At last we started on that trip around England and Scotland which we had been talking about and arranging for so long. I had hired a Hillman 14 for four weeks at a total cost of £30 and I was to pay for all petrol, oil and other running expenses. The company paid insurance and supplied me with an A.A. Badge, which entitled me to full membership benefits. A chauffeur brought the car to the Society’s Building and took us as far as Hyde Park. I had never driven a car of this make, nor was I used to the traffic of London, but I managed alright and got safely through the London streets into the country.
It was a delightful time of the year, as the flowers were in bloom and the new leaves were on the trees everywhere. The bright sunshine made the delicate green very beautiful.
We stopped at an old country inn for lunch. We picked one of the very old style with a flat roof and low ceilings. Although we only had cold meat and pickles with salad we enjoyed it immensely and afterwards enjoyed still more a home-made apple pie and cream. It was a good start.
Shortly afterwards we arrived at Stonehenge and we had a look at these great stones which were carried a distance of 180 miles and erected about 2,000 B.C. After hearing and learning so much about this place it was most interesting to see it. We drove on through the green country and enjoyed the beautiful spring air and sunshine. I can now well understand why the English people want cars with sunshine tops.
At about 200 miles from London we stopped at a place called the Whit-Pot Mill to have tea. This was an old stone building, which the proprietress told us was over 400 years of age. We had tea in the garden under the large apple trees – “Devon Splits” and cream, strawberry jam and cakes. We were able to watch the big mill wheel turning with the water as we had our meal. The lady directed us to a farm house about a mile further on and just out of Torquay, where we could get accommodation for the night.
We were greatly pleased to see such a lovely old farm house for our first night. Lois was thrilled because it had the old fashioned stone buildings around it and particularly a thatched roof. After getting settled into our rooms we went out into the meadows and wandered over the hills amongst the wild flowers and the grain until it was almost dark. This was not as early as you might think, for at ten o’clock it was light enough for me to take a photograph and it did not get dark until well after that time. Eggs and bacon for breakfast as we started on our journey.
Early next morning I was out taking photos. of the harbour and the fishing boats. Some of the old fisher folk talked so broadly that I could scarcely understand them.
We got a late start at about 10.30, as we intended not to hurry much to-day. Once again, the roads were beautiful. I could not help comparing it with New Zealand, where we have roads which are very pretty in places. Here the whole countryside was one long picture. We passed through several small towns and these were most interesting on account of their age and the historical places they always held.
On the continent I was struck by the very narrow streets in the oldest portions of the cities and towns. I did not expect to find the same thing in England, but actually the condition was worse in many of the old towns we have now passed through. In several of these we had scarcely enough room for our car to pass between the buildings. Of course, there were also many so-called streets which were too narrow for cars and they are kept entirely for foot traffic.
During the last couple of days we have had some exciting and laughable experiences with these narrow streets. Yesterday at Mousehole (a French name pronounced Moozol), I drove into a corner and did not know how I could go forward or backward.
I was calling the place by the English pronunciation of the word and was just about to use some bad language when a man came forward and asked if he could help.
I afterwards learnt that this man waits there all day to “help such men as myself”. He got on to the running board and showed me where to go. He also offered to show me the smugglers’ cave, a huge cave about 400 yards long which was used by the smugglers in the early days.
It was very interesting, but not worth the trouble of climbing. However, if he had not taken us there he would not have earned his tip. A few minutes after he left us, while I was taking some photos. of the narrow streets, I saw him on the running board of another car which had got into difficulties and I took his photo. while he was getting out of his trouble.
In another town we went right through the town, including all the narrow streets, thinking that we would just go straight on to the next town. We were very disgusted to find at the other end of the town that we had to go right back again to complete our journey. It is a nerve racking business to get through, especially as we did not know the one-way traffic rules and this often lead us into trouble. Our guide book supplied by the Automobile Association is very good, but of course they cannot give us all the information we would like.
At Plymouth we saw the famous Hoe, which is an esplanade on cliffs. Previously Plymouth Hoe had been a name only, but when we saw the much talked about seaside we all had a very different impression.
Here we also had an interesting time visiting the spot from which the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to America in the Mayflower. I went down the old stone steps used by them as they boarded the boat.
What was more interesting was the old Elizabethan house where they all spent the night before they sailed. This old place has been preserved and was lately restored through the kindness of an American citizen. It contains the furniture and some other relics of that wonderful venture.