Devon is one of those quintessential places in England that is a constant reminder of why it’s important to venture out of London (or other equally popular English cities) and venture out to see more.
The trains are pretty good across the UK as a whole – yes, I know services can be delayed from time to time but the connectivity you have in the UK, even to the tiniest little villages is pretty amazing! Even if you don’t drive, there’s not much stopping you from exploring a lot of England quite independently.
With that being said, and with a penchant to discover even more of England, we left London for a few days and headed off to Devon on a trip with a bit of a twist!
See rather than just travelling somewhere and essentially relaxing and eating our way through the city, we went on a MicroGap!
Okay – a bit of background, a MicroGap (which you could refer to as “Micro Gap”, “micro gap” or any version you like), is a take on the traditional ‘Gap year’.
Neither of us ever did a gap year, we just went straight into Uni and as appealing as the idea sounds now as an adult, I’m not sure I would have been the best suited to me. I loved being at Uni – I went to the same one as a lot of my classmates so it was like going to High School/Secondary School, except with so much freedom!
So the Micro Gap isn’t about trying to make up for lost time or attempting to reclaim something we missed, instead, it’s more about making the most of our travels by actually immersing yourself in your surroundings.
It could be about learning a new language (suffice to say, this clearly doesn’t work in England as I’m pretty sure I’m okay on the English language front), learning a new skill or just finally getting to do something you’ve always daydreamed about.
For me, that thing was farming. Like not the hardcore, shovelling stuff in the rain kinda farming (my curiosity and commitment levels aren’t quite at that stage yet), instead, it’s more about just getting to know more about where my food comes from and getting to actually enjoy a lot more of it direct from the source. (It always goes back to food with me it seems 😋).
With that, we headed over to Quince honey farms, where I got to be a bee-keeper for a day!
Now there’s something worth knowing about me and bees. I’m absolutely terrified of them! I’ve never been stung so why I am I have no idea but bees (along with wasps) probably terrify me because I’ve never been stung.
Everyone who has ever been stung has said how painful it is so I think long ago, I just took their word for it and have now morphed this idea of how painful a bee sting is into this incredulous, gargantuan thing. (*I feel like, in some part, I have Lloyd to thank for that. 😄)
Luckily, we had bee suits to keep the bees from stinging you and, with this on, got straight to work.
It was brilliant!
I got to find out how to control the bees using the smoke (it’s a specific type of smoke from a specific plant – can’t remember which now, and all it does is usher the bees in one direction so you don’t hurt than when you move things around).
We even got to finally see what a Queen bee looks like (extra points if you can find her in the picture below – she’s the one with the yellow dot in it, added manually, I should add).
The minute you crack open the honeycomb, funnily enough, the bees all arrive and immediately start drinking up the honey.
It’s so funny! It’s at times like this you remember why bees even make honey to begin with – it’s for themselves!
In winter, when the flowers are all gone, the bees will feast on all this honey to keep them going until springtime (which is why after a while, the honey is left alone so the bees can have their winter honey feast 😁).
There’s so much more we learnt but rather than recollect every single detail on here, pop by the farm when you’re in Devon and find out all about it in person. 😀
By the time we were done, any fear of bees I had, had totally turned into serious appreciation.
For all my fear of getting stung, I’ve always been intrigued by animals – across the board. How they live and co-exist, why they do the things they do, their interactions with other animals and even their roles in the ecosystem are things I’ve always found fascinating (*which is in part why a key part of my University studies was centred around applying Mathematical theories to animal behaviour).
The best part is that bees are relatively low maintenance. If you’re not around to look after them or take the honey, they’ll just keep on doing their own thing.
By the time we left, I’d found out the price for getting a hive – it’s not nearly as expensive as you’d think and once you factor in the honey you can get from it, you pretty much get your money back 😁.
Suffice to say, it’s something I’m seriously considering and will definitely look into the minute I get a proper garden.
We finished off our visit with a quick trip to the farmhouse café where we plumped for some home-made lasagne (piping hot and sooooo good) along with honey and clotted cream scones (usually you have jam with them instead of honey but the honey was too good to pass up).
Oh, also, you get to taste the different kinds of honey they make here, make sure you try the lavender honey (you can thank me later 😉).
Leaving Quince honey farms, we headed over to Hartland Abbey and Gardens, an old historic home only minutes away from where we would be staying for the night and alas, despite seeing that the opening time was up till 5pm, it turns out the final entry is one hour before the closing time (i.e. 4pm) – which was kinda disappointing as we arrived just 5 minutes after 4pm.
The whole point of visiting is not just to see inside the home but to explore the ground so we decided to just have a leisurely jaunt around the property…
…stopping off to just make the most of that sunshine
… and even saying hello to a few of the ‘locals’. :- D
With that, we left Hartland Abbey and headed over to the other farm we would be staying in for the night – Loveland Farm.
Loveland Farm is one spot I ended up wishing we were staying in for the entire trip (alas, it was a tad further away from the other spots we wanted to visit so we just spent one night here).
For starters, you get greeted by super enthusiastic sheep in the field who run up to the fence to say ‘hello and welcome’ (in truth, they probably thought I’d arrived with food for them but I prefer the former version better 😄).
Then there’s the cabin and dome you’ll be staying in. It’s Scandinavia-meets British design, in the best way possible.
Scandi because of the wood and ‘technically minimalism’ design, British because of the little knick-knacks thrown in to make it feel super homely as soon as you arrive.
There are 3 bedrooms in this one – two main ones and one with 3 bunk beds, meaning you can sleep as many as 7 in here.
When you arrive, they bring you fresh farmhouse groceries for you to make breakfast with the very next day – bread (which Lloyd kept threatening to eat every five minutes once he caught a whiff of its deliciousness), sausages, eggs, milk, bacon – the lot!
We kicked back in the dome as the sun set, with our plans to go check out a nearby waterfall going out of the window once we settled into Loveland Farm.
^I have no real explanation for this picture above. 🤷🏾♂️😄
Dinner was a thoroughly British affair and delightfully home-cooked affair, roast pork (done in the main farmhouse), potatoes and veggies all of which disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared from the farmhouse (the farmer’s son brought it over so we didn’t even have to move a muscle).
Suffice to say, we slept pretty well that night after that delicious food, waking up the next morning to try our hands at making breakfast.
It’s so funny thinking about it now but I used to whip up a mean full English breakfast but I couldn’t remember the last time, before that morning in question when I’d done so. I actually really enjoyed just taking things slowly and stopping to make myself a meal from scratch (even if I did end up making far too much and consequently eating far too much 😄).
It was just such a fantastic way to start a day and one that made me look forward even more so to what we had planned for the rest of the day!
More on that in the next post!
Article credit to: https://handluggageonly.co.uk/2018/11/15/how-to-be-a-bee-keeper-for-a-day-in-england/