The last West Cornwall DFAS trip of 2015 earlier this week, saw 21 intrepid members braving wind and water for their cross-border excursion. No, this was not the English Channel for a trip to France, but a horribly blustery and rainy day for a visit to Devon: Buckfast Abbey and the Christmas Market at Totnes.
The foul weather unfortunately ruled out a stroll round Buckfast Abbey’s beautiful gardens for all except the most stout-hearted (and waterproofed!), but the venue nevertheless offered plenty to engage us. The abbey itself — rebuilt in the 1880s after the original mediaeval building was left to decay following the dissolution of its monastic community by Thomas Cromwell — remains an oasis of calm and beauty with some glorious examples of modern stained glass. Elsewhere, the bookshop, gift shop or restaurant provided less spiritual forms of satisfaction before we re-boarded our coach for the short drive to Totnes.
As the skies darkened and the lights came up in the market stalls on both sides of the hill which is Totnes’ main street, the atmosphere was truly magical. Surrounded by rich aromas from the food stalls of all kinds, and music from the various performers around the town, we were able to browse for Christmas presents, sample the many sweets and savouries on offer or simply find a dry, sheltered spot for an afternoon tea with friends.
Enthusiasm undampened by the persistent rain, our last port of call on the way home was Waitrose just outside Saltash. The whole day was a lovely foretaste of Christmas and much enjoyed despite the weather.