Michael Morpurgo’s perfect weekend in Devon

The acclaimed author, whose novel War Horse gave rise to the theatrical phenomenon and the Spielberg film, revisits the first world war in his new book, Poppy Field

Michael Morpugo at the Duke of York pub, near his Devon home
Michael Morpugo at the Duke of York pub, near his Devon home | Image: Sam Pelly

“Breakfast is important to me and, as I get up first on a Saturday, it is the one meal I make. The menu is always the same: home-grown spinach and kale smoothies, because I believe such things will make me live longer, followed by brown toast and coffee. My wife Clare emerges around nine o’clock and we sit at the kitchen table, looking out at the garden as we eat. We don’t talk much, but we do shout at the magpies – they stop the woodpecker visiting us. 

I do all my fiction writing in the week, so I will use Saturday morning to answer correspondence. Children write to me in their hundreds; they are interesting critics and I enjoy writing back. I work from the sitting room sofa, which has a reclining end and a view of the sheep-filled fields stretching out to Dartmoor in the distance. 

Then we will walk the mile and a half from home up the Duke of York for lunch. Clare stayed in this 15th-century thatched pub as a child, and it’s the reason we came to live in the tiny, remote Devon village of Iddesleigh 40 years ago. We have a chair each by the fire and the food is very much of and from the place. The local Red Ruby beef stew is really good. 

I take to my bed after lunch – first for a quick siesta, then to read over the jumble of words I’ve produced during the week. I always work sitting up in bed, with pillows behind me and my exercise book propped against my drawn-up legs. 

By four o’clock I’m ready for tea. I like breakfast tea in the afternoon accompanied, as soon as I feel the first breath of winter on the air, by toast with Marmite and slightly salted cow’s whey butter from nearby Quicke’s Farm. 

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We’ll spend the evening at Exeter Picturehouse. Exeter, like everywhere, is a long way from Iddesleigh; fortunately, I enjoy driving along what my late friend Ted Hughes described as “the deep lanes of Devon”. I like the cinema; films are made for the big screen, and enjoying something in the company of other people is rather wonderful. The Picturehouse is small, which means it’s usually full, and there’s a little place upstairs where you can have pizza looking over the River Exe. 

Ideally, Sunday starts with morning service at St James’s church. I’m not a great churchgoer, but I do believe that this ancient church is important to our little community. And to walk up the path with the bells ringing, as so many have done before me, is quite something. 

Sundays are about outings. The Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford is a favourite destination because it gives you a real flavour of the place and its people. It’s filled with artefacts from the town, such as wonderful brown and yellow glazed pottery, and it tells tales of the Elizabethan seamen who set sail from here for the New World. It has a little bistro called Café du Parc – a French treat in the middle of Devon. It’s a simple place with scrubbed wooden tables, where the chef shakes you by the hand and makes duck confit just like in rural France

Home again, I’ll go for a walk, taking my habitual route down the farmyard track to the river, through woodland abundant with rose hips and chestnuts and then back up the field behind our cottage. Doing it regularly keeps me in touch with the seasons. We start the evening with a glass of Jura Single Malt by the fire as a preamble to a supper of macaroni cheese, or risotto made with mushrooms from the wonderful Harvest Farm Shop in Okehampton. We’ll have a glass of red wine too – I love ageing wine and discovering new vineyards. Mas de Daumas Gassac is my current favourite. 

I go to bed around 11pm. We leave the radio on through the night so the BBC World Service is a kind of lullaby and I often wake in the morning unsure which stories I have dreamed and which I have half heard in my sleep.”

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