It is Saturday once again–time for the English holiday travel traffic! We left early enough to stay ahead of the people leaving the SW, but before those coming arrived, so it wasn’t too bad on the roads…only a few times did caravans meet and squeeze past. We headed out to the north coast of Devon along the Bristol Channel, about a 2-hour drive.

Our first stop was the Hele Corn Mill and Tea Room, in a little village called Hele which was also mentioned in the Domesday book. We were met by the miller, David Jones, who graciously came out to met us with a big umbrella since it was drizzling. We began in the tea room, where David’s wife Kathy met us and made us some hot coffee and tea to take off the chill.  This lovely couple moved from London a few years ago and bought this old mill and started their own business.

They are quite the duo! David is the miller, operating the corn mill the old-fashioned way, with a waterwheel when there is enough water flow, and a huge National diesel engine to power the wheel when the water runs low. This is true stone-ground grain! Interestingly, the word “corn” there simply means any type of grain, not just yellow corn. They grind wheat in this mill. And then there is Kathy, the baker. She uses the flour from the mill to create wonderful desserts! Our mouths were watering at the gorgeous array of cakes she had prepared. She also serves a traditional Devon Cream Tea, as well as a variety of teas sandwiches.

David gave us a tour of the corn mill and showed us the complexity of its workings…watching all the parts was almost like a dance! There is one piece that Kathy pointed out called a “damsel” which makes a lot of clatter all day during grinding. She said that is why some call it a damsel, but her thought is that it is because it works all day! James, David’s friend and helper, did his very important job of pulling a lever ….. well, he did more than that really! He was quite the interesting fellow, filled with knowledge about history and other great anecdotes!

After the tour, it was back to the Tea Room for a proper Cream Tea and a lunch. Kathy makes the Devon Splits, a dying-out traditional roll used instead of scones for the proper Devon Cream Tea. It is dying out because they take way longer and are much more labor intensive than scones. Hers is one of the rare places you can still get them! She is willing to put in the work though, and it pays off.

We did things backwards, and sat down with a few of the local folks to enjoy a lunch of a variety of tea sandwiches, as well as my favorite – the savory scones with cream cheese and caramelized onion chutney! MUST learn to make this. We were joined for lunch by James and his wife Christine, and a lady named Anne and her dog Beth, and David and Kathy sat with us, too, in between customers. This hour was one of the best parts of our Devon trip. To just sit an d relax and share stories with people you just met, but feel like you’ve known for years, is simply priceless. Wish we could’ve spent all day in that spot. One of those moments in time. Many, many thanks to Kathy and David and their girls for all the hard work preparing for our visit. It was divine.

We had planned to return to film in Brixham, but we were convinced by our companions that we needed to stay in north Devon. So David offered to guide us around the sea-side town of Ilfracombe, and we took him up on that! So he hopped in the back seat, and we were off down the hill. We were in luck because Ilfrcombe was having a sort of festival called the Bird Man. There were vendors and live music and thousands of people all around the little harbor. The climax of the event is the BirdMan competition. Individuals and teams enter and create “flying outfits” that they sort of wear, and jump off a high platform from the wharf into the water below. I guess the goal is to see how far you can “fly” before you plummet into the water! David said some of these guys take it very seriously, but others just see it as a good excuse to go spend time in the pubs before going out and basically jumping off the wharf dressed like a chicken or some other crazy thing! And that is pretty much what it was. There were cows, a dinosaur, pirates, a chicken, Mr. Incredible, Mary Poppins, Eliot and ET, and all sorts of others. It was a little piece of local culture few Americans have probably ever seen!

We also got to see the RNLI pull in their rescue vehicle. The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) is a water rescue organization made up entirely of volunteers and is funded by donations.  It is kind of like volunteer fire dept meets coast guard.

Also in the harbor stands a very tall and controversial sculpture called Verity. She is striking, and a bit imposing. She stands sword to the sky holding scales of justice, and she is pregnant and naked. But on one side, her skin is not there and you can see her muscles and skeleton and even the baby. I had mixed feelings. I think I prefer her from afar.

We returned south and stopped for a little shopping at Sainsbury’s (like a Target) to pick up candy for our kids, and bubble wrap and tape for packing our cider. We also picked up the “meal deal” that most stores like Sainsbury, Marks & Spencer, and Tesco offer. You get a sandwich, crisps and a drink usually for no more than 2 pounds 50. This was a light dinner option since we got so stuffed at the Hele Tea Room!

We returned to the Churston Court… still amazed that we get to stay in a place this amazing. And so glad we met people today who were so amazing.

Enjoying the scone-filled journey!