Wednesday, June 24, 2020

4 July re-opening of St Vincent Guest House

After several months of being closed, we are very happy to announce that St Vincent Guest House will be open again from 4 July. As well as a time of great joy for small businesses and people wanting to get away and forget all about lockdown, we are also aware that many of us have lost loved ones during this pandemic and are suffering the negative effects of Corona virus in both health and financial terms. We are opening in a time of sadness for some, but also optimism for the future, and we will ensure that when we open in less than ten days time, we will adhere to all of the necessary guidelines with regards cleanliness and safety and hope that our guests will enjoy their stay in beautiful Lynton and Lynmouth.

There will be some changes of course in how we do things. Breakfasts will take on a new look with food being pre-ordered and times will be staggered so we can ensure the correct social distancing and give us time to clean thoroughly in between times. We will have to take out all literature from the rooms, but rest assured, we will be happy to let you know of beautiful walks, local pub and eaterie info and attractions. With regards other meals, we are also happy for you to bring take out food to eat here in the garden or in the dining room if wet, but of course, still adhering to the distancing guidelines.

Looking forward to seeing you soon, stay safe, and remember, book direct for the best deals!

Emma and Mike

As a side note, part of the recent guidelines state... Oh well, never mind Mike :)

"There is an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, shouting or conversing loudly."

Friday, March 27, 2020

Soul Walking

In such strange and unusual times, walking is such a valuable activity, with both mental and physical benefits (only if undertaken under the current guidelines of course!). We recently had a lovely guest stay with us called Carmen - the soulwalker.  You can read about how she became a soulwalker, her top three tips and her key benefits to walking therapy are just below. Enjoy, and thank you for taking the time to write this blog, Carmen! Couldn't have come at a better time...
Key Benefits to Walking Therapy
1.     Quietens our nervous system and balances our internal systems
2.   Creates space for unconscious exploration
3.    Repairs our brains and lowers our blood pressure, reduces inflammation and aids digestion
4.   Reduces depressive disorders, anxiety and stress through the release of endorphins
5.    Creates connection with nature

6.   Improves creativity and problem solving

Step outside. And allow nature to guide you. 12 months ago, I stepped on to my own path. Without the strings of a corporate paying my rent. Without the security of the things we think are security. Home. Income. Emails. Daily commute. And I learnt that I actually had to find that security within me. 100%. No one else can do it for you. No one else can create that for you. And I didn’t realise how potent that was. To free fall. 12 months later, and many of us globally and now in this free fall. I got a head start

I’m the Soulwalker. A business and personal therapist and Founder of Soulhub, the place your heart knows and your soul craves. I’ve taken, in the words of author Sarah Ellis, a squiggly career. No written formula. No ladder. Just me, my heart, my pain, my intuition, and a whole learning curve of navigating life to get here. And I wouldn’t change any of it. I love it.
Having left 20 years of marketing communication roles, which all of course now make perfect sense. I landed on a blanket at Andrew Wallas’ School of Wizards. Yes the rest is magic. Because let’s face it. Life. It can be magic, when we stop fighting it. (Yes painful too!) And with my wand I learnt about who I was. Why I am the way I am. Why I break relationships, why I stay in them, why I love the way I do, why I’ve chosen this path. It all began to make sense. And only. Only by going inside. By delving deep in to the core. And feeling. Amazing how hard it really is to feel. Because it scares us. It scared me. Would I crumble in the feeling. Yes, sometimes I would. And as the years unfolded with a new sense of curiosity about myself and humans I created Soulhub, retrained as a therapist and now walk a lot.
I walk in nature because it’s the most incredible way to connect to who we are. Because we don’t get away without being. We don’t get away without connecting to the world around us. If we try, we crumble, we cut off our own life line and we die. In spirit. In soul. In our very core.
And walking I do. With people who want to explore their own being. Who are ready to make changes, or are in so much pain they don’t know what’s next.
So I found myself walking the British Isles. Soulwalking. And I don’t fully know why. I trust my body does. And as early in the journey as I am, I’m understanding. Because it brings me home. To me. Because I meet the most incredible souls. Guides who open their home and heart to me. Who send their best wishes. Smile at me. Advice me. Host me. Show me the way. Talk to me. Connection is all around when we take the time. When we stop. When we listen.
Connecting in nature can temporarily dissolve our ego and connects us back to something much bigger than ourselves.
Walking in nature, as The Soulwalker, enables me to support others as they heal and evolve. I’m a walking therapist, and take clients into parks, along the coast, (and if distance doesn’t allow, a virtual walk), to create the space for you to explore your emotions and feelings.
I’m a big believer that change happens when you’re ready for it, and so here’s my 3 tips for when you’re walking in nature and might be stuck somewhere in your life:
1 – Tell your truth. Speak to the trees, the river, the sea. Say out loud what you want to say. As if no-one is listening. Ideally shout it out loud, but if that feels uncomfortable, then just say the words. Once they are out of your body, they are released. This will feel different in your body. There will be a shift. It might not be easy, as it might well mean that you now have to take action. But once the truth is said. E.g. ‘I don’t want to be married.’ Or ‘I’m drinking too much’, ‘I lied to her’, ‘I’m not happy’. Only when you stop lying to yourself can something change. Your body already knows it. It always knows. It’s your mind that’s been playing games with you. It’s time to tell yourself the truth.  Trust your own wisdom.
2 – Watch your body. Our bodies know. They know everything. Most importantly they inform our minds. But we have to get out of our own way. And we have to listen to our own body. If you have any pain, or any symptoms. Ask it a question. ‘Dear foot, if you had a voice, what would you say to me?’. Talk to your body. And when you’re in nature with someone, watch what your body is saying. Is it tired. Is it uptight. Is it rushing. Is it angry. Is your skin irritated. They’re all signs that something isn’t at peace. Something is out of balance. Nature shows us that life is about balance, and only in balance do we function at our very best.  
3 – Speak kindly to yourself. It all starts with self. No-one else. Whatever you say, say it nicely. No ‘oh you’re useless, or stupid, or ugly.’ Only ever say kind things, as if you’re saying it to a child or your best friend. Praise your successes. Praise how you are in the world. How you speak, what you say, what you do. It sounds simple, but once you recognise it for yourself, you realise how often you’re not kind. Don’t limit yourself. Watch out for thoughts like ‘I can’t do that.’ Or ‘I’m too tired’. And rephrase them to a positive stance such as ‘Today I’ve prioritised something else more important.’ Or ‘I’m glad to be alive’, and see how different that feels in your vibrational being.

All in all, given where we are today with a crumbling economy, people starting to value, more than ever, human connection and our ecosystems, and looking inward to ask questions of themselves, it’s the perfect time to step out on that path and walk. With no agenda. No structure. Just you, and you, and maybe a Soulwalker. Hope to see you in the path, later this year.
Carmen Rendell
The Soulwalker & Founder of Soulhub
Key Benefits to Walking Therapy
1.     Quietens our nervous system and balances our internal systems
2.   Creates space for unconscious exploration
3.    Repairs our brains and lowers our blood pressure, reduces inflammation and aids digestion
4.   Reduces depressive disorders, anxiety and stress through the release of endorphins
5.    Creates connection with nature
6.   Improves creativity and problem solving

Friday, February 28, 2020

Exmoor birds of a feather...

We have now been at St Vincent’s Guest House for almost four years and every day are more and more impressed with the beauty, sounds and sights of the wildlife of Lynton, Lynmouth and Exmoor, especially the birds. Many of our guests come for the walking and to look at the scenery and animal inhabitants and we know they give a great deal of pleasure, especially to town and city dwellers who have very different kinds of wildlife.

On the radio recently, there was a feature from a young naturalist who “tweets” under the name @BirdgirlUK and the National Trust, talking about the importance of walking and listening to nature. Well worth a listen (1 42 30 in). This made us think of the wonderful naturalists and photographers in the area and the fact we have been admiring Jenny and John Elvin’s facebook posts for a while now, wishing a) we could take such good photos and b) we could gain such expert knowledge!

We contacted Jenny to see if they would send us five of their favourite feathered friends with a description. Jenny told us that together with her husband John who does most of the bird photos, they just enjoy their Exmoor home and the wonderful wildlife they come across on their travels.

So here is their top five (cue Top of the Pops opening credits).

 At number 5. Kestrel. This is quite common and a resident and its ability to hover in often gale force winds over the coast, combined with grace and beauty, make this a special bird.

Number 4. Dipper. Our master of the rivers, astonishing ability under the fast-flowing Exmoor waters.

Number 3. Long-tailed Tit. Well what can you say about this bundle of cuteness? Actually a tough survivor, winter feeding in family groups, descending on mass onto convenient feeders. Attitude, so I love that.!!!!!

At number 2. Redstart. Relative of our Thrush family, a summer visitor and gets to be on my favourite five list because of its startling beauty and enjoying our woodland and streams.

And in at the number 1 spot. Wheatear. Summer visitor, winters in the Sahara. Breeds here on Exmoor, near the coast and up on the moors. My number one favourite. That's it now, says Jenny, spring is nearly here and we will once again follow natures beautiful course on Exmoor and beyond.

We are very much looking forward to doing the same!

Thanks to Jenny and John Elvin for these beautiful photographs.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Singer, the inventor, his wives and our treadles

St Vincent treadles
We like a tenuous link here at St Vincent Guest House!

Bangkok treadles
If you have stayed with us and been lucky enough to have some good weather and have breakfast al fresco, you may have sat at one of our two “upcycled” singer sewing machine tables made from treadles we found at the side of the house. It was when we were on a recent holiday to Thailand that we saw a café in Bangkok had done the same thing with their old treadles.

Interested in all of the things we have found at St Vincent’s, and remembering the pain of learning how to sew as teenagers at school (for those of us unlucky enough to be born female and not allowed to undertake metalwork) we thought it would be interesting to look at the history of the sewing machine and found that there were closer links to the company and inventor and Devon than we thought.

Isaac Singer
The BBC furnished us with an article in their “50 things that made a modern economy” series. It appears that the creation and design of the new-fangled sewing machine, designed to improve the lot of pretty much every female in the world who had to undertake such a task (it took around fourteen hours to make a shirt) was made by a failed actor turned inventor called Isaac Singer. He had rented space in a workshop showroom, hoping to sell his machine for carving wooden type, but wooden type was falling out of fashion. The device was ingenious, but nobody wanted to buy one. The workshop owner invited the demoralised inventor to take a look at another product which was also struggling: the sewing machine. So, in the 1850s, in that Boston workshop, the inventor sized up the machine he had been asked to admire, and quipped: "You want to do away with the only thing that keeps women quiet."

Isaac singer was considered to be a bit of a rogue, a womaniser, who fathered at least 22 children. For years he managed to run three families, not all of whom were aware the others existed, and all while technically still married to someone else entirely. It appeared he was not a natural supporter of women's rights – and ironically, his biographer, Ruth Brandon, dryly remarks that he was "the kind of man who adds a certain backbone of solidity to the feminist movement". Despite various copyright wrangles with several inventors suing each other for patent infringement and breaches, the so-called Sewing-Machine Wars of the 1850s were ended with the main players agreeing to work together, sharing ideas, and creating a near-perfect remedy to long hours taken to sew garments.

And now the link to Devon

Oldway House
So, there was now a sellable sewing machine and they were being bought by the thousands. Back to our erstwhile hero Isaac Singer. Following three marriages, one of them bigamous, and many affairs producing many offspring, Singer fled the US following a bigamy court case and moved to London in 1862. In 1871, Singer bought the Fernham Estate in Paignton, Devon. The old buildings on the site were demolished and he commissioned a local architect, George Soudon Bridgman, to build a new mansion as his home. As part of the designs, Singer instructed Bridgman to build a theatre within the house. Singer lived there until his death in 1875 and his son Paris took it on, making several architectural changes to the building. Singer junior left England in 1917 and during the First World War, the building became the American Women's War Relief Hospital, becoming the Torbay Country Club in 1929, with many different subsequent incarnations. Sadly, the building is now struggling and there is a group called the Friends of Oldway who are dedicated to restoring the building and heritage to its former glory.

Singer died in 1875, a millionaire dividing his $14 million fortune unequally among 20 of his children by his wives and various mistresses; one son, who supported his mother in her divorce case, received $500.

Despite all that, we like our tables.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

St Vincent’s very own Codd Neck bottles and how we lost our marbles

After our “excavations” were finished at the side of St Vincent’s Guest House, we had a good old rummage around our finds to see what goodies we had unearthed. Perhaps the most exciting things Lynton’s very own Tony Robinson found were these two bottles. And a marble.

Both still in excellent condition (apart from the necks being broken off – more on that in a minute), the first one we recovered was embossed with “Hodges and Son – Lynton” and the second “Crocombe and Son – the Brewery – Paracombe”.

The bottle shapes were really interesting and after asking around, we found that this type of bottle is called Codd Neck. They were designed by Hiram Codd of Camberwell and were patented in 1872 specifically for carbonated drinks. And now for the clever design bit and possibly why our bottles were broken at the same place, at the neck…

“The Codd-neck bottle was designed and manufactured with thick glass to withstand internal pressure, and a chamber to enclose a marble and a rubber washer in the neck. The bottles are filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle is pinched into a special shape to provide a chamber into which the marble is pushed to open the bottle. This prevents the marble from blocking the neck as the drink is poured.”

The keyword there is… marbles. Victorian children smashed the bottles to retrieve the marbles, leaving very few bottles intact. Actually, we like the thought of some children, possibly those living at St Vincent’s in Victorian times, smashing bottles just for the marbles. Shows great industry and imagination.

So what of our bottles? The only info we could find on Hodges and Son is that the company were not brewers, but retailers and that Crocombe and Son were originally maltsters with the brewery built c.1870 at the rear of Fox & Goose in Paracombe. Brewing ceased 1940 due to the death of Mr Crocombe senior.

If anyone has any further info on these bottles, it would be gratefully received.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Oysters. Really? How much?

Treasure from St Vincent's
The most recent leg of the South West Coast Path led us to Padstow (from Port Isaac) – a beautiful fishing village in north Cornwall where a certain celebrity chef has a couple of eateries and a cookery school. The village is also nicknamed Padstein, to help with guessing the name of the chef. We walked past one of the venues, took a peak at the menu and spotted the price of an oyster (to be sold in pairs, fours or sixes). Really? How much???? (For the answer, please go to the end.)

Wind back two days earlier in Lynton when we were excavating under a wall in our garden at St Vincent Guest House. We discovered all sorts of treasures (bottles, jars, toothbrushes, broken pieces of china and pottery), and the deeper we dug, we were amazed to find lots and lots of oyster shells. This made us look into oysters and why there were so many shells up here away from the little harbour in Lynmouth and especially as they are so expensive these days. Well… Here goes.

The history of the oyster. Oysters have been enjoyed in Britain since Roman times (regarded by them as delicacies) and their shells have been found at many archaeological sites (including our own little one here in Lynton, probably not Roman, but Victorian). However, before the Romans came, the Britons regarded shellfish as something to eat when there was no fish or meat to be had. When the Romans withdrew and the Saxons invaded in the 5th century, oyster farming seemed to disappear and it took centuries for the oyster to become popular again when throughout the Medieval period the church imposed a number of days where you could only eat fish rather than meat.

Guinness and Stout
By the end of the 18th century the industry had become highly regulated and although oysters had been the delight of the rich for a very long time, industrialisation cheapened them, making oysters one of the staples of the diet of the poor. Oysters were to be typically found in in public houses, where they were most commonly served with a pint of stout. The claims of stout being a nutritious drink made the pairing with oysters the perfect cheap meal for the working class on their way home with their wages. Demand for oysters was high, with as many as 80 million oysters a year being transported from Whitstable’s nutrient-rich waters to London’s Billingsgate Market alone.

So looking at the position of the shells in St Vincent’s garden, quite a way down the debris strata, we think they may have been enjoyed by our Victorian servants when they were cheap and plentiful. But by the middle of the 19th century the natural oyster beds became exhausted in England and as the oyster beds further declined, what had previously been the food of the poor became a delicacy for the upper classes once again. There you go.

Answer £2.95 each.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Rhenish Tower, Lynmouth.

The tower today taken by Graham Young
One of the most iconic (and most photographed/painted/tapestried – we tried to get as many images in as possible here!) buildings in Lynmouth is the Rhenish Tower on the Esplanade. A curious shape, it certainly got our attention when we first moved here to St Vincent’s.

The tower pre-flood

Research told us that the Rhenish Tower was built by General Rawdon to store salt water to be pumped to the Bath Hotel / his own house, the reasons vary, for indoor salt baths. It was later fitted with an electric light for use as a beacon for mariners and fisherman.

With build dates varying between 1831 and 1860, it apparently imitates the look-out towers on the Rhine in Germany, although there is also some discussion that General Rawdon was supposed to have taken the design from a picture of a tower on the coast of modern Lebanon. Take your pick.

The tower swept away in 1952

Listed in 1950 as a grade II building, the tower stood untouched until the flood of 1952 when it was completely destroyed. It was rebuilt two years later along with the infrastructure of the rest of Lynmouth.

Another local B&B has made a lovely short film on the history of the tower and you can see it here.

By Graham Young
The tower pre-flood

A certain Mr Tugwell said in 1863 that the Rhenish is '... on the whole, of no great use...', Maybe, but it is a beautiful and original landmark!