Take a look at Tavistock

Tavistock is an ancient stannary town on the border of Devon and Cornwall and supposedly the home of the cream tea. Once home to the wealthiest Benedictine abbey in Devon founded in 974 it grew to become a market town (named after the river Tavy and ‘stoc’ which is an Old English word for settlement) and a significant producer of woollen cloth.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, Henry VIII transferred the abbey and most of its assets to John Russell, the first in a succession of Earls and Dukes of Bedford to own most of the town. In the 19th century Tavistock’s economy and society were transformed by the expansion of metal mining, mainly for copper, around the town and in the Tamar Valley.

Francis the 7th Duke of Bedford by public subscription 1864

The 6th and 7th Dukes used the revenues from copper mines on their land to redevelop the town centre, provide fine public buildings including the Guildhall and Pannier Market, and erect ‘model’ cottages for industrial workers. The Pannier market has different themed markets throughout the week and you can find unusual crafts, second-hand items and clothing. Shops and cafés line the outside pedestrian walk.

Cheesemonger’s sign

We selected the town as a base to explore this western part of Devon as it is on the doorstep of Dartmoor National Park. Tavistock is especially rich in independent stores: a brilliant bookseller and music shop, butchers, an award-winning cheesemonger, clothiers, a fine delicatessen, framers, fruit and veg shops, hardware, lighting, and stationers, among others.

Abbey Chapel

We stayed in the unusual looking Bedford Hotel which is opposite the Parish Church and close to the impressive Guildhall. The Bedford Hotel takes its name from the Duke of Bedford, who appointed the architect Jeffry Wyatt (who was also responsible for the transformation of Windsor Castle in 1824) to transform the inn into The Bedford Hotel which was completed in 1822, and a ballroom was added in 1830. Although somewhat old-fashioned we enjoyed our stay there, the room was rather tired, though clean, and on the 3rd floor (no lift) but the food was excellent and it is in a perfect location for exploring the town and the area.

The Bedford Hotel

At the back of the hotel is a rather lovely secret walled garden. We didn’t manage to sit out in there, but on a warm evening it is probably a lovely spot to take a bottle of wine and relax and smell the many beautiful roses.

Remains of the cloister of Tavistock Abbey, destroyed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, can be seen in the churchyard of the rather beautiful St Eustachius church which is directly opposite the hotel.

St Eustachius Church

The church is well worth visiting though we never managed the time to revisit and use the helpful information leaflet to guide us around.

There are lovely walks alongside the River Tavy as it meanders softly over granite pebbles and slate stones beside the Abbey walls and the nearby canal, which was created (most of the labour being performed by French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars) to carry copper to Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar, where it could be loaded into sailing ships weighing up to 200 tonnes.

Abbey Weir looking towards Abbey Bridge and the weir.

Another interesting find was Betsy Grimbal’s Tower, one of the entrances to the Abbey, which dates from the fifteenth century. Its popular name is probably a corruption of  Blessed Grimbald, a ninth century saint revered by the Benedictine monks.

Remains of the Abbot’s lodging and western gate house. Traditionally known as Betsy Grimbal’s Tower it opened onto the gardens and fishponds. Below the archway is a sarcophagus unearthed when the cloisters and chapter-house were demolished in the 18th century.

The buildings around Bedford Square (header image) are quite unusual. Here you will find the Guildhall and the Pannier Market and this gateway.

Grade I listed Court Gate – one of the original entrances to the Abbey

An unusual weathervane on the Bedford Hotel sits above a turret over the Portrait Room. It’s not old, it was created in copper in 2001 by Greens Weathervanes, who at that time had a workshop at Tor Royal in Princetown.

The Portrait Room Veranda.

Based in design upon the White Rabbit, Herald to the Queen of Hearts, drawn by Sir John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the vane is a veritable work of art.

White Rabbit, Herald to the Queen of Hearts Weather Vane

And I even managed to capture a Cheshire Cat…

Tavistock is definitely a town worth visiting and there are plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafés to enjoy as well as walks to discover the many medieval remains and the newly opened Guildhall Gateway Centre formerly a courtroom and police station. And in the autumn the famous Goose Fair is held on the second Wednesday of every October and sees fair rides, stalls and activities take place. The fair dates back to the 12th Century, when a Michaelmas Fair was held every 29 September.

We could be back.

Jo’s Monday Walk

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

Paris Focus: Jardin des Plantes

The final post in my Paris series is another short walk in the 5th Arrondissement, taking in the markets and food shops along Rue Mouffetard en route to the Jardin des Plantes, a 400-year-old garden of science.

Our walk began at the Fountain of Guy Lartigue after exiting the Metro at Les Gobelins a short stroll away. First had to be the Rue Mouffetard market and a look at the lovely buildings in this area.

At the far end of the road we reached Place de la Contrescarpe and turned right onto Rue Lacépède. Crossing over Rue Monge, a busy road, we continued along

Rue Lacépède, stopping every now and then to photograph interesting shops and buildings. The lovely wrought-iron balconies a particular favourite of mine. Continue reading Paris Focus: Jardin des Plantes

Paris Focus: A Stroll along the Seine

The second walk in the Paris revivals. This is a walk from the Eiffel Tower alongside the Seine to the Musée de l’Orangerie, criss-crossing the river and stopping at various interesting places along the way. The map above shows the two endpoints but I can’t seem to save the actual route.

Leaving the Metro at Trocadéro I walked through Jardins du Trocadéro and across the bridge to the Eiffel Tower. I had no interest in going up the tower, I think on my first visit in 1972 I went part way up, to the second floor, but you weren’t able to go to the top floor for some reason. No doubt a lot has changed.

I still had a wander around at ground level though, taking photos of the wonderful Jacaranda trees in bloom at the time, as well as the Horse Chestnuts.

I continued along the quayside on the left bank passing by an unusual war memorial to those who lost their lives in the Algerian Wars (the Maghreb region of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria). This war from 1954 to 1962 led to Algeria gaining its independence from France.

Just along from here is the pretty Debilly footbridge,

but I continued to the next bridge, Pont des Invalides, where I crossed over and into the quaint little Jardin de la Nouvelle France close to the Grand Palais, which is what I came to look at. Continue reading Paris Focus: A Stroll along the Seine