Devon sometimes seems like a region of unfulfilled geography; it is en route landspace, a zone to be traversed by holidaymakers going to and from Cornwall. Whilst inheriting some of the holiday lustre of its big brother, it is diminished by the fact that it is simply not the pointy bit at the end of the country.
Nevertheless, Devon has spectacular charms. Travelling by train, at Teignmouth one passes between garishly-hued sandstone cliffs, and the slate-grey expanse of the sea, stretching out towards horizon-hogging supertankers. Winding inland, the hillsides and valleys seem to be saturated with trees, luxuriantly limbed and leafed even in early Autumn.
Dartington Hall itself offers a tranquil escape from the hectic mundanity of life. The gardens are exorbitantly decked with a profuse variety of trees both tall and broad, vantaged by stairs and paths and outposts and green terraces, stimulating the eye from every angle.
All of which made the cancellation of the 17:27 from Totnes something of a comedown. Another train, it seems, had broken down, (tricky thing, this diesel technology), and as a consequence the train which goes from Paddington to Penzance, and back again, had been turned around at the next station up the line. A £20 taxi ride was therefore necessary to catch the 17:40 from Newton Abbot. Once aboard, an astonishingly generous (and monied) colleague sweet-talked the ticketman into two first-class upgrades for the cost of one. That'll be just the hundred pounds or so then.
And what do you get for your hundred pound first-class seat? You get a table, with an electric socket, and... (wait for it) a complimentary copy of The Times.