I was pretty pleased to hear the theme for the Delicious Dart 2016 was ‘under the sea’ since this has always been a particular favourite of mine. ‘Under the sea’ is the main theme of some splendid children’s illustrated books (The Rainbow Fish, Usbourne puzzle books, a whole school of mermaid stories), one of my favourite films (The Life Aquatic by Wes Anderson), and is also my main source of Iodine (I love you seaweed). I have always had a fascination with the under-sea world and its incredible creatures, and if I didn’t have an inexplicable inability to equalise, I’d be a regular diver too. How pleased I was the world of ‘under the sea’ could come up to me! There were jellyfish, angler fish, a large red crab and some splendid sunken ships and vessels. I particularly liked the yellow submarine with its soundtrack and terrific team spirit, and of course there were divers galore.
We had opted for the morph suit with gorilla tape detailing and camelback/balloon oxygen cylinders for ease, and I was pleased, given past experience, that I had decided against trying to incorporate flippers (running backwards all the way would be particularly challenging I think).
I was concerned that the food might also follow the theme… seaweed is just about the only’ under the sea’ thing that a vegetarian can eat. As it turned out, the vegetarian fare was the best I’ve experienced on these runs so far! We had to skip the start-line fare on account of our lateness in arriving, and our intention to catch up our friends further down the line. So we started with mushroom croissants at the Waterside Bistro in Totnes, then on to the Sharpham Estate where I loaded up on cheese, artisan bread from the Seeds 2 Bakery, and rounded it all off with a swish of wine and the elegantly named Dappa from the Devon Distillery. The cows looked nonplussed as the sea creatures scuttled up the hill; they’d seen it all before.
As the sun came out we streamed down the hill like a lobster quadrille, bathing in her warming beams, and straight into the Durant Arms where we were met by samosas and bhajis and beer. ‘Vegetarian again!’ I exclaimed in joy. Then came the Thai fishcakes at the Maltster’s Arms (the first purely carnivorous stop), followed by Hunter’s Lodge Inn pies (vegetarian option!) and Neap Tide from the Teinworthy brewery. My palette was impressed, but I knew that coming up was a corker of a hill before we would get the pavlova reward at Fingals…
The hill was hard. Muddy and incredibly steep, my right hip flexor was getting very angry with me. I tried side-stepping it like a crab; I tried lifting my leg with my hands; when I made it to the top, I was really struggling. It was lucky that the Heron Valley cider and Riverford Field Kitchen marmalade pavlova was calling me to Fingals. Momentarily refreshed we ploughed on through the deepening mud. It sucked at our feet and at our energy supplies and we began to wish we really had extra oxygen on tap, rather than the rapidly deflating balloons on our backs.
There were more hills to contend with before the Red Lion of Dittisham came into view and my hip flexor had me attempting the hills backwards as if I’d donned flippers afterall. The Palmers ginger beer and pasties from Chunk of Devon were more than welcome. I could not believe my eyes to find a vegetarian option again!
Down the hill we all sped, a flurry of cellophane jellyfish legs and shuffling mermaid tail skirts. We knew we were heading back to the sea. The water was almost in sight and the Ferry Boat Inn was stirring up the paella. There was a sizeable queue for the next batch that was still in its final stages of cooking, and we opted for a quick getaway over the water in a boat shared with some shrimps (a near miss for them) and a trio of Neptunes. Over the other side we paid a quick visit to the gates of Greenway House, home of Agatha Cristie and stopped for Dartmouth Ice cream as we mustered up courage for the final killer hill.
All the hills were proving very difficult on my poor hip, and I was beginning to seriously flag. Just when things were starting to feel a little too hard, we found ourselves behind a floaty hatted jellyfish and a shiny golden deep-sea diver with a very familiar voice… We had caught up with our friends! It is amazing the difference that having friends around you (and then a mead stop) can do. Suddenly we were flying again (almost). It had taken us at least 10 miles to catch up, but we’d made it! Chilli chocolate from the South Devon Chilli Farm and mead from The Lyme Bay Winery sent us down the hill smoothly, on to the Steam Packet Inn where some cannibalistic crustaceans enjoyed an offering from Blue Seafood Company, and straight into Dartmouth by boat. Hot, vinegary chips (RockFish), a delicious coffee and flapjack (Café Alf Resco), and then the finish line!
Once again we had made it. We enjoyed some more snacks, my favourite of which has to be the lemon sherbet popcorn of Portlebay and the Luscombe Rosewater, before making our creaking way back to our different areas of the country. As always, it had been delicious, muddy and jolly good fun. Roll on Delicious Kernow…