side in Dartmouth, the first part of the tour is by fast boat, out of the river mouth and into the open sea around the Mew Stone with its grey seals, then along the coast for several miles looking for whatever else swims or flies past. We were then going to be dropped off at a quite cove for lunch and a shore walk exploring rock pools with Rachel. Finally we would be completing a walk home to Dartmouth along the beautiful coastal path and stopping off for a cream tea. As I said earlier there is no strict timetable but we assumed that we would all be back before it got dark!
We all jumped aboard and off we went. As the boat moved slowly down the river passing the beautiful river frontage that is Dartmouth. Monty showed us the combined effect of the out-going tide and river current by pointing to the large wake around on one of the river marker buoys. Jason is a twin engine RIB so we knew we had enough power if required. Monty and Rachel provided a brilliant commentary as we travelled down the river and towards the sea. We were entertained with facts on the local area & wildlife combined with amusing stories. The sea was almost glass calm and soon we were leaving the river and travelling across the wide blue ocean!
In no time at all we approached the Mew Stone with its abundant wildlife which in addition to the seals includes various sea birds such as Cormorants, Shags and Gulls. The seals seemed very inquisitive and Monty slowly manoeuvred the boat around the rocks so that we all got great views and the wildlife was not disturbed. As a photographer it was a great opportunity to get some superb images. As we left the Mew Stone behind us, Monty released the power of the twin engines, next stop France was my thought. I’m not sure if we reached the max speed of 40knots but it was fast and included an exhilarating figure of 8 which must have looked great from the costal path as the boated first leaned right and then left. Back at normal cruising speeds we approached Compass Cove where Monty spotted a Peregrine Falcon high on the rocks.
It was sort of lunchtime now and Monty nudged the boat into the shore using the anchor to great affect. Out we all got and paddled ashore, along with the picnic hamper. Rachel laid out the feast for us......while Monty took the opportunity to go spear fishing. Fortunately we were not relying on this for lunch as Monty caught nothing in the zero underwater visibility! Our lunch consisted of local crab, freshly baked bread, cheese from nearby dairy farms, fruit and veg from local growers, pickles and preserves from Dartmouth. At least we didn’t need the soup on this trip. Compass Cove is a beautiful, quiet beach surrounded by the cliffs and opening out to the sea. It was just a perfect spot for lunch. Monty brought the boat back to the beach and departed with the now very empty hamper.... and off we went on a sea shore safari. I never knew that there was so much to see on the rocks and in the pools. We even spotted a moving Limpet, yes they do move and quite quickly and a Chiton which as a species has been around for 400million years.
The area between the low tide and high tide is a very challenging one for the various life forms and much would have gone unnoticed without the expert help from Rachel. Time was passing by and now it was time for the gentle walk back to Dartmouth, along the costal path and back through the town. The initial ascent from the beach was straight up the cliff and onto the coastal path. Throughout the walk, Rachel keenly pointed out interesting items of flora and fauna including potential edible foods. I had no idea that the honeysuckle flower contains a delicious honey favoured liquid. As we approached Dartmouth Castle with the sun still shining, we all sat down around a picnic table and enjoyed a very tasty Cream Tea. The end of our Ultimate Trip was approaching and we were offered the option of either taking the ferry back into town or walking back. Everyone was happy to continue walking so off we all went, chatting amongst ourselves as we had done all day.
I know that we all left the shop around 11am, however I have no idea what time we got back in the afternoon but that didn’t matter, it was such fun and everyone enjoyed it. So to sum up, this year we have enjoyed two fantastic “Ultimate” trips with Monty, Rachel and the Great Escapes team. If you are in Dartmouth, then pop into the shop and give one of the Great Escapes a go, you will not be disappointed. www.montyhalls.co.uk/great-escapes
More photos of this suberb day are display in the Flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/68911555@N03/8048491715/in/photostream
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