Away day to Widecombe in the Moor
After several days stuck in the barn deep in a complicated edit, by Thursday last week I had to get out for a bit of ‘work’ R&R. So I took a trip to Widecombe (a lovely drive across the moor via Grimspound, though on that morning in monsoon-like conditions). I confess that I rarely stop in Widecombe in summer, unless passing through on foot, but it’s a place really worth spending some time in. Apart from the historical and legendary aspects (such as tales of the Devil and the ‘Great Thunderstorm’ in the 17th century) and the world-renowned Widecombe Fair (Tuesday 8 September this year) there are great places to eat and lots to see.
The Cafe on the Green (a tearoom since 1926) has recently been taken over by Edward and Liz Corwood, and has been given a real makeover! It’s fresh, bright and spacious: the interior decor colour palette has been carefully selected to reflect the natural hues of granite, lichen, berberis and copper beech that can be seen through the windows. It’s capacious, too: 110 covers inside and 120 in the garden overlooking St Pancras Church. You’ll receive a warm welcome, and I felt a real buzz of enthusiasm running through the staff and building (and the food looked delicious too). Go and see for yourself next time you’re there. (Edward also told me how welcome they had been made to feel in the village, and that Tony Beard had shown him some postcards of The Cafe in years gone by: look carefully at the one below and you can see a charabanc, back in the days when tourists arrived by train at Bovey Tracey and were then taken on a tour of the moor.) The autumn issue of Dartmoor Magazine will have more about The Cafe and planned future events.
Next I went to the National Trust’s 16th-century Church House to take a look round Widecombe Craft Market, held here once a week (pretty much) for 30 years. Rob Hutchinson of www.dartmoorphotos.co.uk shows his work there, and had recently reminded me of the market’s existence (I had been meaning to revisit for ages). And it is well worth it: a great selection of handmade products from a variety of Devon and Dartmoor crafters: perfect for presents (or a spot of self-indulgence). Basketry, jewellery, ironwork, knitwear, leather and linen items (and the ‘Old Forks Home…’, recycled cutlery!): a lovely place to spend an hour, and in a seriously historic building. Every Thursday 10.30am–4.30pm (starting in May: last one this year 15 October).
I also hadn’t visited the National Trust’s new gallery at Sexton’s Cottage next door since it was revamped. The old ‘bookshop’ area upstairs has been transformed into a beautifully lit gallery space where you will find a wonderful range of items on sale, mostly from Dartmoor. But what caught my eye came from a pottery in Bideford, the last in the country to be producing traditional cider jugs. Harry Juniper has been potting for 67 years, and his son and daughter are now involved in the business: Sexon’s Cottage is the only gallery where his work is on sale. His work is grounded in the North Devon 17th-century pottery tradition, using rich red earthenware clay and yellow lead glaze, and sgraffito decoration. (Another nice thing about the gallery is that there is information about each maker clearly displayed).
When I emerged from Sexton’s Cottage the downpour had stopped and the sun was shining, perfect for a drive via Dartmeet to Tavistock Pannier Market, my next port of call. Not a bad ‘work’ day all in all!