Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

Ring out, wild bells to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light,
The year is dying in the night,
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Happy New Year to all my visitors, I wish you all the best of everything for the coming year.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

St Raphaels Church.

Just before Christmas we took a drive up to Dartmoor along a windy road we use all the time, we stopped beside a dingly dell and I got out to stand in the magical place and listen to the River Dart splashing and rushing over the huge river stones, the water the colour of stewed tea flowing in full spate after the recent heavy rain fall.  It was soothing to listen too after a very busy week, and a lovely tranquil spot.

I noticed that the trees were trimmed for Christmas too, their twisty gnarled branches encased in beautiful green velvet.
They were decorated in long streamers of ivy, wound about their trunks and branches, which danced in the wind that sighed through the dell.
And the Hazel trees that edged the dell had lost all their leaves, but hung small stubby catkins out ready to shake out in the Springtime.
Feeling refreshed in body and soul we drove on along the road and stopped at St Raphaels church, a lovely little quaint church tucked into the hillside.  I was hoping that it had been dressed for Christmas...
And I wasn't I pushed open the porch door I saw the lovely display that had been arranged on the flagstones.  Bunches of berried holly, branches of feathery pine, and sprays of cones all sprayed silver amongst the greenery, lovely.
I couldn't wait to push open the heavy church door and see what had been done inside, and I was enchanted to see a beautiful dainty Christmas tree hung with red and silver baubles and silver bows, it was quite magical.
Besides the tree, the ledge behind the alter had also been decorated with greenery and red bows and flowers, it all looked very festive.
St Raphaels is a well loved little church I believe, and although quite plain, I think it has a wonderful feel to it, I love the watery light that shines through the plain leaded windows, and the old fashioned has been used as a school in the past, and is usually laid out as such, with the ink wells on the trestles and quill pens, and a dunces cap on the teachers table. 
But this day it was laid out as the church it is, and the old granite fireplace stained with many a fire had a delightful nativity scene arranged amongst some branches of berried ivy on the massive granite mantelpiece.
And at the back beside the teachers desk was a lovely pedestal arrangement of assorted greenery and red poinsettia flowers, a traditional sort of church flower display and lovely with the hedgerow holly, firs, laurel and ivy.  I loved my visit to the little church, and it was a lovely start to the Christmas period.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all my visitors, I hope you all have a lovely peaceful day.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A trip to Chagford

Last week we decided to drive up to Chagford, we haven't been for a while and it`s a delightful old town situated in the Teign valley.

The drive across the moor is lovely too with the winter countryside, lots of rolling hills with the wolf grey woods running down into the frosty valleys, thick bare twiggy hedges lining the narrow winding roads and sheep scattered across the chequered fields.

Chagford has a lovely ancient feel, it was one of the stannary towns where the tinners came to have their tin weighed and stamped. The buildings are quite beautiful with their mossy thatched roofs, tiny mullioned windows and grey granite walls, you can almost feel the history in them.

But Christmas had arrived here too, albeit in a restrained well mannered fashion, and dainty firs twinkled with festive lights.

And some with rather nice silvery baubles and bells and tiny flashing lights.

We decided to walk around the church St Michaels, the grave yard is full of lovely tombstones and crosses, and the views from there are wonderful over the valley.

It was lovely and peaceful in the churchyard, the air was cold and there was a slight breeze, tiny birds hopped about the bare trees,.

Just across the church railings is a lovely old Devon long house, with beetling mossy thatch and pretty pink walls surrounded by lovely old beech trees, I wonder what interesting things have happened in that house in its life time.

There is a memorial inside the church to Mary Whiddon who legend says was shot dead on her wedding day as she left the church.  Her death is thought to be the inspiration behind the R.D. Blackmore`s novel Lorna Doone although that was based on Exmoor not Dartmoor.

The church was surprisingly warm inside, but after the cold outside maybe anywhere would have felt warm!  Its a beautiful church with lovely carved rood screen, and with a wonderful beamed roof, which I couldn't help looking for bats in, to no avail unfortunately

There were nice gold bosses on the vaulted ceiling above the alter, and the carvings on the end of the choir pews were delightful.

Having enjoyed the peace and solitude and warmth of the church we ventured out and walked round the town.  Chagford is quite famous for its lovely Market house, the octagonal little building in the middle of the town square, the shop was open with gay green and white awning and lots of lovely local veg and fruit for sale.  There are two shops in Chagford that have been trading for the last hundred years, handed down from generation to generation, James Bowden and son and Webbers and Sons, both interesting shops full of everything you could want in hardware, Ironmongery and general goods, real Aladdin caves of treasure.

The town also has some lovely little galleries, arty shops and cafes, we took a stroll away from the town centre as I love the old houses in these moorland towns.  I love that they are chunky with thick granite walls, that the chimneys are wide and squat, where fires have burned over the years and warmed the country souls home from a hard days work, or back from a mornings shopping, basket in hand filled with fruit and veg and something for tea, to sit and warm themselves and have tea and biscuits for `elevenses`.

The tiny gardens beside the houses were winter bare and dormant, brightened by the odd red berried shrubs or sprawling snow berry ones still hung with pale lemon leaves.

The Bishops house must be the most impressive in the town, it dates from 1261 and is quite beautiful with its thatched roof, tiny windows and beamed porch, I loved the nice green wreath on the door, and wondered what tales it could tell of all the generations that have lived, loved and died there

We headed back to the car having really enjoyed our visit to the town, and headed out on a tiny winding road that wound up and up between high banked hedges bare and smooth in their winter nakedness, where ancient beeches hung their gnarled and smooth branches over the winding road and ginger ferns sprung from the hedge banks.

Eventually we reached Grimspound where we had our picnic lunch and hot tea from the flask, looking out over the lonely and beautiful moor, the hillsides covered with ginger ferns, and the road a shiny ribbon disappearing into the distance.  A shower suddenly sprung up from nowhere, drifting in a white veil across the valley, covering the windscreen in silver drops then just as suddenly it left, travelling away across the hills and a pale wintry sun shone from behind the grey lowering cloud, a pale smudge in the sky.

Friday, 5 December 2014

A walk around Widecombe in the Moor

After a November down here in Devon that is best forgotten for it`s long grey dreary days, we`ve turned a corner now its December and had a lovely cold bright day.  We drove up to Dartmoor and had a walk round Widecombe in the Moor which was bathed in golden winter sunshine and blue forget me not skies. 

The beautiful Horse Chestnuts on the green had shed their leaves like wanton strippers and showed their beautiful muscular shapes, while drifts of brown and gold leaves lay in crunchy carpets below.

It was beautifully peaceful..all the cafes had closed up for the winter, and there was no crowds of holiday makers to spoil the peace.

We took the path around the green where the long shadows of the trees fell, the hedges surrounding the café were dry and twiggy and the sun so bright it hurt our eyes..

A muddy track ran off to our right and led to a lovely old farm, where rusty red corrugated sheds leaned in a drunken fashion and behind the huge shoulder of the moor, ginger with the dying bracken..

Through the filigree of the branches where the last toffee coloured leaves rustled crisply, St. Pancras church slumbered in the winter sunshine...

Around the green, houses jostle with little shops selling souvenirs and other such things, outside one is this lovely old Straddle stone mushroom used originally to support a building to keep the vermin and water out.

Around the corner is The Old Inn a wonderful old pub with interesting character
And across the road at the old Sextons cottage is the National Trust shop, the old wooden door was decorated up for Christmas with a lovely arch of fir branches, dry hydrangea heads, berries and fruit
We walked through the lych gate into the grave yard where the sun caressed the old lichen covered tombstones and generations of Widecombe folk slept peacefully under the emerald turf..
By the church door a cotoneaster spread like a berried fan against the grey stone of the church and tiny ivies crept up the wall.
The church is beautiful inside light and airy with a lovely ceiling covered in wonderful bosses.
Theres also a museum at the back where some rather nice old crosses reside.
In a glass cabinet is a carved wooden model of Uncle Tom Cobleys old grey mare carrying all the characters from the song.

We wandered back out into the sunshine and walked down to the bottom of the grave yard, the views from here back across the moor are beautiful, with the soaring tors ginger with bracken and sheep tiny white dots like a handful of rice scattered over the hillsides.  By the church wall is an old granite cross standing in a bush of heather that belongs to Olive Parr who was a well known local author who wrote under the pen name of Beatrice Chase.  She lived in the hamlet of Venton a stones throw from Widecombe.  She had a great passion for the moor and wrote lovely descriptive books about her life on it, she was also very opposed to the militaries presence on the moor and felt very strongly about the moor becoming a national park, which thankfully it did.
We left the churchyard and walked down the hill to the well, a very picturesque little building set in the mossy granite wall and hung with streamers of ivy and edged with the odd ferny frond or two.  The waters are reputed to have healing powers, especially for eye complaints.  Tradition says that the well has never been known to run dry. and is fed from a spring in the garden behind.
Across from the well is a wonderful collection of old dilapidated buildings which give great character to Widecombe, I love that nothing is too perfect and slowly goes back to nature, mossy cushions grow on the old tiled roof, and ivy spreads across the front, no doubt in the summer Swallows swoop through the half cocked door and build nests on the roof beams, and little grey mice with pink feet and beady eyes scurry about the dusty floor.
We walked back up the hill to the car, it had been a lovely afternoon to while away an hour or two in a beautiful moorland village, somewhere we never tire of visiting.