Pennywell Farm and Combe House

Debbie and I had gone down to Teignmouth for Easter, driving down on Thursday afternoon and only encountering a delay on the roads at the M4/M5 interchange.  We were staying in Martina’s Guest House bed and breakfast, which is right next to the railway station and very convenient for the town, so we had gone for a walk along the front on arriving, before heading over to Dawlish to meet up with Debbie’s parents at the Railway Convalescent Centre.  You can see photos from that first late afternoon here.  Martina’s was excellent, by the way, and we would recommend it, even if our tv channels did seem to be restricted to those available from the BBC – it reminded me of my childhood when ITV was as good as banned, and I was very much from the Blue Peter side of things and never got to watch Magpie.

We had come down with different plans for the break.  I wanted to do some walking on Dartmoor.  This blog is not about that, although we did have to take a detour to Millets in Newton Abbot because I had managed to come away with no hiking socks.  No, this blog is about our morning at Pennywell Farm and our lunch at Combe House, which can safely be put down as Debbie choices, though I have no complaints about them and enjoyed both.  We clearly put no planning into this day because Pennywell Farm was as far south as we travelled during the holiday and Combe House as far north, but we arrived at Pennywell Farm, near Buckfastleigh, in good time before Devon’s Friendliest Day Out opened.  It was a freezing cold day so it was fortunate we had brought out hiking stuff.  It was just a pity I left my gloves in the car.  The Pets Corner had ducklings, rabbits, guinea pigs and piglets, and the first opportunity for some audience participation from Debbie, who got to hold one of the piglets.052  This had already turned out to be an excellent day for her.  We went on from there to the Main Barn and the opportunity to feed the goats and lambs – cue more big smiles.  Further on, outside in the freezing cold, were ponies, goats, donkeys and horses, all of whom either wanted feeding or petting.  There are pony rides available but we did not have time available for that, and we did feel we should leave something for the children to enjoy – and this is a great place for children, with about a million things to do, so I will have to bring mind down some time.  We reached the birds next, including the most remarkable looking chicken,

Crazy !

Crazy !

and it was time for more feeding.  Over on the other side of the farm were more goats, the Willow Maze, ducks and deer, as well as Henny Penny’s Cafe where we had a cup of hot chocolate and a scone with clotted cream and jam, although we had missed the hot cross buns.  Then we hurried back to the Main Barn for the milking the goat display.  It turns out this is another audience participation moment and once all the children had had their go, Debbie got in for hers.  More smiles, but the best was still to come !  The last activity we were going to was feeding the lambs, and just when it seemed all the milk bottles had been distributed the partner of another woman who was as actively taking part as Debbie decided to let her have the one he had got hold of, I would say because he realised his partner might need a hand with holding the lamb while feeding it.  No such problems for Debbie who took to it like a professional and the lamb finished the bottle in no time at all, and then seemed in no hurry to be put back into its pen.  There was still time to hold a baby bunny as we were heading out,

Yes, it would fit in your pocket, but, no, it is not coming home with us

Yes, it would fit in your pocket, but, no, it is not coming home with us

although I was more interested in getting a photo of a bargain bucket of bunnies, and was not the only one interested in that.

Bargain bucket of bunnies

Bargain bucket of bunnies

So that turned out to be a lot of fun for children of all ages !  All of the staff were very friendly and helpful, and the idea of wrapping up the animals before they were held seemed to keep the animals very calm, making it easier for those holding them.  They also appear to do a lot of good work, taking on orphaned animals and those in need of a home, so pay them a visit if you are passing by and your admission price will help them with that.  You can see more of my photos from the morning here.

It was not as short a drive as we had thought from there to Combe House, near Gittisham, for lunch, but we got there in very good time and before our reservation time.  This was voted the Most Romantic hotel in 2012 by Conde Nast magazine, so I am sure you could have guessed who booked this even if I had not told you at the beginning of the blog.  It is set in a stunning location, in splendid seclusion overlooking some delightful countryside, and we had driven past thatched cottages to get to the long winding driveway which took us through fields containing some Arabian horses before we reached the Elizabethan house itself and were directed into a parking space.156  That was our initial welcome and all the staff were just as welcoming from then on.  The thing to note about Combe House is that it is a house which has become a restaurant, so they are using the existing rooms in whatever way they need to rather than it being a purpose built building.  So we were led into a side room to enjoy an aperatif, some amuse bouche and the lovely view,133 before being taken to our table in another of the rooms.  This one looked out of the front of the house, although we were at a smaller table at the back of the room while the window was dominated by a larger table currently seating a party of 10, some of whom had clearly been there before (and indeed may have been regulars) judging by some snippets of conversation we could hear.  Everything said was very complimentary and I was especially pleased to hear that they had a relaxed view to casual dress, given that we had come straight from Pennywell Farm, only changing our shoes.  There was another amuse bouche as we waited for our starters, and I let Debbie eat mine as celeriac is not to my taste, contenting myself with some of the home made bread.  My starter was steamed hake with leek and brown shrimp emulsion, wild garlic puree and hazlenuts, while Debbie went for the griddled quail with sweet potato puree, black garlic, nuts and seeds.  Mine was delicious, if a little salty to taste, and Debbie would have liked the quail cooked through a bit more.  I kept to the fish for my main course, pan seared bass, ragout of mussels, leeks and chard, lemon oil and chives, and it was even more delicious than my starter, everything mixing so well and the cooking of the bass was perfect, with a crispy skin over very succulent flesh.  Debbie had the braised neck fillet of beef, with smoked mash potato, roasted onions and braising jus, and the beef was very tender and yummy, it was all very well put together, and was a massive portion.147  She felt she could easily have survived on a portion half the size.  One thing with everything being split into the rooms which are available is that each room will have its own atmosphere, rather than there being an overall feel to the place, and this may be determined by who else you have in your room.  Ours was relatively quiet with no intrusive conversation.  The staff were all very friendly and certainly not overbearing, and even though we were both feeling full by this time we stayed on for dessert when it was offered to us, and both had the chocolate delice with caramel ice cream.  It tasted as good as it looked.  Debbie also had a cappuccino with petit fours, which brought a delightful lunch to an end.  We did take a little walk round the ground floor of the house and you can see more photos of the interior here.

Then we returned to Teignmouth, for Debbie to stay at the B&B and for me to gather my things and head off to Haytor Rocks, the quarry and the granite tramway.  You can read about that in my next blog.

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