Cornwall Cogitation 17/195 Saturday 27 April 2019 Airy, wild, open, mind-stretching, that’s Devon’s Dartmoor National Park.
Brilliant! I knew Dartmoor offered much, but not how much. We knew Steve and Marilyn Bowden would come up with a fine plan for a day-trip there, come rain or shine. They did, complete with rain and sun. Rolling, peaty heathland, sheep on commons, wild ponies, towns and villages, engaged us in history, mystery and discoveries du jour. Dartmoor’s a place where people and nature cooperatively shape the landscape.
We visited the National Park Visitor Centre at Princetown where we glimpsed Dartmoor nature and culture over the last 4000 years. We were delighted to find an exhibit featuring Arthur Conan Doyle. The visitor centre was formerly the Duchy Hotel where Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Sherlock Holmes mystery. In a 2 April 1901 letter to his mother, Doyle wrote: “It is a good place, very sad and wild, dotted with dwellings of prehistoric man, strange monoliths and huts and graves.”
Princetown is home to Dartmoor Prison, originally created to house French prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars and Americans from the War of 1812 (6,500 US sailors were incarcerated there between 1813 and 1815). During WWI conscientious objectors were housed there. Today the prison only houses low category prisoners. We ran out of time for a visit to the prison museum, though did see the church that French and American prisoners of war helped build.
Time to move on
On the way back to the car park from the church, the rich scent of hops and barley from the Dartmoor Brewery wafted in the air. No time to see or taste, as we were bound for Buckland, home to Buckland Abbey, founded in 1278 for monks of the Cistercian order (not to be confused with the equally interesting Buckfast Abbey we visited a few years ago).
From a community of work, prayer and silent contemplation, dedicated to helping the poor and infirm, the abbey later became home for the rich and famous, including the Sir Francis Drake family. It is now managed by the National Trust, a quiet, tranquil, storied place, more than 700 years on from its founding.
The abbey fell victim to the Dissolution carried out by King Henry VIII. The king, in conflict with the pope concerning his divorce, split from the Roman Catholic Church and appointed himself head of the Church of England. He dissolved monasteries across the country and the monks at Buckland left in 1538.
I felt like a modern-day pilgrim, privileged to set foot on 700 years of life, tranquil and tumultuous, with a lasting story to tell.
Crossing the Tamar
The River Tamar separates Devon and Cornwall. We crossed the river near Tavistock on this bridge built in the 1500s.
Other glimpses of the week
Beauty–fragile, fragrant, fresh–reigns.
Reflective, transparent pose in the Church of St Michael and All Angels
May memory enrich and peace prevail
Another day out, Friday