It is the Spring Equinox this Wednesday 20th March, when the day and the night are of equal length.
The gusty gale force winds of last week have disappeared and the sunshine is lighting up the signs of spring in every hedgerow and garden. The first Warren Crocus have been spotted (a bit earlier than usual), birds are building nests, and blossom is bursting out all over and attracting bees.
Those businesses that have been closed over the winter are starting to show signs of preparation for Easter, and here at Sandays we have just had a busy weekend!
The movie “Fisherman’s Friends” is in the cinemas now and bringing coastal life and shanty singing into the public eye. We went to see the film yesterday: very good, lots of laugh-out-loud moments and of course wonderful lusty singing.
The Fisherman’s Friends shanty singers were “discovered” some years ago now and despite national fame are still singing in their native St. Ives. However there are lots of other shanty groups, many based in Devon. If you like what you see in the film, why not head to Sandays for the Teign Shanty festival in September where the scenery and the singing is just as good!
On Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th September 2019, at various venues in Teignmouth and Shaldon, will be heard around 20 shanty groups providing over 70 hours of “free to attend” shanty singing. Confirmed crews so far are Alan Whitbread; Anchors Aweigh; Back Beach Boyz; Baldrick’s Plan; Barnacle Buoys; Dorset Wrecks; Exmouth Shantymen; Figurehead; The Last Watch; LocTup Together; The Longest Johns; Mariners Away; Missin’ Tackle; The Nauti Bouys; The Old Gaffers; The Press Gang; The Severn Whalers; Stamp and Go; Stuns’l; Tavy Tars.
Of course you can catch sessions from these groups at any time of the year. We have seen both the Exmouth Shanty Men and the Back Beach Boyz recently and they are great fun as well as great singers.
It may be St.David’s Day today, but the daffodils are for every day around here! The mini-daffs are blooming bright at Sandays and along every verge between Dawlish Warren and Dawlish, and beyond too in every direction. It is a really lovely sight.
Lots of the more standard daffodils around too of course. I took this pic at Bicton Park Gardens this morning as a nod to St. David, but look out for the banks by the pond there that are covered in crocuses and primroses as well as some daffs; absolutely stunning.
Starcross and in particular St.Paul’s Church have been featuring in the national news during February. A long project to repair the clock and the bells of the church is nearing fruition and caught the attention of the BBC because the bells could be used at times of flooding to ring out an SOS warning across the village.
Hopefully the £4 million tidal defence scheme to protect both Cockwood and Starcross will play a big part in ensuring that the bells are only needed to chime the hour and the church services.
Starcross is only a short distance from Sandays and, like the rest of the Exe Estuary, very much part of our lives here. Many of our guests seek out the Starcross to Exmouth ferry and spend some time in the village too. St. Paul’s church is very active in the local community and host many local groups and events. We have been to two excellent folk concerts recently, and there is Open Church every Tuesday morning 9-11am.
We have been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather over the last week, and the unusual delight of strolling along the beach at this time of year. Vast amount of wood of one sort or another along the beach; these are a couple of the larger pieces.
Lovely day around the Exe Estuary today and lots of birds to be seen, including the beautiful Avocets.
In the last post we were talking about NGS Open Gardens some of which are opening in February because they have large numbers of snowdrops.
Yesterday we stumbled on a walk which is one of the best we have ever done for enjoying snowdrops. We did a circular walk from Dartington hall, taking in Staverton along the way. Very pleasant walk, long stretches by the river Dart but also turned out to have stunning displays of snowdrops for a large part of the route. Staverton is worth the detour: an impressive medieval bridge, a steam train station, and a refreshments at the lovely Sea Trout Inn.
The Devon NGS booklet for 2019 is in circulation with 108 different venue listings (and some of these are group listings comprising of several different gardens), many with multiple opening dates.
Whenever you stay at Sandays there is always an opportunity to visit a garden somewhere nearby! That includes February with various listings over the next few weeks, the main attraction this month being the snowdrops. However, mini daffodils, some early primroses and crocuses and the first camellias are also featuring quite strongly around here.
Thanks to the generosity of garden owners, volunteers and visitors, the National Garden Scheme has donated £55 million to charity since 1927.
Originally set up to support district nurses, the National Garden Scheme is now the largest single funder of nursing and caring charities in the UK. They also support charities working in gardens and health, grant bursaries to help community gardening projects and support gardeners at the start of their career.
In 2018 a record £3.1 million was donated.
As we are now into February, half term seems very close indeed!
There are simply too many things going on around here to start listing them but basically all the local theme parks, visitor attractions, museums, and national trust venues have lots of family style events planned during the week, most working on the basis of half term being 16th – 23rd February.
The possibilities are endless.
We seemed to have escaped most of the snow this time around at least, although the hillsides do look white around Dawlish.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is supposed to be a lovely sunny day so I expect all traces will have disappeared by Sunday.
Don’t miss out on a bird cruise on the Exe during these winter months when there are thousands of extra wintering birds here.
There are just a few RSPB cruises left on the schedule; they depart from Topsham.
Still a good number of Stuart Line Cruises on their schedule BUT some are sold out already and no doubt the rest will too.
For either option you would need to book.
Sandays is re-opening after our winter break this weekend, ready to welcome our 2019 guests. We look forward to greeting new faces and welcoming back the familiar ones.
It may be winter outside, but it is snug inside!
There are thousands of birds around the estuary, snowdrops are out in force in our churchyard, and there are plenty of interesting things to do at this time of year.
We hope to see you soon.