Winter away day – to Princetown
Question: how do you entertain 10 Scottish and Lancastrian hillwalkers on a cold wet day on Dartmoor in early winter (when they have come to Devon by air and not brought walking gear with them)?
Answer: you treat them to a day out in historic Princetown!
Last Saturday was grey, damp and surprisingly chilly and blustery in Princetown. First stop the wonderful Dartmoor Prison Museum (lead photo above, and open all year): a real Tardis of a building, stuffed to the gunnels with everything you always wanted to know about the prison and much, much more… Curator Brian gave my visitors a brief run down on the prison today, then left them to explore. They were completely fascinated, and came away having learned a huge amount about the prison’s history and how it all works today.
A quick cuppa and a bowl of chips at the Old Police Station Cafe (most appropriately: many of the party were ex coppers) and then it was on to the National Park Visitor Centre to learn more about Dartmoor. Out visit coincided with the Christmas Fair, where the fantastic ‘Dartmoor Range’ was on sale, represented by photographer Anna Curnow (the autumn issue’s featured photographer), Kim Stead of Twool (Whiteface Dartmoors: an article coming up in 2016), photographer Tracey Elliot-Reep, HK White’s wonderful Dartmoor mugs and tea towels, Clare’s Preserves (article in 2016), Lily Warne Wool (Greyface Dartmoors: article in 2016), Dartmoor Soap Company… the Centre is open this winter (to 28 February 2016) Thursday to Sunday 10.30am–3.30pm: lots of gift ideas for Christmas in stock too.
I even managed to buy my Christmas tree from Mr Steer, selling them outside the Centre, and who kindly dropped it off at my cottage on his and Paula’s (Lily Warne Wool) way home to the Teign Valley. Many thanks to both of them.
Next stop was the fascinating church of St Michael and All Angels, built between 1812 and 1814 by prisoners captured in the Napoleonic War with France and the War of 1812 with the USA, and held at Dartmoor gaol. On a better day we would have explored the gravestones in the churchyard – there’s a free leaflet available in the church – including the four rows of small gravestones, each bearing a set of initials and a date: prisoners’ graves. Before 1910 prisoners were buried here anonymously, but have since been identified. The photo below shows just how lovely the church can look on a bright and sunny day.
By this time everyone wanted to go home, so sadly we didn’t make it into the lovely Fox Tor Cafe for tea and cake and a warm up by the fire…
But on the way back to Moretonhampstead we did call in at Powdermills Pottery where my visitors had a good look around the fantastic range of local arts and crafts on sale (gallery and cafe open winter weekends only until Easter: photo obviously not taken last weekend!).
So there you have it: even on a grey, damp and rather dismal day there’s much to see and do, and fun to be had, in Dartmoor’s highest settlement. A great place to take newcomers to the moor.