Sunday, July 4, 2021

Everything You Can Imagine Is Real

Last week, we headed to one of our favourite UK destinations, Exmoor - specifically Lynton and Lynmouth (christened "Little Switzerland" by the Victorians).  Lynmouth is also remembered for the devastating floods of 1952 in which 34 people lost their lives.

I always think that this area has its own micro climate.  Weather can sweep in from the sea, up and over the moor in minutes.  I was once caught in a rain shower in Lynmouth and could quite clearly see that at the other end of the street, the sun was out and there was a rainbow over the river Lyn.  No, there weren't cartoon bluebirds, but you get the picture.

Check in to self catering holiday accommodation these days is late due to extra Covid cleaning measures, so by the time we had unpacked and refreshed, the sun was going down.  We therefore headed on foot to the edge of town, where the road leads into the stunning craggy beauty of the Valley of the Rocks and the precipitous coastal footpath.  Below, just about visible, two thirds of the way down the right hand side of the photo, you can see one of the valley's feral goats perched nonchalantly on the edge of the world.

This path is dramatic, but not for the faint hearted.  However, on Saturday evening, we were rewarded by the most spectacular sunset.

Here's Gareth doing his best "Staying Alive" move by pointing at the sun, just in case you need directing.

Typically, we also experienced some adverse weather conditions.  Less than 24 hours after these photos were taken, we had a sleepless night courtesy of howling wind and rain and by morning, we were greeted rolling sea mist.  Luckily the mist cleared in a couple of hours and we embarked on our first adventure - a pre-booked trip to the Broomhill Estate (only £4.00 per ticket).

The title of this post is a Picasso quote and is a perfect appraisal of this location.

The property was built in 1913; a late Victorian gentleman's residence with an impressive woodland garden around 5 miles from Barnstaple.  

However, Broomhill has been an Art Hotel for as long as we have been visiting the area.  The last occasion was many moons ago, at a time when we were caught in the blinding headlights of early parenthood and dealing with sleepless nights and frequent feeds.  From that day, I have hazy memories of the sculptures on display.  I remember fixating on a 20ft tall red stiletto shoe by Greta Berlin (wondering if it was some kind of waking dream) and a concrete Chesterfield sofa (somewhere to catch up on sleep?)  

My overriding memory was my number one priority that day - having enough time to be served and consume a delicious Hungarian Goulash before the baby woke up.  Broomhill is also a renowned restaurant, specialising in Mediterranean cuisine and as I recall, it was our first dining experience since becoming parents and whilst the staff were very professional and friendly, the ambience was one of peace and tranquility and we felt a responsibility to our fellow diners not to be the obligatory "couple with a screaming baby."

In recent years, the hotel has experienced changes of its own.  For the last 10 years or so, the hotel has hosted the National Sculpture Prize for emerging artists and the number of sculptures now on display tops 200.  The 10 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms have been renovated and the hotel has changed ownership after hitting the market in 2019 with an asking price of cool £1.25m.  It's also made it onto the, a website dedicated to unique places to stay.

The gardens are extensive and beautiful; from formal to woodland, by virtue of winding, sloping paths carving through wooded hillsides, with an impressive bog garden area around the pond.  

It's an immersive experience and with a wonderfully vague map, you need eyes in the back of your head to ensure you don't miss any of the pieces.  

The Estate is gearing up to house this year's shortlisted 10 in the National Sculpture Prize from July to November.  Each of the 10 shortlist entries receive £2,500 to create their vision.  Here was one work in progress...

Sadly, I was so keen to capture the sculptures for posterity, I omitted to record who did what.  I therefore can't share the names and details of the artists behind these pieces, so you'll have to go and find out for yourselves.  I can tell you that there are works by Alain Kurylo, Mike Roles, Ronald A. Westerhuis and Laury Dizengrenel for those who are interested.

The fact that the information provided was scant really appealed to me (just a small placard if you were lucky, denoting the name of the work and the artist).  I hate being overloaded with knowledge and information.  I sometimes find it a distraction, feeling obliged to read all the literature or listen to a guide and then somehow lose the moment.  

You can expect anything at Broomhill.  Positioned next to a brightly coloured boathouse, was this partially submerged teacup.  All very Alice in Wonderland.

I quite liked this future storage bunker, complete with shelves stacked with concrete laden shopping baskets.

Wherever you walked, someone was watching.

This piece of blue glass had magical properties, transforming these humble holidaymakers into an experimental album cover.  I'm wearing a denim boilersuit and cherry red DMs, but if I'd known I was going to be an album artist, I would definitely have lost the yellow raincoat.  Still, depending on how album sales go, maybe everyone will want a yellow raincoat in 2022.

So there you have it - a glimpse inside the Broomhill Estate.  There is definitely something for everyone; weird, witty and wonderful!  

With my jobs list totalling 1m because I prioritised editing photos, it was lovely to unwind last night.  We watched the England match.  I'm not the biggest fan of football or televised sport in general, but do get excited when there is action to be had and last night's 4-0 result didn't disappoint.  We started watching the first series of This Way Up and then moved on to a very absorbing documentary series on Netflix - Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, following the case of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the wife of a famous French Film Producer, who preferred a life of out of the limelight.  

In December 1996, she took a solo trip to spend Christmas in her isolated house in West Cork with a lighthouse view, but within days, was brutally murdered.  There was a horrifying twist at the end of the first part and I'm desperate to know if they are any closer to bringing her killer to justice.  We visited the area in 1997, strangely oblivious to this case.  Nothing like an unsolved crime to go to bed on.

So how are you doing?


  1. The Broomhill Estate looks absolutely amazing and is going on my list of places to visit in this country. We usually go up to North Devon once a year and I can't believe I've never heard of it.

    1. That’s great! I’m sure you will enjoy it. It’s a fascinating place.

  2. The Broomhill Estate photos are wonderful. I especially love the ominous , horn headed sculpted figures. Reminds me a bit of a Nicola Hicks exhibition I saw years ago. And the giant teacup ... well that's my cup of tea! Fabulous sunset pictures. Looks like you had a great time. (Monsieur has been gripped with the Cork murder documentary, but I have been in bed early every night this week :0) Lulu x

    1. Thanks Lulu. It was fascinating. The horned sculptures was my favourites too. The Cork murder story is definitely one to watch when you have time. X


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