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A match made in Devon

PUBLISHED: 14:05 10 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:05 10 February 2015

Seb & Charlotte

Seb & Charlotte

Archant

As Valentine’s Day nears CHRISSY HARRIS meets couples who met and fell in love in romantic Devon, whether on romantic Dartmoor walks, long, lazy picnics on the beach or cosy get-togethers by the open fire down the local pub

Dan and ClaireDan and Claire

You can’t choose who you fall in love with but you can decide to make it happen in the most beautiful place in the world.

These couples all regard Devon as the place where the magic began, where love blossomed on romantic Dartmoor walks, long, lazy picnics on the beach or cosy get-togethers by the open fire down the local pub.

They might be from different generations but they all agree Devon is the place to be when it comes to finding and wooing a soul mate.

So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Devon Life asked them to tell us why this county is so special to them:

Seb & CharlotteSeb & Charlotte

Seb and Charlotte

They say home is where the heart is - something Seb Roberts knows only too well. The 33-year-old carpenter had just returned to Devon after working abroad and was planning to make the most of the single life when he stepped into a bar on Plymouth’s Barbican. “And there was Charlotte,” says Seb. “Everything just went into slow motion – all the lights seemed to focus on her. She has the most incredible eyes. I said to my friend: I have GOT to talk to her.” The night ended with Seb scribbling down Charlotte’s number on a kebab shop napkin but in his haste, he didn’t write the last digit clearly enough. Days of frustration went by until Seb realised his error and got through to Charlotte, a primary school teacher, and the pair agreed to meet for a dog walk at Cadover Bridge on Dartmoor. Many moorland walks were to follow and the couple ended up moving in together to a house in Ivybridge. Soon after, Seb organised a romantic weekend away to Bovey Castle. “If you’re looking for the perfect Devonshire house, this is it – it’s so amazing and I knew it would be the perfect place to propose. “I took Charlotte for a walk, slipped off a tree and got covered in mud, thought I’d lost the ring, was nervous as hell. “I eventually found the right spot, asked her and Charlotte broke down and said yes!” The couple married in April at Pinhoe Church in Exeter before a reception at Deer Park hotel near Honiton. “It was such a lovely day,” says Charlotte, 32. “The weather was a bit miserly and grey but we managed to get outside for the pictures. That’s how it is in Devon! “We’re happy to settle down and stay here. Nowhere else compares for us.” Seb agrees. “We love living here – it’s home,” he says. “Charlotte and I have so much fun together. I know there will be tough times ahead but so far, it’s just bliss.”

Winston and Mary BellWinston and Mary Bell

Winston and Mary

Winston Bell says long motorbike rides across the moors and picnics at Wembury beach made him realise Mary was the girl for him. It was 1949 – proof that Devon’s scenery has always been the perfect romantic setting for courting couples. Today, the diamond anniversary pair are happier than ever, sat in their armchairs in their home in Plymouth, surrounded by pictures of their five children, 13 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. “It was a lovely time, we went all over the place, cycling, on the motorbike. Mary loves the beach, you see,” says Winston, 82, who came to Plymouth from Lancashire on National Service as an 18-year-old officer chef in the Navy. He met Mary, now 81, on a blind date in Plymouth city centre and the couple had to make their way across bombed-out buildings, destroyed in the Blitz, to get to the cinema. After watching a film, Winston walked Mary home, despite never having visited the city before. The pair arranged to meet again the following night and so began a five–year courtship before they married in Plymouth in July 1954. “I remember it was a wet day and all the creases fell out my trousers,” says Winston, who later went on to work as welder in the Dockyard. “After the reception, we went to get a train from Plymouth Dockyard station to Exeter to go on honeymoon to Bournemouth. All our friends had tried to do up the train with balloons and signs saying “Honeymoon Express”,” says Winston. “The only thing was – they’d decorated the wrong train! It was going to Saltash.” Winston and Mary, a retired seamstress, say they have loved raising their children in Devon. It must have been idyllic because most of their family have stayed local and regularly pop in for tea. “This is a lovely place to live,” says Mary. “We’ve had such happy times and we still get on pretty well. We have disagreements but we don’t argue. That doesn’t solve anything, does it?”

Claire and Dan

Dan and ClaireDan and Claire

Claire Frances Hallett had almost given up hope of ever finding Mr Right when she caught sight of Dan in her local pub in Tavistock. “He was sat there with his mum, dad and sister and he was making them all laugh,” she says. “That really appealed to me: the fact he was there with his family and they were all having a good time. “I turned to my friend and said: who is that?! “She said she knew his name was Dan Clark Medina and that he lived locally. We bumped into each other at the end of the night in Tavistock and we talked and got on really well.” The pair started chatting on Facebook but Claire says “nothing came of it”. It wasn’t until they met again by chance at The Rock in Yelverton a few months later that Claire realised fate was trying to tell her something. “We ended up kissing that night and saw each other again soon after,” she says.

Dan, a surveyor, was living in Bristol at the time but returned home to Devon when a job opportunity came up. The relationship went the distance and Claire soon found herself in possession of a beautiful hand-made ring, created from a combination of Dan’s Spanish grandmother’s ring and his great grandmother’s earrings. “It’s so amazing,” says Claire, a freelance writer. “It was handmade by a lady in Bovey Tracey and it’s got a heart and two leaves. He knows I love trees.” The couple are planning to tie the knot in August at the church in Yelverton where Claire’s parents married and where the couple used to attend as children, before they knew each other. The reception will be held in a marquee at Luke’s Fruit Farm in Tamerton Foliot, near Plymouth. “I can’t wait,” says Claire, now 33. “It’s all happened really suddenly when I think about it. “Now here we are in a little cottage in Bovey Tracey, waiting for our brilliant Devon wedding.“We’re definitely planning to stay down here. We don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Martin and Caroline

Martin and CarolineMartin and Caroline

When self-confessed ‘London lad’ Martin Kadhim met Caroline, they fell for each other - and for Devon. Dinner dates at Gidleigh Park Hotel and romantic strolls along Exeter’s quay front seemed a world away from their busy London lives. They currently divide their time between the capital and Exeter but say they hope one day to make Devon their permanent home. Just over a year after first meeting online, the pair married in December and are planning to settle in the county. “When we talk to each other about our favourite times together, it’s always in Devon,” says Martin, 36, sales director at Exeter-based Ashwoods, a low carbon automotive engineering company. “Everyone has got a bit more time for everyone else down here.“You can create a fantastic moment out of nothing. We head to our local pub in Exeter and there’ll be someone sat there doing the crossword and the next thing you know, you’ll be having a great night. There’s lots of unarranged fun.” The couple are still in their honeymoon phase and are planning to make the most of their blissful weekends in the rolling Devon countryside. “We want to do a lot more exploring,” says Martin. “At the moment, we’re trying to have Sunday lunch in as many different places as possible. “There are plenty to choose from!”

Catherine and Mark

Devon was always on Catherine Crockett’s ‘to do’ list but it wasn’t until she met her partner Mark that she got to see the county in all its romantic glory. Catherine, 53, had been living in Cornwall for 20 years and had separated from her husband when she met Mark Collings on a night out in Plymouth. Their paths crossed again in more sombre circumstances when they saw each other at the funeral of a mutual friend. They agreed to go on a date and Catherine still cringes when she remembers that night in 2006. “I was so nervous, I actually threw up,” says Catherine. “So I was surprised when Mark said he wanted to see me again but he very kindly suggested we go out on a few day trips, to help with my nerves. “I’ve been down in the South West now for 30 years but I’d never really seen much of Devon. “Well, I literally saw everything.” Catherine says the couple enjoyed cream teas in Dartmouth, pub lunches in Beer, explored Totnes, Torquay and took in every inch of Salcombe, among other sights. “As well as falling for Mark, I fell head over heels for Devon too!” admits Catherine, a receptionist at a technology firm in Plympton. After a blissful courtship, however, the fledgling relationship came up against the toughest of tests when Mark became seriously ill. Despite only just getting to know him, Catherine had to help nurse Mark, 52, back to recovery. “Our relationship went on hold and it was about trying to get him better,” says Catherine. “He nearly died three times. It was an awful time.” Mark was discharged from hospital, went to stay with Catherine to recuperate – and never left. The couple, who both have grown-up children, eventually bought a house and a dog together and are now living happily ever after in Bere Alston, near Tavistock. “After living and working in Cornwall for so long, I now live and work in Devon,” says Catherine. “I would never have imagined it but it’s funny how things work out. Devon is very special to me now.”

Romantic things to do in Devon:

Head to Dartmeet, Dartmoor, a beautiful and ancient and a very symbolic place to propose.

Spend the day at Bigbury’s lovely sandy beach, which looks out over Burgh Island. If you’re feeling generous, stay at the famous hotel - or at least walk to visit it at low tide. Watch the sunset at Croyde Bay, North Devon. Take a trip on the Dartmouth steam railway. See the White Lady Waterfall at Lydford Gorge. Have a stroll around Burrator Reservoir. Pack a picnic and climb up to see Dartmoor’s Brentor Church, near Tavistock.

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