Travelling to South Devon by train is a familiar journey for me. I always get excited on leaving Exeter, anticipating the vista of little boats bobbing on the wide River Exe. Or, if the tide is out, there will be flocks of birds feeding in the mud and I’ll have a great time trying to recognise all the different species. The excitement mounts as we pass the ferry to Exmouth at Starcross and I finally glimpse the sea beyond the golf course and the dunes at Dawlish Warren.
Last Thursday was even more exciting than usual. The sea was wild with white topped waves and as my train approached Dawlish station, the view was suddenly obscured by all the spray that flew up over the carriages. After the five tunnels through the red sandstone rock, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, comes another sea wall stretch to Teignmouth. Again we were subjected to a wash from the sea and the carriage rang to the shrieks of children and general laughter.I know this gives Railtrack quite a few headaches, but for us travellers it was a happy and memorable journey.
The same could not be said for my return trip. I’d been visiting friends in Teignmouth and was to pick up the through train there at 3.39 pm on Saturday. But when we arrived at the station, in cold and miserable rain, the train was not listed on the boards. We waited awhile until I finally reconciled myself to the fact that it wasn’t coming.
Half a freezing hour later, I boarded the next train for Exeter, where I’d have a 90 minute wait but could get some warmth and sustenance. On the way, as we passed Powderham Castle estate, I managed to be thankful at least that I wasn’t taking part in the equestrian cross country event that was fenced off from the deer herd.
At 5.50, when I should have been arriving at my home station, I was still sitting in the Exeter St Davids buffet, and I limped into my house at 8 pm, still feeling chilled to the bone.
I just have to note these experiences because I never know when they might provide some writing inspiration.