In 1871, following six years intense labour, a semi-circular armed battery called "Fort Picklecombe" was completed on the shoreline overlooking Plymouth Sound and set up with 42 nine inch and ten inch muzzle loading guns to protect our valuable naval harbour from invasion by the French. It was Lord Palmerston's idea and although dubbed a "Palmerston Folly" because not a single shot was fired in anger, it obviously did the trick as we weren't invaded and we have remained proudly free of all French influence ever since.
Anyway yesterday we said adieu to our pied-à-terre in Norfolk, got in our Citroen piled high with an à la carte selection of hors d'œuvre, prêt-à-manger and vin de tables, and set forth down here for our vacances.
Fort Picklecombe had lain dormant since 1920 apart from a period in the Second World War when reactivated by the Coastal Artillery, and by 1970 was in a very sad state. The MOD was quite pleased to flog off this crumbling ruin to property developers who did a remarkable job of turning it into 103 residential flats with an underground car park. It is bordered behind by a passable imitation of Warwick Castle set in the beautiful Mount Edgcumbe Country Park.
After about six hours on the M5 and A38, during much of which it chucked it down, it was a wonderful feeling to turn off down the little winding lane and catch a glimpse of turquoise sea and a brightening sky, then the castellated granite towers of Fort Picklecombe. It felt like the opening chapter of a Poirot, Miss Marple or possibly Blyton's Famous Five. Charming Anglian antique-sleuth Roger Lovejoy needs all his deductive skills to solve the riddle of Big Nana's missing packet of Sainsburies chocolate eclairs with the assistance of Timmy the Tibetan Terrier.
As the Fort is built right up to the shoreline, each flat has enormous picture windows which give the impression of being on a floating cruise liner. (The floating ones are always the best I feel). It seems like we've succumbed to one of those "Viking River Cruises" targeted at the other young hipsters who watch ITV's Mystery Dramas, only without all the raping and pillaging. And dysentry, seasickness and Brotherhood of Man tribute acts.
No, this is THE BEST place in England to have a few days away from the grindstone. Plus it has better wifi than at home. You can sit in front of the giant panorama of Plymouth Sound and the Channel and watch a continuous display of yachts, Naval frigates and Brittany Ferries plough back and forwards like a bobbing Diorama seascape. I've downloaded an app for my phone which lets me identify each passing vessel, and a tide table app to check the exact status of the tides at every point of the day. I think I may have turned into one of the most tedious arses in the Country. Pot Pourri.