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By The Photographer’s Assistant

 

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

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Lost, but not forgotten.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Image 11-01-2018 at 15.20

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

And finally, we have added a link to the Facebook page

Dartmoor Diary Facebook Page

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

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

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

 

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By the Photographer’s Assistant

The little town at Christmas is a dazzling sight. We will all be enchanted by the decorations and its mince pies and cakes. There will be one fly in the ointment. It comes every week and is a cause of some upset and consternation. We have never got used to the large Pontrilas trucks, which now seem to travel in a convoy through the little town, the operative word being “ little “. The trucks will dominate the roads and cause queues etc. They will always just about miss the Chagford Inn sign on their way to collect their logs. The trucks bring us jobs and everyone admires the skills of the drivers as they thread their way delicately through the Italian style parking system, which is characteristic of the area. You will, therefore, be struck by the coincidence of this blog being written only 6 miles away from Pontrilas.

The World’s most Ineffective Snowplough

With its apparent attraction to beautiful places, Pontrilas Sawmill’s major site is on the main road close to a beautiful village called Longtown. The area is situated on the Welsh and English border, right under Offas Dyke and the wonderful, threatening beauty of the Black Mountains.

Currently, the Photographer and the Assistant are on, as it turns out, an extended holiday in Lower Maes-coed, close to the Black Mountains, which dominate the area. Usually, the mountains are a really threatening jet black. In the evening, you can walk to the end of the road and say a goodnight to the mountains and they will glower back at you in the most dominating way. You really know that it is them that are in charge. Forget your own ideas about what you will do. The mountains will tell you, and all the local farmers, exactly what you are going to do, according to the weather that they send you.

Today, we are indoors all day for the first time since we arrived. We are snowed in. We are not going anywhere. This is our third day of being snowed in. Yesterday, we took a walk below the fields, which are dominated by the mountains. There was much activity on the farms. The forecast was for more never ending snow today, so the farmers were not taking any chances with their precious stock. Stock which looked weak were put in any spare farm building that came to hand. Huge tractors rumbled their way along the neat hedge lined fields. The tractors carried the carefully cossited haylage saved for this event. Some of the farmers hammered along the lanes in a panic to get to their next batch of stock. The Photographer and the Assistant were amused to watch a set of cows, which they had been observing for three or four days. They seemed to be a great deal more aggressive than our Dartmoor farmers’ cows. They would line up and call other cows in their large field to see these two cheeky beings, who were daring to actually speak to them. One of the cows, black with a white face, looked for all the world like some sort of Japanese warrior. It was definitely tooling up, its sword glinting in the twilight. We headed for home. We weren’t used to this in Devon. The farmer seemed to be held in complete contempt by the herd, who bullied him, as if he was a waiter in a high class hotel. He could not undo his black bags fast enough.

Somewhere near, there must have been a livestock sale. There was a loud peep, and a massive cattle van appeared around the corner. The snow was increasing and the van was proving to be an empty handful, having just made its delivery, driven by a young woman, whose face bore both consternation and concentration, as she endeavoured to make a safe journey out of the snow.

We have now accepted that we are here for at least two unbooked days, but what a lovely thought. We cannot go anywhere and anywhere cannot come to us. We now have in excess of one foot of snow. (Editor’s note: that’s 30cm for our young reader) Because this is not a built up area, the snow is unspoilt. It is truly a beautiful Christmas experience in every sense of the word. Here we are, perched inches away from nature. The birds fly around the barn, almost tapping on the window as they look for shelter and food. The family, who rent us the barn, are feeding the birds and the birds are cooperatively feeding. The blackbird stands among the smaller birds and they all allow one another to feed. The blackbird knows its craft well. It clambers under the outdoor picnic table and digs for all its worth, eventually getting to the ground, where it may find worms. The ground has been protected by the snow. The buildings are giving off some heat in the freezing atmosphere and the birds stick close to windows and outside doors. They tunnel under the snow to keep warm.

What of the humans? Our hostess valiantly took her 4 x 4 to Hopes, the community village stores and Post Office at Longtown for two days, where she collected milk and newspapers, but today, the road is not passable and the drive not diggable because of the still falling snow. We shall all have to have patience and wait the weather and the mountains out. Today, we had a conference around a cup of coffee. We allowed ourselves a shortbread biscuit to keep our spirits up. We have no shortage of biscuits. There are now two children here, who must be fed and we are eyeing up the options. The Photographer has a piece of gammon, which he had bought for Christmas. The Assistant feels that they should get through the large packet of smoked salmon first. Our dear landlady had a turkey crown in her freezer and thought that it would be nice for the children to have this to eat. She thought that she would defrost it. It had sort of been for Christmas, but it hadn’t been completely booked. We had been drinking our way through some beer, which the Daughter had brought the previous weekend and a bottle of whisky had been pressed into service at bed time, the Assistant being a thoroughgoing Celtic whisky enthusiast on this occasion had paid off. The food would not run out until Wednesday by which time a farmer might have cleared the road. The Photographer and our lady would make a joint raid on Hopes if things improved. We didn’t like to think about things not improving! We still have the internet, electricity and water, so that is such good fortune. At this moment the Photographer is frying up a storm with left over carrots, onion and green olives, which will have cheese grated over it. Watch out Jamie Oliver!!

What of these two wonderfully artistic girls? They are busy praying for more snow of course and you should have some sympathy with this. School is meant to go on until Friday. Shouldn’t the authorities, whoever they are, just give in and declare it the end of term? Of course they should. This is a lifetime opportunity to train for the ski slopes of Switzerland where they might, one day, meet the man of their dreams and find a typical British education of no use at all. This actually happened to one of the Daughter’s friends, who went to a state school and currently lives a very privileged life in a very expensive mansion. We cannot tell you where. She occasionally meets up with the Daughter, who has arrived in London on her economy ticket and has artfully learnt to make herself look fashionably dressed with the aid of Zara! At the moment, having made a wonderful polar bear, the girls are off to do some serious sledging on one of the fields.

Trust me, and look carefully, it is a wonderful bear. (Ipad camera stretched to it’s limit I’m afraid)

Well, this may not be Dartmoor, but isn’t it like 2010, when we all got snowed in for some considerable time?

Just feel for us refugees as we settle down to an evening of smoked salmon and Prosecco and , come on, it is close to Christmas!

A. final thought. We have a friend whose daughter lives in the fire zone in San Francisco. She was due to fly out at the weekend. Please have a thought for those affected by wind and fire, so much more serious than a bit of snow here.

As the Queen would say at Christmas, “God Bless You All!” Oh dear, I think we’ve been watching The Crown too much!

And finally, we have added a link to the Facebook page

Dartmoor Diary Facebook Page

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

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

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

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

The Photographer stood there, wondering how much longer the Assistant could possibly take to finish choosing second hand books. She had just informed him that on their next holiday in Hay on Wye, if the weather was not good enough for walking, that they could spend their whole week in here. This was Booths, purported to be the largest second hand bookshop in the world. He longed for a cup of tea. This was it. He would have to intervene. He decided on real action. What was she doing in the military section anyway? She never bought military books. He gently took the pile off her and suggested cake. She was reluctant, but holding on firmly to a pile that she could not do without, he managed to take her to Booth’s cafe, where she was in raptures over the loose leaf tea, which was truly exceptional.

This was the last day of an adventurous holiday, though they had only been able to get in a couple of good walks. The Photographer listened to the endless excited prattle as he remembered it all. They had accidentally ended up in the Aberaeron area of west Wales, where the sea lapped the shoreline, boats dwelt in the harbour and pretty painted houses dominated the town. It was a great place to start the day. The Italian deli had the best coffee. It was so good that even the Assistant was silent enjoying the taste. Her eyes glazed over at the pasta and wine and supplies were purchased. Everyone was so nice. It was simply a lovely place to be.

 

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Delightful Aberaeron

The Assistant could, of course, have spent all day drinking coffee and reminiscing about Welsh Italian ice cream, but she knew this wasn’t to be. She arose with a deep sigh and rucksack in hand, ready for the day’s project at the National Trust beach, which was spectacular and also had an excellent tea shed. The new parking system was not working, and lots of members with honesty in mind were confused. The Photographer wasn’t. He just set off on the walk. As they roamed along, there did seem to have been a real disaster here. The mud was very tricky indeed, even in boots. They should have put two and two together. On the way through Wales they had seen many flooded fields. The rain had ruined the footpath, but they persisted until they reached a honey trap area of luxury houses and boats. They walked through this moneyed area, aware that the village in which they were staying had no facilities, and at least one abandoned property. Neither of them made any comment. In Devon, the empty house would have been a valued home, such was the shortage of ordinary homes on the Moor. The two continued up a long hill in a beautiful rural area.

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The simple church at Pembryn. Elegant simplicity

Much to their amazement, they were confronted amongst the wonderful green trees with a completely bright white church. It was in a wonderful condition, even the grave yard was well tended. It was very old and clearly much loved by it’s local community. It was like something out of a Clint Eastward film. It had the simplest bell tower with a small bell at the end of a rope, which was used to call this rural population to prayer. There were flowers above the porch entrance and the place was the most peaceful of the trip.

The walk ended back at the tea shed, of course!

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The name says it all

On the Sunday, they visited one of their most favourite places. They had a day devoted to farming and old farm machinery at Llanerchaeron, a farm and house taken over by The National Trust. It’s story went back over ten generations, and it had a beautiful small house which was one of the earliest designed by John Nash, who later became famous as one of the most respected architects in the country. The Brighton Pavilion is an example of his work. The photographer spent hours admiring his work and taking photographs of it. As an engineer he loved the balance of it all. On this particular day, the farm machinery shed was open displaying all sorts of wonders from the past. The Photographer was very excited. He had discovered a set of Avery weighing scales, which were actually the same as he used to work on in the 1970s. In fact there was a lot of machinery that was entirely engrossing, so the Assistant quietly sneaked off. She loved the old farmyard and animals. Gosh! There were all sorts. There were geese, pigs, cows, horses and beautiful white geese, and they all had to be visited and talked to. This was frustrating as they were mostly asleep. The Photographer managed to find her and point out that she had got her best boots on, so that was that!

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Maybe I ate too much…….

 

The highlight of the week was the train journey between Machynleth and Pwhelli, which had been recommended as possibly one of the best train rides in the world!!This had to be done; so sandwiches were packed and the photographer prepared his camera. It was a wonderful journey through open country and almost literally along the beaches. Almost on the whole of the trip a man from Yorkshire regaled the carriage and his newest companions with talk of the wonders of Spain in the winter. It appeared that he was the only person who had not come for the view, but to catch his connection to Birmingham. This was all very entertaining. There was no real food during the trip so the sandwiches came in handy. If you choose to enjoy this beautiful trip, get off at the station before Pwhelli, which had no toilets open and no real time for a decent coffee. Although, the two did manage a Costa, but had to rush it and the Assistant came across a notice not to leave your drug taking equipment in the toilet, so give that bit a miss!

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The Assistant loves a train ride

Next, there was a trip to Aberystwyth, which has a very colourful seafront, where the Photographer’s camera was really in use. You can see a sample below. The Assistant was thrilled to find the location, which is used as a police station in Hinterland.

Aberystwth Wales Sep 2017-47

Do you recognise the Police Sation?

It is just about her most favourite television programme. Pursuant to this end she also visited The Devil’s Bridge, the scene of one of the dastardly murders in the series. The two also found some glorious scenery two or three miles away. Here is a wonderful arch at the Head of the Pass of Lost Existence. The two consulted an expert on these other worldly matters via mobile phone, and were strongly advised not to pass through it.

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The arch at the Head of the Pass of Lost Existence…..scary

That was all very “little town” like and so, we return home, having done far more than we thought we had. The Photographer relieved that on her return home, the Assistant was able to say, “There’s nowhere like the little town”, as he handed her a large glass of red wine, and then he remembered that she was after all half English and anyway, her spoken Welsh was truly awful!

 

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They all went on an Autumn holiday too.

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

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

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

….The Photographer’s bit…..

I really couldn’t leave out the Nash staircase at Llanachaeron

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Wow….Nash symmetry from his early work.

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

Hit the road running. Don’t look back. You haven’t got time. On the Moor, it could be your last chance at everything before the evenings close in, and you can light the fire and put your feet up.

Already the rain and storms are closing in. Pack the car and get our there while you’ve still got some sun. Out on the road, it’s all begun. There are cars full to busting, children bursting at the seams, crisp packets fly and in car entertainment systems are pumping. They are all heading west. It’s some sort of natural instinct in us all to stop and stare at the Atlantic with its broad beaches, and huge blue sky. What wouldn’t you give to be there now? You can lose yourself in that wonderful place and forget everything except that overwhelming sky. We all know you are on your way and what a joy it is to share this place with people who find it impossible at any other time of the year to come to this wonderful place.

 

It’s my feeder…….now gerroff………!!!!!

What are we all doing up on the Moor? We are all incredibly busy with getting ready for winter. The birds are emptying bird feeders as fast as they can be filled. Our own modest bird feeder has become a bird club, where all types gather. The birds are all recovering from nesting. They are exhausted and irritable with one another. Yesterday, in this tiny area outside the kitchen window, there were more varieties than we could count. The pigeons have taken over the telegraph pole, which faces the kitchen, and the woodpecker has moved on, but he still visits occasionally, clearing the patch as senior bird. A jay has begun to visit and there is plenty of wing flapping and general feistiness going on. What on earth does a tit want with both a nut and seed feeder for its own exclusive use? The robin has taken to the morning visit, when a restrained, civilised, less pressured crowd are here.

Out on the fields, slurry is being spread where the silage has been taken. The plastic wrapped bails are standing in the fields ready for a time when feed is scarce . There are goats, lambs, and cattle of all types of breed, gathering pasture where they can. The rain has been so absent that grass and water is low, the farmer must be clever to switch and move his animals about as best he can.

 

Goats, but not necessarily a G.O. A. T.
(Greatest Of All Time…..No 46, The Doctor is coming now)

Those of us who grow vegetables have, at last begun to have enough to feed us, the spring frosts having taken a heavy toll, and replanting being the order of the day. We are lucky to have a stream and water butts, but the water must stretch. Only this week, the Assistant noticed the flow in the stream, which feeds its way through other gardens, and on to the mighty river, which flows through the hamlet, had virtually stopped. She got her gloves and fork and got in there, throwing weeds onto the lawn, and encouraging the land drains to continue flowing. The water began to flow to the river again and all was well. If land drains aren’t cleared the vegetable plot and some of the garden will disappear in the winter floods.

The sun burns through the earth like a blow torch and you must do all you can to save the plants and up at the house, the waste water bucket is still in the sink. You simply don’t attach a hose pipe to a borehole. Water and the electricity, which runs the pump are too precious.

Across the river, which we can see through the trees, the land is as parched as it ever gets and we all hope that the trees on the big hill don’t catch light or we’ll all be watching for smoke and ashes. The noise of chain saws is everywhere. John, our woodman and the men across the river are so hot and the demand for logs for winter wood burners so great, you wonder at their endeavour day after day at their work.

Now you must store your food in whatever way you can for it is almost everybody’s custom to at least make jam. The photographer has been very fortunate. The hot weather has enabled him to make far more pesto from his basil than usual. The fruit is made into coulis to pour over ice cream and yogurt. The Daughter, who has her own productive vegetable plot, will come on Friday evening and she will take home her Dad’s pesto and any other surplus that there is. Here you have it, amongst all this hard work there are wonderful rests, when you can get together with friends and other Moorland dwellers and enjoy all this productivity by sharing together. The Daughter will have a drink and share her week’s news and sometimes enjoy Dad’s pesto for supper. It’s a full stop to the week and the opening of a lovely weekend, with breakfast in the little town, newspapers, wine music and conviviality. All the time we are surrounded by the hills and the river and the beauty of the Moor.

Now, we are nearing the end of the season with the arrival of the Chimney Sweep without whom autumn could not happen. He is tired today. There are so many chimneys that have their own eccentric ways, with which he has been so familiar with for so long, you almost wish that he could retire, but that would never do. There are already a number of people who clean their own. Oh dear! Insurers now insist on chimney lining, the Photographer fitted the only permanent option Isokern Pumice a few years ago, but that is a story for another day.

 

Well how Close to Nature do you want to get? As happy a bee on Lavender

It can be a hard punishing lifestyle, but it is safe to say, we all love it for that. We love the work and the closeness of nature and we are all so fortunate. If you stop off in the little town on your way to the great Atlantic, everyone will make you as welcome as they possibly can. We will share everything that we can with you, our bread, our wine, our beautiful countryside. Welcome to this unique place and please enjoy it for what it is.

We would like to add a new area to your list for pleasant outings, it is on the other side of the A30 and we found it to be a delightful discovery. On our way to collect newly sparkling cleaned Ducati carburettors, from the excellent Exeter Engineering we found a little village called Morchard Bishop near Crediton, where you can stop off to have a wonderful coffee and snacks at Church Street Stores, who serve the wonderful coffee made by the Crediton Coffee Company. The roads are narrow, but manageable. The Assistant came home with various supplies for the weekend including the coffee, which can be difficult for her to get. The Assistant felt like a cowgirl, who had breezed into town and got some treat provisions, rather than that good old stir fry, which had begun to pall a little. She was reminded of meeting an acquaintance in the little town, who at the end of the season, had said, “ Thank God the vegetable season is over. We can have farm boxes again.” There’s a way to go yet!

 

A very nice man in a very nice store making a very nice coffee in very nice Morchard Bishop (Church Street Store)

We have a few more weeks to go, so we’ll sit and drink wine and beer and coffee and put the world to rights. A couple of weeks before September, we’ll get the tent out, reproof it, inspect the equipment and contemplate whether we are too old to camp, but since we met an old man of 85 and his wife camping on Mull, that excuse does not wash! Suitcases will be reached down and we will prepare for September. The Photographer will take his Celtic wife and his Celtic self hours and hours away, to the Welsh coast where they will stare out at their most familiar bit of Atlantic coast and cast pebbles into the sea. When the month is over, they will turn east and head for home before some of the most destructive breakers destroy the scene. They will come home and sit by the fire, having the rest that the whole of the Moor enjoys before the hard work of Spring.

Our new finds north of the A30 are:

Church Street Stores Morchard Bishop 

http://facebook.com/churchstreetstores 

Exeter Engineering

http://www.exeterengineering.co.uk

Tailpiece

Worth exercising your SatNav for…..if you’re serious about that restoration….because they are. Thank you Dave

 

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

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

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

By the Photographer’s Assistant

 

Hot and bothered woodpecker

Summertime, here it is, even here, it is too hot. The thermometer reads 33C, it is not very accurate and it’s on the side of the tool shed, but that is good enough. Only mad pensioners, who are old and don’t care, and anyone who really has to earn a living out there is out and about. The woodpecker, who frequents the feeding station, has quite lost his head. He is attacking friends and enemies alike and is in a frenzy of heat. The donkey across the river is protesting loudly. Whatever happened to his lovely breeze. Finally, the free range chickens down by the swimming pool, have gone indoors for the sake of their sanity. Dogs drag themselves out of the river and look mournfully at their owners. They leave balls on the footpath and walk away. They simply don’t care any more. To cap it all, The Photographer, whose study has always been a restricted zone, has commandeered an old bookshelf and is sorting out books and paperwork.

The Photographer, the Assistant, and the Daughter have all managed to go on holiday together, to their favourite place in all the world; St. Davids in Pembrokeshire right bang on the Atlantic coast, where the sea is awesome and only stops when it gets to New York. What struck the trio on their trip was St. Davids’ similarity to The Little Town. The Little Town has the river, not the sea, but the ambiance is similar. This is another rural self help community. The life for St David’s farmers is hard as the wind whips off the sea and we all know how tricky fishing is. As time goes by, the people become more and more dependent on tourism for income, but there are still many examples of small businesses, which thrive despite the presence of a very unattractive supermarket built almost out of town.

 

A mobile Police station…….yes, really!

Our trip took place during the election period, when even this distance from a conurbation, (100 miles past Swansea) the mobile police station spent some time outside the polling booth, making its anti terrorist presence felt. Incidentally, when did you see a police presence in The Little Town, let alone a mobile police station? St Davids is a community, which has saved its senior school from closing. It has a rugby club, of course and a City Hall (aka the Village Hall, but they have a cathedral!) like The Little Town’s, which is constantly booked up. When we were there the craft society were reluctantly making way for the bowls club! Very similar too, was the organic presence in the town, in almost every food shop. Our favourite food outfit was Em and Nicks Bakery van; a shepherds hut with loads of good food and the best coffee. Their breakfast was a “must”. The van was staffed by keen young people, full of good ideas.

 

The very excellent and enterprising Bakehouse

What else did it have in common with the Little Town? It had trouble. Here, where there is a great need for social housing, retirement housing for the over fifties has just been built instead and it is empty. It was passed by the National Park Authority, who are supposed to promote local interests of all kinds. It is beginning to have been empty for a long time. In St Davids, there is a proposal to build a Premiere Inn there, rather than social housing. The National Park are allegedly supporting the hotel proposal, which apart from not providing housing, will take a great deal business away from individual holiday lets etc. Do we really need unelected National Park Authorities, which we actually pay for and don’t always act in our best interests? This is not usually a political blog, but there will be no blog about these wonderful places if they are allowed to die.

Back to St.Davids, where you can walk to Porthclais across the fields, watch the sea, and go to the tea shed. Brilliant! You can go a few miles outside and go to the Blue Lagoon, where the old slate works are slipping into the sea. There are houses here too that the sea will soon reclaim. It is a dramatic sight with nature at work in the most ferocious way.

 

Always a welcome at Porthclais and THE BEST sponge cake and proper good tea…….when can we get back?

 

Abereidy; Erosion threatens a house now perilously close to the edge

The Cathedral in this small town is an amazing place. It is buried right down in the middle of the town, so that you can’t see it from any distance. This was to protect it form the Vikings, who also managed to reach this remote corner! This is the simplest of Cathedrals. It does not have much stained glass, but it has huge windows, which let in the light. Even the pews are not permanently fixed. Every now and then, the pew gaps have to be measured with a wooden gauge because the floor slopes and the pews move, so they have to be readjusted. It is a very friendly place with many interesting bits and pieces about it. If you want a good sermon, this is the place to get one. You won’t sleep through it here. Your bones will rattle and your brain will revolve, especially if you had a good night at The Farmers Arms. Incidentally, The Assistant, who is not a good sleeper, found that simple chime on the hour from the church tower, the very best sleeping draught that you can have.

It was his place so we should end here with St Davids own words. Having led the simple life, and brought Christianity here, even if you are not religious, his dying words were good ones, “Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things that you have heard and see me do.” The words of a brave and simple man, which suit both our remote and simple communities so well.

The End.
A traditional design of Pembrokeshire gate, now disappearing

 

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

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

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

By The Photographer’s Assistant

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

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

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

 

Blacks finest Bacon and Egg baguette

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Classic bacon butty with wholemeal twist at the Devon Guild

 

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

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

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

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

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

A Hittisleigh whopper!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve probably missed your favourite.

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

 

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

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

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

By the Photographer’s Assistant

The Assistant is standing in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. She is beyond excitement. Some dear friends have invited her and the Photographer to stay with them in the Lake District. She has always had an ambition to learn more of the great A.W. ( Alfred Wainwright ) Here she is at a whole exhibition about him. He was the big figure in the encouragement of fell walking. Here, you can touch the suit that he walked in and stand under a bus stop that he will have used to get to the start of his walk. There is an enormous map of the Lake District on the floor. You can walk on it and see all those famous walks. You can read his school report and see some of his drawings. As many of you will know, his books are full of information and details. They are exquisite and even if you can’t walk, you can go with him in his writings and drawings. Indeed, unable to find a companion or a way of walking Hadrian’s Wall complete, the Assistant has bought his guide and will sit in front of her Moorland winter fire engrossed in vicariously doing just this.

The dreadful bonus of this trip has been to see the endeavours of Jo Tasker and Pete Bordman repeated in an adjoining room. She had met their climbs before in an all encompassing exhibition of mountaineering in Scotland, and The Photographer, who was born the same year as Tasker, had followed their exploits whilst they were alive, with enthusiasm and admiration. These two amazing pioneering climbers forced out the boundaries of Alpine style climbing. Tasker had taken a decision as a young man not to become a priest, but to climb instead. Both men perished on Everest in 1982. Their bodies have never been found. Tasker’s camera was found and the film had been developed. Other bits and pieces turn up from time to time. There are postcards to his parents. The exhibition is too evocative and heartbreaking. You long to go back to that mountain and help these two to continue, but it is this impossibility that is so cruel!

Well, you can’t just go to the exhibition and sit and have an Eccles cake, you’ve now got to do some fell walking yourself. The Photographer, the Assistant, and John, their experienced friend, set off to “do” Catbells, one of Wainwright’s easier walks. The Assistant is thrilled to have such companions and takes an extra puff of medication so as not to let them down! What wonderful views await the three. A walk not too long, but just right, the beauty of which is so incandescent, you wonder that Alfred ever returned to his day job. He must have sat on that bus, puffing on his pipe with great satisfaction.

A view from Catbells above Derwent Water

A view from Catbells above Derwent Water

Before reaching the Lake District, the two had visited the Brecon Beacons, where they painfully knocked off a few of the highest Beacons. Having previously used a less well known route to climb Pen Y Fan, the mountain, now famous for killing some soldiers shortly after their own climb in 2013, the two decided to deal with unfinished business on the slopes by taking the less risky but most used route. This was a mistake. A path had been installed by the National Trust which was so uncomfortable that the two found little enjoyment in it. The car park for the hill was packed and the toilets were deplorable. The only salvation was a tea van!

The Assistant devours the obligatory pork pie near the top of Pen-y-fan

The Assistant devours the obligatory pork pie near the top of Pen-y-fan

 

Sitting in their remote cottage that evening, the two decided that they would tackle a less well known slope next, Sugar Loaf. On the map this climb looked a sheer delight of boundless scenery for very little effort. The following day, the two found a deserted car park and no tourists at the chosen start point above Abergavenny. They became quite cocky. You couldn’t see Sugar Loaf from the car park and they almost decided not to wear boots, but casual shoes. This would not have been a good decision. On rounding a bend at the foot of Sugar Loaf, they were presented with a very steep climb. They were a little tired, but neither wanted to let the other down, so they continued. The climb was much steeper though lower than any other on the trip, and they wondered if it was worth it. Worth it? The views were amazing with no mist and a perfectly clear day and flocks of sand martins swooping around the peak. We would go back to it again any day. Just to top it all, while the two were standing there, a power glider flew over and saluted them!

Backlit Fournier RF5B salutes the summit of Sugar Loaf

Backlit Fournier RF5B salutes the summit of Sugar Loaf

 

Here we are now back on the Moor, having had a thoroughly enjoyable trip, which was far more adventurous than we thought it would be and feeling all the better for that. To come down to earth, we are now wedding cake baking again. The morning’s effort has sunk again! The Photographer is now viewing this as a scientific challenge and has a major weapon in the form of a meat thermometer. He is not thinking of joining Paul Hollywood on The Great Bake In.

By the time of the next blog all wedding preparations will be at the hysterical phase, though it must be said that the bride and groom are not worried. Should the wedding give cause for alarm, they have now booked a honeymoon well away from the experiments, which constitute their wedding. After all, they are doing the cooking at Christmas, and have that to look forward to!

Wishing you all well, now that we can all enjoy fresh apples and pears from the orchard, and the beautiful autumn mists which presently surround us.

 

Harvest Home

Harvest Home

 

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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