We had a great few days down south. We set off at 5.45am on Sunday and went by motorway to Exeter. It poured most of the way, but at the end the sun came out and we had brilliant weather until Newbury on the way home. We visited Exmouth and Sidmouth, both of which are lovely and unspoilt. We also went to Budleigh Salterton which also is in a time warp. On the way home we went through Dorset and stopped regularly to see places including the donkey sanctuary, and arrived home at about 8pm yesterday.

The ‘tar barrels’ is absolutely insane. The photos I have sent you are of the boys/girls event. They are allowed to do it from the age of 7!! but must be residents of Ottery St Mary. As it got darker the camera shutter slowed down so I couldn’t get clear photos, so I concentrated on the camcorder. There are three classes – boys & girls, youths & women and men. The barrels get bigger in each section and the men carry full sized beer barrels. 17 barrels are used altogether. They have all been coated inside with tar every week for a year and they are carried on their shoulders by a succession of people running up and down the road until the barrel burns away and collapses. With the youths and men, if they think the flames are a bit tame, they throw petrol or something on which produces a huge plume of flames. A lot of the shops board up their windows as it has been known for people to fall through them when panicking.

There is no crowd control and the only thing which keeps people away from the barrel is self preservation. There were thousands of people there and at times it got a bit hairy when the barrel came towards us and people pushed back in panic.

It was certainly worth going to see, but we didn’t stay for the men’s sessions as, apparently, it gets very rowdy as most people had been drinking for hours. I wonder how long before health and safety stop it although it has been going on for decades without too much aggravation. Apparently the insurance for it was over £20,000.