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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

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!

 

Aslan

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

It was, alas, almost the end of Easter. The Photographer and his Assistant stood at the entrance to the back field, where the hamlet’s inhabitants had created a well worn path along the uneven field and down its steep hill to the stream below. They were watching in silence as the blonde head with the woolly hat and the bobbing tail disappeared from view. It had been a lovely day with good food and wine, but it was over. The daughter and her dog had disappeared from view leaving the two alone on the hillside, thinking of what to watch on the telly as they gently snoozed the evening away. All around the hamlet guests had left or were leaving, some to go back abroad, and some to big cities. The whole place had the feeling of desertion and solitude. Never mind, it was only two weeks to the next Bank Holiday. Who knows who would arrive then?

Back to normal and no more food, probably forever, from the look of the weighing scales.

The next morning, the Photographer was surveying the sky for much needed rain when over it flew in the most casual of manners. It was that wonderful throw back to an imagined dinosaur age. We had a heron in the hamlet, flying straight over the houses. What a magnificent sight, not so for anyone with a pond, of course, but just glorious all the same. He was the shape of a modern plane, with those giant legs drifting majestically behind. He appeared every morning for two or three days, flying from the river and on to an unknown destination. He was followed a few days later by a hovering helicopter. It flew around and around. It was out of sight at first and all sorts of thoughts came to mind. Did someone need the Air Ambulance, a frequent sight heading for the little town’s school playing fields, but it wasn’t that. It had gone on for too long. Possibly, someone was missing or injured higher up on the Moor. The Photographer got his long lens out and, there was much relief when the helicopter turned out to be surveying the electricity cables for any faults. An amazing display of flying took place. You just couldn’t take your eyes off it. What skill!

Delicate flying……and all to check our electricity cables are up to scratch

 

Having surveyed the water butts, and giving regard to the bore hole, the household embarked on what was usually a summer occupation; water conservation. The blue bucket was lowered into the kitchen sink and stayed there. Washed hands, washed vegetables, coffee grouts and old tea and anything that wasn’t toxic was now carried into the garden on a rota basis. This water kept most of the plants alive, including the lovely pots of tulips, which had bloomed for some weeks now. Next the Photographer kept a daily eye on the oil tank read out. They had turned the oil off, except for heating the water, some weeks ago, the oil price had begun to be prohibitive. The mark had been on three for weeks, but now, it was down to two. The oil supplier arrived in a day and filled the tank. This tankful had just lasted 14 months, which was pretty economic. The installation by Vince, the plumber, had worked. He was determined to help the Photographer install a condensing boiler system, no matter what problems arose, granite walls etc. He had succeeded and they had gained an extra three months oil usage out of this system. All of this meant nothing to the Assistant, who just loved the steam, which came out of the outlet and reminded her of her obsession with the steam train. She thought that the disturbance was worth it just for that!

Tulip Black Parrot..in the rain

 

There may have been a shortage of rain, but, here was the perfect excuse for all types of work out of doors. Compost, which had been left for a year in its bin was now released and the Photographer turned to with a will. He sieved and sieved, until a cup of tea was really necessary. The two looked down on the compost in awe. Usually, the compost was mainly straw and the clearings from the garden stream Piled up and left for a year. It had never been sifted. They could not believe that the new bin used for kitchen waste, egg shells, waste veg, etc, could produce such a fine product. They decided to bag it up and keep it for very special plantings.

A fine product…….compost to die for!

 

There were some spare tomatoes in the greenhouse and the Photographer could not waste them, so he put them up on the little town’s Facebook page and they were gone almost instantly. He particularly liked seeing a small child and her mother carrying a couple away. This page is the life blood of the town. Everything that you can think of goes on this site.

Next, the Photographer turned his attention to dismantling and rebuilding a new smaller fruit cage on the veg plot. They both agreed that this would be sensible considering their age! They did, however remember various incidents in the cage. The cage, which was supposed to keep out deer, rabbits and birds, did no such thing. The local squirrel and his family would be regular destroyers of the netting, particularly, around the vulnerable edge of the frame. Naturally, any bird could now enter at will. The Assistant, being the most illogical creature on earth, would stand and just scream at the cage. Marcus, one of the most famous local spaniels, was then in his youth, and was severely distressed at the site of his mistress screaming at animals that he could not get in and catch. What was to be done? A friend offered what appeared to be the only possible solution with strawberries now disappearing almost before they were ripe. He offered a squirrel trap. It would be humane and the squirrel would be caught and could be released onto some other part of the Moor. Yes, that was naive, but we were just starting out! The trap was laced and baited with strawberries. Marcus danced about so much that it was felt he could destroy the cage. He was put indoors. A squirrel was soon captured, but it became obvious that anyone picking up the cage would be severely wounded. A fully licensed shot gun was produced by a helpful local, as per DEFRA guidelines, but do not worry, the squirrel bounced about so much that it wasn’t worth letting a shot off. Anyway, we south easterners weren’t used to that sort of practical solution and weren’t keen. It was decided to let the squirrel out in order to have a rethink. The spaniel appeared, having worked his way out to see where his mistress had got to. He gave his mistress a brave look and barked, Leave it to me, and disappeared over the horizon after the squirrel. Death was swift and the squirrel was swiftly disposed of without ceremony. What can we say?! Marcus was always keen to help in these matters. His love of squirrel chasing never subsided. In his old age, he would cry when he missed one. He is buried very close to where the squirrels now roam free. Poor Marcus! Incidentally, he came close to being the Best Dog in the West, but never quite made it. The best dog, when he was alive, was a resident of Wiltshire called Bilbo, a gentle man amongst dogs, not given to chasing vermin and always an adoring and not a deserting animal to his mistress. Currently, the Best Dog in the West is Finn, another fine and loyal dog. You might think that the Daughters dog, the ever glamorous Marilyn Monroe of the dog world, would qualify, but her appetite for anything, particularly whole lemon drizzle cakes, has ruled her out.

Dear Marcus…..squirrel wouldn’t melt in his mouth!

 

We are all hoping that this weekend does not produce the madness of the last Bank Holiday where the speed limit on the Moor was continually broken. The top speed on the monitor was 117 miles an hour. This is not a holier than thou attitude, as you know the Photographer is a devout petrolhead, but hit one of the many animals frequently sleeping in the middle of the road, hit it fast and you are dead. That means the Air Ambulance has an unnecessary call out and lots of people are sad. Please be careful! That said, have a happy holiday, out there in the wild, perhaps take a walk with Dartmoor’s Daughter, not to be confused with our very own “The Daughter” whose main preoccupation is now raising funds to help the Chagford Swimming Pool open on time this season.

Watch this space for more news on The Pool

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

 

 

 

Go for it young lamb……the world is your…um…er..field?

 

A sudden influx of people; people you thought had moved or died, or simply disappeared. They are startled, and irritated, annoyed with the weather. This is always difficult. They need to resettle. They have become used to the other world, the one outside the National Park. Surely, there would have been a new post office by now? The bank is closing. The little town has lost stuff that really belonged to the outside world. You have come back from where you were to Brexit land and you had forgotten all about it. The world changes, and who knows, it might be for the better. It is the Moor that is the Centre of this world and to illustrate the point, here is a lamb in extreme weather standing bravely on a rock and facing it down. It is alive and new and bold. The picture was taken during a walk, on which no one needed any money. A hot cup of tea was taken after, at home. In the background of the picture is Castle Drogo, awaiting the vast hordes that will visit over the holiday. We would like to wish them all a Happy Easter as we are not afraid to say that we are Christians, and we would like them all, especially the children, to have a nice time, out here in the wilderness amidst the absurdity of a late nineteenth century castle. Enjoy! There is brilliant exploration to be done.

Thinking of living in the wilderness, we do have shops and boxes and loads of animals. Here are a few local visitors to the village hall, who are leaving, finding the morning lecture a little tedious. They had hoped for a lecture on types of moorland pasture land, but this was not to be the case.

Well that was pretty boring

Outside the Deli, brave local cyclists are having one last round of decent refreshment before the first arduous and chilly outing to the Moor for a couple of nights wild camping. Yes, you can wild camp on the Moor as long as you are not in view of the road. It’s free and it is a real adventure. Soon a child’s group from Torquay are going to camp up there. What a brilliant idea!

As promised guys…..did the ride go well?

The postman has arrived with our monthly magazines. They are a really big treat and will take the whole month to read, it is our way of circumventing no shop in the hamlet. Later in the week, our daughter’s order will arrive from Riverford. Being busy at work and loving healthy food, her shopping is all sorted by them, and arrives delivered by a girl we have got to know, in a van that is small enough for our lanes. It is The Daughter’s big treat of the week. The boxes arrive with lots of ideas on a sheet in with the boxes, and she loves the recipes that Guy Watson sends. It is all very personal and what we call Very Devon! If you live in the little town, Chagfarm and Chagfood are currently registering new members and they have drop off points for their food, so you too can avoid big town shopping.

 

 

Other brands are available………including Chagfood

We have Spar for lots of other necessary shopping. It is an essential shop. The Photographer has just been in to Bowdens and picked up Gro Bags for the greenhouses, no need to go to a Garden Centre for them.

The other plants are desperate to go outside, so there is lots of fleece about. Especially, as the asparagus has suddenly, decided to appear, in this weather!. It is French and has never quite understood the climate.

C’mon chaps..time to go out into the big bad world

 

Today’s specials board outside the Courtyard Cafe has many delicious organic soups and a message, “First foal has arrived & so have the swallows. Spring is here.”

 

Not just foals and lambs but bunnies too

 

 

At the same end of town, there is a notice, put up by a householder, apologising for any inconvenience caused by his building work.

There is a notice in the bread shop window as follows

 

So now you know

 

Sweep away winter with one of these excellent brooms.

There’s no cliche like an old cliche…..new broom sweeps…

They are from Bowdens, of course
Get on the phone, or on the internet and order what you haven’t got for Easter. Spar has got cash if you need it, and lots of stuff too. We have an excellent new wine shop, which amongst most other shops here, takes contactless. Leave the big guys behind with their rude ways and general lack of care. Go native. You know you really want to, even if it can only be for Easter or the holiday season.

 

GENERAL NOTICES.

The Chagford junior cricket club has season tickets up for grabs at £35 a throw. There are loads of notices about this. Follow the link to their Facebook page

The Chagford school is collecting money for books. Go on. Give a child a world of wonder for very little money.

Boreholes and wells are commonplace round here so we know how important they are. Chagford PCC are buying a well for a village in Mali, and need just a bit more funding. Show you care too. Phone Tony Milton on 07834 665122 to talk about Joliba

The Chagford swimming pool committee needs help with getting ready for the season. This one really punches above its weight in such a small place. Visitors use it and if you have a business,they are probably going to come in to town and use you.Make the Daughter’s busy life easier. Go on. Volunteer

 

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

This Special edition of the Dartmoor Diary Blog is devoted to the glories of the Bacon and Egg roll or buttie, and the amazing variation of interpretation of this simple recipe by some of the great cafes and shops around the Moor.

There is no intention to rank the food or to discuss prices, just to celebrate some brilliant cooks who feed us lucky Moorlanders. Every interpretation is special, and the different styles and very high quality of them all is what triggered this blog.

So, starting with our very local Blacks Deli in Chagford.

 

Blacks finest Bacon and Egg baguette

 

Specification: Bacon Baguette with 2 Eggs
Where: Blacks Deli, 28 The Square, Chagford, Newton Abbot TQ13 8AB
Website: http://www.blacks-deli.com/
When: Weekdays: “Early till 10 a.m.”

This is our every Monday breakfast and Chris has evolved his recipe for easy eating as well as great taste. There are choices of baguette and Andy the Butcher supplies the ingredients. Eggs are now “flipped” as the original version with unflipped runny yolk caused excitement by squirting out over the eater! Choose 1 or 2 eggs, and discuss Rugby and Cricket with the genuinely expert Chris, while admiring Catherine’s energy and welcome. Best eaten with their fresh coffee, or if they are not too busy, and you ask really nicely, a pot of Catherines excellent tea. Eat outside or in, dependent on weather and how many of you have come to start the day.

 

The Assistant says……..It’s the best start to a week that you could possibly have. There is usually a lovely basket of flowers outside the door and the welcome just can’t be beat! We get to walk there and back across the fields and through the woods, enjoying the lovely views and the hills across the valleys. We are known to be outside Blacks by friends and acquaintances and Mondays are when people stop and talk and sometimes, even have a coffee or two. We catch up on news that you would not usually get when living so remotely. It kind of symbolises what Moorland life is like.

Down the hill now to The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey

Specification: Classic Bacon Butty with Egg by request
Where: The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey, TQ13 9AF
Website: http://www.crafts.org.uk/Cafe.aspx:
When: Every day 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m Winter)

The Classic bacon butty with wholemeal twist at the Devon Guild

 

Probably the best Arts Gallery venue in Devon, certainly one of the oldest, The Terrace Cafe is a benefit of the major renovation of a few years ago. Providing the springy floor doesn’t distract you it is a delightful environment oozing art, craft and a quality of life we should all aspire to. The Bacon Sandwich preferably on untoasted thick wholemeal bread with the optional runny single egg, is an interpretation of the classic which matches the ethos of the Guild perfectly. Great coffee too, though a little strong for some tastes.

The Assistant says……eat a real feast, which fills you up for the day, surrounded by a varied and cutting edge display of art through paintings, photography, pottery, and many crafts. An excellent place to take visitors. If the weather is bleak, it can be combined with a visit to The House of Marbles, which is just up the road. Here you can see glass actually being blown. You can have a lovely tea there too, and that’s your whole day sorted! The Assistant is only allowed to visit the Guild when she can afford a piece of Leach pottery, (Don’t tell, but she can’t resist.)
Out into the country next for a very special treat. Hittisleigh Village Market in the restored Old School Hall.

Specification: Rare breed bacon optionally with sausage (no egg option) cooked by real Farmer’s Wives in the refurbished kitchen, paid for in part by the Market Bacon Rolls
Where: Hittisleigh Village Hall EX6 6LG
Website: http://www.hittisleigh.org/vhmarket.shtml
When: The 2nd Saturday of every month 10:00 till 12:00 noon

You are going to love this one. Soft white baps filled with rare breed bacon cooked to your taste, and with a sausage too if you are so inclined. Endless tea from Chris’s big brown teapot or real genuine instant coffee. So nostalgic, no hissing Italian machinery here. Eat two and that’s breakfast and lunch done. All materials from the Produce Market around you, and pick up the week’s veg as well as Sunday lunch cream patisserie for pud. Bring your friends, we all do.

The Assistant says…….Lovely atmosphere with so many really nice people to meet. This is really rural with wonderful fields and surroundings to this hall. A reminder that a small rural community can really punch above its weight. The hall has been renovated as we have attended the market over the last several years. Bits and pieces have been built and renovated as the community could raise the cash. The last wonderful part of the building being its glorious bell situated outside above the apex to the hall roof. A wonderful place to discover the real Devon that usually has to help itself!

A Hittisleigh whopper!

“Down the road, down the road, down the road apiece”

Why ever visit a supermarket when you have a Riverford Farm Shop (aka Ben’s Farm Shop) to go to? We are regulars at the Staverton site.

Specification: All organic bacon, eggs and bread. Choose from brioche style or wholemeal. Wash it down with a double shot black Americano in a mug and don’t forget to flash your Riverford Loyalty card.
Where: Riverford Farm Shop Staverton, Totnes TQ9 6AF
Website: http://riverfordfarmshop.co.uk/shops/staverton/
When: Monday – Saturday 9.00am – 6.00pm
Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm

 

Another cafe that cooks what it sells. Choose your timing carefully as it can be busy round lunchtime. Free wi-fi to catch up on the world spinning round out there, but you’ll never be rushed so meet here. Riverford redefines the old fashioned values of honest food. It is best quality raw materials grown properly and cooked fresh and well by brilliant staff. “Management” is still deeply involved and can be seen often in the shop. This is not fast food. Order your food, do some shopping, eat your food, then maybe shop some more.
The Assistant says…….What a great place! It has recycled furniture so don’t expect grandeur. It maintains the very best of a good attitude towards the environment. Paper bags and cardboard boxes are the order of the day. One of my favourite veggies to buy is the little box of mushrooms in a small cardboard box. I use the box for collecting veg at home. The Daughter has regular deliveries from Riverford in boxes, which everyone recycles back for the next delivery. She has even bought a recipe pack for when she’s at work. If you go to work, and need decent food delivered to your door, go on the web site you’ll be amazed. To live near the heart of Riverford is a real privilege. It is an seriously well principled and highly organised company, which is now so large, it’s brilliant. A real Devon success story.

And today at Riverford we have the brioche bun with runny yolk mmmm……

And finally……well for this blog anyway…..we go right off piste.

Fire up The Beast, engage cruise control, blat up the A38 to the Big City……Exeter….(well, even hillbillies like us have to sometimes….cam belts for The Big Duck for example)

So having braved the latest twist in the ongoing game of “catch the motorist” with Exeter City Council, we breeze into the Boston Tea Party for a late elevenses.

Now even further off piste this isn’t even with bacon….but their splendid Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs & Avocado on Sourdough Toast.

Specification: Ethically sourced ingredients served on an interesting array of platters. Creamy scrambled eggs, masses of smoked salmon and a whopping portion of avocado on proper sourdough toast. A medium house black coffee to match.
Where: 84 Queen St, Exeter, EX4 3RP
Website: http://www.bostonteaparty.co.uk/our_cafes/exeter.php
When: Mon – Sat: 7 am – 7 pm
Sun: 8 am to 6 pm

We love “The Boston”. The vibe is just great, it’s full of students, arty farties (like us) and generally interesting types. It is also THE place to show off your latest Apple device.

The range of food is unique and it’s not stuffed full of sugar, although you can get a pretty big hit of carbs if you want to. There are cakes, wraps, burgers, sandwiches….the whole gamut. Coffee is excellent, have the large if you like it cool, or medium if you want to drain it all hot. The “full english” options will be your meal for the day, but choose from the more adventurous outliers in the menu and you’ll have a taste ball. That’s where the eggs and avocado fit, but explore the eggs Benedict/Florentine/Royale cascade. The BTP specialise in bringing old buildings back into everyday use, so all their cafes are architecturally engaging.
The Assistant says…….What an Oasis! It’s been hell getting through the traffic and, because you’re not used to the cut and thrust of city life, your nerves are like chewed string, and the amount of money stuff costs is unbelievable. Just thank God that you no longer travel on the tube and rush through London like a demented robot. Here it is. This is that place of sanity and a refuelling stop that can’t be beat. If your broadband is rubbish, you sit in here with great coffee and do a catch up.
If you’re in here anyway, just try it out. Your feet will really appreciate it and its almost good for your soul.

To sum up, Devon is just the greatest foody place, even for breakfast. (Other meals are available)

So, that’s it, a Grand Tour of Devon butties.

We’ve probably missed your favourite.

Tell us if you’ve enjoyed this, or even found it useful. If we get some good feedback we might even do something like this again

 

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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