By The Photographer’s Assistant

The Photographer stood over the kitchen range. He was determined that there would be a good Sunday roast. He knew that it was too hot to cook a chicken and that the Assistant simply wasn’t up to the task to hand. The Assistant knew that The Photographer would not be dissuaded. She had forgotten all that they used to do to keep cool. She started upstairs. She opened every window and every door. She ignored her study while she opened the door. There were books and articles over every surface and if there had been a breeze, the result would have been horrendous.
The conservatory was unlocked and the front door was opened. The hall was the place to sit. It had tiny windows and thick walls. The Photographer made a Toad in the Hole as late as he possibly could, and they both slumped exhausted in the lounge and watched the cool sea on Poldark with an envious eye. The sea in Cornwall was as cool as cool and the clouds were magical. As Demelza served up a huge pork pie, the largest the Photographer had seen, the Photographer’s eyes closed and he thought of the delicious home made pork pies he had enjoyed on holiday. He had just been on holiday to their favourite place in Wales and he thought of the beautiful loft windows, which would keep you so cool and the trees under which he had enjoyed his book and dozed off. When he came to, he saw the vision of Ross Poldark fighting the dreaded Corn Laws. The news had been on and the Photographer thought of Brexit as Mr. Tusk made another pronouncement. He got up and turned the television off, possibly for some weeks. He went to bed, where the Assistant had not been able to find the beautiful thin white sheet that he was so fond off. He threw the duvet off. The Assistant’s chest was already producing that loud rasping noise, which meant it was struggling in the heat. He loved her, but wasn’t Demelza so lovely. He didn’t fancy fighting the Corn Laws, so with a deep sigh he read his book and prayed for rain. Thank you to Mr Pitt, who put the people before dogma and Party. The repeal was passed on 25th June 1846. (nearly July)

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……and thatchers thatch… the heat


The little town produces real heroes it turns out when the temperature hits above 30C. Everything continued in the dreadful heat. Builders built, thatchers thatch, Adam at Casa looked truly cool in some very smart outfits. Early in the morning, Colin at Bowden’s, carried out his wares. Wares to cool you off and barbecues to cook on. He had loads of equipment for such weather. He was a little pixie enjoying his shop and proud of its contents.

Nominations for real heroes of the day, however are Chris and his wife Katherine from Blacks and Vincent and his wife Sara from The Forge. The Photographer and the Assistant attended Blacks, as usual, every Monday for al fresco breakfast and Chris continued to cook. Chris cooked through every hot temperature and in every circumstance. He stood in that kitchen and cooked up a storm without any hesitation. Katherine ran about at what was a very busy time, serving every customer with the little items that she knew her customers loved for a treat. Nothing was too much for either of them to do. People who were too hot had their bags carried down the steps out of the shop and everyone was treated with care and kindness, especially if they were old and hot. Amidst all of this Chris, Catherine and their son managed to support the Devon County junior cricket team, travelling great distances in what was left of their spare time.

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Two hot cooks


Up at the Forge, Vincent and Sara employed fans and open windows to make their restaurant as cool as possible. Vincent spends all day in the kitchen however hot it is. He continues to produce the most delicious food amidst the oven like conditions that the weather produces. His lunches are particularly well thought out. He makes everything himself and the accompanying wines are very well chosen. Amidst all the heat, his customers remain admiring of his fortitude. Sara, his wife remains cheery and helpful, running about and seeing that the customers have what they want.

It is July and John, as long standing readers will remember, brought the wood. He and his assistant Chloe have been chopping and sourcing wood for our harsh winter. In July while the drought is on, they work as hard as possible to produce the logs that we need. They cut the logs to size for their long standing customers, each log burner often being quite different in size and build from the next. Chloe looks slightly built, but she is as fit as any athlete, and amidst all of the heat she has been assisting John in every way that she can. Being typical of the local population in a place where it can be hard to earn a living, she plays the harp with great delicacy as well as being skilled in the art of using a log processing machine. Many people from the little town have two skills and are adaptable. You can combine gardening with waitressing skills, or all sorts of jobs with your day job.


Clearly not Chloe……..but John

Down at the swimming pool, the team continue to provide ideal conditions for swimming in the heat. People stressed by the heat can arrive and do arrive completely whacked, stressed and feeling awful and leave feeling cool enough to go home, enjoy a cup of tea or a cool drink, sit under an umbrella and veg out.

Up here, where we are used to the coolest of British conditions and have a purposeful rescue team, who can testify to that, it seems that we are served by those who are just a resilient in the heat.

A foot note concerning the “footie”. In 1966, the Assistant was 16, she lived in a council house behind a massive private privet hedge in her father’s self built world. He had just had the biggest row you can imagine with authority and had been victorious. His daughter attended a council school with no sixth form and she wanted to be a teacher. Having no transport, he envied his daughter’s bicycle, and so one day he took his daughter by the shoulder and told her that they would walk the two miles to the college to attend an appointment with the principal. The daughter was surprised. Schooling was usually attended to by her Mother. Her father donned his best flat hat and jacket and they set off. Within a very short period at the meeting the principal capitulated and that was that. The Assistant attended the A level classes and a whole new world opened up, she became the only student from that Secondary Modern to go on to further and then tertiary education that year. Such was the world of 11plus and “social mobility” via Grammar Schools. On this particular day, her father, who was a huge sports fan, produced an enormous pot of tea together with a tea cosy and the two sat together all through without moving and the Assistant saw England win the World Cup and it simply didn’t happen again. It was a real celebration of triumph all round.

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The teapot……at the heart of the family

Many of you have asked for this poem again, so here is “ When John brought the Wood “. Since I wrote this poem, John has gained a lovely wife and she cooks him a cake for when he has delivered the wood, but now he is drinking tea and eating honeycomb from his bees, who have more than they need.


It was July

It was July
And John brought the wood
The wood that smelt of winter

It was July
Drought stricken land
Burnishing heat
No water in the butts
Dead trees
A dwindling stream
No life in the air
Ground cracked wide open

It was July
But we all knew

It was July
We had all seen the signs
The birds on the wire
The moor’s cold night air

It was July
And John brought the wood
The wood that smelt of winter

End Piece

Angel Barn Wales jun 2018 D500-23

No. I am not moving. It’s too hot. Go away and let me ruminate.



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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 Assistant was up and slightly awake. She was on her way to make the Photographer a cup of tea. The first sight of the day was a beautiful vase of mixed coloured roses. The smell was fragrant and scented the whole room so that it was lit up with a kind of wonder. Even more touching and inspiring was the way her friend, who was in some pain had determinedly picked and sacrificed her favourites to bring some beauty to the house.

The Photographer had got up this morning inclined to help a friend who was worried about his hedge. Having bought a battery powered hedge trimmer, which was a meaty piece of equipment, The Photographer wanted to share it. Later on he would help the Daughter and her husband by trimming their hedge. They had been worried about it as they were both working very hard and only had clippers. The Photographer had had a chat with the Daughter’s neighbour and they were both going to combine their efforts to get it into a good shape. The Photographer and the Assistant had both been very fortunate to come and live in this close knit community and had never been alone when he was very ill. This was his chance to make a contribution.


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Balancing act

In between the community activities, there were some amazing sights given to all who were interested in wildlife. Eating their usual breakfast at Blacks on a Tuesday, rather than a Monday, having enjoyed yet another Bank Holiday, the two were passed quite closely by a torpedo of a bird. The Sparrowhawk had picked up its breakfast somewhere in the church yard and was carrying it to a safe place through the busy thoroughfare. At home, the two had been delighting in Spring Watch, but in many respects it could not compete with all that was on offer on the Moor. Animals and birds intermingled with the general populace in an entirely natural way. The heron had a regular run past the Photographers house on its way to refreshment or the nest down on the river. It was ungainly and dinosaur like, but indulged in a daily busy commute. There were Harold and Emily and their young, who were wonderfully scruffy woodpeckers intent on learning how to peck at the nuts in the bird feeder. They were now returning year after year. Another sparrowhawk alighted just at dawn on the telegraph poll opposite. It wasn’t very clear whether he too had just woken up. He spent a lot of time surveying the scene. Occasionally, as the Assistant stood at the sink, there would be a whisk of air as another bird was taken at the bird feeder. The hawk was so fast that it wasn’t worth even looking to see what had happened. The Photographer was busy guarding a robins nest in the mower shed. He had been amused to see them settled into a green plastic cover, comfortably situated and as silent as silent except for the tiniest of movements. The two were fascinated by the insect hunting swallows who sped to hoover up the insects in the evenings as they sat around their fire pit enjoying an end of day drink. Just one!


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Robins….so I am reliably told. All now safely fledged

Down in the little town, in New Street, the Daughter had been invited to a party. She met a woman who was familiar with the badger activity. Most of the street was now involved in badger watching, especially since the chicken incident.  (See Diary edition “Murder on New Street” from April)  There was no evidence, of course, but it was theorised that one of the Little Town’s many treasured celebrities was very fond of badgers and, quite innocent of the consequences, had been feeding the badgers. There were two badgers, who often travelled about in tandem. The problem was that when the celebrity was away, as celebrities constantly are, the badgers missed his input and became very hungry! The woman who the daughter met, had had a traumatising experience. She had been dozing off in bed when she heard a blood curdling scream. Being a citizen of New Street, she had got out of bed to see if she could be of assistance. She saw the badger. This time it was a threatened species. It was a dear adult hedgehog. There was nothing that could be done. Nothing. It was like being in your own horror film. The woman got up in the morning and saw the terrible sight. All the hedgehog’s insides were missing and there was just a spiny coat laid on the ground. Now, the woman could barely sleep at night, aware that murder could take place amongst the beloved creatures, who lived in her garden. She felt as if she was a coward. She was just as frightened of the badgers as it’s victims! Who could blame her.

The little town had mostly been deserted by the Dartmoor ponies now that the late spring was here. Gardeners could rest easy about plants being nibbled and enjoy their flowers and veggies to their hearts content. Up on the Moor, however the ponies were on all sorts of business. Tourists would feed them and suffer dire consequences. Ever had your car door handle or mirror chewed? Yes! It was them! Learn the lesson. They are well up to feeding themselves. A lesser known problem with them is their love of swimming pools. Many of you may recall the incident in Only Fools and Horses, when the Trotters found a horse in their swimming pool. You’ve got it. At the more exclusive and beautiful houses on the Moor, you will quite often find a swimming pool. The Daughter occasionally answers her phone to a distress call. Her husband is a swimming pool expert, who must now turn out and rescue the pool!
Meanwhile, the Little Town has so many events on that you couldn’t possibly attend them all. The Swimming Pool is now open and is better than it has ever been. The water is warm and the tea shed is open. You don’t even have to swim to enjoy the environment. Sit in the sun and read a book with a cuppa and meet some friends at the pool side. Make the most of it while it is open for the summer. It is, by the way, free of badgers and horses! This is a huge effort for such a small community. Well done to that hard working committee, who even spend the winter fund raising and planning.

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All that’s missing is you………come on in the water’s lovely and warm

The next film festival is on it’s way. This is a terrific event that will happen in September, from the 24th to the 29th. Once more, there is a hard working committee at work for the benefit of the community. Please support them when you can


Finally, on the community theme, this week a dearly loved couple’s home burned down and they have been supported and comforted by the community, which surrounds them. That’s what the Little Town and its community are like. It makes you shudder to think of what it must be like for those, who still need a home in a very wealthy area of London, where a whole tower block burnt down! One year on! We are not the only ones to wonder what ever happened to the country which had the blitz to cope with. The Assistant’s Parents were severely traumatised by the war. Her father, for instance was one of the first medical people to attend the Belsen concentration camp and her mother had similar experience. At the end of the war they endured temporary accommodation with their baby and their horrifying memories, which never left them. There was, however, a huge effort put in by an administration, which had far too much to do, but who got on with it and the Assistant and her family were moved to a little area of beautiful temporary homes, which were steel houses sent from Canada. The family felt like a family at last. The little baby toddled about her father in a huge vegetable plot, which also housed the television pole for the Queens Coronation. Her father and her mother loved their garden, which, at last brought peace and a sort of quiet into their lives. Yes; lots of people have been housed, but there are some who haven’t. Even if you have been housed in these circumstances, your lives will not be fully healed. You will still live with nightmares. No one can heal you, but you could be given beautiful surroundings for the bad days that come. Couldn’t we, at least do that?


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

Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental

Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford

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

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

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

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

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


Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-26

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

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


Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-7

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

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

Dartmoor Diary Aug 2017-1

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

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

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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 

Exeter Engineering


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


It is the 5th June 1962 and the Assistant’s aunt has died. She was sixty two and she died of cancer.

It is term time but The Assistant has been taken out of school and sent to Wales. She will sit with her grandmother while the funeral takes place. Although it is June, they will sit by the fire, one is old and frail and the other asthmatic, though she is not wheezing today. No women attend funerals and all the other female relatives and mourners are being led in prayer by a priest at the dead aunt’s house. The grandmother has now lost four of her children, two of whom will now have been buried in the plot, which she meant for herself. The two companions do not talk of death, except for the grandmother to say that children should not be sent to funerals. The grandmother is dressed from head to foot in black, which she has worn for some years. She is a chapelgoer and despite her age, she will attend chapel every Sunday. She does not talk of religion, but she testifies to it by being loving and kind to all she sees. There is no dissent in this house. She gets up now and puts out the bread and the eggs on to boil. They can enjoy a small meal together before the others arrive. It is quiet, peaceful and they sit together thinking of the dead aunt, who used to hide housekeeping money, so that she could give her niece the school equipment that she needed but could not afford.


Granny Thomas (Mamgee)

Granny Thomas (Mamgee)

Amidst this silence, there is a shove at the back door. It is a warning and the child is sent to open the front door. The child is examined as each person enters. Eventually, the house is so full that shorter people are forced into the large kitchen pantry. There is a lot of Welsh being spoken, a lot of clatter, clamour and general mayhem. The child had never seen so many cups of tea and people kept on coming. Worried about the fragility of her grandmother, the child timidly opens the front parlour door, insisting that her grandmother sits on a supportive dining chair. This room is flooded with people and everyone wants to talk to “Mamgee”, the mother. They speak in English now, so that the child can understand. There are tributes and there is laughter and many, many memories and so the day goes on into the night when the uncles come home roaring drunk and the aunts are silent. The child sleeps on the floor with an aunt deemed fit enough to give up her bed. The strength of the grandmother is undiminished as she is summoned in the night to give instruction on the care of an asthmatic aunt who has all her pillows removed and who breaths more deeply at the sight of her mother.

Well, you might ask what has all this got to do with Dartmoor? It has a great deal to do with community and this place.

It is the day of Winnie’s funeral. The family are expecting a few people to attend at Providence, the chapel in Throwleigh. All around this area of Dartmoor, people are preparing. Even the photographer, who has only attended the funeral of one great friend since his own illness, is getting dressed in his best moleskin suit and black tie. The Assistant is wondering about hoping to look inconspicuous. They will start off early and the Photographer will drive the car. They are taking David, their close neighbour and he is looking very spruce. They are anticipating a lot of parking difficulty ( chapels were built for walking to ). The Photographer parks a short way down from the chapel. When they reach the chapel, there are an enormous number of people going in. The church itself and its balcony are full to busting already, so the threesome make their way to the anteroom. There is much chatter along the lines of, ” I haven’t seen you for years ……. “. The service is lovely and the priest makes a good job of it despite having to make himself heard over a very large area. There is much talk of Winnie’s great kindness and understanding of people. Everybody present had been touched by this dear lady, whose Christian beliefs had been so unfashionable that it made you wonder why a cup of tea offered in a time of worry could be so unworldly. Winnie had grown tired and had never got over the loss of a dear daughter. She wanted to be peaceful and her wish had been quite simply granted.

After, what a wake there was! There was tea and cake and pasties, of course, and talk and chatter, memories and wonder at such a wonderful life so simply and well lived. The attendance at this funeral was well over 200 souls, people of our community joining together in love and unison. When the Photographer and the Assistant got home, they had another cup of tea. The Assistant remembered that day, years ago, when her grandmother had buried her daughter and everyone came, so that she too was not alone.


If you go down in the woods will surely find something beautiful in Stone Lane Gardens

If you go down in the woods today…… will surely find something beautiful in Stone Lane Gardens

What to do this month on the Moor? Well, what not to do would be more accurate. Have you managed to get to Chagford Swimming Pool yet? Castle Drogo continues to display the Grayson Perry tapestry. Coffee shops and Blacks continue to buzz. The Photographer continues to purchase a very fine steak every weekend from Andy, the butcher. Have you, though, and I bet, you haven’t, visited Stone Lane Gardens, which are now managed by a charitable Trust carrying on the work of the Ashburners. It is just up the road from Chagford, past the Mill End Hotel. It has a tea tent this year.What a lovely place to go! Teas continue at Gidleigh Church on Sunday afternoons. You can walk yourself to exhaustion along the river or up on the Moor. Chagford Show is on 18th August. We are looking forward to the Chagford Film festival and Open Studios in September. Go on, get out there, knock yourselves out before the Dartmoor Autumn winds arrive!

Sorry. That’s it, we are off out to sun ourselves in the best venue of all, our garden!




The rough end of the stick Betula dahurica at Stone Lane Gardens

The rough end of the stick
Betula dahurica at Stone Lane Gardens


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

A special Dartmoor Diary

Winnie Kingsland


Winnie at the Village Royal Jubilee

Winnie at the Village Royal Diamond Jubilee

We have never written a ” special ” before, but feel that this should be done this once on the occasion of the death of a very special Dartmoor lady.

Winnie Kingsland died yesterday after a long illness. She was a major Dartmoor person and the lynchpin of this hamlet. Everybody for miles around knew and loved Winnie.

Winnie died in the house that she was born in surrounded by her large and loving family. The fact that she was in her eighties was not really relevant. She was a caring loving person who enriched the lives of those around her. She and her husband represented old Dartmoor and she had been the oldest inhabitant of this hamlet. They both represented a wonderful past that we can never recapture. Some years ago we were involved in an arts event, where a long piece of Devon dialect had to be read out to a hall full of us incomers. It was difficult to find anyone, who could train the actor concerned to pronounce the words. Winnie and her husband, who was very ill, took time out to come and read these wonderful words, which under John’s tongue took on a magnificent lilt. They constantly gave of their time to us incomers, telling us of time past on the Moor.

Winnie, however, was not a dweller in the past. She was very active. Let no one say that she did not keep up with the times. The day that she took a mobile phone out of her pocket to ring a relative was a revelation. She was often to be found manning a charity raffle at the local cancer care events. When her husband was alive and he was quite old, he could be found strimming on his boundary wall while she was having one of her famous bonfires. When her John died, she took on the care of her fields and was to be found with a can of weed killer, killing dangerous weeds there. At night, she could be found taking a late evening walk, enjoying the fresh air. Sometimes, she would roam up our lane to see what was going on and she really enjoyed a chat and a nice piece of cake. She was the true keeper of many confidences with a ready concern and a smile. Yesterday, my neighbour, who usually took her to the shops, got into her car with a tear in her eye. She would go to the shops alone today.

There is a great deal more you could tell about Winnie, but that is not a job for us. We, who knew her so fleetingly.

Those of us in this little hamlet on the Moor can really say that we will never see the like of Winnie Kingsland again. May she have rest safe in the care of the God she so trusted and loved.


Winnie and her old frien share a joke

Winnie and her old friend share a joke

Always smart and with apretty frock. The Diamond Jubilee

Always smart and with a pretty frock. The Diamond Jubilee




Winnie with her trademark winter scarf and red coat

Winnie with her trademark winter scarf and red coat

Winnie outside her barn

Winnie outside her barn

Winnie at the Village Show with that laugh that was never far away

Winnie at the Village Show with that laugh that was never far away



Winnie walking round the village

Winnie walking round the village

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