Down by the Riverside

By the Photographer’s Assistant


We are writing this blog on the sad day of the Manchester bombing.

Many years ago, The Photographer and the Assistant went shopping in Guildford, where we passed a pub called The Horse and Groom. We were in the habit of having a beer when we were out, but decided to go home and most unusually, have tea instead. When we arrived home, it was to an anxious Photographer’s mother ( no mobile phones ). This normally stable elderly ex nurse was by now in the most terrible state. She had had the Assistant’s father on the phone, who was also in a terrible state, asking where his daughter was. This was the day of an IRA bombing, which was simply indescribably dreadful. You could not believe the carnage and our parents were beyond hysteria. Today, is the day of the Manchester bombing and none of us ever got over the Bombing of the Horse and Groom. Our feelings could never have been described by the most literate of journalists. The long term effect, even though we weren’t injured, was for all of us, including, our children, to never go out without saying where we have gone and today, to never forget our mobile phones, even when we go a short distance. We will never forgot the day our parents nearly imploded and for the whole of the rest of the IRA campaign no one from our family went to London.
We couldn’t take the risk for all that pain. As the mayor of Manchester said it was an act of pure Evil, which has taken place. Obviously, now, our thoughts are with everyone involved in the Manchester bombing.

It is Monday, so, of course, we have our usual bacon butty at Blacks. People stop and speak as they walk past. Steve, a local artist ( we have quite a few artists in town), walks past on his way to training. Bank Holiday Monday will be the day of The Two Hills Race, held every year on the same day. Steve has a favourite pair of running shoes, which are worn out. The race is only a week away. What to do? The answer is to run in his trainers, which will be almost like running bare foot. We have met quite a few runners out on the hills. We live in the knowledge that while we love our walking, neither of us are up to this one. A huge number of the community are running. It is a tough gruelling race, not easy on rough terrain. It is a sign of unity and the true grit which exists in the community. It is pretty admirable stuff. It is heartening to see parents who we knew as much younger people, running their hearts out alongside their children, and friends sacrificing a good place to run alongside less able people.

We are walking to the river, which is a much frequented walk for dog walkers. On the way, we stop at The Courtyard and pick up our treat of the week, two organic bars of chocolate, which are the evening after supper treat of two squares each. Everyone wants to know if we are well. We have been gardening so much that we have not been in. They like to keep an eye on their more elderly customers! We must look bad today, but it was a good weekend!

Shortly, we meet a truck with a long load. The driver is tearing his hair out, almost literally and everybody is trying to help him back up an almost impossible load. He needs to get up the narrowest of lanes, and despite the queues, which are building, he is persuaded to take a break. He has a cigarette at the side of the road and we walk on. No one is swearing and cursing at the poor man. It is sad that no thought goes into the loads that pass through such a small community. Several times, we have watched as giant log lorries pass through and nearly rip the sign of the Chagford Inn. The National Park seems to be oblivious to the damage that will eventually be done somewhere in the town. On our tour of an American National Park all vehicles were stopped at the entrances and large vehicles had to park on the perimeter. It is a tribute to the local townspeople that they do not lose their tempers and do their best to help. This month the daughter arrived an hour and a half late for work on just one day due to one of these hold ups.


Inch perfect

On we go, nodding to acquaintances as we go. We amble past the school, which will shortly be replaced with a brand new, up to date building. You can hear excited chatter amongst the children as you go past. We pass a group of houses, which have been built for the elderly. The problem here is that the elderly don’t want them. Some wag has painted a slogan across the houses. It is bright red and points out the need for social houses in our community. Oh dear! This is going to see some controversy.

We walk past the old garage, which we all miss. It will shortly become a building site. The old architect’s office is empty too, and has been for some time.

Down the hill we go towards the river. Here we see a couple of cheery sights. On our right, out in the sunshine after the dreaded chicken flu lock up of the winter, the free range chickens, cavorting in the sunshine, wings flapping, they seem to be racing one another around and around the field.


Big Essential and Expensive!!

Also, on our right, the arrival of great works at the swimming pool. The photographer makes his way down and we are so pleased to see that funds have been raised to start the essential and environmentally friendly work. A further £10K is needed to complete the Waste Water Treatment project, and you can support it by donating to Chagford Swimming Pool link here. No committee can have worked harder to make this possible. The pool opens at 2pm on Sat 27th May with free swimming and free hot chocolate for swimmers…..enjoy! Hopefully, now we have the sunshine, people will soon be able to take a dip. Not being a swimmer myself, I hope to go along with a book and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere, soak up the sun and indulge in one of Pam’s delicious treats at the kiosk. When the pool opens any tension from the winter will be drowned in the water as the community soaks up the real arrival of summer.


Canadas on patrol

The banks of the river are covered in wild flowers and the fields are the greenest of green. All that recent rain has filled the worryingly shallow pools and side streams and the river is once more a mighty one. As we proceed along we open a new gate into each field and in the distance we can see the rust red of the Community Farm barn. Now, just by our side, two Canada Geese sail majestically along. We are still and they are not bothered. We meet a spaniel, who can swim all the way across the river to the other side. His master sighs. He is finding the exuberance of the animal just a bit too much on a Monday morning. We pass the old Mill with its glorious gardens and we are back on the road, over the bridge and in to the woods. The woods are cool and shady. We have bluebells, squirrels and a general panoply of wild life. Recently, we came face to face with a buzzard. We were both alarmed and frightened!


Springer takes some light exercise

At the bottom of the woods, we meet up with a pleasant stream and small water outlet, to which someone has attached a golden image of Aslan. This has been here some time. It is an amazing place to find it. No one has removed it, because it actually looks kind of appropriate!



We cross the stream and into a field, where we are pleased to find the sheep, who have returned to the field with their lambs. How lovely for us, who have the field that they wonder into, right at the back of our garden. We talk to the sheep and they usually answer back. Amazing! It was a joke to start with, but now, it is real.

We reach our home in short order and take a fresh pot of coffee, down to our own stream into the river, and think how fortunate we are to live here on Dartmoor, and we think of those poor people in Manchester and their parents on the telephone.


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

  1. Neil Tappenden said:

    Thanks Guys

  2. John painter said:

    You paint a wonderful picture with words, wish I have your skill.

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