This almost qualifies as an "Off The Beaten Path" tip as the Secret Memorial Garden here is tucked away in a corner of Castle Hill, adjacent to Great Torrington's prime visitor attraction, the 1646 Experience. Searching it out though is more than rewarding, not just for its simple beauty and tranquility but also to meet the gardener. Unfortunately I didn't catch his name on my last visit but he is certainly a character and intimately knowledgeable about his little fiefdom.
The Secret Memorial Garden was planted on a disused builder's yard to commemorate the deaths of 5 young boys in the Sydney House fire on February 19th, 1942. Sydney House at the time of the tragedy was being used as a hospice for sick children, including war-time evacuees and the Memorial Garden was created by public fundraising as a community space to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
The Garden is laid out as a Tradescant Knot Garden which is a formal style of garden filled with medical and culinary herbs and wild flowers boxed in geometrically by low hedges. Visitors can not only enjoy its serenity and aromas but are also welcome to cut themselves any of the herbs for personal use and the gardener is more than happy to share suggestions on their various uses, both medical and culinary.
The garden is open most days from 9 until 5-ish. Entry is free and there is a discreet little box beside the gate for donations towards the cost of new plants which the gardener certainly would appreciate.
This is an ideal spot to stop off for a beer when cycling The Tarka Trail being situated in the former Torrington railway station on the trail itself.
Whilst I love train travel I'm not a railway buff as such but the Puffing Billy's rail heritage certainly lends the place character and there is plenty of rail memorabalia around the pub, including a former buffet carriage (which is being restored) and a couple of goods wagons.
A decent pint of beer, friendly landlord and a good sized beer garden are all extra plusses.
The food is supposed to be pretty good too but Ihaven't had a chance to try it yet.
Great Torrington prides itself on it friendliness and the Newmarket Inn here pretty much exemplifies that. I'd just dropped in for a swift beer and to write a postcard and was impressed by the cheery welcome from both the barmaid and the couple of regulars at the bar. A little repartee ensued regarding my camera and whether I was here for a "modelling shoot" with the rather attractive young barmaid.
The beer was excellent (Bombadier straight from the barrel) company good and I was tempted to have a couple but had a 10 mile or so cycle to get home and so just had my quick pint, wrote and posted my card and reluctantly bade all "adieu".
Definitely worth a return visit.
One of the main aims of The Tarka Project was economic regeneration in North Devon and with The Tarka Trail it has succeeded spectacularly, especially in the small business sector. It is estimated that over 750 jobs have been directly created along with a wide range of new business which of course includes cycle hire and repair shops.
I was particularly grateful for the one here at Great Torrington (Torrington Cycle Hire) when I got a puncture in my rear wheel after hitting a pothole. Whilst it doesn't actually advertise itself as a repair shop the guy running it was more than happy to replace my inner tube, which took him about 3 minutes flat (if you'll excuse the accidental pun!)- it would have taken me probably half-an-hour even with my quick-release wheels!
In keeping with the general friendliness of the town we had a chat about the possibilities of seeing otters on the river, re which he reckoned that this is the stretch of the Tarka Trail is where you are most likely to encounter them. Job done, he then charged me the princely sum of 4 pounds which is pretty much what I would have expected to pay for the inner tube alone far less his skilled labour.
Nice guy :)
The shop is located next to The Puffing Billy at the bottom of Station Hill