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.