Well not quite, but the first time for many a long day I have done anything on my own (F. being in Spain…)! I had booked a very cheap first-class ticket to Exmouth (£13 return) which we had never visited before. The view from the train is always interesting, here rather burnt countryside near Liskeard. And three or four rivers or estuaries passed in the short section to Plymouth…First glimpses of the Exmouth estuary promising..But one reason I had come was to see how much Exmouth deserves its self-appointed accolade of floral town. As I exited the station and came towards the underpass it was clear that the work of the volunteers extended everywhere….This really is how underpasses should be….and the shopping streets were well garlanded….and the parks flower filled….Flowers literally everywhere…I was glad to see the beach was pretty special too, it was quite a surprise…I visited more parks and enjoyed the wildlife….quite tame in Exmouth apparently…and who doesn’t get cheered up by the bright colours of beach huts?I found myself quite a long way down the promenade so doubled back, and as I approached town it was evident it had a certain Eastbourne or Bournemouth-like gentility with some nice seafront houses….and some quirky modern housing at the marina reminiscent of our recent trip to Amble but on a much larger scale…So my verdict? Exmouth is well-worth a trip, and I am so glad that here is a place which its inhabitants take a genuine pride in…..at least enough of them to make a difference! they should be really proud of their efforts. It was strange being on my own for a change, and I was at a loss what to do at times. What could I do after all my wandering – 16,000 steps? I decided to make my way back to Exeter, and there I gave the main museum, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, another chance as we had found it disappointing on our first visit. Sure enough it was much better than expected. First I went up to the viewing platform to see the Roman wall…..quite impressive in its own way.I then started to explore the museum’s collections which whilst arranged chronologically really adopt the ‘highlights’ style presentation which seems common these days (Coventry, Edinburgh etc)…here is a beautiful clock face. This clock was made in 1619-21 by the Exeter craftsman Matthew Hoppin and is the oldest surviving clock in Devon. It consisted of a stone dial with a seated figure of Matthew above. The figures on the clock include Apollo, Ceres and Mars. It was actually located on one of Exeter’s poorest parish churches…no-one knows why. There is also a magnificent collection of medieval woodwork (one of the best). It is the Hems Collection of woodwork. An outstanding collection of nearly 500 pieces of medieval woodwork, collected by the Exeter master sculptor Harry Hems. The pieces were originally displayed in Hems’ workshop to inspire his craftsmen in their world-renowned work. The woodwork is intermingled with architectural fragments which are mainly fragments from historic buildings in Exeter. ‘Many of these items were salvaged during renovation or demolition of historic buildings in the post-war redevelopment of the city. The collection includes fragments of woodwork and plasterwork from the city’s Tudor houses, and fragments and casts of stonework from the Cathedral and the Guildhall.’
In one room there is the remarkable Seaton Down hoard..’The Seaton Down Hoard consists of 22,888 Roman coins and three iron ingots. It was buried in around AD 350 but why, and by whom is a mystery. Could it have been wages for workers or a merchant’s savings? Were the coins stolen or were they being hidden from the taxman? We may never know. The coins were found a few fields away from known Roman sites. One was a farmstead, the other an army watch tower. The hoard is probably connected to these in some way.’But the Roman object I found most fascinating was a tile where the person who made it used the wet clay to practice their writing….they scratched into it IABCDIIFF – the earliest recorded use of the Latin alphabet in Devon.These Roman decorations are pretty unusual too…Medusa maybe?and Devon is famous for its stone-age axes…these all from one site – the earliest stone tools made by humans – a remarkable collection of 350,000-year-old flint handaxes from the gravel pits at Broom near Axminster. Quite quite amazing. I had time left for a quick look around Exeter…here a view from Wagamama.Here the beautiful Georgian area Southernhay…. but I was headed for the river and a well deserved (I thought) drink at The Prospect Inn which I took outside and enjoyed in the shelter of the old Customs shedThe Customs House projects itself as the most prominent building on the riverfront……One last glimpse of the Cathedral….and it was time to make for the station. On the way I noticed this plaque to perhaps the greatest local historian of them all W G Hoskins someone with whom I am very familiar, having studied much of his work………..an interesting day…on my own!