Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Nemesis Nick's Devon 2012: Birthday Bonanza 14

Date: Friday 28 September to Monday 1 October 2012
Venues: AMF Bowling Torquay, Plymouth Life Centre, Plymouth Pavilions, Devon's Crealy Great Adventure Park, Dartmouth Castle
Who Went: Just me

An early autumn long weekend in south Devon, deliberately timed to coincide with my 41st birthday on Sunday 30 September. The aim was to extend the birthday fun over four days, hence the trip title. The format was intended to be similar to my four day short breaks in south Devon of recent years, i.e. stay three nights in Torquay and visit my usual favourite nearby attractions. Saturday in Plymouth was expected to be different to past years, due to the new Life Centre opening and Pavilions fun pool closing, but Pavilions ice rink still open. Friday, Sunday and Monday were expected to be about the same as the last two years. Unfortunately the whole four day break ended up being a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, with Saturday and Sunday going as expected but Friday afternoon and Monday not going to plan.

To make the rest of report this easier to read, I've split it into sections. Click the applicable link below to jump to the section you want to read:

Day One - Friday 28 September
Day Two - Saturday 29 September
Day Three - Sunday 30 September
Day Four - Monday 1 October

Day One - Friday 28 September
First Great Western, AMF Bowling Torquay

Journey To Devon
The weekend began when I turned up at Bath Spa in plenty of time for the 08:57 Penzance train. The said train ran on time and I enjoyed a relaxing journey from Bath Spa to Newton Abbot. I arrived Newton Abbot with a few minutes to spare for the connecting 10:39 train to Torre. When I finally reached Torre at 10:46 I walked straight to my guest house (which was just a few minutes' walk from Torre halt) and checked in.

Friday Lunchtime
At midday I walked into town. The sun was now out. Around 12:30 I got to Seabank Fish and Chips with the intention of having the seaside must have: cod and chips. Since it was now sunny, I had them as a takeaway and ate them on the sea front. Afterwards I had another seaside must-have, a whippy ice cream which I bought from an ice cream parlour near the harbour.

Friday Afternoon
Unfortunately the rest of Friday afternoon did not go as planned. My expectation was that the water slide at Riviera Centre would open at 4pm, just like when I've been to Torquay term time Friday afternoons 2005 to 2011 inclusive. To fill in time, I took a walk along the sea front from Torquay Harbour to the Princess Theatre, and up the cliff side staircase in Royal Terrace Gardens (also known as Rock Walk) to the top. At 3pm I enjoyed a large Americano at Jades Coffee House in the town centre.

Just after 4pm I got to the Riviera Centre. No-one was on the reception, so I went to the fitness suite on the lower ground floor to enquire. Disappointingly the Friday evening Fun Sessions, during which the flume is in use, no longer happen. The pool was open during the day, without the flume running, but shut at 4pm. So I wasn't able to go in either the pool or on the flume now. The person I spoke to said the flume would be in use Saturday, but I had other plans for Saturday.

As I left I felt the whole afternoon had been wasted. It was too late in the afternoon to do much else. I wandered through Torre Abbey Gardens and along the sea front back to Torquay Harbour. Along the way I wondered if this was a bad omen for the rest of my long weekend in Devon.

Had I known around midday that the Riviera Centre water slide would not be running at all Friday, I would have done something else, i.e. after fish and chips and the ice cream, I could have visited one or more attractions in Babbacombe, or alternatively Living Coasts.

Ten-Pin Bowling
Around 5:30pm I found AMF Bowling, and fancied a game. The only problem was I might get through a game very quickly on my own, which made me think seriously about the cost. Anyway I ended up having two games. I handed over my belongings in exchange for my bowling shoes and was allocated to lane 10.

Game 1
It seemed I was off to a flying start by clearing 9 pins on my first shot of frame 1. The rest of the game was a bit disappointing. Several times the ball went into one of the gutters, making it impossible to clear any pins with that ball. I ended up scoring 62, and felt I could do better than that.

Game 2
Before starting this game I asked for the gutter guards to be raised, thereby removing the problem of balls going into the gutters. Although I only scored 8 (3+5) on the frame 1, I generally did better as this game progressed. I scored a strike on frame 6. Naturally I hoped for a good score on the first shot of frame 7 to add as bonus points to the frame 6 strike, but unfortunately only scored 3. On frame 10, I cleared 9 pins with the first shot and the one remaining pin with the second, i.e. a spare. Since this was the final frame, I had a bonus shot with a fresh set of pins and cleared another 5 pins. That took my final score to 84.

Afterwards I returned to the reception to hand back my bowling shoes and collect my belongings. I also asked for a printed score sheet; I was surprised it was done using sprocket fed paper on a dot matrix printer in this era.

Evening Meal
At 6:25pm I went to Wetherspoons for my evening meal. I took a while deciding what to have. In the end I had Sausages and mash for main course, followed by sticky toffee pudding with hot custard. I also had a bottle of Becks Blue alcohol free beer to drink with my meal. I left Wetherspoons at 7:46pm and walked back to my guest house. Having got there around 8:05pm I relaxed in my room the rest of the evening.

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Day Two - Saturday 29 September
Plymouth Life Centre, Plymouth Pavilions

Saturday First Thing
My first full day in Devon. Having awoke at 7:15am breakfast was at the normal serving time of 8:30am. Breakfast consisted of a choice of cereal, a glass of orange juice, a full cooked breakfast (2 sausages, 1 fried egg, 1 rasher of bacon, mushrooms, baked beans), four triangles of toast and coffee. It certainly filled me up for the morning.

Off To Plymouth
Just before 9:20 I set off for Torre station where I caught the 9:29 train to Newton Abbot for the connecting 9:49 train to Plymouth. Having reached Plymouth just after 10:30 I began walking in the direction of Plymouth Life Centre.

Plymouth Life Centre
A new leisure centre which opened in March 2012 and is run by Everyone Active. It includes the following facilities:

Main Pool
A 10-lane, 50-metre swimming pool with moveable floors. The pool can be divided into separate parts, indeed it was divided into three separate parts during whilst I was there.

Fun Pool
Fun pool with two water slides. They don't have names, they're just referred to as the Slow Flume and Fast Flume.

Slow Flume
A wide blue tube slide all the way down. It starts with a bend to the left, followed by a short straight bit. Afterwards there is an anticlockwise spiral, and finally a slight bend to the right before landing in a catch tray.

Fast Flume
A narrow blue tube slide all the way down. This is really fast, with a fairly steep bit before landing in a catch tray. Great fun, but all over too quickly for my liking.

When I entered the pool area at 11:10 I headed straight for the slides. I went on them as follows: slow slide followed by fast slide in sequence 19 times over. However I didn't go in the fun pool or main pool at all, all I wanted to do was have as many slides as I could. At 12:30 all swimmers with yellow wristbands, of whom I was one, were asked to leave the pool as their session was now over.

Cumulative summary of slides:

Slow Flume
Fast Flume

After leaving the Life Centre, I caught a bus from near Plymouth Life Centre to Western Approach. Once there it was just a short walk to Plymouth Pavilions.

Plymouth Pavilions Swiss Lake Ice Rink
At 1:15pm I got to Plymouth Pavilions. Although the fun pool has closed for good due to the opening of the new Life Centre, the Swiss Lake Ice Rink remains open until further notice. There is now a new entrance which you have to use if you want to go ice skating. This takes you into a new carpeted reception area just for the ice rink. I asked if there were any places still available for the 2pm or 4pm skating sessions. Places were available for both sessions, so I booked for the 2pm session, just like previous years as that would allow me to do the rest of today in the same way as previous years.

Annoyingly the café in the main concourse was closed; it now only opens when there's a show on at the Arena. I went look for a sandwich or similar nearby, and found Subway in Derry's Cross. There I bought a takeaway Sub Meal. At 1:40 I was back at Plymouth Pavilions. There was still time to eat my sub and drink my coffee in the reception area before I had to go through to the ice rink.

The ice rink itself, its surroundings and the boot room are still unchanged from before. Skaters were finally allowed on the ice at 2:05pm. The rink is an unusual shape so that it cannot be used for competitions. Throughout the session I had no falls, however I did briefly leave the ice from time to time. At 3:34pm the session ended and everyone was asked to leave the ice pad.

Remaining Time In Plymouth
Having left Plymouth Pavilions, I walked to the Barbican. There I enjoyed a Devon cream tea at Strand Tea Rooms just after 4pm. After that I gradually headed back to the railway station via the city centre. Back at the station I caught the 17:54 train to Newton Abbot.

Saturday Evening
Having reached Newton Abbot at 6:35pm I walked around Courtenay Park and the town centre. Around 7:25pm I went to Wetherspoons for my evening meal. I had Beef and Abbot Ale Pie with fresh vegetables, mashed potato and gravy for main course, followed by Eli's Original Baked Cheesecake for dessert. In addition I had half an Abbot Ale to drink with the meal. Having finally left the pub around 8:30pm, I returned to Newton Abbot railway station where I caught the 20:49 train to Torre. I arrived Torre halt at 8:57pm and was back in my room a few minutes later.

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Day Three - Sunday 30 September
Devon's Crealy Great Adventure Park

Sunday First Thing
Sunday was my 41st birthday, so I was really excited when I awoke at 7am. Just like last year I took the trouble to have a birthday T-shirt of my own design printed at T-Shirt Print, Bath in the days leading up to the start of this holiday. At 8:15am I had an early breakfast, the same as Saturday morning. I had one birthday card, and put it on the dining table during breakfast.

Off To Crealy
At 8:55 I caught the X46 fast bus just across the road from my guest house to Exeter. Having reached Livery Dole bus stop in Heavitree, I ran across the road to the bus stop on the opposite side. Seconds later I managed to connect with the 52B Sidbury bus (9:31 departure from Exeter Bus Station). After not making such a tight connection the last few years, for once I was lucky. Having reached the bus stop opposite Devon's Crealy at 9:52am I walked straight up the driveway.

Devon's Crealy Great Adventure Park
On arrival at the Reception I showed my RCCGB membership card and was told I was entitled to a members' discount, but the Park wasn't due open until 10:30. For now I just waited. When the ticket booths opened at 10:25 I was told I'd need to return to the Reception to get the RCCGB discount. Back at the Reception, there was a short delay. Once all was sorted the lady serving me led me into the Park. I told her it was my birthday. Sadly due to the shop exterior walls having recently repainted, the birthday board is no longer there, so I wasn't able to have my name on the birthday board as I'd hoped. Once admitted at 10:35 I discovered the rides weren't due open until 11am. Meanwhile I played on the slides in the Treetops Playground.

Treetops Playground
An outdoor play area which includes four metal slides. Adults are allowed on everything. I had one go on each metal slide, but found them slow. Thinking the problem could be my mat, I swapped my mat for another one before having one more go on the tallest metal slide. This time around I went down it faster, but still disappointingly slowly for my liking.

Buzzards Swoop Drop Slide
This drop slide is next to the Treetops Playground, and is enclosed in a building, but you still have to walk around the outside after leaving the run-out to return to the top. I fearlessly enjoyed eight hair-raising goes.

The rides were now open. As a RCCGB member, I wanted to begin with the Maximus Coaster, but its queue was a bit long for my liking. The queue for the Vortex Water Coasters was very short, so I started with them instead.

Vortex Water Coasters
Three water coasters made by Van Egdom. You slide down these water slides fully clothed in a dinghy. In order not to disturb the neighbours, you are not allowed to shout or scream on the stairs, or at the top. However you can shout or scream inside the slides, all of which are closed tubes all or most of their length. Facing the entrances from the launch platform they are:

Venom (left entrance): this is painted a dark, opaque colour on the outside, with gaps in the paintwork at regular intervals to resemble light rings as you go down the slide. It's a straight slide, with wavy sections on the way down. About three quarters of the way down the slide becomes open air and for the remainder of the descent and the run-out.

Vertigo (centre entrance): this is painted a dark, opaque colour on the outside, except where rings have been painted in pink and yellow translucent paint at regular intervals. That is to resemble pink and yellow light rings as you go down the slide. It's a straight slide with a plain slope, and is the narrowest tube of the three. It becomes open air for the long run-out at the end.

Viper (right entrance): this slide is pitch dark all the way down. After a straight start you go around a bend to the right, into a clockwise spiral, followed by another bend to the right and finally a straight section. It's a closed tube right to the very end. I avoided this on previous visits as I saw a sign "No single riders". The Ride Master told me that only applies to under 16s, therefore as an adult I was allowed to ride this alone. Therefore I was extra pleased to ride this slide this time.

I had two goes on each slide in the following order: Venom, Vertigo, Viper, Venom, Vertigo, Viper. My only regret was not having my cagoule on the first time I rode Viper, as it's wetter than the other two slides. I put my cagoule on before having my second goes on Venom.

Victorian Carousel
Self-explanatory, it's mostly galloping horses, though there are some cars on the ride. I had one go on the horse Lucy. This was my only go on here all day.

Tidal Wave Log Flume
You get into a log, go up one lift and down. After that you go around a bend, and up a second lift, which is taller than the first. The drop which follows is taller than the first drop, and enclosed in a tunnel (which was retrofitted as a noise shield). After a big splash on landing you return to the station. As I approached this ride, I already had my cagoule on, but not leggings. Therefore I put my leggings on before my first go.

Once ready I enjoyed four goes in the following order: logs 3, 1, 2, 7. On my third go my log stopped at the bottom of first lift hill, but thankfully the staff got it going again after a few minutes. My other three goes all went without a hitch.

The Flying Dutchman Ship
Formerly known as the Queen Bess Pirate Ship, this swinging pirate ship has been called The Flying Dutchman Ship since 2011. I had one go on this in the end row for maximum excitement. Immediately afterwards I fancied a go at the opposite end; unfortunately that end row was full but I managed to get a seat one row in from the end. After that, I left this ride; as far as I was concerned two goes were bearable but I didn't want to risk a third go straight off. As it happened I never returned to this later.

Maximus Coaster
At last I took to the Maximus Coaster. This Vekoma Junior Coaster (207m) originally operated under the name El Pastil Loco from 2000 to 2009. In 2010 it was renamed Maximus and given Roman theming. One subtle modification for the 2011 season was the addition of the Maximus name on the front of the loco. The ride experience this time was no different to any of my previous visits there; undeniably tame compared to the giant steelies at Pleasure Beach Resort Blackpool, but nonetheless fun to ride. One ride consists of two laps.

I had six goes as follows: 2nd row from back, 3rd row from back, 4th row, 2nd row (during which I showed my birthday T-shirt and had photo taken before setting off), 2nd row from back, 2nd row.

After a big breakfast I really only wanted a sandwich and cup of coffee for lunch. In the Adventure Zone café I bought a chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich which I ate at one of the tables there. Afterwards I went to the Oggy Oggy kiosk near the Funambulist Challenge for a cup of coffee which I drank outside.

Funambulist Challenge
A series of wooden beams, plus some swinging steps, for you to balance on. If you've made it around all that lot, which I did, you should try the three short tight ropes which are placed just centimetres above the ground. I had no problem walking to the end of the short rope at my first attempt. I wasn't so lucky with the middle length one, the best I could achieve was about half way across so after several tries I gave up. I didn't bother trying the longest one. The equipment in this area is made by Playline Design of Kingsteignton, Devon.

Roundabout PlayPump
In Africa, roundabouts like these have been installed to pump groundwater into a tank as children play on the roundabout. I'm not sure whether or not the one at Devon's Crealy actually pumps water though. I sat on the roundabout and went clockwise, followed by anticlockwise.

Orange ball wire
Located in Treetops Playground this is a large orange ball hanging from a wire. Whilst on the launch platform, you sit on the ball and set off to zoom along the wire. I enjoyed four goes on this.

Prince's Train
The last time I rode this was during my visit on 16 October 2005. Therefore time was now overdue for me to ride it again, in order to increase my ride count for it. I sat in the back carriage. The train left the station, went around an odd-shaped orbital track and back through the station to do a second lap. The ride ended when the train terminated at the station at the end of the second lap. Afterwards I had another go, this time in the front loco.

Aqua Blasters
Formerly called Dino Blasters from 2006 to 2011, these electric bumper boats have a button to press so you can squirt other users. To the best of my knowledge they are the same boats as before, but the Ride Master wasn't 100% certain. I faced a few minutes wait when I joined the queue until the group of riders already on the lake were called in and asked to disembark. After they had all left, people in the queue including me were asked to wait by a boat specified by the Ride Master, but not get in until told. I was allocated to a green boat. One by one the Ride Master assisted each rider into their allotted boat. Everyone including me was able to steer their boat around the lake wherever there was space. Sometimes I got squirted by another rider. After a few minutes the Ride Master called everyone in simultaneously.

Maximus Coaster
Back to the Maximus Coaster to enjoy another four goes: 3rd row from back, 4th row, 2nd row, 4th row. I showed my birthday T-shirt on my fourth go.

That took my cumulative count of goes on Maximus Coaster for this visit to 10. I resisted the temptation to have a further four goes to take my cumulative count to 14 (to tie in with the trip title and number on the front of my T-shirt) as the time was now 3:29pm and I still wanted to allow plenty of time for the Adventure Zone before the Park closed at 5pm. My next stop was Dina's Lost World.

Honey Swing
Until 2011 this was located in the Magical Kingdom. It's now in Dina's Lost World where the Dizzy Dina Ride used to be until 2010. The Honey Swing is basically a a chair-o-plane. Adults can go on it. It goes around clockwise, with the seats on an angle. My one go on this now was my only go on this all day. Although I've ridden this on most of my previous visits, this was my first time of riding it at its new location within Devon's Crealy.

My final ride of the day. It's a drop tower ride, featuring one row of seats (some blue, some red-orange) on one side of the ride. Adults are only allowed to sit in the blue seats. It rose and fell several times. I only had one go on here, it was worthwhile just for the record but obviously tame compared to Bounce at Oakwood or Sky Diver at Brean Leisure Park.

Go Wild!
A wooden play structure which opened in 2009. It includes sloping wooden box bridges, net bridges and log ramps. Best of all adults are allowed to play on it. I spent a few minutes going over all parts of it.

Adventure Zone
A large indoor adventure play complex, designed and installed by Taylor-Made Play Equipment. It includes the following:
Two 4-lane Astrozoomer Astra slides (one is yellow, one is in various shades of grey)
Two double drop slides (i.e. drop half way, flat landing, sloping bit and land in ball pool). One is blue and one is black, I've called them waterfall slides here.
Red Devil drop slide (straight down and out along the run-out) – this has two launch beams
Yellow spiral tube slide and red corkscrew slide
Crawl maze
Loads of soft play equipment

Best of all, adults (or should I say adult kids?) are allowed to play on everything.

I entered the Adventure Zone at 4:02pm and great fun playing on everything until the Park closed at 5pm. This is what I went on whilst in there:

Yellow Astrozoomer 1 go per lane left to right
Blue waterfall slide 4 goes
Red Devil lower beam 4 goes
Soft play equipment
Red Corkscrew slide 2 goes
Yellow spiral tube slide 2 goes
Grey Astrozoomer 1 go per lane left to right
Black waterfall slide 4 goes
Red Devil upper beam 4 goes
Soft play equipment
Red Devil upper beam 6 goes
Red Devil lower beam 2 goes

Altogether almost an hour of Taylor-Made fun to round off my day at Crealy.

Summary of my day at Crealy in order of activity
Metal slides 1 each
Tallest metal slide 1 extra go
Buzzards Swoop drop slide 8

Vortex Water Coasters: Venom, Vertigo, Viper, Venom, Vertigo, Viper
Victorian Carousel 1
Tidal Wave Log Flume 4
The Flying Dutchman Ship 2
Maximus Coaster 6

Sandwich: chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato

Funambulist Challenge
Roundabout PlayPump clockwise followed by anticlockwise
Orange ball wire 4

Prince's Train 2
Aqua Blasters 1
Maximus Coaster 4
Honey Swing 1
Meteorite 1

Go Wild
Adventure Zone

Cumulative Summary of My Rides at Crealy

Aqua Blasters
Honey Swing
Maximus Coaster
Prince's Train
The Flying Dutchman Ship
Tidal Wave Log Flume
Victorian Carousel
Vortex Water Coasters: Venom
Vortex Water Coasters: Vertigo
Vortex Water Coasters: Viper

Cumulative Summary of Adventure Zone Slides

Black waterfall slide
Blue waterfall slide
Grey Astrozoomer
Red Corkscrew slide
Red Devil lower beam
Red Devil upper beam
Yellow Astrozoomer
Yellow spiral tube slide

[‡] 1 go per lane left to right

Cumulative Summary of Other Slides

Buzzards Swoop drop slide
Outdoor Metal Slides: Short
Outdoor Metal Slides: Medium left lane
Outdoor Metal Slides: Medium right lane
Outdoor Metal Slides: Long

Back To Exeter
The Park closed at 5pm and shortly afterwards I walked back to the bus stop. However the birthday fun wasn't over yet. At 5:27pm I caught the bus back to Exeter Bus Station, followed by another bus from nearby Sidwell Street to the Exebridge Centre.

Pizza Hut
Having reached the Exebridge Centre around 6:05pm, I went to Pizza Hut for a celebratory dinner. I told the person who led me to my seat it was my birthday. Once seated I placed my birthday card on the table, and took my hoodie off in order to show my birthday T-shirt. After that I took time choosing what to eat. Eventually I decided to have a Veggie Supreme, and a glass of Pepsi. A salad bowl was included in the price, and whilst waiting for my pizza I filled my bowl with plenty of salad and some cold pasta. Shortly afterwards my pizza and Pepsi arrived. The pizza and accompanying salad were filling. For dessert I had Ice Cream Factory, I filled the bowl with whippy ice cream and put a selection of toppings on it. Altogether a delicious meal. During my meal, someone on another table was fooled by the design on the front of my birthday T-shirt, until I showed the back. I finally left Pizza Hut around 7:50pm.

Journey To Torquay
My next decision was whether to walk back to Exeter Bus Station, or wait for a bus to somewhere near there. Someone said there would be a bus to the city centre shortly. Just after 8pm I caught a F2 bus back to Exeter High Street. Once there it was just a short walk to the bus station around the corner.

There were no fast, direct buses to Torquay this time on a Sunday evening, so I caught the 20:35 number 2 bus to Newton Abbot, which took the scenic route via Powderham Castle, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Bishopsteignton and Kingsteignton. I've travelled this scenic route before. This time sitting in the front seat of the top deck showing my birthday T-shirt whilst enjoying what could be seen in lit sections of the route after dark ended up being one of the highlights of the day.

Having finally reached Newton Abbot at 9:55pm, I caught the 22:05 Paignton bus which was already waiting just across the road. On the outskirts of Torquay, someone from Stagecoach boarded the bus and asked all passengers to move to the bus in front, as the bus everyone was already on was required for servicing. Shortly afterwards the replacement bus was going again. Just before 10:30pm I left the bus at a stop close to my guest house, and was back in my room a few minutes later.

Altogether an amazing 41st birthday, which included a fun day out at Devon's Crealy followed by a celebratory dinner at Pizza Hut, Exebridge Centre Exeter. Best of all it was dry and mostly sunny during daylight hours and it remained dry in the evening, until I got back to my guest house. Many I saw at Crealy, Pizza Hut and on my bus journeys liked my self-designed birthday T-shirt. Some were mystified by the design on the front, until they saw the back.

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Day Four - Monday 1 October
Dartmouth Castle, First Great Western

The final day of my four day holiday in south Devon. Unfortunately things didn't go as planned Monday. Here is what actually happened that day.

Monday First Thing
Having awoke at 6:52 I got ready and packed my bags. At 8:15am I went downstairs with all my luggage, which I placed in the lounge. I had asked for an early breakfast at 8:15am, but since it wasn't ready then, I had to wait until the normal breakfast time of 8:30 to get served. Anyway, I had Weetabix and a carafe of coffee just like the previous two mornings. My landlady then brought my cooked, consisting of two fried eggs and two rashers of bacon, as that was quicker to prepare than the full English I'd had the previous two mornings. I still had four triangles of toast to finish off like the previous mornings.

On My Way
My goal was to leave the guest house by 9am at the latest, or ideally a little sooner. Despite not having breakfast until 8:30, I finished around 8:50. After my final farewell to my landlady, I left the guest house with all my luggage at 8:57am. I walked into Torquay town centre, bought a Sub for my lunch on the way, and reached Torquay Harbour with about six minutes to spare for the 9:30 X81 Dartmouth bus. The said bus went via Paignton and Totnes.

Near the end of the journey I saw places I could perhaps have my dinner in Dartmouth that evening before returning to Totnes with plenty of time to spare for the 20:10 train to Bath. When I left the bus at Dartmouth Pontoon, I put that idea out of my mind as soon as I realised the last bus of the day to Totnes was due to depart at 5:35pm. My next problem was what to do in Dartmouth, so I went to the Tourist Information Centre for ideas.

Castle Ferry
Having decided to catch the Castle Ferry to Dartmouth Castle, and thus visit the castle, I waited by the Castle Ferry departure point. At 12:31 the Castle Ferry turned up and I got on. I was surprised to see it was such a small boat, Veryan Bay. The journey was plain sailing and about ten minutes later the boat docked at Stumpy Steps leading up to Dartmouth Castle.

Dartmouth Castle
A few minutes later I got to Dartmouth Castle, with all my luggage. The staff let me leave my big bag and laptop bag behind the counter whilst I was in the Castle. There were two main buildings to explore: the Victorian Old Battery and Gun Tower.

Victorian Old Battery
Having begun with the ground floor, I descended the spiral stairs to the lower floor. There I explored the casemates, magazines and lighting room. I took the time to read the information on display, and watched the video of a gun in action in one of the casemates. However my greatest enjoyment was seeing the guns and other artefacts in the casemates, and exploring entire lower floor. After leaving the building I took the path to St Petrox Church.

St Petrox Church
This church is located adjacent to the Gun Tower and I took a quick walk around its interior.

Gun Tower
This is really a round tower and a square tower joined together with no internal wall between the two. Again I read most of the available information, but for the greatest enjoyment was climbing up and down the spiral stairs between levels, as well as the rooftop views of the river.

Altogether, it was interesting seeing the Castle again having previously visited in October 2006. Having left the Gun Tower I sat near the castle to eat my picnic. Afterwards I had a cup of coffee at The Castle Tea Rooms. Just after 3pm I collected my luggage from the reception and left the Castle.

Castle Ferry
At 3:10pm I caught the Castle Ferry from Stumpy Steps to the town centre. It was the same small boat as earlier, Veryan Bay. Once again the boat trip was plain sailing and took about 10 minutes.

Remaining Time In Dartmouth
Having disembarked, I wasn't sure what to do next. Since I was intending to catch the 4:35pm bus from Dartmouth Pontoon to Totnes, I had just over an hour left in Dartmouth. I explored Royal Avenue Gardens, which featured some impressive trees. However the flower beds were freshly dug, it appeared as though summer flowers had recently been removed. Clearly I visited too late in the year to enjoy these gardens at their best. I also walked along Flavel Street and Foss Street before having a coffee at Station Restaurant around 4:15pm. Finally I caught the 4:35pm bus from Dartmouth Pontoon to Totnes, and reached Totnes at 5:22pm.

Evening Meal
I was now back to doing what was originally planned for the evening. At 5:40pm I went to The Dartmouth Inn. There I enjoyed a mouth-watering carvery roast: pork and beef with a selection of vegetables and gravy. For dessert I had apple crumble and custard. To accompany the meal I had a pint of ale. I finally left the pub at 7:05pm.

Journey Home
Twenty minutes later I reached Totnes railway station. I sat and waited on platform 2 for the train I had booked on: the 20:10 London Paddington train. The said train ran on time and I had a relaxing journey from Totnes to Bath Spa. I finally reached Bath at 10:04pm and home at 10:22pm.

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Three nights' B&B in Torquay, including the delicious filling breakfasts.
Ten pin bowling in Torquay Friday early evening.
Sliding the brand new water slides at Plymouth Life Centre for the first time ever.
Skating on the ice rink at Plymouth Pavilions, having thought my 2011 visit there would be my last ever.
Enjoying 10 goes on Maximus Coaster and 4 goes on Tidal Wave Log Flume at Devon's Crealy.
My first ever go on Viper (one of the Vortex water coasters) at Devon's Crealy.
Playing in the Adventure Zone at Devon's Crealy.
Celebratory birthday meal at Pizza Hut Exeter Sunday evening.
Meals at Wetherspoons Torquay Friday evening, Wetherspoons Newton Abbot Saturday evening and The Dartmouth Inn Totnes Monday evening.

Discovering the water slide at Riviera Centre, Torquay was not opening at all on Friday.
Unexpected extra change of bus between Newton Abbot and Torquay Sunday evening (a minor inconvenience, but hardly worth worrying about).
Long wait just to buy a cup of coffee from the buffet when I got on the train at Totnes Monday evening.

Summing Up
On the whole, a great long weekend away, which included ten pin bowling, water sliding, ice skating, riding, outdoor and indoor adventure play areas, boat trips and a visit to a castle. It's such a shame Friday afternoon and Monday daytime didn't go as planned due to unforeseen circumstances. Thankfully Saturday in Plymouth worked out perfectly with all the desired activities fitting into place. Even more importantly my 41st birthday Sunday was another perfect day with the early breakfast, day at Crealy, dinner at Pizza Hut and bus travel in between all going without a hitch.

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