Well Canada Day dawned in Devon, probably not anywhere else as it's not July 1st, but after weeks of atrocious weather I had put in an order for hot sunshine for yesterday bearing in mind that I would be spending half a day with the Canadian walking party.
So good to meet up with Mrs KFC Sheila, and friends Gill and Sally, who had been walking strenuously all morning.
I found them holed up in the Drewe Arms.
No really they deserved a rest, they had already walked miles having visited the Lutyen's designed Castle Drogo that morning, and I can tell you these Canadians (Sally on the left is from Chicago so honorary Canuck status granted, Gill and Sheila the real deal) well they trek at a fair old lick, no slacking.
Incidentally, did anyone hear Great Lives on Edwin Lutyens (BBC Radio 4) a few days ago?? Ned to his friends and if he'd known us he would have given us nicknames (Gertrude Jekyll was 'Bumps' apparently) It was fascinating and as a result I was well up on my Drogo info, and NB above my short-sleeved faith in the weather.
So after a catch up over lunch we set off with the organised party, my faith in the weather vindicated and as you can see Devon was wearing her very best frock and looking resplendent in her late-summer-almost-autumn glory.
We stopped en route for a really fascinating visit to Abey Smallcombe Earth Art, cob-makers extra-ordinaire Jill and Jackie. If you see a thatched cottage in Devon the chances are it is made out of cob, a sub-soil/straw and water mix that will very surprisingly withstand all weathers, and last for centuries as long as its boots (foundations) are solid, and its hat (roof) stays in place.
Hearing the wonderful story of traditional Devon cob maker Alfie Howard (pictured here) who died this year, it was a lovely surprise to discover that Mr Howard's working model of a cob cottage is now in Jackie and Jill's tender care, and it was an amazing creation to see in close-up...
The walls of a cob-built cottage, often two to three feet thick, will keep a home warm in winter and cool in summer and Jill and Jackie are keeping alive this ancient and traditional craft. They talked with so much genuine enthusiasm about their work that I think we would all have happily done some mud-slinging come the end.
To my surprise cob can also be used to make tiles, the colour of the sub-soil dictating the colour of the finished pieces, which are not fired, just sealed and polished with beeswax. Unsurprisingly solid and weighty and very strong, I'm now worryingly interested in all this 'new to me' information, coupled with the fact that the raw materials are freely and readily available if only I can persuade Bookhound to dig a hole in the garden; a skill not beyond his capabilities as we all know.
We trekked on and came across a dovegrey dovecot which necessitated a picture...
as did this waving of the maple leaf on Devon's soil
So eventually, once Sheila and I had used up all the available oxygen in Devon talking and walking we made our farewells and I waved everyone off to their hotel, an evening of Dartmoor Broom dancing in store and which I hadn't actually heard of, but suspect could be a ruse to get the floor swept,and then onto the next leg of their journey today, but of course not without an exchange of gifts.
Kevin I'm *waving* and thanking you for the books you sent, I am truly thrilled with them all but especially A William Maxwell Portrait, and my thanks to Sheila who had put them in a Jimmy Choo cloth bag. There's no other way I will ever own a Jimmy Choo cloth bag, I shall flaunt it shamelessly.
In return it was more books of course, why ever not, and my thanks to Susan Hill who very kindly arranged for me to have three copies of the gorgeous new edition of The Woman in Black to send back to Canada. It's published by Profile on September 29th and includes a set of commissioned wood engravings by Andy English which add something very special indeed to this edition. The book not set on Dartmoor of course, but nice and spooky enough to read while you visit, and we all await Daniel Radcliffe in the forthcoming film version with bated breath, I hear from the oracle herself that it is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.
And of course having set the precedent last year with these...
How could I not, so I came right out of the village show last week with three gifts to stitch, so a busy weekend getting the miniature Liberty Tana Lawn 'windows' quilted and ready for their journey... and I had to remake this one because the binding wasn't right. I'm getting as meticulous as my mum these days which won't do me any harm.
All in all a perfectly lovely gorgeous Canada day.