Torquay 2016

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Forty-two members assembled at their chosen pick-up points for a weekend in Torquay. Our Chairman and trip organiser Brian Leith, with his wife Yvonne greeted us as we got on the coach with the information that the Tour Manager would not be joining us until we arrived in Torquay and introduced us to our driver Alan who was accompanied by his daughter Hayley. Soon after starting a vote was taken as to which way we should travel - scenic route or mainly motorway, which resulted in the motorway route being chosen. By this time we had crossed the Elizabeth II bridge leaving Alan with the unenviable task of travelling round the south side of the M25 before joining up with the M4/M5.

Our first comfort break was at 11.30 at Reading West Services on the A4, with lunch at around 13.40 at Gordano Service. After an hour’s break we were back on the M5 towards Taunton and Torquay via the A38 and A380. At 16.40 we arrived at the Richmond Hotel, Torquay to be greeted by another Brian (Brian Robertson, the Tour Manager). Over tea and coffee he gave a comprehensive account of the weekend plans. Whilst this was going on the luggage was taken to the rooms and members quickly discovered that finding their rooms was not an easy task with the difficulties expanded by the fact that for most rooms a lift was not available and the access staircases to the various levels for some proved very difficult. The hotel layout resembled a rabbit warren of corridors and staircases with fire break doors in abundance.

The accommodation was clean and adequate but generally the hotel lacked some much needed TLC. The hand basin in my bathroom had a warning notice “Beware Extreme Hot Water” which was funny because it took an age to run hot and then only as a trickle.

Friday’s dinner in the very pleasant dining room, offered a choice of meals. Accepting that it is a budget hotel the meal was rather tasteless and barely warm. Adjourning to the lounge for coffee and mints, the evening’s entertainer was a more than useful vocalist who serenaded his audience with hits from the 60’s and 70’s with backing tracks that brought more than a few memories back to that time. By 22.00 most eyes were becoming weary and bed called for most people. Though some ladies hit the dance floor for some tricky steps.

Saturday morning started with a heavy overcast sky, with us all hoping it would stay dry, but a downpour was forecast. Breakfast was taken at 08.30 which consisted of the usual hotel buffet style of fruit juices, fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereals followed by a selection of tasty cooked breakfasts plus toast, tea or coffee.

We departed the hotel at 09.30 in the coach in a light drizzle to pick up the steam train at Paignton Station that took us along the coastline eventually to Kingswear on the River Dart. By the time we entered the station the drizzle had turned into blustery rain and in walking the length of the station to our appointed  carriage all arrived well drenched.

Steam trains have a special attraction to many, but on a wet dismal day with condensation on the windows and the steam trailing back along the coaches it was such a shame the beautiful surrounding scenery could not be viewed adequately. On arrival at Kingswear, our organiser, Bran, had the tour party ticket which now required us to cross the River Dart by pedestrian ferry to Darmouth in just a matter of minutes.

Dartmouth is an idyllic seafaring town, quaint and quite well preserved in most places and definitely a bustlng holiday resort with many restaurants, cafes and watering holes to choose from. We had a hour and half before we reassembled for the river trip up to Totnes where we would be met by the coach and

transported back to the hotel. Our choice of sustenance was taken at the ‘Singing Kettle’ an almost hidden beautiful small, cosy cafe with an appetising lunch snack menu and a staff/management desire to please.

An example was the writer’s choice of ‘Welsh Rarebit’ which was a mixture of scrambled egg and mature cheddar cheese, seasoned with Lee & Perrins Worcester sauce, on a generous slice of toast accompanied by a beautifully presented excellent side salad. After this delicious snack a pot of tea was required and along came a pot of boiling water containing loose tea leaves together with a tea strainer, egg timer and milk and sugar. The egg timer gave the precise time for the leaves to brew and it tasted absolutely delicious. When in Dartmouth you need not look any further than the ‘Singing Kettle’ to satisfy your taste buds and is highly recommended and is less than five minutes from the harbour.

Brian, our organiser, had us queue down to the jetty to board the boat ‘Cardiff Castle’ for the trip up-river. On a beautiful, dry, sunny day it is no doubt an enchanting voyage with wonderful scenery to view, but, today the weather had really let us down with the viewing windows steamed up, raindrops drenching the outside, so we had to use a lot of imagination. Fortunately the boat had a sound system and a running commentary by a seafaring crewman who had a marvellous sense of humour made the whole journey more enjoyable. We had an hour or so before linking up with our coach which was spent it in a delightful riverside cafe, warm and dry with nice tea and cakes to savour.

Our Tour Guide Brian Robertson, who had stayed with the coach with those members who chose not to take the river trip, duly met us and he continued with his wit and frivolity where the boat’s crewman had left off. His infectious laughter and observations of all that surrounds him had most of the party in hysterics and is definitely a man for all seasons and tasks way beyond his courier duties. These included bartending, waiting on tables and general troubleshooter. He definitely gets full marks on the tour company’s questionnaire.

Saturday’s evening meal was an improvement on the previous evening but all thought there was still room to improve. Again we assembled in the lounge where an entertainer, Dave K, another male vocalist, provided a slightly different version of hits of yesteryear and more pleasing than just a background sound.

Sunday morning we started our trip to Looe and Plymouth and along the A38 we took the usual comfort stop of 30 minutes at Endsleigh in a huge Wyevale Garden Centre.

Whilst browsing a very heavy rain and hail storm erupted that on the high vaulted metal roof of the centre began as a pitter-patter of rain then suddenly into a rapid deafening sound of machine gun fire of the hailstones lasting around 8 or 10 minutes eventually extending our stay by a few minutes as we could not get back to the coach. On our way we entered Cornwall and arrived at Looe around midday and was given an hour and half to browse the quaint harbour and get some lunch with the weather now unbelievably sunny and hot. Alan our driver drove excellently on the narrow Cornish roads and lanes to return to Plymouth where we were dropped off at the bus station near the Drake Centre Shopping Mall. The majority wanted to view Plymouth Hoe. The coach returned at 15.45 to pick us up to return to Torquay.

Now apart from the historical running commentary given by our courier, Brian Robertson, through the entire weekend, the spirit on the coach was kept high by his continual banter of all he surveyed and his dubious  quizzes. Brian, a born comedian, needs very little encouragement to make anyone laugh no matter what the situation and he certainly made up for the weather we unfortunately encountered.

Following our evening meal we adjourned to the lounge for coffee and mints and another Brian R’s quiz which had most members baffled being a list of TV Presenters whose names were in anagram format and  it was eventually won with a total of seven out of ten being correct.

As all good things come to an end, Monday morning arrived. After fond farewells to the staff at hotel, and particularly Brian, our Tour Manager, we left Torquay at 09.45 to head home via the quickest route with our first comfort call at Bridgewater Services for 30 minutes around 11.00 to be followed by lunch at Membury Services on the M4 around 13.10. Before restarting our journey Brian, our Chairman requested a group photograph alongside the coach for inclusion in the web site and the next monthly Newsletter. Up to this point our journey was without any traffic of note which had allowed Alan to continue at an even pace right through to the approaches M4 to M25 approaches.

Thanks were given for our Chairman Brian for all the hard work and effort he had put in ensuring that another successful weekend trip was achieved.

Well done Brian!

(Report Richard Marson, photos: Bill Reeves)

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A shot of Torquay from the coach

The train that took the group from Paignton to Kingswear

Gillian, Yvonne and Mike on the boat along the River Dart

There was warmth on the cruise up the River Dart

One of the boat houses lining the River

Queen Victoria Jubilee fountain in Dartmouth

Something unusual in Dartmouth

West Looe

Panoramic view of Plymouth Hoe

The two Brians

The lighthouse at Plymouth Hoe

Brian with quiz prize-winners Rosalie and Rosemary

A busy street in East Looe

The light and airy dining room

Left to right: Maureen, Yvonne and Gillian

Some late-night dancers

Bill Reeves (right), relaxes from his camera

On the way home, but still smiling


As well as the pictures above you may click on the button below to access more of Bill's photos and videos

 see more pictures and videos on Bill's Website

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Page last updated : Tuesday, 23 June 2020