Buckland Abbey

It was one of those days where you are not quite sure whether the sun will come out or it will pour with rain all day. Whilst having breakfast we watched the rain come down, but according to my phone weather app it was supposed to clear by 11 am. We took the opportunity to pop over to the famous Pannier Market in Tavistock and have a look around the stalls whilst waiting for the sun to emerge.

The Great Barn

It was our final day in the area so we decided (well I did) to visit the lovely Garden House only a short distance away near Yelverton and since it was only an extra 5 minutes away we drove down a very narrow road (due to road closures) to visit Buckland Abbey, once home to the infamous Sir Francis Drake.

The Abbey entrance

The dissolution of the Abbey in 1539 saw a new owner, Sir Richard Grenville, purchase the Abbey and some of the estate from the Crown for his son Roger. However Roger’s ownership was brief, and it was his son, also called Richard, who made many of the alterations that are still evident today. Grenville decided instead to convert the abbey church into a house, in the process creating a cosy and intimate home. He retained the church tower and inserted three floors in the church interior.

Richard decided to sell the Abbey in 1580 to Sir Francis Drake, privateer, who made it his home after returning to England after his three-year circumnavigation of the globe on The Golden Hind.  [source: NT Website]

Decorative lead water tank

I’m not a huge fan of NT houses, some of the history is fascinating, but there is only so much ostentatious wealth I can stomach. I much prefer the exteriors of the buildings and of course, the gardens.

Every English person over a certain age will have studied those enterprising explorers during ‘The Age of Exploration’, or ‘Age of Discovery’, including Sir Francis Drake, though his life has been somewhat sanitised (being depicted still as a ‘great British hero’) as he commanded a ship as part of a fleet bringing African slaves to the “New World”, making one of the first English slaving voyages.

The Drake Coat of Arms. The stars represent the northern and southern hemispheres that Drake had sailed and the wavy line the sea. Auxillo Divino means ‘hand of God’ and Sic Parvis Magna means ‘from small beginnings to great achievements’.

Inside the former abbey the Great Hall has the original magnificent Tudor floor and an elaborate plastered Elizabethan ceiling. The upper floor has the Long Gallery which is dominated by a huge statue of Sir Francis Drake. This long, open space was used in Tudor times for the inhabitants to get some indoor exercise and we found information about life on board the ships that Drake might have sailed and the lives of the Cistercian monks. Much of the display relates to the Armada’s defeat.

Plaster model of the bronze statues of Drake that can be found in Tavistock and Plymouth Hoe. It was made in the late 19th century.

In 1988 four stained glass windows were installed in the windows of the stairwell to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Commemorative Glass
The Drake stained-glass Sundial commemorates the four hundredth anniversary of his death in 1596. It represents a 16th century chart of the Atlantic Ocean on which the hours lines radiate from a decorative compass rose. Drake’s ship ‘The Golden Hind’ is seen sailing along the evening 8 o’clock line on course from Plymouth to Porto Bello where an encircled cross indicates the position of his burial. The heraldic shield displays Drake’s coat of arms. It was designed by Christopher Daniel.

Back on the ground floor are the Tudor kitchens, laid out with 18th century cooking utensils and foods as if preparing for the dinner party upstairs.

The Great Barn

There is an impressive great barn which was used by the monks for the storage and winnowing of corn. Now used for apple pressing.

The Elizabethan Garden

And outside are Herb Gardens and an Elizabethan garden in front of the abbey. Not the most interesting of NT gardens I have to say. I was disappointed with the planting of both the herb garden and the Elizabethan garden. Being the first of June I expected both to be quite floriferous.

Since we were heading off to visit the nearby Garden House we opted not to do any of the walks in the grounds or visit the café.

Garden Portrait: The Garden House Part II

The second part of my visit to The Garden House is of the Walled Garden and the terraced areas leading up to the Café.

On both sides of a very neatly mown grass path, which seemed far too good to actually walk on, there are deep double herbaceous borders, filled in late May with swathes of Alliums, Peonies, Lupins, Aconites, Wisteria and lots of other perennials just beginning to emerge.

More wisteria, bronze fennel, grasses and architectural plants such as the Melianthus major, Hostas and Ligularia.

These lupins in particular caught my eye, I just love the deep magenta pink colour

Eventually we made our way up to the Lower terrace and lawns to the café.

Behind the borders are more winding pathways among colourful shrubs and trees.

On every level there was planting to admire.

We didn’t have time to explore the lake and arboretum, as we wanted to have one last birthday treat and enjoy a Cream Tea – the Cornish way!

Naturally it was far too tempting not to have a look at the plant sales although I did intend only to look up the names of a geranium I fancied. However, resistance is futile and I walked away with a couple of new Hydrangea plants for the dappled shade border.

And there is always time to stop and smell the roses

It is a garden I would love to go back to in a different season and being less than 2 hours from home it is entirely possible that we can do it on a day out.

Jo’s Monday Walk

Garden Portrait: The Garden House Part I

My visit to south Devon would naturally have to include a garden tour. This time The Garden House in nearby Buckland Monachorum, a mere 15 mins from the hotel we were staying in. I have read a lot about this garden so I was expecting good things.

Originally a family home and private garden purchased by the Fortescue family back in 1945, The Garden House is now run by the Fortescue Garden Trust, a small charity committed to developing and maintaining this special place, for everyone to enjoy.

It is a true plantsman’s paradise.

Aquilegias
Hardy Geraniums

I have split this post into two parts – this one will take you around the main garden which consists of several areas all connected by meandering pathways. In some ways it reminded me very much of the delightful East Lambrook Manor garden which we visited last year, only much larger.

The first area is the summer garden which leads through to the cottage garden and to the ‘Magic Circle’. You can’t rush. There are so many beautiful plants to see and admire.

From there we wandered through the Acer Glade, around the Wildflower Meadow and along the Jungle Path to Wisteria Bridge. This part of the garden must look absolutely stunning in autumn dress.

Finally a Bulb Meadow takes you onto the lane across which you will find the Walled Garden which is the focus of my second post.

Jo’s Monday Walk

Just Back From… Dartmoor

In the spring of 2017 we had a week’s holiday in the neighbouring county of Devon. South Devon to be precise because it was one area that we hadn’t explored much in many decades. Although we had a wonderful week we never had time to go into Dartmoor National Park so we were determined to go back. A lot has happened since then, but finally last week we did manage a short break.

Great Staple Tor

We based ourselves in Tavistock on the western edge of the park and for once we booked into a hotel with bed, breakfast and dinner included so we didn’t have to think about anything other than where we were going to go each day. I prefer holiday cottages but they are never a proper holiday for me.

The weather was a bit iffy – sunshine and showers forecast throughout the 4 days, but we didn’t do too badly. On the rainiest day we went into Exeter to tick off yet another cathedral from our list. And of course there had to be one garden visit.

Views over towards Tavistock

I planned a circular drive around Dartmoor with several stops to have a walk, enjoy the views and on the OH’s birthday we had a perfect day for it with blue skies, sunshine and wonderful fluffy white clouds. Our first stop was just inside the park, a bare 4 miles from Tavistock, at Pork Hill car park where you have amazing views over Tavistock and towards Plymouth to the south. Loads of parking and a good place for several walks / hiking trails / tors.

Brent Tor is one of the most impressive rock outcrops in Dartmoor. With St Michael’s Church at its top, it makes a distinctive and famous silhouette on the Dartmoor skyline.

And an ice-cream van. Though too early in the day for us.

Onwards to our next stop at Postbridge where you will find a large car park and toilets. There is a small museum and and exhibition about the local area which helps to explain the development of the moors and a shop selling books, maps, information leaflets to help you explore the area, including the Walks around Postbridge leaflet as well as local crafts and gifts. The staff are very welcoming and friendly too.

The ‘new’ bridge over the East Dart River

Close by you will find one of the best examples of an iconic clapper bridge. It is believed to date back to medieval times and would probably have replaced stepping stones to help packhorses cross the river. The bridge has two central piers spanned by three large granite slabs, or clappers.

New bridge and the ancient clapper bridge

The word clapper is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘cleaca’, meaning stepping stones, or ‘bridging the stepping stones’.

The clapper bridge

It’s a very popular place for families who love to paddle in the river with fishing nets for pond dipping (not sure what they can find) and also picnic in the meadow close by.

One of the nicest things about driving through the park is the sense of space. Despite it being the school half term holidays the park wasn’t very busy and most of the many car parks (usually free) were relatively empty which meant we could stop when and where we liked.

Of course stopping to look at the ubiquitous Dartmoor ponies was a must. The speed limit with the park is 40mph – but you always have to keep your eyes open for sheep, ponies and even cattle crossing or walking in the road. Slow travel at its best.

Is this edible?

I was thinking about what makes Dartmoor different to other similar places I have visited, such as Exmoor, North Yorkshire, the Brecon Beacons. It seems a lot bleaker and desolate with so much space and very few signs of human habitation and perhaps a sense of history from Early Neolithic to the much more recent tin mining. The big skies and on this day, the clouds, are pretty amazing too though I wouldn’t want to be up here in the mist and rain.

Sheep terrain
Inquisitive McMoos

Wending our way around the park via Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey our next port of call was the famous Haytor which lies between Bovey Tracey and Widdecombe in the Moor.

Haytor and the South Devon coast in the distance

Haytor is perhaps the most easily accessible tor and has spectacular views across Dartmoor and the South Devon coast. I think we chose the steepest path up to the rocks though, but we made it!

The rocky granite outcrops (tors) that dominate the landscape were formed over 280 million years ago. People have been here for over 4,000 years, you will see the remains of prehistoric round houses, field boundaries and burial cairns.

It was the busiest place we came across during the day with a lot of people rock climbing and bouldering. There is a Visitor Centre here too where you can buy a ‘Walks around Haytor’ leaflet or the ‘Haytor’ booklet.

We didn’t stop in Widdecombe in the Moor which is famous for two things; The Church of St Pancras, colloquially known as the Cathedral of the Moors in recognition of its 120-ft tower, stands over the village green — helping to make Widecombe one of the most beloved villages on Dartmoor

and the folk song “Widecombe Fair” which immortalises the tale of Tom Pearce and the death of his horse at the famous annual fair which is held on the second Tuesday in September. It is a classic agricultural fair with horse jumping, rural crafts, a dog show and much more.

“Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
All along, down along, out along lea.
For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.”

The roads here are quite narrow so there is much stopping and reversing and squeezing into passing places so not for the faint-hearted driver. I had planned my route to avoid the narrowest of roads, but some are unavoidable. All I can advise is to take your time and don’t panic!

Boulders on the East Dart River
East Dart River walk

Our final stop was at Dartmeet where two rivers – the East Dart and the West Dart converge. After a short stroll along the banks of the river looking for damselflies, dragonflies and Kingfishers we called it a day once the route became too rocky for comfort.

A beautiful female Demoiselle which has metallic green-bronze body with translucent pale brown wings.

All in all a great day out, though to really make the most of Dartmoor you probably need to explore on foot and spread out the walks over several days.

Street Art: Kingston upon Thames

Colour Your Senses in Kingston (upon Thames) was designed to welcome people safely back into the city after all the covid restrictions. The town centre has been dressed with colourful cross-street banners, bunting, floor stencils, floral displays and exhibition boards, providing a splash of vibrant colour.

Market trader whistling,
Musicians singing,
Oars swhooshing and
Ducks quacking.

It’s a busy city centre and no more so than on a Saturday afternoon so the daughter and I headed off along the riverside whilst the granddaughters went clothes shopping for the all important 18th birthday family meal that evening.

On our way back we came across some hoardings around an empty building plot behind the Bentall Centre that had been artistically and colourfully decorated. I included a few images of the hoardings in my Surrey round-up post, but there were more. I particularly liked this one.

I often wonder what an artist is thinking about when they create their paintings. Split personality? Torn apart? Gender confusion? Hanging by a thread? Who knows.

There can be no confusion about this one though. Swans as we know, mate for life, and the River Thames is well known for its swans. Possibly by Skyhigh.

My first impression of the one above was of penguins, but the one on the right is a woodpecker, not sure about the one on the left. It’s hard to track down these artists, but the A51 tag led me to Aspire who seems to paint animals and birds that are on the decline.

.EPOD His professional skillset (draftsman, fashion designer and illustrator) and the inspirations of his youth manifest vividly in his paintings and murals. Sultry figures draped in elegant materials. Mirrored vessels in otherworldly landscapes. Cigarettes hanging from kiss me lips.

281 bus rounding cape horn in a storm by Tom Pierce

Whatever you might think about graffiti or street art / murals and I confess that a lot are not to my taste, they do often brighten up what can be a dull and depressing area and being in a public space makes art accessible to all.