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

Dartmoor Diary Facebook Page

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

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It is Saturday morning and the little town is quite still. There is very little traffic about. The Photographer has collected the papers. The Assistant has been helped to a simple breakfast by Chris, who, as always, has arrived early, has his apron on and is getting down to making delicious smells emanate from Blacks’s Deli kitchen. Fresh coffee is on and Catherine arrives ready for the Saturday rush. The Photographer and the Assistant sit quietly contemplating the birds which hang out on the chimney opposite. They are always there, definitely rebels without a cause, but they wish they had one. Until now, all has been quiet, but a little queue is building up. Dogs are hooked up to the outside of the deli, and are complaining . Various customers have been in and out, but they have not been able to collect their favourite Saturday treat. Some customers have sat down to quietly wait. Endacott’s are late. This is unknown. This is not meant to happen. The Photographer and the Assistant are enjoying a second cup of coffee when THE VAN arrives. Out jumps the delivery driver and, avoiding the customers, manages to bounce into the deli without being confronted. The delicious bread and treats are unloaded and he is on his way. Disaster is diverted and there really is no need for Catherine to arrange the goods, they are simply disappearing.

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Fresh baked bread from Endacott’s…..treats for all

 

As the two finish their coffee, a magnificent mobility scooter appears up the hill. This is the little town, so the scooter enters with an air of triumph. It is driven by a war veteran and sports wonderfully coloured British maritime flags. What a hint of cheer! The sight is most definitely going to wake you up.

This is all the start to a typical day in the little town. As the two leave the town, they are distressed to see a fire service van, two police cars and a doctor’s call out car, all parked up in various positions all over the centre of the town. There had obviously been some sort of incident, and living away from the town, the two thought that they would never hear what had happened. Four days later the Daughter appeared for supper and reported on how stressed she had been on the Friday night.

She had arrived early on a scene in the road. An early responder had just arrived on the scene and was trying to control everything. Someone was lying unconscious in the road, and she had found the sight upsetting, but had started controlling the traffic. This was in the real spirit of the little town and we were proud of her. She does not know what had happened to the person, but she and the first responder had done all they could until more help arrived. In these circumstances, the fire brigade will often be the first to arrive, having been trained in emergency care. Otherwise, the little town is too far away from the emergency ambulance. The little town likes to think that it takes care of its own people and it must be said that it does this splendidly. There are many people living here, who have everyday kindnesses from the community.

On a less serious note Autumn/Winter life goes on. We have enjoyed a wonderful autumn. The Assistant picked her last raspberries at the start of November. She picked and served her last courgettes on the 7th November. The work in the garden has never been so advanced at this time of year. Shrubs have been cut down and moved. The Photographer continually cut the grass and the Assistant was able to prevent the leaves from blocking the stream. Her shed had really benefited from new tool hangers erected by a very busy Photographer.

After a long break from keeping the house up to scratch ( everyone who visits has been enjoying the sunshine in the garden) the Assistant had turned to work with a will. The house was stuffed with out of date magazines, newspapers, and total disorder. How did that huge saucepan get stowed away there? The Assistant had reached the stage where only the very closest of friends could possibly come through the door! Fortunately, as long as he was fed, for his work was exhausting, the Photographer was too busy having a doze to notice. After she had actually uncovered the kitchen range, which was covered in drying washing, the Assistant unearthed the necessary cleaners and spent a fruitful three hours cleaning it. She was full of pride when her neighbour popped in and complimented her on how shiny the kitchen was! The work continued apace. You can now see through most of the windows, though not all.

The Photographer organised the logs, have started using them late in the year. John’s logs were as good as they had ever been. The two were often to be found fast asleep in front of the telly, the Yorkshire vet solving animal illness as they slept through the evening.

 

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A tit after enjoying the new feeder

The Assistant filled the empty bird feeders and indeed went to the extravagance of buying a new nut feeder. The birds returned in their droves and were such an enjoyable sight over breakfast. As the weather has grown colder, cooperative feeding is taking place. There are goldfinches, robins, chaffinches and all varieties of tits, all feeding together.

The apple crop has been an average one in the garden this year, but there are still enough to go around. The Assistant has eating apples of all sizes stored in her shed. They nestle in kitchen paper in old recycled veg and fruit boxes. There were enough potatoes to store in sacks, nestling in the corner against the wooden walls. These crops will last until Christmas. Spinach, kale, carrots and leeks are all available in the garden. Best of all, the Christmas sprouts are coming on a treat, even if the birds are enjoying their tops! Being able to feed the family and friends at Christmas is always a really lucky bonus and we enjoy it.

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The “Granny Apple” factory. Nothing goes to waste

 

The apples are the big bonus. The Assistant uses the cookers to make granny apple, named after the Photographer’s mother, who spent all of the autumn preserving and cooking the apples in whatever way that she could. The apples are peeled, and lay in a little water with mixed spices. Often it isn’t necessary to add sugar. This simple mix is put in the oven at a low temperature to cook away to its heart’s content. If you over cook it, it can still be used, just don’t burn it. You can use it in pies, crumbles and as it is. It is an excellent winter warmer. The apple mixture can also be frozen. It may sound a boring thing to do, but it is a good excuse to have another Yorkshire vet program on in the background. The apples that you don’t use, plus peel and cores can simply be left on the ground, where, even now, the blackbirds are enjoying the feast. When you have eaten an apple simply throw it out into the garden, the core will be eaten.

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When you’ve eaten all the apples, mealworms will have to do

Last of all, what a delightful time of the year to get together with friends. You can feed them and they can feed you. We had a lovely meal with some new neighbours where the first course consisted of all the samples of food that they could find in their new garden. A delightful piece of pork was enjoyed with another neighbour. Just as the two could not be bothered to get a Sunday lunch, another friend invited them for a most delicious chicken and fruit hot pot. After a twelve hour day at work and in the gym, the Daughter managed to muster enough energy to cook a delicious venison casserole. Shortly friends and acquaintances will disappear on urgent Christmas missions so this is always a wonderful time for a catch up with one another.

As we all disperse, and we say this not we hope in a self righteous way, lets enjoy all the preparations, because nobody really cares if you get it wrong, they just want to enjoy your company. In the next blog, we will tell you how all the preparations are going.

Footnote

The full quotation from St David’s final sermon to his monks

“do the little things, the small things you’ve seen me doing”.

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Dewi Sant (St David) from his shrine in St David’s cathedral

 

And finally, we have added a link to the Facebook page

Dartmoor Diary Facebook Page

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

 

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

The Photographer stood there, wondering how much longer the Assistant could possibly take to finish choosing second hand books. She had just informed him that on their next holiday in Hay on Wye, if the weather was not good enough for walking, that they could spend their whole week in here. This was Booths, purported to be the largest second hand bookshop in the world. He longed for a cup of tea. This was it. He would have to intervene. He decided on real action. What was she doing in the military section anyway? She never bought military books. He gently took the pile off her and suggested cake. She was reluctant, but holding on firmly to a pile that she could not do without, he managed to take her to Booth’s cafe, where she was in raptures over the loose leaf tea, which was truly exceptional.

This was the last day of an adventurous holiday, though they had only been able to get in a couple of good walks. The Photographer listened to the endless excited prattle as he remembered it all. They had accidentally ended up in the Aberaeron area of west Wales, where the sea lapped the shoreline, boats dwelt in the harbour and pretty painted houses dominated the town. It was a great place to start the day. The Italian deli had the best coffee. It was so good that even the Assistant was silent enjoying the taste. Her eyes glazed over at the pasta and wine and supplies were purchased. Everyone was so nice. It was simply a lovely place to be.

 

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Delightful Aberaeron

The Assistant could, of course, have spent all day drinking coffee and reminiscing about Welsh Italian ice cream, but she knew this wasn’t to be. She arose with a deep sigh and rucksack in hand, ready for the day’s project at the National Trust beach, which was spectacular and also had an excellent tea shed. The new parking system was not working, and lots of members with honesty in mind were confused. The Photographer wasn’t. He just set off on the walk. As they roamed along, there did seem to have been a real disaster here. The mud was very tricky indeed, even in boots. They should have put two and two together. On the way through Wales they had seen many flooded fields. The rain had ruined the footpath, but they persisted until they reached a honey trap area of luxury houses and boats. They walked through this moneyed area, aware that the village in which they were staying had no facilities, and at least one abandoned property. Neither of them made any comment. In Devon, the empty house would have been a valued home, such was the shortage of ordinary homes on the Moor. The two continued up a long hill in a beautiful rural area.

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The simple church at Pembryn. Elegant simplicity

Much to their amazement, they were confronted amongst the wonderful green trees with a completely bright white church. It was in a wonderful condition, even the grave yard was well tended. It was very old and clearly much loved by it’s local community. It was like something out of a Clint Eastward film. It had the simplest bell tower with a small bell at the end of a rope, which was used to call this rural population to prayer. There were flowers above the porch entrance and the place was the most peaceful of the trip.

The walk ended back at the tea shed, of course!

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The name says it all

On the Sunday, they visited one of their most favourite places. They had a day devoted to farming and old farm machinery at Llanerchaeron, a farm and house taken over by The National Trust. It’s story went back over ten generations, and it had a beautiful small house which was one of the earliest designed by John Nash, who later became famous as one of the most respected architects in the country. The Brighton Pavilion is an example of his work. The photographer spent hours admiring his work and taking photographs of it. As an engineer he loved the balance of it all. On this particular day, the farm machinery shed was open displaying all sorts of wonders from the past. The Photographer was very excited. He had discovered a set of Avery weighing scales, which were actually the same as he used to work on in the 1970s. In fact there was a lot of machinery that was entirely engrossing, so the Assistant quietly sneaked off. She loved the old farmyard and animals. Gosh! There were all sorts. There were geese, pigs, cows, horses and beautiful white geese, and they all had to be visited and talked to. This was frustrating as they were mostly asleep. The Photographer managed to find her and point out that she had got her best boots on, so that was that!

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Maybe I ate too much…….

 

The highlight of the week was the train journey between Machynleth and Pwhelli, which had been recommended as possibly one of the best train rides in the world!!This had to be done; so sandwiches were packed and the photographer prepared his camera. It was a wonderful journey through open country and almost literally along the beaches. Almost on the whole of the trip a man from Yorkshire regaled the carriage and his newest companions with talk of the wonders of Spain in the winter. It appeared that he was the only person who had not come for the view, but to catch his connection to Birmingham. This was all very entertaining. There was no real food during the trip so the sandwiches came in handy. If you choose to enjoy this beautiful trip, get off at the station before Pwhelli, which had no toilets open and no real time for a decent coffee. Although, the two did manage a Costa, but had to rush it and the Assistant came across a notice not to leave your drug taking equipment in the toilet, so give that bit a miss!

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The Assistant loves a train ride

Next, there was a trip to Aberystwyth, which has a very colourful seafront, where the Photographer’s camera was really in use. You can see a sample below. The Assistant was thrilled to find the location, which is used as a police station in Hinterland.

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Do you recognise the Police Sation?

It is just about her most favourite television programme. Pursuant to this end she also visited The Devil’s Bridge, the scene of one of the dastardly murders in the series. The two also found some glorious scenery two or three miles away. Here is a wonderful arch at the Head of the Pass of Lost Existence. The two consulted an expert on these other worldly matters via mobile phone, and were strongly advised not to pass through it.

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The arch at the Head of the Pass of Lost Existence…..scary

That was all very “little town” like and so, we return home, having done far more than we thought we had. The Photographer relieved that on her return home, the Assistant was able to say, “There’s nowhere like the little town”, as he handed her a large glass of red wine, and then he remembered that she was after all half English and anyway, her spoken Welsh was truly awful!

 

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They all went on an Autumn holiday too.

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

….The Photographer’s bit…..

I really couldn’t leave out the Nash staircase at Llanachaeron

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Wow….Nash symmetry from his early work.

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

It is a Saturday night and it is most definitely heralding the last embers of summer. It is quite dark and seemingly silent, but across the river and through the valley, there is the sweet sound of music ebbing its way into the corners of the house. The window is open just a crack. The weather is indefinite and we are not sure that the Moorland wind will leave us alone. There is a comedy scene if we get this one wrong. At some small hour of the morning the two will be woken by the enemy. It will be like the scene from “Wuthering Heights”,where Cathy hears tapping on the window pane. This is guaranteed to so terrify the Assistant that the Photographer has to anticipate the terror and grab a pair of socks to wedge them in the door! The music, though, is lovely and the two drift gently off to sleep. A tasty Devon steak and a bottle of wine from the Little Town have been consumed. Eleven hours later, the Photographer awakens to the bubbling noise of the Assistant’s chest. She has a sweet little smile on her face and is perfectly still, but the bubbling must not go on. He creeps off to get the necessary antidote, which is an enormous mug of really hot tea. When she is awake, it will be all go and action. If he is really lucky, the Photographer will reach her before the Sunday morning News programme, which could produce a rant about the state of Britain, which he really can’t do anything about. He sighs as he listens to the kettle, which has recently begun to sound like a jet engine. That’ll be something else, a new kettle, but not today and just for the moment he can be alone enjoying that wonderful feeling of absolute stillness. He hasn’t drawn the kitchen blind. He is just standing there enjoying his Sunday.

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The essence of Sunday morning……..can you hear the sizzle……can you smell the bacon?

While the Photographer stands in the kitchen, the Assistant rattles herself awake. What’s on the radio? There is usually a Sunday homily, which she only listens to if Will Self is on. He is a particular favourite and his homilies often chime with her own cynical view outside the paradise in which she lives. She has lived so long in this beautiful valley that mostly the outside world feels a treacherous place. Now, the Assistant is wondering where her tea is, and she is not too sure about how much she wants to know about the Artic Tern, information about which is now being broadcast. What about the birds in the garden? They are endlessly fascinating and she is not sure if she will ever come across an Artic Tern. Her mind is straying, which is good. The Photographer arrives just in time to turn the news off with the excuse that he doesn’t want to hear who won the Formula One race, because he is watching it later. The Assistant is happy and the two have a silent cup of tea until the news is over when the Sunday morning programme plays this weeks meditative sound, which always pleases the Assistant, and at the end of which, she arises to make breakfast. She rants at the newspaper review over a frying pan and the bacon. She can’t make up her mind between mushrooms and tomatoes. Meanwhile, the Photographer impedes her progress by emptying the dishwasher around her. She is wondering now whether to eat breakfast outside. She stands for some moments in the doorway, and decides that it is actually too hot outside, so it will have to be taken inside after all. As soon as the Photographer sits down, he is up again. She wants him to make coffee. He is beginning to feel tired again. It is only ten in the morning. When is she going to calm down in life? He makes the coffee and peace descends. While she reads Saturday’s Guardian, he reads the Financial Times, and that, he thought was the nub of their relationship. They always had a great deal to discuss. Basically, she wanted social justice and he wanted to recognise reality and that had made for a life time of debate, which actually took them back to the beginning, the college debating society, where they had met.

As the Assistant disappeared to organise something which actually didn’t need organising, the Photographer thought of the pleasant week which they had both enjoyed. On Monday, they had had their usual breakfast outside Blacks, where Jim the Artist had joined them, and several other people had arrived to have a chat about the weekend, which was always eventful in the Little Town. Christine talked of her new love of sewing and a late discovery of an appreciation of classical music, which was fuelled by the purchase of CDs from Proper Job, the recycling centre to which the music was always returned so that some other customer could enjoy it. Everyone was pleased that the dearly loved retired priest had managed a holiday with his wife, so that he didn’t have to struggle with mowing his friend’s lawn, as referred to in the previous blog. The Assistant reported that the Husqvarna mower was a real bargain and all agreed that we could underestimate old machinery at our financial peril.

Later on the Monday, The Beauty and The Brain rang. They had been to the swimming pool and wanted to swing by. This was welcome news as The Brain had been away with lions, and all sorts of animals in Africa, treacherous terrain had also been involved. The Beauty had been enjoying working while he was away, and the Assistant had pictured her surrounded by her beloved runner ducks, and playing the piano in her church all to herself in the evening to bring a quiet and meditative end to her day. How pleased the four were to see one another after so long. Much news was discussed especially Africa, which always seemed a romantic place to the Assistant since she had seen Out of Africa all those years ago. The Photographer having worked in Africa had an optimistic but practical alternative view

On Monday evening the two had gone to see friends for supper. They sat outside on a perfectly warm evening, which was the idyllic. They enjoyed listening to the river at the foot of the garden. The friends had a large garden, which grew grass to a productive level, so that on this evening, it stretched out cut into windrows ready for the local farmer to come back and bail, so that it could be of some use. The hay was a green and golden colour. In her mind, the Assistant arranged it into a scene from Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. She pictured celebrations with pipe and fiddle playing at the end of a good harvest. How romantic! The Photographer dived into the windrow and immersed himself in that most evocative smell.

They had also had a delicious meal of chicken at The Farmer and The Professor’s house on a colourful tablecloth with such attractive flowers. What a treat! Later in summer they had wondered at one of The Farmer’s cow’s, which at the age of twenty-one was still, literally enjoying motherhood! She loves The Farmer and the little town. We will miss her so much when she is gone.

So August roved on with visits to and from friends in the most relaxing way, though the garden had begun to look a little unkempt. Most wonderful of all was the visit from the Assistant’s niece, her husband and their baby, who was the most content of babies. The baby bubbled and chatted to its heart’s content, and those of you who regularly read this blog, will be pleased to know that it has a terrific interest in food, even accepting and excellent piece of pear to accompany its dinner. There will be no trouble getting him to Blacks for a decent bacon and egg butty. We can’t wait!

The Little Town continued on its way with a good summer and a pleasant atmosphere. Coffees and teas were served and there were a few times when it was overrun with visitors, who everyone did their best to absorb.

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Should I stay or should I go now, Should I stay or should I go?

 

Now, we are near the end of this most gentle of seasons. The swifts and swallows have been chattering away about departure, always a tricky decision. An animal has taken up residence somewhere in the structure of the house ready for cold nights. It is a pathetic creature, awaking at six in the morning, storing some food, which is being scrabbled away, it’s possibly a squirrel or a mouse. It isn’t causing any harm, but its arrival anticipates colder nights, The fox and badger vie for space in the garden. The badger has been digging holes and feeding on oil beetles. The tits are wearing their boxing gloves all the time now and have no mercy on any other small bird that dares to cling to their feeders. It’s hell out there in bird land. Which bird is really going to finish the apples which the two had been looking forward to eating? Damn it! Most extraordinary of all was the visit from a mining bee, which took a good deal of time to mine a hole in the cracks in the patio. The Photographer was very excited and reached for his camera.

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Go for it little bee Dig your burrow and lay your eggs We’ll see your children next year

The real sign of the little town’s summer’s end has been the closing of the swimming pool, which has shut with a BBQ and cake event. Now all the committee have to do is spend the winter raising funds so that it can open next summer, but how proud they must be of all the write ups it has had in magazines and in the national press. What a catastrophe it would be if the pool users and supporters failed to raise the necessary cash and it didn’t open ever again. Donate now on Just Giving  Just Giving Donation Link for Chagford Pool

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The opening of the Pool….but it may not happen again if they can’t raise the funds needed

That is what the Little Town does best. It punches way above its weight on all fronts and makes a continuous and massive effort to keep going against the prevailing weather. We are all massively proud of it.

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

The kitchen smelt of garlic, beef, and beer. The Assistant was going retro. She had her old dilapidated copy of Delia Smith’s original complete TV Series and she was cooking one of the Photographers favourite casseroles. It was so simple, no posh ingredients, therefore it was a bit cheaper and they were saving up for their annual trip. As she cooked, she pondered over the wonderful time they were having on the Moor. On Saturday the two had found time off from gardening to visit the Little Town and what a delight that had been.

The two had got up, one had to confess, a little later than usual, but they determined that this should really be a relaxed day after a hard week’s work. They had been stacking logs and strimming and truth to tell, while exercise is good for you, there is a limit! The walking boots were laced and the little shopping bags were pressed into use. They set off up the hill, through the field gate and across the Moor to town. The fields on the way were a delight, the trees a delightful green, and the way was dotted with wildlife and buzzards on their morning breakfast hunt. It was still early enough for no cars to pass them as they reached the road and traversed the bridge across the tumbling river. They walked up the big hill and emerged in the Little Town in need of their own breakfast. The Photographer left his camera in the Assistant’s charge as he went to fetch the Saturday papers, a treat for the weekend. The Assistant ordered their breakfast at Blacks, where a fresh pot of coffee was on the go, and Katherine was so quick with their ham rolls, that the Photographer found one all ready on his arrival back.

As regular readers will know, sitting outside Blacks watching the traffic, can lead to information gathered as to what was on, as well as meetings with friends and acquaintances. The first to arrive was the Daughter’s neighbour. He is a wonderfully affable man with the tidiest of gardens. He had left his handsome collie dog elsewhere and was looking slightly lost. He had held a little party for the Daughter when she arrived in her street and since then had been very kind and solicitous to his new neighbours. His main recent claim to fame in the little town was an incident from when the road was resurfaced while he was walking his dog. He had stood looking very puzzled at his house, which was on the other side of the road, wondering what he was going to do to gain entry to his house across the steaming tar, when a burly workman strode over and picked him up and then returned for his dog. Both were deposited on their own door step. The Little Town was quite upset at the disturbance of a new road surface, which not many people seemed to know about in advance. The Photographer and Assistant had been in a cafe with friends, when the machines passed by. The occupants of the cafe had kept the doors closed as the huge machines went up and down. The Assistant felt very smug at wearing her walking boots rather than some smart and treasured sandals on that day. The Little Town is so used to being left to its own devices, that anything from outside like this always throws the inhabitants into confusion. Today, however, back at the cafe, the neighbour had gardening on his mind. He managed quite subtly, to announce that he had given his hedge its autumn trim.The two took note and passed pleasantries. This was actually a hint that the other side of the hedge should also be trimmed and this would be passed on to the Daughter, who currently, was never home much before seven in the evening and was even then usually helping in some capacity or other at the swimming pool and walking the dog. The Photographer made a mental note and the hint was passed on. If it came to it, he would go round and make a huge amount of noise in order to show willing! The street would be satisfied and that would be that!

The next person to visit them was a member of their church, who seemed exhausted by her efforts and genially passed the time of day while she recovered on a chair. It seemed that her lawn was not looking good for her guests and the retired priest who cut it was having great difficulty. It seemed that gardening worries were the order of the day in the Little Town, which can be delightfully introspective, rather than the imminent Korean nuclear threat. Indeed many residents do not listen to the news, most of it being about places far from the Moor. On the other hand, if you haven’t watched the regional news, which is called Spotlight, and taken in David’s weather forecast, you really have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow! At this time of the year Spotlight has plenty of news stories, almost daily, of tourists involved with either the Mountain Rescue Team or the Coastal Rescue Service, which this week involved a rescuer falling off his harness, but still managing a successful rescue!

Next to arrive outside Blacks, just as the Photographer had at last tucked into the remains of his bread roll was a fellow motorcycle enthusiast, who had had the honour of having a whole page published in a motorcycle magazine. He very sweetly produced a photocopy of this page, which he had been carrying around in a “see through” plastic folder. There was much humming and hahing before the enthusiast moved on. The Photographer seized the moment and downed his bread roll. The two then made a thoughtful purchase of Stilton and two of Chris’s wonderful pastries for tea.

 

Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-26

Wonderful old fashioned mowing. Listen carefully and you can hear the rythmic click clack and smell the new mown grass

They escaped along the road to the Saturday coffee morning, which was held every week, in the old hall, mainly in aid of local activities. The Assistant was immediately seized with wonder. It was God given. Here it was. For two years now, she had wanted an old fashioned push mower for the back garden. All the models available new were hugely expensive so the lawn had been strimmed for the past year. This was it. It was a Husqvarna, the same as The Photographer’s big tractor mower. It was tough and involved no petrol, or other environmental pollution and it gave you exercise. It reminded her of pushing her Dad’s lawn mower while he slept after night duty. Eric, that well known recycler, effected a very quick sale and the £25 machine was carried around to the Daughter’s, where she was delighted to offer to bring it around later in her car. The Daughter was now being visited. Tea was enjoyed by the clan and the Daughter was presented with a strawberry tart for her trouble. The Daughter, who severely disliked bothering her now elderly parents, now asked her father what was to be done about the town’s new issue with recycling. She could not now recycle garden waste unless she paid £40 for some large green bags, which she had no room to store, and, anyway, this was almost the cost of her weekly organic food delivery. She would not for the world, give up an organic delivery as her health had improved markedly since she had been eating this way. She had a great deal of pride. This had to be handled carefully. There ensued a fatherly and understanding conversation. It seemed that there had been at least three tries at going to Okehampton to get a £15 recycling bin from the Council with no success. The Photographer was thoughtful. He had not taken the family “gas guzzler”,which he kept for trips to Exeter and for holidays, out for some time. He must offer. After all, he had the time to hang about when the council offices were open, unlike people who go to work, and so it was, on a weekday, that the recycling bin was delivered to the Daughters lounge while she was working. What a good job it was that father had collected the bin. It was simply huge and the car, large as it was, could barely manage it, so goodness knows what the rest of the Little Town will do. The bin is too large for most cars and far more people who live in the Little Town than the general population choose to have no car at all! The Daughter was thrilled and after mowing her lawn and with the bin on hand, she celebrated. Her garden is quite large, but it is effectively on the Moor, as it faces one of the largest and most beautiful hills. Frost and wind bite there more often than one would think. So, on a working night, having managed to grab some free time, she set off up her garden in a coat, sat, at last, on a garden chair and drank a well deserved gin and tonic!

 

Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-7

Vibrant new Green bags for Garden “Waste” collections (The photographer doesn’t understand. Why would you pay to take away all those wonderful plant nutrients and organic matter when you can compost it yourself?)

Back on the Saturday walk, it was now 3:30 pm and a morning with breakfast had become time for tea, so the two left the Daughter to get down to a working girl’s tasks, and headed for home.

Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-1

Identity Crisis Is it a horse that thinks it’s a Zebra or vice versa? (You had goats picture last month, so it’s a horse this month!)

The Photographer spared time to talk to the goats, on the way up the hill, as he contemplated a slice of the Assistant’s Dundee cake and a piece of Stilton with a cup of tea when they arrived home. Four o’clock. Just in time for tea. What a lovely day they had had.

Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-34

Mower Bragging Now we are a 2 Husqvarna family

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

Hit the road running. Don’t look back. You haven’t got time. On the Moor, it could be your last chance at everything before the evenings close in, and you can light the fire and put your feet up.

Already the rain and storms are closing in. Pack the car and get our there while you’ve still got some sun. Out on the road, it’s all begun. There are cars full to busting, children bursting at the seams, crisp packets fly and in car entertainment systems are pumping. They are all heading west. It’s some sort of natural instinct in us all to stop and stare at the Atlantic with its broad beaches, and huge blue sky. What wouldn’t you give to be there now? You can lose yourself in that wonderful place and forget everything except that overwhelming sky. We all know you are on your way and what a joy it is to share this place with people who find it impossible at any other time of the year to come to this wonderful place.

 

It’s my feeder…….now gerroff………!!!!!

What are we all doing up on the Moor? We are all incredibly busy with getting ready for winter. The birds are emptying bird feeders as fast as they can be filled. Our own modest bird feeder has become a bird club, where all types gather. The birds are all recovering from nesting. They are exhausted and irritable with one another. Yesterday, in this tiny area outside the kitchen window, there were more varieties than we could count. The pigeons have taken over the telegraph pole, which faces the kitchen, and the woodpecker has moved on, but he still visits occasionally, clearing the patch as senior bird. A jay has begun to visit and there is plenty of wing flapping and general feistiness going on. What on earth does a tit want with both a nut and seed feeder for its own exclusive use? The robin has taken to the morning visit, when a restrained, civilised, less pressured crowd are here.

Out on the fields, slurry is being spread where the silage has been taken. The plastic wrapped bails are standing in the fields ready for a time when feed is scarce . There are goats, lambs, and cattle of all types of breed, gathering pasture where they can. The rain has been so absent that grass and water is low, the farmer must be clever to switch and move his animals about as best he can.

 

Goats, but not necessarily a G.O. A. T.
(Greatest Of All Time…..No 46, The Doctor is coming now)

Those of us who grow vegetables have, at last begun to have enough to feed us, the spring frosts having taken a heavy toll, and replanting being the order of the day. We are lucky to have a stream and water butts, but the water must stretch. Only this week, the Assistant noticed the flow in the stream, which feeds its way through other gardens, and on to the mighty river, which flows through the hamlet, had virtually stopped. She got her gloves and fork and got in there, throwing weeds onto the lawn, and encouraging the land drains to continue flowing. The water began to flow to the river again and all was well. If land drains aren’t cleared the vegetable plot and some of the garden will disappear in the winter floods.

The sun burns through the earth like a blow torch and you must do all you can to save the plants and up at the house, the waste water bucket is still in the sink. You simply don’t attach a hose pipe to a borehole. Water and the electricity, which runs the pump are too precious.

Across the river, which we can see through the trees, the land is as parched as it ever gets and we all hope that the trees on the big hill don’t catch light or we’ll all be watching for smoke and ashes. The noise of chain saws is everywhere. John, our woodman and the men across the river are so hot and the demand for logs for winter wood burners so great, you wonder at their endeavour day after day at their work.

Now you must store your food in whatever way you can for it is almost everybody’s custom to at least make jam. The photographer has been very fortunate. The hot weather has enabled him to make far more pesto from his basil than usual. The fruit is made into coulis to pour over ice cream and yogurt. The Daughter, who has her own productive vegetable plot, will come on Friday evening and she will take home her Dad’s pesto and any other surplus that there is. Here you have it, amongst all this hard work there are wonderful rests, when you can get together with friends and other Moorland dwellers and enjoy all this productivity by sharing together. The Daughter will have a drink and share her week’s news and sometimes enjoy Dad’s pesto for supper. It’s a full stop to the week and the opening of a lovely weekend, with breakfast in the little town, newspapers, wine music and conviviality. All the time we are surrounded by the hills and the river and the beauty of the Moor.

Now, we are nearing the end of the season with the arrival of the Chimney Sweep without whom autumn could not happen. He is tired today. There are so many chimneys that have their own eccentric ways, with which he has been so familiar with for so long, you almost wish that he could retire, but that would never do. There are already a number of people who clean their own. Oh dear! Insurers now insist on chimney lining, the Photographer fitted the only permanent option Isokern Pumice a few years ago, but that is a story for another day.

 

Well how Close to Nature do you want to get? As happy a bee on Lavender

It can be a hard punishing lifestyle, but it is safe to say, we all love it for that. We love the work and the closeness of nature and we are all so fortunate. If you stop off in the little town on your way to the great Atlantic, everyone will make you as welcome as they possibly can. We will share everything that we can with you, our bread, our wine, our beautiful countryside. Welcome to this unique place and please enjoy it for what it is.

We would like to add a new area to your list for pleasant outings, it is on the other side of the A30 and we found it to be a delightful discovery. On our way to collect newly sparkling cleaned Ducati carburettors, from the excellent Exeter Engineering we found a little village called Morchard Bishop near Crediton, where you can stop off to have a wonderful coffee and snacks at Church Street Stores, who serve the wonderful coffee made by the Crediton Coffee Company. The roads are narrow, but manageable. The Assistant came home with various supplies for the weekend including the coffee, which can be difficult for her to get. The Assistant felt like a cowgirl, who had breezed into town and got some treat provisions, rather than that good old stir fry, which had begun to pall a little. She was reminded of meeting an acquaintance in the little town, who at the end of the season, had said, “ Thank God the vegetable season is over. We can have farm boxes again.” There’s a way to go yet!

 

A very nice man in a very nice store making a very nice coffee in very nice Morchard Bishop (Church Street Store)

We have a few more weeks to go, so we’ll sit and drink wine and beer and coffee and put the world to rights. A couple of weeks before September, we’ll get the tent out, reproof it, inspect the equipment and contemplate whether we are too old to camp, but since we met an old man of 85 and his wife camping on Mull, that excuse does not wash! Suitcases will be reached down and we will prepare for September. The Photographer will take his Celtic wife and his Celtic self hours and hours away, to the Welsh coast where they will stare out at their most familiar bit of Atlantic coast and cast pebbles into the sea. When the month is over, they will turn east and head for home before some of the most destructive breakers destroy the scene. They will come home and sit by the fire, having the rest that the whole of the Moor enjoys before the hard work of Spring.

Our new finds north of the A30 are:

Church Street Stores Morchard Bishop 

http://facebook.com/churchstreetstores 

Exeter Engineering

http://www.exeterengineering.co.uk

Tailpiece

Worth exercising your SatNav for…..if you’re serious about that restoration….because they are. Thank you Dave

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

Hot and bothered woodpecker

Summertime, here it is, even here, it is too hot. The thermometer reads 33C, it is not very accurate and it’s on the side of the tool shed, but that is good enough. Only mad pensioners, who are old and don’t care, and anyone who really has to earn a living out there is out and about. The woodpecker, who frequents the feeding station, has quite lost his head. He is attacking friends and enemies alike and is in a frenzy of heat. The donkey across the river is protesting loudly. Whatever happened to his lovely breeze. Finally, the free range chickens down by the swimming pool, have gone indoors for the sake of their sanity. Dogs drag themselves out of the river and look mournfully at their owners. They leave balls on the footpath and walk away. They simply don’t care any more. To cap it all, The Photographer, whose study has always been a restricted zone, has commandeered an old bookshelf and is sorting out books and paperwork.

The Photographer, the Assistant, and the Daughter have all managed to go on holiday together, to their favourite place in all the world; St. Davids in Pembrokeshire right bang on the Atlantic coast, where the sea is awesome and only stops when it gets to New York. What struck the trio on their trip was St. Davids’ similarity to The Little Town. The Little Town has the river, not the sea, but the ambiance is similar. This is another rural self help community. The life for St David’s farmers is hard as the wind whips off the sea and we all know how tricky fishing is. As time goes by, the people become more and more dependent on tourism for income, but there are still many examples of small businesses, which thrive despite the presence of a very unattractive supermarket built almost out of town.

 

A mobile Police station…….yes, really!

Our trip took place during the election period, when even this distance from a conurbation, (100 miles past Swansea) the mobile police station spent some time outside the polling booth, making its anti terrorist presence felt. Incidentally, when did you see a police presence in The Little Town, let alone a mobile police station? St Davids is a community, which has saved its senior school from closing. It has a rugby club, of course and a City Hall (aka the Village Hall, but they have a cathedral!) like The Little Town’s, which is constantly booked up. When we were there the craft society were reluctantly making way for the bowls club! Very similar too, was the organic presence in the town, in almost every food shop. Our favourite food outfit was Em and Nicks Bakery van; a shepherds hut with loads of good food and the best coffee. Their breakfast was a “must”. The van was staffed by keen young people, full of good ideas.

 

The very excellent and enterprising Bakehouse

What else did it have in common with the Little Town? It had trouble. Here, where there is a great need for social housing, retirement housing for the over fifties has just been built instead and it is empty. It was passed by the National Park Authority, who are supposed to promote local interests of all kinds. It is beginning to have been empty for a long time. In St Davids, there is a proposal to build a Premiere Inn there, rather than social housing. The National Park are allegedly supporting the hotel proposal, which apart from not providing housing, will take a great deal business away from individual holiday lets etc. Do we really need unelected National Park Authorities, which we actually pay for and don’t always act in our best interests? This is not usually a political blog, but there will be no blog about these wonderful places if they are allowed to die.

Back to St.Davids, where you can walk to Porthclais across the fields, watch the sea, and go to the tea shed. Brilliant! You can go a few miles outside and go to the Blue Lagoon, where the old slate works are slipping into the sea. There are houses here too that the sea will soon reclaim. It is a dramatic sight with nature at work in the most ferocious way.

 

Always a welcome at Porthclais and THE BEST sponge cake and proper good tea…….when can we get back?

 

Abereidy; Erosion threatens a house now perilously close to the edge

The Cathedral in this small town is an amazing place. It is buried right down in the middle of the town, so that you can’t see it from any distance. This was to protect it form the Vikings, who also managed to reach this remote corner! This is the simplest of Cathedrals. It does not have much stained glass, but it has huge windows, which let in the light. Even the pews are not permanently fixed. Every now and then, the pew gaps have to be measured with a wooden gauge because the floor slopes and the pews move, so they have to be readjusted. It is a very friendly place with many interesting bits and pieces about it. If you want a good sermon, this is the place to get one. You won’t sleep through it here. Your bones will rattle and your brain will revolve, especially if you had a good night at The Farmers Arms. Incidentally, The Assistant, who is not a good sleeper, found that simple chime on the hour from the church tower, the very best sleeping draught that you can have.

It was his place so we should end here with St Davids own words. Having led the simple life, and brought Christianity here, even if you are not religious, his dying words were good ones, “Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things that you have heard and see me do.” The words of a brave and simple man, which suit both our remote and simple communities so well.

The End.
A traditional design of Pembrokeshire gate, now disappearing

 

The Photographer’s snapshots can be seen on Flickr (follow link) or the serious stuff is on Artfinder (follow link)

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

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