Brood­ing moors filled with mys­tery

Landscape (UK) - - Contents -

On the south-eastern edge of Dart­moor, a me­dieval street winds its way up­hill to­wards forested hills. It is mid-morn­ing, and blue tits and chaffinche­s chime in with the bell of the post of­fice door, which is quickly closed to the brisk win­ter air. Stone build­ings painted in white and pas­tel shades of blue, green and pink, lean in to face each other across the nar­row route. This is Fore Street, the an­cient road at the heart of Buck­fastleigh in Devon. The town’s long and rich his­tory is in­sep­a­ra­ble from the moor­land land­scape that rises to the north. Buck­fastleigh can trace its ori­gins back to the 1200s, but the town re­ally found its feet in the late 18th and early 19th cen­turies, when it thrived on the wool trade. Dart­moor farm­ers drove their sheep off the moors, down into the town, where their wool was spun in mills driven by the River Dart and its trib­u­taries. It is this fresh moor­land wa­ter that helps sus­tain the green and wooded land­scape that dis­tin­guishes these south­ern reaches of Dart­moor from the sparse and windswept north. In win­ter, Buck­fastleigh is a wel­com­ing haven. At the low end of town, the South Devon Rail­way runs steam trains south into the Dart Val­ley, past old wa­ter­mills and or­chard fields. The 7-mile line be­tween Buck­fastleigh and Totnes was ac­tive from 1872 un­til 1958 and orig­i­nally trans­ported goods such as wool, coal and cider. Nowa­days, it runs with a buf­fet car and trades off its bu­colic views. The 10-minute walk from the sta­tion to the heart of Fore Street is lined with low, slate-roofed cot­tages spi­ralling wisps of smoke from their chim­neys. The Valiant Sol­dier pub, at the south end of the street, closed its doors to cus­tomers in the 1960s, but now opens as a mu­seum from Easter un­til the end of Oc­to­ber, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to see the pub ex­actly as it was left on the day it was closed, from the drained beer glasses to the in­voices scat­tered around. The other busi­nesses in Buck­fastleigh are still go­ing strong. Yvonne Payne and Liz Endy keep the wood-burn­ing stoves roar­ing all through the day at The Singing Ket­tle tea­room. Built of lo­cal stone and painted in del­i­cate pink, it sits in the cen­tre of town op­po­site the post of­fice. Dat­ing from the 17th cen­tury, it is one of the old­est build­ings in town. Yvonne and Liz have de­lighted in the his­tory of the build­ing since they took over the busi­ness a cou­ple of years ago. “It was the in­glenook fire­places that did it,” says Liz. “When we saw them, we knew this was the one.” The two stone fire­places are each topped by a solid tim­ber lin­tel, and in the right-hand room, old meathooks hang in front of the stove; relics from the build­ing’s for­mer life as the lo­cal butcher’s. Yvonne and Liz pride them­selves on serv­ing up tra­di­tional, home-made food. Their menu ranges from full English break­fasts to af­ter­noon teas made with

Free-stand­ing, weather-worn rocky out­crops, or tors. The word is also some­times given to Dart­moor’s hills them­selves.

A train steams along the Great West­ern Rail­way branch line, hug­ging the River Dart.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.