Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 7 Greenway Halt (Friday, May 31)

The next morning, we set off by train to Paignton.   It's another pretty seaside town, with candy-colored row houses along the waterfront and lots of tourist shops.

I secured a caffeinated beverage and we set off to explore a bit until the other rail station opened, as it shortly did.    The other rail line is the old Dartmouth and Paignton line, and the home of the Dartmouth Steam Train, one of the numerous British Heritage Railways.    The engines were of course gorgeous, and I shot many-many train photos for my train-loving husband. 

It was a lovely day and the crowd boarded in a holiday mood.   The rail line runs along the scenic coast, passing through several small towns, and terminating at Kingswear, at the mouth of the river Dart, and across the water from Dartmouth.  We got off at Greenway Halt, however, and took a footpath up through the woods to visit Greenway, Agatha Christie's summer home. 
We were both very eager to see it.   Christie used it as a setting for several of her books.  It more than lived up to its billing.  It was much larger than I'd expected.   Rather than the rambling cottage I had expected, it was a large, well-proportioned house sitting on a high bluff above the river, surrounded by extensive and well kept gardens. 

We ran the gauntlet of earnest clerks extolling the virtues of National Trust  membership, and walked through the house.  It was filled with the collections of various family members, including Christie's second husband, archeologist Max Mallowan and various of the five generations that had used it as a summer home.  Each room had cards describing the contents, along with bits about Christie and her family.  Many were supplied by her grandson, who recalled idyllic summer holidays at Greenway and a lively and gregarious family life.    I had known that Christie's first marriage was unhappy, and her second much more so, but little more than that.  I left with a picture of her second marriage as a full and contented one.    Perhaps it's silly of me, but when I think of the hours of entertainment her books have brought to millions of readers, it pleases me to know that she had a happy life, despite the aggravations that her celebrity doubtless brought her.

After seeing the house, we strolled around the gardens, admiring the river views, and went down to the battery and boathouse- which did not look at all as I had pictured them when I read Five Little Pigs!

The River Dart

The battery overlooking the Dart

The  boathouse- an excellent place to find a body!
They were much more wooded and secluded- perfect for a murder.  After poking around we turned to the dock, just as a ferry serendipitously docked.  So we took the ferry down the river to Dartmouth.

Dartmouth was another pretty town, climbing the hills up one side of the river Dart, and looking across at Kingswear on the opposite bank.   We took a turn about the downtown, and were charmed to find a small museum devoted to Thomas Newcomen, blacksmith of Dartmouth and inventor of the Newcomen steam engine- the museum had an excellent explanation of how the engine works, and a working engine to demonstrate. 

After seeing the museum, we walked out to Dartmouth Castle, one of two that historically protected the port of Dartmouth:

-and then back to Dartmouth for fish and chips, which were quite good, but we agreed not superior to the ones we'd had a few years ago at the Black Country Living Museum in the Midlands.

Then it was time to take the foot-ferry to Kingswear, on the opposite side of the river.  We'd hoped to spend a little time walking in Kingswear, but the ferry schedule was against us, and by the time the ferry arrived, we had barely enough time to walk up the hill to the steam train station and board the last train back.  

Kingswear, across the river from Dartmouth
We decided to go all the way to Torbay, as it was another town we hadn't seen before  and had read about it as kind of an upscale resort. We had a stroll around Torbay before catching the train back to Exeter.

A statue of Agatha Christie in Torbay, her birthplace., 

Due to some odd timing of trains and ferries, we'd had our fish and chips quite early, and after some dithering hit a grocery store for some late evening snacks to take back to the hotel. 

And yet more pictures, of trains, Greenway, the Dart river, Dartmouth, Kingswear and Torbay:
rfholly's Day 7 album on Photobucket