And being the island race we are, John Masefield’s poem stirs the sea salt in us. To follow the trail of the Pilgrim Fathers in their ship Mayflower along the SW Coast of England took me on the most picturesque and fascinating journey packed with historical and naval exploits.
The Mayflower with 65 passengers on board left London in July 1620 to meet with the ship Speedwell in Southampton Water. Together they put into Bayard’s Cove, Dartmouth for rest and repair breaking their journey west. Dartmouth was a strategic deep-water port for sailing ships and had been the departure point for the Crusades in the C12th. On either side of the narrow river mouth lie Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle and this part of the river could be closed and made secure by dragging a huge chain across. From here, US troops left on the Utah Beach operation in D Day landings during WWII. Drake, Raleigh and many other great names have connections in this area and the patchwork of narrow lanes and stone stairways date from mediaeval and Elizabethan times. A figurehead of this wonderful heritage is the Royal Naval College which overlooks the town. As if all the history wasn’t enough to excite, legends of privateers and ship wreckers abound.
For the landlubbers amongst us, a trip up the Dart Estuary to Totnes is delightful. It derived its considerable wealth in mediaeval times from exporting wool, tin and farm produce through being the highest navigable port in the area. Founded in 907AD, Totnes has more listed buildings per head than any other town and today, embraces a New Age lifestyle- no chain stores here! One magazine named it as one of the world’s Top 10 Funky Towns and in 2007, Totnes became the first town to adopt its own currency- the Totnes pound- in order to support the local economy.
The Dart area has so much to offer to the visitor so it is no surprise to learn that it is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Small towns and villages sit within amazing scenery and I certainly felt that this is England at its very best.
Onwards the Mayflower sailed to Plymouth before setting our across the Atlantic. There is a plaque at Newlyn in Cornwall which says that they were forced to take on fresh drinking water there as the supplies from Plymouth were contaminated, an outbreak of cholera and fever being in the city. Once out into the Atlantic, the unseaworthy Speedwell was forced to turn back and the Mayflower journeyed alone.
In the mid 1950s, a replica of the Mayflower was built at the Upham shipyard in Brixham, still a working town, combining a large leisure marina alongside its famous fishing tradition. A veritable paradise for fish foodies! A replica of the Golden Hind rests in Brixham harbour as a reminder to us of this glorious heritage. This was my personal journey brought alive from childhood memories and family roots – what would yours be?
More about Sandra
Sandra is rapidly approaching 68, and has been retired for a while. She has done a lot of travelling worldwide and is also a fan of Sun Park Living. With her sister (think Thelma and Louise-except for the end!), she did a motor trip in the USA a couple of years ago, so she believes in getting out there and just doing it before decrepitude sets in!