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Summer

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

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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

 

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 today........you will surely find something beautiful in Stone Lane Gardens

If you go down in the woods today……..you 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!

 

Tailpiece

 

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

By The Photographer’s Assistant

We are having a special day. The Assistant is getting the Photographer a cup of tea. He lifts a foot into the open air and replaces it under the covers. It’s a bit chilly and it’s only 6.50 am. The Assistant is busy in the kitchen. A very special visitor is coming. The visitor is very glamorous. She is silken and has a pale delicate complexion and wonderfully pointed nails. The air of royalty will be all around. The Photographer stumbles into the kitchen. He is dressed and ready for a croissant and cheese. Any minute she will be here, all glitter and silvery show. She is late. They are worried. Around the corner and up the drive comes the chauffeur driven car. She emerges and bounds up the drive to shake hands with the man. The daughter waves as she drives past on her way to work. The guest bounds into the house and greets the woman in the kitchen. She is so enthusiastic to see them that she is beside herself. Yes, she would love a quick ball game in the garden and she delicately helps with the vegetable collection, disappearing now and then to say hello to her fans.

Zany, the rescue dog has arrived for the day. Her usual carer, the Boyfriend, is in London, fitting a posh bathroom and the other carer has to earn dog biscuits and bones in Exeter. These people, somewhat more elderly than her usual carers will have to do for the day. Boring! A chance, however, to catch up on one’s beauty sleep, ready for her next engagement.

Bread......and by suppertime half of it was eaten!

Bread……and by suppertime half of it was eaten!

 

The Assistant has collected beans and courgettes for lunch, which she will stir fry, mix with a tin of tomatoes ( Spar’s best bargain ) and cover in a cheese sauce and bake. A lunch mainly from the garden. Raspberries have been picked for tea. The Photographer has made two rustic loaves, which will last the couple quite a while. Back in the garden, the tomatoes have been inspected and there is worry over the variability of the weather. Blight has already arrived in the potatoes and the haulms have been cut off. The sweet peas, however, are like jewels shining in the damp weather. The threesome adjourn for morning coffee. Zany slips away to spend an entire morning sleeping in the conservatory, getting that sun tan so needed by a leading celebrity.

 

A box of good things to eat

A box of good things to eat

The Assistant is catching up on podding peas and beans with Zany. She is also listening to, and watching five episodes of Gardeners World. She is relaxed. Zany is busy being a watch dog, barking at the washing machine man, who has just arrived next door. She turns lazily over and goes back to sleep. There is a large red sofa in the lounge, but she can’t be bothered to move. She is dreaming of her glorious outfit for her carer’ s wedding, which she will grace with her presence. She has told them nothing less than a glamorous hair-do with a gold ribbon will do. She supposes the Assistant will find one, it’s the only sort of fashion item, to be honest, that she can be entrusted with. Look at her this morning! Well, actually look at him too. Has anyone ever told him that his hair could do with a trim? Life is hard. Zany wonders if this May woman will have a dog to add a much needed hint of glamour to Number Ten, it is so needed. Who needs a cat for goodness sake!

They are having dinner now. I ask you! NO meat! They are on about a visit to Castle Drogo when they haven’t got me. He is going to have a venison burger and she might have the same. They are going to look at Grayson Perry’s tapestry. He thinks he might be allowed to take a picture of it. Pearls before swine, my dears. She is really looking forward to walking to the 600 year old beech tree and he thinks it will do them good after they have looked after me. They will need a peaceful walk! I ask you! I could have given them a really good six mile run. That’s what would do them good!

A wonderful piece of art. The more you look, the more you see. Amazing

A wonderful piece of art. The more you look, the more you see. Amazing

Hello! She is getting up. Don’t say we have to do bird watching again. They are both thrilled that they have two juvenile wood peckers that come and feed close to them outside the front door. They watch it through the glass. It and the tits. When the woodpeckers aren’t in the porch, they are on the phone pole outside. I can’t see them. Apparently, I disturb the birds. Scruffy looking creatures! There, I do agree with Coco, the cat next door. They are only fit for a good sandwich my dears. They are the thugs of bird world. On that theme, thank God that I’m not staying the night. They have enough rooks and crows to stock the whole country. The noise in the morning is dreadful my dears. They love it. They think it’s wonderful. They actually open windows so that they can hear it. The last time that I stayed here, I had so little sleep that my fans didn’t recognise me for the wrinkles As for their television watching habits, I thought I would die. I don’t know about you, but how many nature programmes can you watch? If it’s not nature, they scare themselves with the news. Reporters zoom up outside posh houses and they have this look. You know the one where their eyes stick out and they tell you there isn’t any money, especially for cadgers like the elderly. Who cares! I’ve got my biscuits!

Woodpecker of the week!

Woodpecker of the week!

 

My God, at last I’m allowed in the garden. I’m off. I’ve had a good sleep. I can get through the woods into the little town and off to London. I can’t take another round of dead heading the roses. I need to see my carer. I need some proper meat. Out of my way you country bumpkins!

Sadly for Zany, this last was all a dream. When she woke up, the Assistant was looking down on her clutching a pair of pruning shears.

 

Tailpiece

Tailpiece

 

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, that is The Photographer and I, are no longer listening to the news. We find it very stressful and worrying and we have already made our minds up as to which way to vote. The dreadful murder of Jo Cox was almost beyond belief, so we just can’t go there any more. This is a blog for those of you, who like us, have been thoroughly traumatised while sitting in your own sitting room.
Where shall we go?

Well, let’s go out into our Dartmoor garden, which we have been encouraging lots of friends to come and see. The garden has been a project for 14 years now. It has cost money, but not too much. Most of the plants have been unwanted or in sales. When the Photographer started slashing the undergrowth, he was looking worn by life and the world. Now, he is just worn by trying to reach the garden’s expectations, which are very high. He enjoys the fight and is often to be found in the evening slumped against the Assistant, who is fast asleep, pretending to watch a cultural program. She would rather be watching The Musketeers, but the Photographer likes the erudite.

 

Rh. decorum, NN0907 collected by Neilson in China in 2009. Isn't it wonderful, and fragrant too......Wow!

Rh. decorum, NN0907 collected by Neilson in China in 2009. Isn’t it wonderful, and fragrant too……Wow!

 

This year the garden has finally decided to give good marks for effort, and actually grow vegetables that are upright, strong and edible. The roses and peonies are bright and scented. Things are really happening out there. On the return from a short trip away, there was a shock in store. A rhododendron, which had been purchased for under £7 had flowered for the first time in Britain. It had been brought from China by the plantsman, who went on trips there, and sold the plants on the basis that they would probably do nothing. The plantsman was so excited that he sent an e-mail at 5 am asking for a photo. The Photographer has caused a stir! On the same trip around the garden, the large banana plant donated by Paul, an old friend, had flowered. No! We don’t think that it will produce the fruit, but we don’t know whether it is a sign that it will die. We hope not! So if you are near, do drop in. Fresh batches of scones are always on the go.

 

The sinister banana flower

The sinister banana flower

 

The silence of the countryside and the swish of the wind is so welcome. That walk up the hill to look at the sheep and animals and enjoy the greenery is such a wonderful counter to life out there.
It is almost beyond belief that some of us live in such a productive and peaceful environment. How lucky we are!

Of course, there is the odd necessary disturbance here. Some weeks ago, at around 8.30 am, just as the Photographer was getting the sleepy headed Assistant a nice hot cup of tea, there was the almighty roar of engines and people. The Assistant stuck her head out of an upstairs window. It was Mr. Pigeon, the thatcher. He had come to thatch the next door house. He had brought with him a team of scaffolders and fellow workers. The Assistant shivered as she saw the scaffold surround her study window, but most dreaded of all was her kitchen stairway, where she kept her beloved pictures of Wales. Here, each year, as the light expands through spring and summer, the stairwell captures the sun and throws it in a most miraculous way, highlighting the pictures. The Assistant can run and get a tot of whisky, a big cushion, and watch the pictures at their best. Time would pass, and there would be a long delay before this could happen. She knew this work was needed and felt utterly selfish and miserable at the loss of this light.

Mr. Pigeon, however, was a brave captain of his ship, he gave out orders and kept on course. At one stage, he was so determined to get on with the job that five men were on the roof. Further, the whole business gave the Assistant the excuse not to wash the windows until the job was over! Being born of the Moor, Mr. Pigeon proved to be related to quite a few people and was interesting on many aspects of life. He also, for example, drove the school bus part time and had some offers to make as regards the daughter’s wedding. This is all still under consideration. For some weeks, the Photographer and his Assistant quite thought that they were living through the more cheery scenes of a Thomas Hardy novel. The whole business could have been used as light relief in Far From the Madding Crowd, which is the Assistant’s favourite novel, though, of course nothing can beat The Wind In the Willows, recently illustrated by Steve Dooley of Dartmoor fame.

 

There's a man on my roof No. 2

There’s a man on my roof No. 2

 

Finally, we must mention The Two Hills Race, which takes place in the little town every year. The race starts in the recreation field and covers two enormous Moorland Hills. It is attended by most of the community and our visitors, who are usually stunned by the whole event. Large numbers of the braver and fitter members of the community of all ages enter the race and it is a real challenge. A few people put up the most amazing performance, but most people just flog themselves to the finishing line. It is a brave and outrageous event admired by all. In contrast to the athletes, the viewers variously resort to beer from the pavilion, cups of tea, or massive buns full of roast pork. The Photographer takes photos and puts them up on Flickr for inhabitants to relive the whole terror of the event. The Assistant looks for photo ideas. She is well known as a local walker and people are curious as to her and the Daughters non entry. Now this is when a real genetic illness can be useful. They both reply that they would love to do it, but are subject to athsma and the pollen count. So that’s that then. After all, wasn’t it enough that, after hearing a rumour that, despite being involved in the swimming pool, she couldn’t swim, the Daughter proved to be able to do a magnificent breast stroke for as long as you like, up and down the pool. As for the Boyfriend, don’t even bother to compete!

 

The eponymous Steve Dooley who really is 60 and amazing to have completed the 2 Hills for his birthday

The eponymous Steve Dooley who really is 60 and amazing to have completed the 2 Hills for his birthday

 

That’s it then, from a community that is so busy, swimming, running, walking, growing food and animals, appearing on Springwatch, running a film festival, having an annual agricultural show, and talking the world to rights in cafes, that it has no time for the News as mostly broadcast about the South East anyway. How many people commute from Dartmoor? I won’t tell you. They do it by plane and you would be amazed.
So amidst all this community achievement, what has the Photographer achieved this month?He put up a picture of which he was very proud on the Springwatch Flickr site. Was it a picture of a fox, a lovely wild flower, a fantastic bird? No. It was a picture of a slug and its slime, and, so far, 300 people have looked at it. Isn’t humanity wonderful!

 

A slug descending on its own slime. Delightful

A slug descending on its own slime. Delightful

 

 

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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