While you’re out enjoying some English wines and have the chance to visit some of our beautiful vineyards, don’t forget to look out for other attractions to visit. Here’s a taste of Devon & Cornwall.
The days that we were not amongst or around the vines during our stay at Eastcott Vineyard were utilised to explore what was to be a combination of visiting and tasting wines from other local producers as well as taking in one or two none wine related local activities.
The first place where we took advantage of this was immediately after our day at the Ruby Market where we had been helping out with Eastcott’s stall.
Armed with Grumpies of Cornwall pies, we took ourselves off to the nearby Dartmoor Railway. The railway is currently closed to a scheduled operating service but it is still worth a visit to Oakhampton station, which has been restored to its former Southern Railway glory. A station cafe is open most days with places to sit outside on the platform where you can watch various historic vehicles being lovingly restored.
This railway runs adjacent to the Granite Way cycle route and footpath and a walk or ride along this takes you past Meldon Quarry (once a main source of ballast for British Rail) and Meldon Viaduct that used to carry the main line over to Plymouth with such trains as The Atlantic Coast Express. Panoramic views can be enjoyed of the countryside around Meldon where plenty of footpaths have been created for various walks. We were not the only ones taking advantage of the glorious weather as we experienced a frequent procession of cyclists using the main track as well as one or two folk camping in the valley below close to the Okement River that runs along its contours from the reservoir, opened in 1972.
Later that week, we took ourselves on a journey which would involve several attractions in a single day; including a bit of wine tasting as a grand finale in the evening and all set against wonderfully sunny weather!
The first attraction on our schedule was the Launceston Railway. This is a narrow gauge railway built on just over two miles of the former North Cornwall Main Line and created by a husband and wife team Nigel and Kay Bowman (again, it was nice to see another husband and wife project success).
The station site at Launceston also includes a museum with displays of industrial artefacts as well as a small collection of classic cars and motorcycles. It is also close to the nearby English Heritage site of Launceston Castle that still stands guard over the town. Again, there is a pleasant cafe on the station where we whiled away some time watching the proceedings of the outbound steam service before heading off to our next destination.
Now winding our way into Cornwall and the temperature of the mid-day sun getting hotter, we called in to the heritage railway centre at Bodmin, which was already bussling with tourists. Here, we took in a visit to the locomotive and carriage works to witness several items of rolling stock under restoration whilst the steam service busied itself in the station for its next departure. The opportunity was then taken to have another lovely cup of Cornish tea whilst writing out a few postcards.
Now things were really beginning to heat up and the call for ice cream became ever more popular on our way to this lovely National Trust property.
Obviously many more people had the same idea as us because the place was very busy when we arrived. We decided that taking a slow walk through the well maintained gardens was the best option as the heat was starting to slow us down and it was more challenging to walk through the house as it was quite stuffy. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit, both agreeing that sticking to the gardens had been a good bet. The only downside is that we could not find an ice cream within the property so we decided to wait until we arrived at our next port of call, which was to be the delightful seaside harbour town of Padstow.
We parked in the car park in what used to be the town’s railway station. Its station building still standing proudly but no trains have called there for 50 years or more.
Padstow is a traditional Cornish harbour town and on our visit, was absolutely packed with folk enjoying the sun.
We decided to stick with tradition, the long overdue ice cream, from the Harbour Ice Cream Parlour, was calling but not before sampling a traditional Cornish Pasty, from the Padstow Pasty Co., and so many there were to choose from, with fillings to cater for all tastes and imaginations.
This is a place to simply slow down, take things easy, sit back and enjoy the comings and goings along the harbour front. Though a bit of a challenge was trying not to get dive-bombed by the gulls who seemed intent on getting their bit of pasty and if not, letting go of some cargo of their own!
Camel Valley Vineyard
As a couple of tight Northerners we do indeed like to get our money’s worth, although by now, we had reached our limit of attraction visiting endurance and needed quite rightly, something to drink. So our final call on this day was to drop in for the Wednesday evening Grand Tour at Camel Valley with no other than the man himself Bob Lindo, doing the honours.
Bob was very entertaining and kept the rather large tour crowd amused as well as informed about his wine and the English wine scene in general. He also proudly showed off his International Wine Challenge awards as well as drawing the crowd’s attention to the fact that HM The Queen also likes a tipple (or could that be quaff?) of Camel Valley fizz. Bob is currently also the only producer in the country to have a PDO site rather than the generic PGI that is tagged to all of England – times are indeed a’changing! We were also fortunate to arrive in time to see the first flowers appear on the vines.
The sun was still shining and the heat was on, so the chilled wine that was served was most welcome! A couple of purchases were made for something to savour back home (and hopefully to be drunk in similar sunny settings (we hope).
What a fabulous end to the day!
Our Star Choices:
Cornwall 2011 – Seyval Blanc & Chardonnay: Crisp fresh apple with some yeasty notes. Refreshing on a summer’s evening.
Bacchus Dry 2011: Crisp, fresh with aromatic Bacchus flavours. The fennel seed breadstick which was served with this drink helped to bring out and enhance the flavours of both the wine and the aniseed.
Other Wines tasted:
Rose 2012 – 100% Pinot Noir: Red fruits and a touch of creaminess. Quite light and delicate.
Cornwall 2010 – White Pinot Noir: Good mousse with red fruit character, autolytic notes and a good finish.
Sparkling Red 2010 – Rondo: very English characteristics, cranberry, elderberry and bramble. Red sparkling wine on the whole is not one of our favourite tipples, a bit of a novelty.
Tune in for a continuation of The West Country blog coming to a computer near you soon!
In homage to English Wine Week (and while our blog is being upgraded hence the lack of blogging of late), we would like to re-release some of our English vineyard blogs and hope they may inspire you to pick up a glass or two!
As keen advocates of English wine, we have spent the last month on a planned tour of Wine Estates stretching from Cornwall right along the South coast to Kent.
After an early start driving South, we arrived at Three Choirs Vineyard at just after 10am in glorious sunshine and warmth! On arrival, we decided to take one of the various walks around the vineyard, which gives you a great feel of the size of the Estate. There is a fair amount of information dotted around highlighting the various trellis systems and vine varieties all set against the wonderful Gloucestershire countryside. Unfortunately the audio education system in the pergodas didn’t seem to be on at the time we visited but we were able to watch an interesting film about the vineyard in the tasting centre.
There are several holiday lodges nestled amongst the vines, which provide an idyllic and peaceful setting for a getaway.
After a pleasant walk around the vineyard, we visited the shop to sample some of the wines. A couple of bottles were open for a free tasting but you can also choose 5 from the selection of Three Choirs wines available for £6.
The free tasting:
Bacchus Cellar Door 2011 – Refreshing and aromatic dry white, notes of asparagus, elderflower, nettles and green pepper.
Willow Brook 2009 – Schonberger & Siegerrebe, an off dry white, slightly floral and spicy, hints of lychee, nice body. This one took our fancy and a bottle was purchased for later enjoyment!
The five wines we chose to taste:
Siegerrebe Cellar Door 2009 – dry white with classic English character, hedgerow, hawthorn, grapefruit, lychee and zesty citrus feel.
Reichensteiner – Barrel Fermented Cellar Door 2009 – new French oak for 6 months gave a nutty, buttery aroma and taste, slightly honeyed, the fruit seemed a little masked by the oak.
Rosé 2010 – Seyval Blanc & Triomphe, salmon pink in colour, light aroma of strawberries and summer red fruits, a little herby mid-palate, finishes with a soft creaminess.
Red Ravens Hills 2010 – Rondo & Regent, very deep purple in colour, fresh black & blue berry summer fruits, hint of spice, mid-palate some vegetal notes, fruit carried to the finish, which is good for an English red wine as they can often taper off a bit too quickly.
Classic Cuvee NV Brut – Seyval Blanc & Pinot Noir, traditional method bottle fermentation, a little reductive at first but soon developed into more yeasty notes encapsulated within a nice bubbly mouth feel.
After this splendid start to the day, we continued on our journey further into the West Country that included a stop off at Glastonbury Tor.
In the evening, we arrived at Eastcott Vineyard, Devon, which was to be our destination for the next 10 days. We received a warm welcome from owners Hilary and Richard Waller, who had gone out of their way to prepare a tasty homemade butternut squash risotto. This was followed by home grown strawberries with cream, washed down with a lovely bottle of Eastcott Brut Rosé 2010 (red berries, strawberry, cranberry and cherry with a hint of freshly crushed almonds).
This was a fitting end to an eventful day!
* Gricer: a railway enthusiast; collects objects or visits places connected with locomotives and railways.