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By The Photograher’s Assistant

 

New Street in the little town is long and leads to the Moor. Those who dwell in this street are upright citizens of the little town. Many of them are socially minded and drive many of the community efforts. There are retired folk, young families, artists, musicians, a dress maker etc.
It is a hub of quiet industry and community. What occurred during one night during the cold weather was disturbing and extraordinary.

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Fiesty Chicken

 

The Daughter and her Husband (qualifications for residency; major movers and shakers on the swimming pool committee plus the daughter’s known artistic skills) were dozing in bed, completely secure in the silence of this old narrow street. In the distance there was an unusual noise. It was strange and the daughter was slightly disturbed. She turned over. This was always such a quiet place. Just as she had turned over, there was a piercing scream echoing down the street. It was terrible. They would have to see what was going on. There was another heartrending scream and she flew out of bed. She opened the window. Although she had lived in the remote countryside all her life, she had never seen anything like this. There on the narrow, confining road was a chicken screaming its head off, sending up the alarm. The chicken was a feisty one. It was running for all it was worth. It was brave and bold and wasn’t going to give up. Fast behind it, its feet clearly heard; its feet pattering on the road, was the predator. Assaulting the chicken, like a heavyweight prize fighter stood the largest badger she had ever seen in her life! The badger was light on its feet for such a heavy animal. The chicken was fighting its corner and it was running and you could hear the wild badger’s heavy paws. He was going to have this bird for an early breakfast. How dare it put up such a good fight. It was incredibly brave. The Daughter was admiring the chicken’s impudence when it made a wrong move and was killed with a final blood curdling scream. The silence was terrible. All you could hear was the badger’s paws as it made it’s way home with its breakfast. There was sticky blood, the consistency of glue, spread wide across the street. Badgers were clearly becoming resident in the little town. The husband had met a couple outside his van and was grateful that the dog had not seen them.The Daughter and her husband set off for work with a heavy heart. They had really thought that the chicken had stood a chance.

Other interlopers during the really cold weather had been the horses off the Moor, who had been helping themselves to the more verdant plants in people’s gardens. People who were missing their weekend pint, and those who possessed skis had skied down for a trip to the pubs. This second batch of snow had taken no prisoners. On the Sunday, the husband had set off in his van to help a friend, who had lost a front door in the flooding on the coast. On his way an unexpected blizzard had blown up and his van had an accident. The snow had suddenly become deep. His van had been written off and the Daughter had set off to rescue him. She had rung home, and the Assistant was worried. After the call, she went outside to top up the bird feeders. Now, there was a real squall outside and she was blown from side to side. The snow was in her mouth and hair, and even though she was just outside the house, she could see nothing. She got straight on to the Daughter, but she was already in trouble and had parked her little Mini at the side of the road.

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Curved Snow……really…….look closely

What to do? She knew that the Daughter had taken supplies with her, but she had forgotten the shovel! The next moment there was another call from the Daughter, who had been rescued by some garage men with a 4×4. They had taken her home and she was grateful. They did not charge her anything. (Thank you Central Garage) They were pleased with their rescue. The Husband, meanwhile, had walked and hitched the ten miles home, so they were fortunate to both be safe. The next day, Andrew, from New Street and the swimming pool committee, set out with his van and a set of snow tyres and he and the Husband rescued the Mini. Deep sigh of relief all around. During this period of snow, the Photographer had put a powerful heater in the bore hole shed so this time there was even water!

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A tasty bit of ivy to welcome us home

Other news for the month should include the return of Duncan’s Guernsey cows to the little hamlet of Murchington. These characters had been much missed for a couple of farming seasons. Other animals had taken their place. There had been different cows, sheep and goats, but it had just not been the same without the Guernsey. One day, on their walk, the Photographer and the Assistant, fortunately with a camera, which was meant for photographing buzzards, came upon the great move. A huge number of black and white Friesian cattle were being driven off the field on the hill. The field was definitely being evacuated. The cattle were reluctant to go and the drive was difficult. The two had to help! They continued their walk and through the hedge at the top of their part of the Moor they felt that they could see something familiar. There they were. Feisty and as curious as ever, the Guernsey were definitely OUT. They are distributed now throughout the fields and are as clever and cunning as ever. There is already evidence of their main hobby, the means of escape, with various pallets in place in hedge gaps to stop them. If you walk up the hill from our cottage, you can meet them at the gate to the field, exploring the gate mechanism with some interest and they are always ready for a chat. They are so sociable!

 

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The last roundup. Friesians on their way out

So the month has gone on. There has been seed planting in the propagator, a visit to Totnes,fish and chips at Graylings in North Tawton, a tea with the Artist at the Forge. Wonderful breakfast cooked by Chris at Blacks, a local car service by Andrew at Crannafords, huge progress, despite the weather, on the new school building and on the site for the new houses, which are so needed. More of all this next month.

Finally, we cannot leave this month’s blog without mentioning the terrible toll on the community of the loss of so many of our citizens this winter. It cannot be denied that this has been a terrible winter for funerals, bringing so much sadness to the Moor and its surrounds. There are missing faces everywhere, and we shall be sad for some time to come. We are allowed to dwell on the loss of our people at such a time. You can’t always be expected to put a happy face on it!

We have a little spring weather now. At last a new season is here! When the sun comes out, it is so unbelievably warm and wonderful.

Wherever you are, whoever you are in our little community, as Dave Allen used to say, “May your God go with you!” See you next month with tales of spring and of hope. For one thing, the swimming pool will be open. The Daughter is cleaning and painting the children’s swimming pool. It’s always her favourite job!

Dartmoor Diary May 2016-233

Summer’s nearly here……..Chagford Pool opens this month!!!

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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By The Photographer’s Assistant

It was a really cold week, but the night of February 28th was particularly cold. We had friends to supper and had a jolly time. The heating had been on and we had left the dining room, to sit in front of the roaring log burner, because of the cold, in spite of the kitchen range pumping away non stop. They left later to drive home through the lanes, on a beautiful cold winter night, not seeing another vehicle all the way.

We left the stair door open so the fire would warm the bedroom, and went to bed. There were two heavy Scottish wool blankets on top of the duvet. We slept through the arrival of the snow. At 7.00 am, we were awoken by the phone, it was the Daughter, driving on the A30, going to work to cancel appointments and collect homework. The Assistant made a cup of tea with water that was already in the kettle, but she needed more water. She turned the tap on. There was no water. Absolutely NO WATER. The water had frozen the week before and the heater in the borehole shed had been turned on. Now it had failed to make an impression. The daughter rang to see if there was anything that we needed. Quick as a flash, the daughters husband arrived with bottled water, milk and coffee. How well he knew that his mother in law would not function without coffee! He wanted to emphasis that if this went on, we would be welcome at their house in the little town. He drove for home as fast as he could through the driving snow.

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A frozen borehole. Well so would you be left out in that all night.

On the radio somewhere around 8.00, a weather RED ALERT was declared and this was transmitted to the Daughter who was already back on the A 30, which was literally filling up with snow with multiple snow ploughs trying to cope. She had not done any shopping. She had got straight in her car and headed home.

At the Assistant’s home, the Photographer had put his foot down. On the first snowy winter in Dartmoor, the Assistant had had a cavalier attitude towards the snow. She had caught a cold and had an athsma attack. The Photographer had rung the surgery, and Dr. Sarah Wollaston (now MP for Totnes) had arrived having driven and walked through the snow. She had been delightful and they had felt awful! The Assistant was now banned from all outside activity. She was sad, because the Photographer was having to carry buckets of water, for toilet flushing , etc. Up from the stream. There were two grades of water. Drinking water was bottled. Second grade water was not very grubby and placed in the range for a boil up so washing up could take place.

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Deep and crisp and even

The Assistant secretly swore at the snow through the window and took on a real sulk. Yes, of course it was scenic, but you could only look at it, and she could see the Photographer having to feed her birds through the kitchen window. Happily, her mind turned to other snowy events.

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Special extra food for the birds

When she had met the Photographer it was at a Valentines Ball and she remembered how only a couple of weeks of acquaintance later, he had taken her home to Surrey. He had wanted some company and she had wanted to get away from a social history essay. He had a battered Land Rover, which seemed to be freezing cold and have a lot of “character”. On arrival, his mother was waiting. The Assistant felt a bit scruffy before this permed and heavily winter coated lady. Even her glasses sparkled, she was so smart. The puppy Labrador was very charming. Cups of tea were taken and the mother sized the student up. What a strange creature her son had brought home. He had only just finished seeing his cousin. What a lovely match that would have been! This was a very unhealthy specimen. She had nursed the victims of Dunkirk. She was highly experienced. This was a really sickly creature. It weighed nothing. Exhaustion was clearly not a stranger to it. Its hair could have been a honey blonde, but it was lank and lifeless, yet it really looked sparky and as if it could really defend itself. She would have to go very carefully. The Assistant was summing things up for herself. Here were a mother and son clearly riven by grief. They had only lost a father and a husband a month or so ago. The Labrador was meant to replace the missing member of the family and the mother might be too old to look after it. How old was his mother! She must be in her sixties. Blimey, She had had a baby in her mid forties! Think about that all you mums in your forties. Back then this was extraordinary. The valley they were situated in was known as the Little Alpine district. It was very high up and was full of picturesque snow and beautiful views. The Land Rover took them all out to the cinema, where the mother wore a silk scarf over her fur hat and they watched Dr. Zhivago. The Assistant never forgot that the best way to secure a Land Rover was to take out the rotor arm. The Photographer taught her how! Eventually, the Assistant found that she had been issued with Stan, the missing member of the family’s silver serviette ring as she had the same initials. She had actually replaced him, her and the dog. It was very strange, because poor Stan was hardly ever mentioned. He was put in an English middle class box in their heads. It was all too painful!

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“Battered” my foot!..A Little Gem

Another snowy time that the Assistant had enjoyed was as a child. Once again disciplined about the cold, she was allowed to walk to school which was a mile and a half away. She lived almost on the Great Western Railway. It was at the foot of the garden. Sometimes in the summer, their garden would catch light with the hot coals and the fire brigade would come and her father would swear at the loss of vegetables! The winter was great because the snow by the track and at the side of the road would be piled feet high as the two piles met and it was like being somewhere foreign. She was given sugar sandwiches for energy in her satchel. It was great. When she got home, her father would give her hot tea and wrap her up in a big towel to dry out, while he shaved in the sink ready for work. He would never miss his shift at the hospital. He was senior so he took the night shift and he walked through the snow no matter how bad it was.

Later, there was sledging with her children and living remotely so they could stay home and didn’t have to go to school, but could enjoy it all. When the Assistant had the rattiest car on earth, which must have been illegal, she got caught out. It snowed while the children were at school. The school rang and the Assistant had to act outraged to get someone to drop them off in a 4 X 4.

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Fun in the snow…1980s style

There were so many adventures to remember. The Daughter had once been stranded on a motorway whilst working away. She had always been taught to take a shovel and food with her, but that didn’t save her. She spent the night on the motorway and was so furious when she got back to Devon that she just didn’t want to discuss it. Now, she takes a sleeping bag with her as well. She is a good snow baby. She should be!

There it is. The Assistant loved all the pictures of sledging and snowmen, but she couldn’t go out. She was allowed out once to have tea at a neighbours, but that was a special exemption! The Daughter told her that she saw people skiing on New Street. They were going to the pubs in the little town. That really went down badly with the Assistant.

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….and then it rained.

There were many acts of kindness, but the Assistant would especially like to thank David R. Who brought her and the Photographer a weekend newspaper, David K. Who offered to do some shopping and dear J. and T. Who stayed in touch to see if all was well. How can we thank the Daughter and her husband for walking over when the snow was at it worst with the dog, cake and lots of cheer! They were exhausted. We are so fortunate.

To finish, we thought that you would love this picture of Chris, who does loads of cooking at Blacks and Vincent, who, of course is french and cooks up a storm at The Forge. England were defeated unexpectedly by the French at rugby, and after some banter, the two got together to share their love of the game. The Entente Cordial has never been dead, in or out of the EU! Certainly not in the little town!

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Just wait……next time revenge will be ours!!!!

You might like to know that as Vincent and Chris are not standing in the snow, the rooks are nesting in Mill Street and the night has assumed a noisy jungle like existence SPRING IS HERE.
Above all, the Assistant has been allowed out and is about to start forking the vegetable patch.
HOORAH!!!

Footnotes

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In spite of the special feeding and extra water, there were still some casualties. Very sad.

 

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It’s an icicle….but then you knew that anyway

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 in the queue at the Post Office. He was in the small town next to his Little Town. This town had managed to keep its Post Office. It had everything you could need in such a place. There were beautiful and witty cards, pens to write with and everything required to make postal communication easy. There was even a special place to write letters and cards. The Photographer had chosen a small Jiffy bag and was pleased with it. God, literally, knew where his The Assistant had got to. He simply didn’t know where she had strayed off to. What could he say? It was January. For the past large number of decades, she had never been quite right in January. It was the eighth day of the month, so there was a long way to go before his purgatory would be over. He sighed. This was a case in point. He had spotted this charming little woolly hat at Solva Woollen mill in October. It had lovely sheep around the edge and a little liner so that it wouldn’t irritate the delicate and tiny head of their great nephew. It was now freezing cold outside and there had been no sign of the hat moving out of the Assistant’s study. It must be posted. The poor little chap lived in Derbyshire. Goodness knows how cold it was there! He would look so smart in it! It was incredible! But The Assistant could just drift along! Where had she gone now?

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Lost, but not forgotten.

 

The Photographer left the Post Office, and strolled nonchalantly up past the shops. There she was, clutching Special Offer toilet rolls in the Co-op without a care in the world.

As she was one of the world’s most irrational drivers, he had decided it would be best for him to drive her to the dentist in Newton Abbot. The time seemed to mean nothing. He made a grab for her and the toilet rolls and installed them both in the car. He sighed. He felt fortunate that the road was quite clear of traffic and the Big Beast did its thing and got them there with time to spare. This was the problem. She was now in full flow inside B & Q, where numerous pots were being transferred to a basket. If he wasn’t careful and able to catch up, he would be left behind with an enormous bill.

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Like a polar bear, the Big Beast waits to emerge from hibernation……..and Go To The Dentist??? Really such indignity

 

Fortunately, time had caught up with them and he was able to whisk her at the Dentist’s and return to the store for serious research.

It was strange and deeply suspicious that anyone should be so cheerful on attending the dentist’s waiting corridor. She had been humming along. It was odd. He returned to his spend prevention programme. Meanwhile the Assistant was inside sitting in the corridor on a plastic chair waiting to be called. Dreaming of private dentistry while the Photographer was busy, she waited to be seen. With any luck, her treatment would not be approved of by the Photographer and she could sign up, and avoid all this dreariness, by going to the Little Town dentist, where you could read posh magazines. She dreamt of watching those lovely videos of one of the Dimbleby brothers , walking around large Scottish estates with Prince Charles. She loved the Crown series and quite fancied the life of a royal. Indeed, when her mother in law had grown old, she had been visited by the dentist in her own home. Imagine that! No driving or using the jolly old bus pass! She had been so far away that she was shocked to find herself in the dentist’s surgery. A charming man was holding a conversation with her. He was foreign and very good looking and had been clearly practising his British conversation skills about the weather. The young woman dentist, however, was having none of this nonsense. She stared into the wizened mouth of the victim. She stood up and sighed. “So, how much coffee?” She looked ready to deliver a good telling off. “ How much wine?” She looked sceptically down at the patient. The patient thought it best to lie. “ I see!” The dentist gave her Assistant a knowing look. “ We shall have some X rays.” The victim got the all clear and was grateful to step outside. Perhaps the X rays would be expensive, but not so. Twenty pounds and a few odd pennies was all that was required. The Photographer was delighted. “She had your number then”, he said as he ushered her into the car. Prince Philip and Gordonstone came to mind as the Assistant was driven home via a strictly controlled visit to Ben’s Farm shop at Riverford. The Photographer had a lot of paint to pay for and had no time for grand culinary ideas.

January, it seemed to the Photographer, might never come to an end. The Assistant was always overly excited about Christmas and incredibly bored after the event. Only a week or so ago, the Assistant had invited one of her best female friends around for the day. He had been able to retreat to pile up wood for the coming dreadful weather. The Assistant was excited about her friends arrival. She had a special chicken dinner in and was planning to play a new game with her.
The Photographer stood aside as the friend waved her chauffeur away. She came in and displaying her special silk coat, delicate nails and trendy heart shaped collar, demanded early morning coffee with Winalot Biscuits. She fixed the Photographer with a withering look. How poorly he had built this fire! How cold it was in this room today. She gave the Assistant a sympathetic look. She, of course, had her people well organised. As soon as one of her servants sat down, she had them up again. The Photographer felt threatened by so much feminine talk and downed his coffee in one and was gone. The four pawed friend spent the entire day cuddling the AGA and the log burner in turn while lecturing the Assistant about turning her life around. Surely, a man like the Photographer must recognise a girl’s need for treats in a depressing month like January? She had her people constantly topping up the fire, and feeding her with bits of chicken and light luxury snacks. A girl needs pampering, especially as her age begins to tell. The two spent the whole day telling one another how important they each were. Eventually, the dog’s people turned up to collect her and she was having no waiting about, not when a champagne tea was waiting for her. The Photographer fitted the dog’s delicate model like body into the car and waved with relief at her departure. The Daughter, who was one of the servants and the dog’s “owner” looked apologetically at her father as she raced to chauffeur the dog home.

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Leaving Colonsay at Dawn………will we return this year?

 

Last Wednesday, there had been a foursome at the Three Crowns. The Assistant’s favourite coffee shop was shut, and it was too cold to sit outside Blacks so luxury coffee and cake was being taken. The four friends were pleased to see one another and the Photographer had been pleased to see his friend after a while. Christmas always seemed to disrupt the flow of Moorland friendships. Lots of Moorlanders spent a happy time away with friends and relatives. Sometimes, friends came to the Moor and enjoyed the wonderful fresh air. Only that morning the Assistant had heard someone’s visiting sister being introduced to a friend. The foursome were enjoying their conversation when the subject of holidays arose. The Photographer, who had a particularly busy year ahead of him, mostly consisting of special projects thought up by the Assistant, was disturbed to hear the Assistants plans. It was true that their journeys might not start until September, the Assistant thought, but a whole month would be required for what she had in mind. The Daughter had suggested that they start a journey to Scotland with passing through the Peak District, one of her mother’s favourites, after all mum did so love Chatsworth and rarely took breakfast elsewhere when she was there. The Photographer made a mental note to censor his daughter when next he saw her. The Assistant continued with her plans. They would go on to Northumbria. She had loved Robson Green’s account of the delights of his home county and they would certainly have to visit Lindisfarne to see its famous bible, though that would not be for long as the daughter had said it would be a little too cold for her. Onwards then, into Scotland, where they would travel on up to the West coast and enjoy the wild life. Of course, the Photographer would take her to her favourite island hotel and wine and dine her. Sharon’s place on the Welsh border would be a good rest on the way home The Photographer felt for his wallet and let out a sigh. The friends were silent. This was probably all the Assistant’s fancy. The Photographer knew it was not. His entire plan for the year was to get his motor bike back on the road before his knees gave in entirely. He thought that rather than have a coffee with his cake, he might have a stiff whisky. She had been talking about making more plans later along with some of John H’s home made wine. He had better hide the bottle, or he would completely lose control of the situation!

Image 11-01-2018 at 15.20

It’s a matter of priorities……..apparently

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 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

 

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

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