Greyhound Bus used to have a commercial where they said to, "Leave the driving to us." Today we bought a Round Robin pass and that's just what we did. We toured the Dart River area known as the Hams transferring frequently from one mode of transportation to another. When we first heard about it, the logistics sounded confusing. The time table shifts because the boat ride part of the program is affected by the changes in the tide. Except for the river cruise, we used a bus and train that also were patronized by non tourist types. We boarded a double decker bus in Paignton and sat on top, of course. I've written before about how hair raising we find these roads to be because they are so narrow, twisted and congested. Ken concentrates so hard when he drives, it seems like he doesn't have time to blink. With the frequent roundabouts where I have to watch the GPS and advise him when to get off, I don't look around much either. When I do try I don't see much because of all those high stone walls covered with vegetation. So it was a real treat to ride on top and see what was behind those walls. And the bus tore down the same roads that we find challenging in a small car. It helps to be a native, I guess.
We rode to Totnes, a medieval looking town, whose streets were quiet and empty on this Sunday morning. Or at least they were quiet until the church bells chimed inviting parishioners to service. The bells binged and bonged forever and their sound echoed off the cobbles and stone walls. As we walked to the river to board the river cruise, we came to a pitch (campground) and just had to stop. There wasn't much to it. - a grassy field with site markers on the perimeter and a place to take on water. We stopped a friendly couple who was doing just that and they invited us to come inside their 25 foot long Class A. Most people pull caravans (trailers) but they preferred the A for the same reasons we prefer our motor home. Since they cannot tow a car - the roads are just too small - they had bikes on the back and were glad to be able to camp so close to Totnes so it was easy to get into town. They said this was the last day the pitch would be open - the end of the season. They were hoping to take this rig to mainland Europe soon and they said the roads there are much more narrow and challenging, especially in Italy. Note to self: don't plan a self driving trip in Italy.
Although it seemed like much of the land we sailed through on the Dart River was wild and natural, it all belonged to somebody. One huge estate went on forever and had an extensive vineyard. The river provides a microclimate that keeps the temperatures moderate and the slopes all face south toward the sunshine. When it rains too much they drain quickly into the river. You could tell when we got close to a town or hamlet, because we began to see one sailboat after another moored in the river. Near Dartmouth we saw a huge rail trestle made out of brick and stone. Trains just can't handle the frequent ups and downs of the land here, so trestles were a necessity to minimize the climbs and declines. A man built the trestle to bring the train to Dartmouth and he built a station there as well, but his competitors decided to build the tracks on the other side of the river. Locals joke that a train left for Dartmouth 200 years ago and still hasn't gotten here.
Since we were taking the steam train back to Paignton, we had to board a passenger ferry to get to the functioning station on the other river bank. It was a regular passenger train and the conductor made clear announcements at every stop, reassuring us that we would get off in the right place. After we left the river bank the views were blocked once again by thick vegetation. Plants sure do enjoy living here. It can feel like we are in the Amazon jungle. Trees grow over the roads and lace their branches making dark tunnels. Bushes and flowers intertwine and climb up vertical surfaces. It's no wonder the British are avid gardeners. Great success can come with minimal effort.