Christmas 2015 saw Coleton Fishacre venture into the festive spirit for the first time and throw open its doors to show people how the D’Oyly Carte family would have enjoyed their Christmas in the 1920s and 30s.
In today’s modern age it all seems a bit low key which of course was how it was meant to be. To brighten things up a bit the gardens are illuminated, but don’t expect to see an extravagant sound and light show. Apart from anything else it wouldn’t be appropriate anyway.
The walk around the garden will probably take around 45 minutes or so, but that doesn’t include a mulled wine stop at the gazebo.
Coleton Fishacre - The Gardens
If the house is worth taking a look at, then the gardens of Coleton Fishacre are even more so. These gardens are my favourite in this part of the world, not only because they’re appealing and well designed, but their proximity to the sea makes them even more enchanting.
You would need a good couple of hours to do these gardens justice, and even then you wouldn’t see everything, so I’m going to highlight the things you shouldn’t miss.
There are a few routes that can be taken but I’m going to suggest taking the most obvious one that follows the stream down through the valley to the cliffs above Pudcombe Cove.
There is a wheelchair/pushchair friendly path that follows the stream downhill, but remember that going down also means that you have to come back up, and if mobility is a problem then it’s probably best to return the same way, as the other alternative routes aren’t quite so easy to negotiate.
The main path starts from outside the house but don’t miss the Seemly Terrace and Rill Garden. If you follow this route it joins up with the main path anyway a bit further on. Humidity is high in this 30 acre garden which is ideal for moisture loving plants, and as you continue down through the valley luxurious ferns and Gunnera soon come into view.
At the bottom of the valley there is a gate which leads out onto the coast path above Pudcombe Cove which is as far as the gardens go.
Coleton Fishacre - The House
The National Trust owns several properties in South Devon and they all have something to commend them, but I think my favourite has to be Coleton Fishacre.
It’s a bit out of the way, but that’s one of the attractions of this estate that includes a magnificent garden that sweeps down to the sea and a house that evokes the bygone jazz age of the 1920s.
The man behind the creation of Coleton Fishacre was Rupert D’Oyly Carte, whose father, Richard, was the producer of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas.
Rupert, who incidentally was also the inspiration for P.G Wodehouses’s Rupert Psmith, inherited the family business including the Savoy Hotel and Claridge’s in London.
It was on a sailing trip between Brixham and Dartmouth with his wife Dorothy, that he saw the potential of the valley above Pudcombe Cove for building a home on the coast.
It’s not difficult to see why they chose this spot, and in 1923 he set about building Coleton Fishacre which took three years to finish.
Paignton to Kingswear Steam Railway
There are any number of things that will make a great day out in South Devon, but in my opinion, one of the best has to be the ‘Round Robin’
. It comprises of different modes of transport linking Paignton, Dartmouth
, and Totnes
and can be done in any order, and in any direction.
An Open Top Bus will take you from Paignton to Totnes, where you can spend some time in the town before catching the boat which sails down the River Dart to Dartmouth. You can then have another wander around before catching the ferry across to Kingswear, and then the steam train back to Paignton. It’s all very civilized and the Round Robin ticket covers everything.
You don’t have to do the whole trip in one go of course, and to describe it all in one article wouldn’t really do it justice, and so I’ve decided to just talk about the steam train journey for now.