I just knew when I woke up on Christmas morning that this was going to be my perfect Christmas day. I’d been monitoring the BBC weather website for a few days and that jolly yellow sun icon had been persistently in place for Thursday 25th. With light wind speeds and temperatures at around 12°C (52°F in old money) this was a good omen for a perfect Christmas in the South Hams.
The trouble was how to record and share it? Up early and armed with my camera, a pair of secateurs and my trusty dog, I got to the top of the hill above Dittiscombe as the sun rose over the stable buildings and captured the jackdaws silhouetted on the telephone wires, warming their feathers with the rising orb. So now I had my atmospheric photo but I couldn’t resist taking some of the sunny valley back with me to the Farmhouse. So I picked a bunch of Holly, purple Pheasant Berries, pink Camellias and cream Viburnums to make up a big, brash Christmas bouquet for the table.
Our exciting morning of present opening peaked as Kes the Collie unwrapped a leather wallet (with teeth marks to prove it) and the Lindt chocolates without permission! This gave rise to much jollity and laughter, another great ingredient for a perfect Christmas.
Food was calling, but inbetween basting the beef I skittered around the valley again with my camera, followed by the cat, the dog and daughter Hannah, as I still tried to capture the essence of the day. An impossible job! I wanted to share the colours, smells and sounds of our valley with the world – but how to put all that in a picture: the Thrush, singing its favourite songs with a couple of new melodic twists, giving hope for the coming new year; the charming wild Mallards squabbling over a sunny spot on the duck platform; and the pine trees giving off their pungent smell as the cones warmed in the sunshine. Then, surely not the deep hum of a Bumblebee? Yes, attracted by the bold yellow of the Gorse and orange flowers of the Chinese Lantern, both of which generously open up their flowers on a warm December day, the Bee was back – a sign of good things to come perhaps! As I strolled along the path more glorious colours jumped out at me; the reflection of the blue sky on the pond, interrupted only by Hannah’s bright pink wellies as she sat beside it; the feather white of the pampas grass waving in the light breeze; and the desiccated bracken soaking up the low sun’s rays and blasting it back like a burnt orange.
I returned to the roast beef and found Jon sitting outside the front door of the Farmhouse with McCoy the Cat for company, leisurely peeling the sprouts in glorious Rayband sunshine. Eventually lunch ensued, but it was almost too much to bear, sitting indoors whilst the sun blazed outside. With temperatures at ‘shirt-sleeve’ levels perhaps transferring the beef to a Barbeque might have given the edge over the overdone Aga roast (note to self for next year!).
As daylight departed, I found myself drawn outside again, looking skyward to catch a dark blob of starlings moving swiftly and twisting back in towards the freshwater Ley at Slapton to settle and roost for Christmas night. The dazzling planet Venus and a crescent moon appeared, and the transfer to night-time began; this beautiful day was giving up its light to pink and purple cotton wool clouds and a deep orange sunset over Dittiscombe Hills.
All too soon my perfect Christmas day was over. Perhaps perfection is not meant to last; we can’t bottle it and keep it, but only enjoy it as it sweeps past us.
We can’t guarantee the weather at Christmas but we can guarantee cosy cottages, jolly woodburning stoves and a stroll around the woods at Dittiscombe. During your break we recommend walks along the South West Coast Path, which might include the Mill Bay to Gara Rock walk, stopping for lunch at the dog and child-friendly Gara Rock Hotel and taking in the great sea views from their panoramic restaurant window; or a spot of unique shopping in Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Totnes or Salcombe. Dittiscombe offers short breaks over the Christmas and New Year period. If you are considering a break at that time of year take a look at our prices and availability on the How to Book page, or give Ruth or Jon a ring on 01548 521272.