‘Best of Buckfast Abbey’ dinner to showcase local produce
Visit Dartmoor Business Showcase Day
The Two Bridges Hotel
We are pleased to offer an opportunity for meeting Dartmoor and Devon Businesses in the Tourism industry, with workshops and advice from a range of professionals. Everyone welcome, but booking is essential - please pre-register by emailing email@example.com
Networking - Workshops - Presentations
- Network with Dartmoor Businesses
- Cosmic UK - Getting Creative with Social Media
- Heart of the South West Growth Hub - Support for Business Growth
- Get Up to Speed - Digital Skills and Superfast Broadband
- Dartmoor Rangers - Day in the Life
- Dartmoor National Park - The Year Ahead
- Dartmoor National Park - Planning issues
- Meet the Visit Dartmoor Team - Marketing and Support
- Leaflet Exchange - Bring yours!
Safety and common sense practise for all who recreate on Dartmoor
The cold weather we have recently been experiencing, and hopefully embracing and enjoying, along with some of the Ranger teams recent attendance at an outdoor based first aid refresher course made me think about general safety whilst you are visiting any countryside environment.
It is important to be prepared like any good boy scout or girl guide for the extremities of weather. It is often said that on higher ground like Dartmoor one can get all four seasons weather in one day!
Certainly if you are planning a good day’s walk/horse ride/cycle/climb or a longer expedition in the winter always make sure that you let somebody know your plans. Wear good footwear and take with you a full set of waterproofs, map and compass, torch and whistle, gloves/hat and spare warm clothing, first aid kit, food, drink and emergency rations.
If you visit after snowfall for recreational purposes then remember that the area is still an important working landscape and that vital daily deliveries have to be made which include farmers feeding their stock. Think carefully about where you leave your vehicle making sure you do not cause an obstruction or block roads, properties drives or gateways.
The large open areas of moor land on Dartmoor are also the home of grazing sheep, cattle and ponies that are owned by local farmers. If you are bringing a dog out at anytime of the year please make sure it is under your close control at all times, the best way to do that is to keep it on a short at all times and not interfering with any stock.
The key role of a Rangers job on a daily basis is providing a vital communications link between the Dartmoor National Park Authority, local residents and visitors. In times of bad weather and in other emergency situations we also liaise and link up closely with the County Council, District Councils, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service and the Police. In the background, under the call out umbrella of the Police there is also a volunteer service known as the Dartmoor Rescue Group. They are strategically placed in four Search and Rescue sections at Ashburton, Okehampton, Tavistock and Plymouth and are on 24 hour call out to help assist injured or lost people throughout Devon and sometimes beyond.
So be prepared, thoughtful and careful before and during your visit to the countryside so that you can thoroughly enjoy your experience and not become a burden to anybody.
Moor than meets the eye newsletter
In the footsteps of the Victorians symposium
Walks and Talks
Buckfast Abbey Gardens
More reasons to dine at the Moorland Garden Hotel
The Moorland Garden Hotel, Yelverton, Devon
New menus devised by the new head chef, award-winning Cream Tea and a new kids-eat-free Sunday lunch offer make for a delicious excuse to dine at the Moorland Garden Hotel in Dartmoor, Devon this winter.
With heart-warming mains including slow cooked beef cheek and mouth-watering desserts such as spiced rum cheesecake on the refreshed dinner menu, diners can banish the winter blues in style at the AA-Rosette Wildflower Restaurant.
The delights don’t end there. The new lunchtime menu – available in both the restaurant and Dartmoor Bar – is a great excuse to meet friends or indulge after a bracing walk on Dartmoor (canine companions are welcome in the bar). The popular Sunday Lunch menu is back after the festive season, and kids under seven can now eat free of charge (two courses, a main and dessert) when dining with an adult. Not to mention the award-winning Devon Cream Teas, named the best in the South West in 2016 by the Cream Tea Club, and the hotel’s very special Afternoon Tea selection.
Launching the menus, head chef Jake Westlake says: “The lamb rump is certainly proving a firm favourite among guests. But for me personally, the braised beef cheek has to top the list of what to eat this winter. Slowly cooked for 12 hours, and then based in rich jus to finish. The sweet jus coupled with the red cabbage and celeriac mash is just the best.”
Jake re-joins the team at the Moorland Garden Hotel having left in 2014 to work as a sous chef for the National Trust. During his two year absence he split his time between the kitchens of Cotehele House and evening shifts at the Three Crowns in Chagford, working long hours. When the head chef position became available at the Moorland Garden Hotel Jake took it as a sign that his hard work had been preparing him for the role.
“I felt that the months of hard work in some way, had been warming me up for this opportunity, made me hungry for a challenge, and set my passion absolutely ablaze,” he says.
“I think for many people, especially myself, influences come from all around, you’re shaped by them through the people you meet and work with. Very quickly other chefs you work with become like a second family. My admiration firmly falls to the team here. We are trying to do something great, create amazing food, and show it to the world. The best feeling for us, is hearing that our guests are having an enjoyable night. If that happens I can go home at the end of the night happy, feeling like I’ve done my job.”
Local producers appearing on the menu include MC Kelly, Crediton for all meats, all South West; Kingfisher, Brixham for locally caught seafood; Forest Produce, Honiton for cheeses, specialist foods, olives, flour and herbs. Drinks suppliers include St Austell Brewery, Luscombe Drinks, Sandford Orchards, Plymouth Gin and Bays Brewery, all based in Devon or Cornwall. New for 2017, the hotel is proud to serve delicious Owens coffee.
Special occasion menus – including Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter are now available to book and browse online at www.moorlandgardenhotel.co.uk.
Twilight Walk and Sausage Supper
The Bedford Hotel, Tavistock, Devon
Join Simon Dell on an evening stroll around Tavistock, and stories of myth, legend and curious truth about this ancient market town.
We will be walking around the atmospheric remains of the Benedictine Abbey in the town centre, mainly along the flat, listening to chilling stories which Simon has learned having policed Tavistock over many decades up until his retirement.
Warm up afterwards with a tasty supper of black pepper sausages, garlic mash, onion gravy and seasonal veg, at The Bedford Hotel.
£15 per person, including guided walk and sausage supper.
Meet at The Bedford Hotel at 7pm. Supper at 8:30pm.
Call The Bedford Hotel to book your place.
Visit www.bedford-hotel.co.uk/whats-on/twilight-walk-sausage-supper or call 01822-613221.
Dartmoor Hotel Caters For Photography Boom
Two Bridges Hotel, Dartmoor National Park, Devon
With amateur photography booming on the back of the social media surge, the Two Bridges Hotel in the heart of Dartmoor National Park is hosting a weekend to give beginner and improving photographers the opportunity to develop their skills.
The Dartmoor Landscapes Photography Weekend, starting Friday 12th May, is open to anyone with a camera and a desire to learn, and will be led by Devon professional photographer Portia Crossley.
Those taking part will spend two nights at the Two Bridges Hotel, with practical photography sessions on Dartmoor, and a workshop session to learn new techniques and share creative ideas.
Mike Coombes, Sales and Marketing Manager at Warm Welcome Hotels, commented: “Amateur photography is booming right now, in part thanks the rise of social media and the Instagram generation. With more people discovering this creative and rewarding activity, the time was right for us to put together a weekend which combines the naturally photogenic landscapes of Dartmoor, with expert guidance from a professional photographer who knows the area well.”
Professional photographer and guide for the weekend, Portia Crossley, added: “For anyone with a love of photography, and the wild natural beauty of Dartmoor, this is a great opportunity to hone their photographic skills in an enjoyable and informal way. We’ve designed the content of the weekend so that it provides plenty for beginners, as well as giving improving photographers the chance to test and advance their skills.”
Places on the Dartmoor Landscapes Photography Weekend are limited, and priced at £299 per person including accommodation, meals, practical sessions and expert photography tuition, based on two people sharing.
The Two Bridges Hotel offers luxury accommodation, award-winning dining, traditional Devon Cream Teas, and fine Dartmoor ales, in a stunning setting beside the West Dart River in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. Visit www.twobridges.co.uk or call 01822-892300.
Reflections of 2016
Rob Steemson - Dartmoor National Park Authority
As 2016 draws to a close, so I find myself looking back on another rich and varied Dartmoor year. After a bright enough start in January, sadly we then lost our old and very dear friend Tony Beard. The so-called Wag of Widecombe, Tony was a great mentor for me, the voice of countryside wisdom for so many reasons. As a farmer he understood both the land and its people, had a natural feel for what they needed. He was also instrumental in connecting the wider population with the Dartmoor story, be that through his regular radio broadcasts, personal appearances or his work with the Widecombe History Group that he helped get off the ground. We’re all much the poorer without him.
In March we had the spectacle that comes with the annual swaling – the controlled burning of overgrown heathland so that fresh growth can regenerate, providing support for wildlife biodiversity. This year we were joined for the occasion, on the flanks of Haytor, by a film crew from the BBC’s One Show. Their presence was very welcome, as was the screening of their film a few weeks later. But the director soon learned that unlike life in the studio another take wasn’t always possible once the flames had begun to spread!
In June we launched our own version of the Two Minute Beach Clean, an initiative to help tackle the issue of littering at some of the moor’s best loved spots. Dartmoor National Park Authority spends over £20,000 per year (not including staff/volunteer time) disposing of recreational waste which is why now, when you visit some of the moor’s most popular locations at weekends and over school holidays, you’ll find a large A-frame board, litter pickers and bags available for anyone to use. Please – have a go; make it your New Year resolution even.
At the end of September Dartmoor and other UK National Parks lost one of its great ambassadors in the passing of Ian Mercer. He was a very knowledgeable, positive, inspirational and charismatic man and was the first Dartmoor National Park Officer. For seventeen years he led with great passion and belief a team of staff (whom I joined in 1979) that were all thoroughly dedicated to looking after Dartmoor. Ian was a `natural` leader and ambassador whose work, ideas, achievements and vision helped to shape up Dartmoor as we see it today. During the 1980`s he enabled Dartmoor National Park to negotiate environmental payments to farmers whilst his other main pivotal achievement was steering the Dartmoor Commons Act through Parliament. This pioneering piece of legislation established a statutory Commoners’ Council for Dartmoor and provided rights of access to the Dartmoor Commons long before the general right of access to open countryside.
Early September saw the return of the Tour of Britain, always a hugely enjoyable event even if it does require a lot of preparation. The number of people who turned out for the finish at Haytor was a welcome reminder of just how popular cycling has become but also how it needs to be managed.
Dartmoor is a fragile landscape and needs protecting – bike wheels and peat aren’t great friends. The park has over 350km of bridleways and byways to explore. And, under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, cycling on the open moorland or common land is not permitted. Please remember that when you decide to enjoy your two-wheeled Christmas presents.
And talking of gifts, in November we once again celebrated the role of our Voluntary Wardens who give us – and you – thousands of unpaid hours each year.
Thanks very much to them and everyone who does what they can to care for our beautiful, precious Dartmoor.
To all of you reading this article have a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
A fantastic place to really stretch your legs, Parke is found just outside Bovey Tracey off the road to Haytor. There is a pay and display car park (£2/day if not NT members). Buses from Exeter to Bovey get you fairly close but you would have to walk on road for a few hundred metres.
There is a National Trust information bus stationed in the car park with leaflets, and a large information board at the edge of the car park. The main paths are easy to follow and mostly buggy-friendly, though it gets very muddy and uneven, and there are steps in some places. As well as a perfect bridge for pooh-sticks, when the river isn’t too full there are small ‘beach’ areas that are great for a paddle, and there are no end of places to sit and picnic or play games.
There are lots of ideas for linked activities and worksheets for children available from the Woodland Trust if you want to have a focus for your walk.
There are toilets, dog bins and an excellent cafe that’s worth a visit alone. The cakes are amazing if pricey and there are plenty of tables to sit outside if the weather is nice. If it’s wet and you have a dog with you there is a separate indoor space so that you can still eat cake before the fairly steep climb back to the car!
If you visit on a Sunday then you may coincide with an open session at the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Visitor Centre. It’s located just outside the NT car park and has activities for children as well as ponies to see.
It’s getting dryer, it’s getting warmer and Buckland’s wildlife is in the mood for love. Throughout the estate you can hear the Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming out their territory, calling to potential mates, advertising their particular hollow tree as the ideal real estate to raise a family. The Roe Bucks are feverishly marking out their territories, rubbing antlers and face against the trees and leaving their scent ready for the rut at the end of July, hopefully by which time they’ll have a little harem of one to three does. The fox vixens will be pregnant, if not near to giving birth, tucked away in their dens hopefully supported by the dog fox. Wildflowers like Bluebells, Wild Garlic, Herb Robert and Red Campion are coming into bloom and touting their wares to the insects that are starting to take flight in springs warmth.
Throughout it all the Ranger team have been working to improve the estate for wild life and wild visitor alike.
The wind we had late in March caused us the loss of some trees, thank fully it was nothing too serious with only about 35 plantation pines lost. The timber has been recovered and will be put to good use around the estate and the extra light which now hits the forest floor where the trees were will give an opportunity for native flora and fauna to move in and flourish under the watchful eye of the Ranger team.
Steve the Ranger and his team of dedicated volunteers have been beavering away (pun intended) creating more wonderful wooden play features in the Higher Paddock Play area. Now there’s much more than just the zip line to entertain the little un’s (and old un’s) with balance beam race tracks, traversing wall, log fort and willow den. If you’re at Buckland be sure to make the trip up to have a look.
Thanks to a generous donation we have invested in automatic trail cameras which have been out on the estate snapping pictures it would take more patience than I have to otherwise capture. We’ll be using these in social media but more than that it helps us to survey what animals we have and how and where they are active which will better inform our management of the estate for them.
And Django the Ranger dog? He’s been sitting patiently beside me throughout while I try to take photos of it all.
If you’re keen to keep up with what’s happening at Buckland Abbey and the further adventures of Django the Ranger dog you can follow me on Twitter @dougmunford1982
Now get out there and enjoy it!
RAF Harrowbeer & The Wood of Many Hares
Alright, so close your eyes and picture the unspoilt countryside of Dartmoor. It’s alright, trust me. Close your eyes and allow your imagination to take you here, to one of the most beautiful places in Southern England. I bet I can guess what your mind now sees.
Rugged tors call out to endless blue skies. Beneath their granite gaze, the verdant heaths are dotted with free ranging sheep, cattle and the world famous ponies. You picture the dramatic rises near Sourton, cloaked in heather and gorse. The rugged moors of Princetown, where relics of the mining past sit beside the remains of ancient man. The crystal waters of the River Dart carve their way through Devon on a timeless quest for the sea.The lush green pastures of the lowest slopes are bathed in golden sunlight.
You see also the timeless beauty of Roborough Down as it sweeps like an emerald haze towards Dartmoor’s highest peaks. The church tower at Shaugh Prior, romantic Plym Bridge, the mysterious crags of the Dewerstone. The bustling maritime city of Plymouth is on our doorstep, her Barbican and historic Hoe, where Francis Drake once played bowls, well worth a visit. But out here you wouldn’t know, for this landscape has remained largely untouched for thousands of years.
It is a nature lover’s paradise, a walker’s paradise. Take a deep breath and fill your lungs with good clean air. The scent of honeysuckle, fern and gorse will delight your senses. The old railway track invites cyclists and horseriders and there is a challenging golf course with spectacular views from every tee. Needless to say, there are beautiful country pubs aplenty, with local ales and homecooked food to enjoy. Open fires when the weather turns cold. More than anything, there is peace and quiet. An escape from the stresses and noise of modern life.
But it wasn’t always like this.
75 years ago, the village of Yelverton became a hive of activity. Unlikely as it might seem, this small moorland community played host to an important RAF base. A busy one, with up to 2,000 servicemen and women stationed on the now quiet down. I bet that is harder to imagine but you can certainly try. Picture it, the sleepy countryside suddenly filled with the roar of aeroplane engines, as Spitfires and Typhoons soar into the sky.
To avoid confusion with the large base at Yeovilton, Dartmoor’s new aerodrome was called RAF Harrowbeer. It was officially opened on 31 August 1941, in a classic case of the stable door being shut once the horse had bolted. For six months earlier, the city it was designed to protect, Plymouth, had been destroyed by the Luftwaffe. Indeed, the very rubble from blitzed buildings was used to construct its twin runways.
October ‘41 saw the first Spitfires arrive. The iconic fighters of No.130 Squadron had been donated by the state of Punjab. It was but the first of many multicultural acts in Harrowbeer’s proud history, for pilots from occupied Europe were joined by brave volunteers from Australia, Rhodesia, Canada and New Zealand. From all over the world came people determined to fight the threat of Nazi Germany.
Other planes stationed here included the Hurricane and Typhoon, which acquired the nickname ‘Tiffy’. These Tiffies were notoriously unreliable aircraft and prone to all manner of mechanical problems. It is not so surprising therefore to learn that four were lost on takeoff and landing, five crashed onto Dartmoor and one into the tower of Yelverton’s parish church.
Local historian Dennis Teague (1928 - 98) recalled seeing these aircraft at the base.
“Unless one actually experienced the sight of a fighter unit forming, it is hard to describe. A bang was followed by a puff of blue grey smoke until at last the huge four-bladed propellor churned around and the massive engine spluttered into life, accompanied usually by a streak of flame and cloud of smoke.
Each aircraft squeaked and groaned its way around until it was positioned for take off. Receiving the signal for the off, it roared down the runway and up into a sharp bank following the others and would join up in a large circle of as many as 30 planes. Whilst the last ones were taking off, the pack would be droning around Burrator to Tavistock. Finally, they would all form into a wedge shape and head off to the South East and the targets in the Channel Islands.”
Needless to say, this formidable sight must have made quite an impression on the mind of a teenaged boy from rural Devonshire. So much so that he was angered by the decision not to turn RAF Harrowbeer into the proposed City of Plymouth Airport once the war ended.
Enjoying the peace and quiet of the place nowadays, it is unlikely that many will agree with his belief that a great opportunity was lost in returning the site to moorland. Harrowbeer is a great spot for a picnic or gentle stroll and the famous Roborough Rock has felt many a child climb to its top. During the summer months, when an ice cream van is an almost permanent fixture, the site is bathed in nostalgia.
Meanwhile, history buffs will find the remains fascinating. Evidence of Harrowbeer’s wartime past exist in the brick shells of old hangars, the former control tower which now serves as a tearoom and patches of runway still showing through the grass. The officer’s mess was an imposing building named Ravenscroft. Today it is a nursing home, possibly helping one or two folk who once served their country in this very place.
Harrowbeer (or Harrabeer) is an old English word meaning Wood of Many Hares. There are few trees left now, and even fewer hares, but what the village does boast is the friendly hotel that takes its name. I visited Harrabeer Country Hotel with Emma the other night and enjoyed a delightful stay. It is an old building, dating to at least the 17th century, with lots of interesting features. But then, lots of places on Dartmoor are. What really sets the Harrabeer apart are its hosts, Michael and Amanda Willats. Many people claim to offer the personal touch but for this couple it comes naturally. You really do feel like treasured guests staying in their home.
The Harrabeer dates from at least the 17th century, although parts might be a lot older. It originally served as a Devon Longhouse, a very traditional type of farmhouse once common in the area. During Regency times, it appears to have been gentrified somewhat and the decor is in keeping with that era of good times and good living. Very appropriate for a country hotel.
We were greeted with coffee and scones by a roaring log fire. Our room was clean and comfortable, with tea and coffee making facilities. What is it about staying in a hotel that making yourself a cuppa to drink in bed always seems so wonderful? Such a small pleasure, perhaps, but always a delight.
A vegan couple were staying and so we agreed to give their specially made starter a try. Amanda, we found, is a wonderful cook and the carrot and cashew nut pate was quite delicious. Being avowed meat-eaters, we followed this unusual choice of course with a hearty beef casserole. To finish, a tray of goodies was brought to our table, with a variety of treats onboard. I chose a meringue, Emma a slice of apple pie. To go with our selections, there was clotted cream and the biggest bowl of fruit salad I’ve ever laid eyes on.
We enjoyed a glass or two of wine with our meal and then retired to the bar, where the fire was still roaring. Emma had another wine, I tried a local ale and we sat talking with our hosts before reading a little about the history of the place.
Amongst our other fellow guests were cyclists, preparing themselves for a wet and windy ride to Princetown. The full English breakfast must have set them up nicely for their day’s adventure and no doubt they enjoyed their hot baths, delicious homecooked food and comfy beds on their return. I promise you this, the Harrabeer offers a fantastic base for outdoors types. Nature lovers can look forward to a touch of homespun luxury after a day spent on the rugged moor.
Now, who else will a place like Harrabeer Country Hotel appeal to? Not those who insanely value the faceless, bland touch of a corporate travel lodge and adjoining chain restaurant, that’s for sure. The Harrabeer is for people who relish warmth and friendliness in their hosts, who enjoy being treated with genuine kindness and hospitality. It is, having tasted Amanda’s cooking, for those who really enjoy great food.
Those who like a quirky touch, such as the collection of soda syphons adorning the bar, or hares in the hallway, will love it. It is perfect for a romantic break, a family holiday or a place for businessmen to lay their heads when visiting nearby Plymouth.
If you’re planning to come to Dartmoor, pay this place a visit.
Larry Carlton is a former innkeeper and budding crime writer, currently living near Brentor. His blog is full of Devon tales and esoteric lore and can be found at
Monks, Moors, Mines & Michael
Dartmoor is rightly famous for her mining heritage; the remains of man's pursuit of copper and tin easy to find when taking a country walk. Horse riders at Cholwell are especially fortunate as they are treated to views of West Devon's last remaining engine house, all that is now left of Wheal Betsy's industry and toil. On a sunny day, the stone gleams like gold. When the fog descends, the chimney's skeletal finger takes on an eerie look.
Elsewhere on the moor, one comes across old openings into ancient hillsides. Piles of rubble and peculiar, grassed-over shapes; the occasional abandoned shaft. Though the moor now sleeps, once upon a time she was a hive of activity.
At Monkstone, at the foot of Brentor's iconic rise, lie the remains of a manganese mine from the 19th century. Investors from Manchester, Ludlow and Tavistock itself cast their fortunes in its direction, hoping to enrich themselves from industrial Britain's insatiable demand for minerals. Those interested in such history can explore the remains for themselves. Brickwork from the toppled chimney, gorse-clad waste heaps and a slight indentation in the field, marking the location of the mine itself, provide an echo of the past.
Monkstone herself predates such exploration by many centuries. Hinting at her links with Tavistock Abbey, is the farm's name. So too the leper's squint still visible in her ancient granite walls; it is believed the desperate and poor were sent here for charity and Christian kindness. Inside the farmhouse, a wonderful old fireplace was allegedly plundered from the abbey after bad King Henry earmarked it for dissolution.
The famous St Michael ley line crosses the land here, taking in Brentor church on its journey from St Michael's Mount in Cornwall to Glastonbury Tor. Perhaps it's this healing energy that helps revitalise those staying in the holiday cottages here. Or maybe it is the fresh air, the views across miles of open countryside. The warm welcome Jeannette and Roger Emmett give their guests.
I stayed here with Emma for a couple of months, whilst we considered our future options. With the fire lit, Honeysuckle Cottage is cosy and comfortable. Many a breakfast was taken in bed, home-baked bread accompanying local cheeses, butter and honey. Once the sun comes out, the garden is filled with the delightful calls of songbirds. It is the perfect base for a romantic getaway or weekend escape from the stresses of modern life. A great place to stay when exploring all the Western moor has to offer.
Larry Carlton is a former innkeeper and budding crime writer, currently living near Brentor. His blog is full of Devon tales and esoteric lore and can be found at
Strange these folk from across the Tamar!
Lifton is a saxon town, her church dates from Norman times and she has sat on an important route for as long as any can remember. Venerated in their homelands of Cornwall as “magnificent”, the mighty Arundell family have been lords of her manor for over two and a half centuries. It seems appropriate then that the former coaching inn once known as the White Horse should now bear their name.
I hadn’t celebrated St Valentine’s Day for at least five years, dating back to the sad event of my marriage ending. Emma astonished me by saying she had never celebrated it at all. Not once. Strange these folk from across the Tamar!!
The Arundell Arms is famed as a sportsman’s hotel these days; it is the place to go for those who like to fish and shoot. The presence of a restored indoor cockpit in its charming garden, and the scenes of the hunt upon its walls, suggest it has long been this way. Now the only shooting I’ve ever done was from a penalty spot and as for my fishing skills...well, their best described with the old saying, “He couldn’t catch a cold”. But I love old places, I love history and I love eating delicious food. And as well as being celebrated for its angling and beats, I’d heard the Arundell Arms excels also at these latter things.
Emma believed me when I said we should try a local pub for Sunday roast. She didn’t bat an eyelid at my dressing up in a suit and smart shoes to attend such a rustic hostelry. When I ‘accidentally’ missed the turn to Lamerton on no fewer than three occasions, she never once questioned my apparently dubious sense of direction.
It was only when I drove into the Arundell Arms’ car park that she realised a treat and a surprise was afoot.
We were greeted by an open fireplace, a selection of canapes (including an amusing miniature hamburger) and a glass of fizz. Then into the restaurant with its magnificent chandelier and ceiling rose, where a delicious salad of fresh herby leaves complimented the Cornish lobster and crab. The main course was roast rib of local beef, as melt-in-the-mouth a cut of steer as I’ve tasted in a long, long time. The meal was completed by a trio of rhubarb desserts. The creme brulee being the highlight.
So did Emma enjoy the experience? I believe she did. Did I? Every single moment. We will definitely be back to the Arundell Ams later in the year, to celebrate another special occasion.
Larry Carlton is a former innkeeper and budding crime writer, currently living near Brentor. His blog is full of Devon tales and esoteric lore and can be found at
Water, Stone and Royal Oak
Ask anyone and they will tell you that Devonshire, the land of rolling hills, clotted cream and eternal sunshine, is green. Yet this is only the surface, the very thinnest of veneers. Because scratch away the topmost layer of Dartmoor and one comes immediately to stone. Indeed, I would say the very heart of this majestic part of the county was built of rock, were it not also for the ubiquitous presence of water.
The stone is male. He is stubborn, unyielding and dominant. He brooks no dissent, refuses to be intimidated by those who would chip away at his edges in sites like the now sleeping quarries of Merrivale and Princetown. He towers above the moor, impassive perhaps, and certainly ancient. Protective, despite his silence. Watchful, reassuring. Always standing guard over what he considers his.
Water, though, is female. She is soft and graceful, elegant most of the time. One is drawn instinctively to her soothing beauty, which is best witnessed at places like the aptly named White Lady waterfall in Lydford Gorge or the moment the Walkham and Tavy kiss at Double Waters. She brings life where stone can not, she brings peace to the most troubled of souls. From the first moment man cupped his hands to drink of her refreshing liquor, she has been venerated as sacred.
But when she is in one of her moods, water can be fierce and hot-tempered. Storms pour from the heavens and rainwater crashes in a torrent through places like the Devil’s Cauldron, Tavy Cleave and Dartmeet. She flings herself against the great stones of Dartmoor, breaking the tors down with her rage, lashing at their refusal to submit to her will. In this way has the landscape we see now been formed. Not by love and mutual respect but a relentless battle of the sexes. The most ferocious, tempestuous affair of all time.
Me and Emma visited Drizzlecombe last week, where ancient man raised pillars of granite to ends we can only guess at. Avenues of stone lead to these menhirs, which in turn appear to be markers for burial cairns. Further stones have been erected, seemingly to act as boundary posts, but to what purpose? We of a modern slant imagine these strange structures had a ceremonial, religious aspect but can only speculate about their true meaning. Is it coincidence that the River Plym, which would later speed the intrepid on their journeys to the New World, rises just a short walk away?
Nearby Ditsworthy Warren House is famed now for its role in the film Warhorse. But of far more interest is the history of this desolate abode, for its tenants lived here for centuries, farming rabbits in the most difficult conditions imaginable. Again stone plays a part, the sacred piles plundered to build artificial burrows for the farmed rabbits. Their remains are still present, providing us with a tantalising glimpse of a vanished way of life.
On Sunday, I took my little girls for a walk around Burrator Reservoir. Resting peacefully beneath the gaze of the mighty Sheepstor, the lake offers a refreshing change from the usual Dartmoor views. Burrator is always a popular spot and, despite the inclement weather, there were plenty of other people there. Even the ice-cream van was doing a brisk trade.
The rains fell and we rushed for the sanctuary of the Royal Oak in Meavy. This lovely village pub is one of Dartmoor’s best and the roast beef and pork, washed down with a pint or two of Dartmoor Ale, were delicious.
Landlord Steve Earp told me the historic pub is haunted; the ghost apparently sits by the fire (and who can blame him?) Outside, the tree that gives the place its name looks like it really could be as old as legend claims. People say the oak was planted during the reign of bad King John and it certainly appears gnarled enough for this to be true. Of course, Sunday wasn’t a day to check too closely because water was in one of her moods. In fact, with Storm Imogen passing overhead, she was positively crying with anger.
Thank goodness for the sturdy stone walls of Steve’s charming inn, then, and the warming fire that kept us there till late.
Brentor Church and Ley Lines
There’s many a vicar who muses ruefully that we Brits now only attend church for hatches, matches and despatches. That is to say, christenings, weddings and funerals. Yet one of the smallest churches in the country is also one of the most visited. Because despite being humble in size and modest in decor, St Michael de Rupe will attract thousands of people this year.
That isn’t to say that St Michael’s is ever overcrowded; only that one tends to come across a couple of fellow pilgrims when climbing the steep path to it’s door. You’ll say hello to them on the way up and on the way down, for the 14th century church is said to be the highest in the land.
On a clear day, one can see for miles around. To Plymouth Sound and Whitsand Bay in the south, Cornwall in the west and Exmoor the north. The easterly vista is of Gibbet Hill and the high tors of Dartmoor, which William Crossing described as the best in the whole national park. Come rain or shine, it is never less than stunning.
But can these views alone explain the weight of people who come to St Michael’s? Ours is a secular world, yet visitors remain drawn to this sacred site near Brentor village, just as they have for the past seven centuries and beyond. I say beyond because there was an even earlier chapel predating the current structure, built by Robert Giffard in 1130, and long before that, an iron age fort.
Perhaps there really is something magical that attracts people here, an energy the men of science will scoff at unless experiencing it themselves. It is an enchanting spot, capable of bestowing peace upon those who accept it. Healing, this ancient place long thought holy.
The explanation might be found in ley lines, if one is predisposed to believe in such things. The existence of such phenomena is fiercely contested but if they really do exist, the most important one of all is the St Michael’s Ley that runs from Lands End in Cornwall to the village of Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk. Along the way it passes through St Michael’s Mount, St Michael de Rupe, Creech St Michael in Somerset, Glastonbury Tor (St Michael’s Tower) and the nearby Burrow Mump, on which sit the ruins of the 15th century church of, you guessed it, St Michael.
The line goes on to traverse the world’s largest stone circle at Avebury and the mysterious Royston Cave, which has been linked to the Knights Templar. The last important site it links before disappearing into the North Sea is Bury St Edmunds. The Benedictine abbey there was once one of the greatest in England and, as the burial site for the martyr king St Edmund, a place of pilgrimage and power.
Of course, this could all mean nothing but how about this for a further twist...the rising sun follows the leyline exactly on the 8th of May each year. It may be a coincidence but this particular date has been considered sacred for many years in Britain, having been celebrated as Beltane, the beginning of summer. Or in Christian parlance, the Roman Catholic festival of St Michael.
A short postscript
Where there is male there must also be female, to create perfect balance and harmony. Another leyline is said to intersect the St Michael line and this is dedicated to St Mary. Leaving Brentor, this line heads to the neighbouring village of Mary Tavy and her lovely 13th century church named after the Holy Virgin. It then passes through the Dartmoor villages of Throwleigh and Dunsford, which also boast historic churches dedicated to Christ’s mother.
Buckland Abbey now home of Doug the Ranger and Django the Ranger dog
Buckland Abbey, 13th century Cistercian place of worship, over 750 acres of estate, past home of a certain Sir Francis Drake and home to a self portrait of a little known Dutch painter called Rembrandt all cared for by the National Trust since 1948.
And more recently it has become home to Doug the Ranger and Django the Ranger dog.
When choosing a faithful companion I had a few things to consider. The pooch needed a lot of energy to stay out with the Rangers all day, he needed to be clever to ensure he could be trained efficiently, he should be handsome so our visitors want to stop and say hello. What did I end up with? A dog that can outwit me, out run me and is better looking than me!
As part of the Ranger team we look after the wider estate at Buckland Abbey, which is essentially everything that’s outside not including the gardens. This can cover anything from repairing fences to teaching visiting kids to whittle a whistle.
During the winter we mostly focus on habitat management work in the woodland. This winter we started thinning out one of our Beech tree plantations. These trees have been growing for about 50 years, planted close together to make them reach for the light so they become tall, usable timber. Now we’re going through and cutting down about one third of them, this will encourage the remaining trees to thicken out providing even more timber, while the majority of the felled trees will be recovered and sold as firewood. We leave some of the timber as habitat for dead wood invertebrates and the brash from the top is piled up to provide nesting spots for birds. The space left by the felled trees allows more light to penetrate to the woodland floor encouraging new flora to move in.
In this way we can make the most of the resource our forebears planted for us financially while also encouraging biodiversity and returning the woodland to mixed native broadleaf through good management.
Django is perhaps more interested in the benefits of good woodland management than the actual managing. An endless supply of sticks to fetched and thrown…. endlessly.
Doug and Django