By the Photographer’s Assistant
The little town at Christmas is a dazzling sight. We will all be enchanted by the decorations and its mince pies and cakes. There will be one fly in the ointment. It comes every week and is a cause of some upset and consternation. We have never got used to the large Pontrilas trucks, which now seem to travel in a convoy through the little town, the operative word being “ little “. The trucks will dominate the roads and cause queues etc. They will always just about miss the Chagford Inn sign on their way to collect their logs. The trucks bring us jobs and everyone admires the skills of the drivers as they thread their way delicately through the Italian style parking system, which is characteristic of the area. You will, therefore, be struck by the coincidence of this blog being written only 6 miles away from Pontrilas.
The World’s most Ineffective Snowplough
With its apparent attraction to beautiful places, Pontrilas Sawmill’s major site is on the main road close to a beautiful village called Longtown. The area is situated on the Welsh and English border, right under Offas Dyke and the wonderful, threatening beauty of the Black Mountains.
Currently, the Photographer and the Assistant are on, as it turns out, an extended holiday in Lower Maes-coed, close to the Black Mountains, which dominate the area. Usually, the mountains are a really threatening jet black. In the evening, you can walk to the end of the road and say a goodnight to the mountains and they will glower back at you in the most dominating way. You really know that it is them that are in charge. Forget your own ideas about what you will do. The mountains will tell you, and all the local farmers, exactly what you are going to do, according to the weather that they send you.
Today, we are indoors all day for the first time since we arrived. We are snowed in. We are not going anywhere. This is our third day of being snowed in. Yesterday, we took a walk below the fields, which are dominated by the mountains. There was much activity on the farms. The forecast was for more never ending snow today, so the farmers were not taking any chances with their precious stock. Stock which looked weak were put in any spare farm building that came to hand. Huge tractors rumbled their way along the neat hedge lined fields. The tractors carried the carefully cossited haylage saved for this event. Some of the farmers hammered along the lanes in a panic to get to their next batch of stock. The Photographer and the Assistant were amused to watch a set of cows, which they had been observing for three or four days. They seemed to be a great deal more aggressive than our Dartmoor farmers’ cows. They would line up and call other cows in their large field to see these two cheeky beings, who were daring to actually speak to them. One of the cows, black with a white face, looked for all the world like some sort of Japanese warrior. It was definitely tooling up, its sword glinting in the twilight. We headed for home. We weren’t used to this in Devon. The farmer seemed to be held in complete contempt by the herd, who bullied him, as if he was a waiter in a high class hotel. He could not undo his black bags fast enough.
Somewhere near, there must have been a livestock sale. There was a loud peep, and a massive cattle van appeared around the corner. The snow was increasing and the van was proving to be an empty handful, having just made its delivery, driven by a young woman, whose face bore both consternation and concentration, as she endeavoured to make a safe journey out of the snow.
We have now accepted that we are here for at least two unbooked days, but what a lovely thought. We cannot go anywhere and anywhere cannot come to us. We now have in excess of one foot of snow. (Editor’s note: that’s 30cm for our young reader) Because this is not a built up area, the snow is unspoilt. It is truly a beautiful Christmas experience in every sense of the word. Here we are, perched inches away from nature. The birds fly around the barn, almost tapping on the window as they look for shelter and food. The family, who rent us the barn, are feeding the birds and the birds are cooperatively feeding. The blackbird stands among the smaller birds and they all allow one another to feed. The blackbird knows its craft well. It clambers under the outdoor picnic table and digs for all its worth, eventually getting to the ground, where it may find worms. The ground has been protected by the snow. The buildings are giving off some heat in the freezing atmosphere and the birds stick close to windows and outside doors. They tunnel under the snow to keep warm.
What of the humans? Our hostess valiantly took her 4 x 4 to Hopes, the community village stores and Post Office at Longtown for two days, where she collected milk and newspapers, but today, the road is not passable and the drive not diggable because of the still falling snow. We shall all have to have patience and wait the weather and the mountains out. Today, we had a conference around a cup of coffee. We allowed ourselves a shortbread biscuit to keep our spirits up. We have no shortage of biscuits. There are now two children here, who must be fed and we are eyeing up the options. The Photographer has a piece of gammon, which he had bought for Christmas. The Assistant feels that they should get through the large packet of smoked salmon first. Our dear landlady had a turkey crown in her freezer and thought that it would be nice for the children to have this to eat. She thought that she would defrost it. It had sort of been for Christmas, but it hadn’t been completely booked. We had been drinking our way through some beer, which the Daughter had brought the previous weekend and a bottle of whisky had been pressed into service at bed time, the Assistant being a thoroughgoing Celtic whisky enthusiast on this occasion had paid off. The food would not run out until Wednesday by which time a farmer might have cleared the road. The Photographer and our lady would make a joint raid on Hopes if things improved. We didn’t like to think about things not improving! We still have the internet, electricity and water, so that is such good fortune. At this moment the Photographer is frying up a storm with left over carrots, onion and green olives, which will have cheese grated over it. Watch out Jamie Oliver!!
What of these two wonderfully artistic girls? They are busy praying for more snow of course and you should have some sympathy with this. School is meant to go on until Friday. Shouldn’t the authorities, whoever they are, just give in and declare it the end of term? Of course they should. This is a lifetime opportunity to train for the ski slopes of Switzerland where they might, one day, meet the man of their dreams and find a typical British education of no use at all. This actually happened to one of the Daughter’s friends, who went to a state school and currently lives a very privileged life in a very expensive mansion. We cannot tell you where. She occasionally meets up with the Daughter, who has arrived in London on her economy ticket and has artfully learnt to make herself look fashionably dressed with the aid of Zara! At the moment, having made a wonderful polar bear, the girls are off to do some serious sledging on one of the fields.
Trust me, and look carefully, it is a wonderful bear. (Ipad camera stretched to it’s limit I’m afraid)
Well, this may not be Dartmoor, but isn’t it like 2010, when we all got snowed in for some considerable time?
Just feel for us refugees as we settle down to an evening of smoked salmon and Prosecco and , come on, it is close to Christmas!
A. final thought. We have a friend whose daughter lives in the fire zone in San Francisco. She was due to fly out at the weekend. Please have a thought for those affected by wind and fire, so much more serious than a bit of snow here.
As the Queen would say at Christmas, “God Bless You All!” Oh dear, I think we’ve been watching The Crown too much!
And finally, we have added a link to the Facebook page
Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental
Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford