From Totnes to Buckfastleigh
Once upon an English day, Nigel and I went out for a day trip. We started in Totnes and took the steam train to Buckfastleigh to take a look at the butterflies and otters (bu’aflies and o’as if you are pronouncing in an English accent) at the Otter and Butterfly Sanctuary.
At the train station, there was a man with an owl. It was a magnificent creature with huge piercing orange eyes and beautiful markings in its feathers. I obviously had to get the obligatory tourist photo standing beside it.
The stream train followed the winding river and slowly made its way past fields of pink wildflowers and the occasional old stone building was dotted along the track. If you were tired the rhythm of the train would easily put you to sleep. We arrived in Buckfastleigh after about half an hour where there was a museum at the train station which we had a nosy through. There were signs up on the wall that were printed in war time. My favorite one said, “To dress extravagantly is worse than bad form, it’s unpatriotic”
After the museum we found a little cafe and I had my first pasty. Apparently I didn’t eat it right. My friend told me I had to throw away the crust because that’s what the miners used to do. They used to hold onto the crust like a handle then throw it away due to the high levels of arsenic etc that was on their hands from the mine. We couldn’t eat the cake that we’d brought so we chucked it in a paper bag and left for the otters and butterflies.
We stepped into the humid butterfly enclosure and my camera immediately fogged up and the jackets came quickly off. At first it was hard to see any as a lot of them were resting on various leaves and plants or flitting about near the top of the enclosure. Once I had an idea of where to look, finding them was much easier.
There were so many different varieties. Some looked very plain with their wings folded together but as soon as they took off you could see the top of their wings and they were stunning. There was a line of chrysalis all different shapes and sizes hanging from a stick. Each was unique, one looked like it was made out of silver, while another looked like it was made of wood. One butterfly was really interesting, normally they have bright tops and the underside is camouflage with their environment. This one was opposite, it was pure black on top and bright red and black underneath. It was an amazing contrast.
A Butterfly Photographer, I am not
My camera climatised soon enough and I started clicking away. Butterflies are not easy to photograph, well some are quite obliging and stand nice and still but the more interesting ones tend to be little buggers and flit around from plant to plant fairly quickly making it near impossible to get them in shot. I was determined though.
A green and black one I was having trouble photographing eventually took a little break from taunting me to sit on my camera (now if that’s not taking the piss, I don’t know what is) then quickly darted away again before Nigel could take a photo of it on my camera. There was one absolutely stunning large blue butterfly that I couldn’t get. I had to give up after quite a few failed attempts to go see the otter feeding.
We got there just in time to watch the feeding and the feeder fed all the different otters in their various enclosures. He was a fountain of knowledge – like a human otter dictionary, an otternary if you will. The otters in their little enclosures were rather cute. Some were play fighting, others hiding from the rain, some chatting away rather impatiently for food. One of the otters liked to catch his food and if he got enough applause he’d do a high five. Well, a low five really – he was a tiny wee thing.
As we were watching the otters I looked towards the butterfly enclosure. On the other side of the window I could see the blue butterfly who I had failed to capture a photograph of flitting about, taunting me. Butterfly: 1, Jem: 0.
The Hogwarts Express
We took the steam train back to Totnes and this one was different than the first one, it had little compartments to sit in. I secretly pretended we were on the Hogwarts Express. The window was open (the train doesn’t move terribly fast so you’ve got time to pull your head back inside before going through tunnels and cutting it off) so I popped my head out and could see all the way up the track and back down the track again.
On the train, we remembered about the cake that we didn’t eat from the cafe. It didn’t look particularly appetizing but we ate it nonetheless, it tasted amazing. Could be because of the setting we were in, could be because of its delicious stickiness and sweetness. Either way, best cake ever.
All in all a fun day out. I felt like I was a little kid being taken out for the day. But that’s OK because really, who doesn’t like otters and butterflies? Playgrounds also turn me into a big kid. Life is too short to not have fun though, embrace your inner child and make the most of butterflies, swings and whatever else takes your fancy!