The farm cottage that we stayed in last week, just 22 miles from home, is one of a small complex of converted barns.
There was a photographic display of the derelict buildings before the work started in 1988 and the progress through the next year to bring them to the current state of luxurious comfort. The grounds are lovingly tended and there are ponds and woods and many interesting walks.
Since our main purpose in choosing such a venue was some R and R, we spent a lot of time reading. We had, of course, taken our own books but it is always interesting to see what other people have on their shelves. The dedicated "quiet room" had a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction for all tastes and ages but our cottage also had a full bookcase:
I was intrigued when I saw twenty diaries, covering the years 1989 to 2009, on the bottom shelf. I assumed that they were there for us to read and settled down with a cup of tea and the first volume. The entries began in April 1989 with the first guests to stay in the cottage. There was a note from the owner, inviting guests to record their activities during their stay, to tell a little about themselves, to mention places they visited and to recommend pubs and restaurants. It made for fascinating reading.
1989 was the year that we moved from Hampshire to Devon. It was an exceptionally warm and dry year; we arrived in January and spent the first few days on the beach instead of unpacking! That summer, like this year's, was glorious and we had lots of visitors to help us explore our new surroundings. Reading the diary entries, I was reminded of that time and the fun we had with our children and their cousins and friends; we were discovering the same places as those written about in the diaries. We always kept journals and scrapbooks, sitting round the table after dinner to write and draw about what we had done during the day. The cottage guests did the same thing - there were entries from different family members who, like us, made recording the day's adventures an adventure in itself.
The first few diaries are quite full with visitors entering wholeheartedly into the exercise of building a history of these refurbished ancient buildings. Then I noticed a gradual decline in the amount that was written and in the number of people who would write anything at all. The 2000s saw fewer and fewer entries and in 2009 the owners must have decided to give up the idea and no more diaries were left with that kindly invitation to add to the records. I was saddened to think of what has been lost to our social history by the lack of interest in writing nowadays. I suppose future generations must look to Facebook and (dare I say it?) blogs to find out about everyday life in the 21st century.
This made me nostalgic for the holidays we recorded when the children were small. I dashed off to get some of the scrapbooks down from the shelf where thay have been undisturbed for quite a few years. I realise how few photos there are, we didn't have digital cameras in those days. We enjoyed doing our own writing and illustrating.(Click on the pictures to see them more clearly)
This is a book from a holiday in Cornwall in 1984 when Andrew was 7 and Tanith 4 (and a half!) Andrew wrote about the game we played in the evening:
and Tanith drew a picture of the game of crazy golf we'd had:
One morning, my husband found a dormouse when he was on his early morning run and woke the children to admire it before returning it to the bushes:
Do you remember those long country walks I shared with you some time ago? The scrapbook from our Easter holiday in 1986 gives my account of one, alongside my husband's illustration:
Now I remember why my son and daughter groan whenever LCWs are suggested! It is good to have these prompts to take us back to happy times. I am grateful to those families who took the trouble to fill in the diaries at Ham Farm, their memories are now part of the history of that time and place.