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Travel & Holidays in later life


Walking in November sunshine between Beer and BranscombeIt seemed the wrong time for a holiday, but in the first week of November Reg Butler's son suggested a UK family holiday together, based on a self- catering cottage somewhere that would accept pets.


As my son, wife and dog are keen walkers, November is the perfect for the time of year for them, leaving me to potter around in less active style. So I looked at Devon, somewhere a bit off-beat and inland instead of near a familiar coastal resort. To find the ideal location and accomodation I searched through Hoseasons web sites.


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Hoseasons have a variety of brochures and websites marketing holidays from city breaks to self catering cottages, lodges and boats

Otter Falls, New Road, Upottery, Honiton, EX14 9QD.
Location a mile from village of Upottery, just off the highway where the A303 merges with A30.

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Hoseasons handle over 1000 high-quality properties throughout Britain and Ireland. And each entry clearly states if pets are welcome or not. So we picked one we liked, phoned and made the booking.

Our choice was The Long Barn in a farmstead conversion called Otter Falls. 

Personally, in an age-group that feels the cold, what I specially liked in the descriptive stuff was the assurance that all the Otter Falls' cottages were "extremely well heated and ideal for year-round use." 

Our pet dog enjoyed the under-floor hearing, carpeting and the prospect of a log firePlainly, determined efforts had been made to cater for winter visitors. Entering the spacious accommodation we were greeted with cosy warmth from the oil-fuelled underfloor central heating. A basket of briquettes stood ready in case we wanted the extra comfort and atmosphere of a log fire. 

Visitors could also warm up with a game of tennis, or use the indoor swimming pool kept permanently at a temperature of 83 F - or even heat up still further in a Finnish sauna.

Location was good, part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Blackdown Hills. The nearest town was Honiton, five miles south, with a twice weekly market and a reputation for antiques, antiquarian books and frequent auctions. Along the High Street initially created by the Romans, lace and pottery shops are reminders of traditional local industry.

Only 14 miles away, our team of walkers - wife, son and dog - found challenging cliff walks at Beer, Branscombe and Sidmouth along the South West Coast Path and back by a different route. It was all part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast, famed for its great variety of rock formations, cliffs and fossil beaches.

Mary and Megan exchange greetingsTo my wife's delight, the walk from Sidmouth passed through the Donkey Sanctuary, which has been on her charity list for many years. Out of the 500 resident donkeys, Mary had part- adopted a dapple grey jenny called Megan, and the two had the pleasure of meeting for the first time.

As a change from cliff walks, the Otter River valley itself offered a good range of footpaths with rich birdlife. Even a few otters have returned to the river, after being hunted to extinction.

An estuary walk upstream from Budleigh Salterton followed to a working water mill that sold stoneground flour and traditional bread and cakes. Craft workers occupied part of the complex.

Our holiday home was in the upper reaches of the river - a mile from the village of Upottery - with waterbirds prevalent around three spring-fed lakes ideal for coarse fishing including bream and carp. 

A mini Finland lake landscape at Otter FallsThe owner of the property, Martin Hoad, had lived six years in Helsinki, and had re-shaped the lake area into a mini Finland, complete with nine authentic Finnish log cabins. Even the specialised warm red paint and the furniture had been directly imported from Finland. 

Effectively it doubles as a mini wildlife haven, protected by the surrounding 130 acres of arable land where chemicals which might harm birds are not used. Hedges are left to grow high, to encourage birdlife. 

A list compiled by a twitcher in the month of May recorded forty species, including kestrel, pheasant and great spotted woodpecker. In the hills higher up were buzzards, gliding over the favoured habitat of roe deer and foxes. 

The Met Office 10-day weather prediction was totally accurate, with blue skies throughout and gorgeous sunsets. Our photos looked like summer. We felt a good environmental glow at spending our week in Britain, rather than flying to the Med. 

This holiday-cottage industry was helping to preserve a country lifestyle. The former derelict farm and its buildings had been totally reconstructed to its original Victorian-era charm with reclaimed bricks and beams. Local flint was 'harvested' from the surrounding fields! 

A corner of the converted cottages at Otter FallsDuring the previous two weeks every cottage or log cabin had been fully occupied with families on mid-term holiday. Our week was about three-quarters full, mainly with the over-50s and no kids. Short breaks were available.

The traditional feel was a key feature of the holiday, making a total break from urban life. Understandably, every unit was already booked for Christmas and New Year - just perfect for an old-time family party in a truly rural setting.

Scottish Luxurious Eco friendly Barn Convertion available through Hoseasons

Laterlife Travel Editors Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan's, Award Winning,self catering Barn at The Bakery is also available to book through the Hoseasons Group.


Check out these alternative West Country destinations:

BATH - weekend in Jane Austen territory

CORNWALL - choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DARTMOOR - Freedom to roam and explore

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

EXETER/EXMOUTH - Tour base for South Devon

ILFRACOMBE & NORTH DEVON - The Heritage coast

LYNTON & LYNMOUTH - Devon's Siamese-twin resorts

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

SOMERSET - Choosing a farm cottage for a walking holiday


Books to read - click on the links below

The Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall  - Robert Andrews - Packed with accommodation recommendations, especially in the lower-cost sector.

South Devon and Dartmoor Walks  - Brian Conduit - Explores the hills and valleys of South Devon.

AA 50 Walks in Devon - Sue Viccars - An AA guide in a handy pocket format.

Ordnance Survey - Exeter & Sidmouth - No. 192 in the Landranger Map series, covering the area described in the article.



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