See Tim Sandles’ Legendary Dartmoor website for more information about the area and his description of a walk along the valley.
Bradley Manor is a small National Trust property on the western edge of Newton Abbot. This was my first visit and I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to see inside the house and by the peaceful surroundings. Unfortunately I was too tired by the time we’d finished looking round inside to do more than sit on a bench and enjoy the sunshine (the interior is astonishingly chilly), but there are 70 acres of wooded hillsides and meadows to explore and a return trip will be something to look forward to.
Looking from the gardens towards the rear of the house
The front entrance
The stonework around the chapel windows includes this carving of St Matthew the Evangelist. At one time it was brightly painted: traces of green and red still survive under the modern limewash.
07.38: Two deer ran out from the trees and crossed the path some distance ahead of me. This was the only picture I managed to get and it’s been fairly drastically cropped. My daughter-in-law had better luck the following day.
I’ve been looking forward to visiting Torbryan church ever since I first saw it described by W. G. Hoskins in John Betjeman’s Collins Guide to English Parish Churches as having ‘the most completely characteristic Devon interior in plan, fittings, colour and atmosphere.’ The fact that it’s in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust was a further recommendation as I’d very much enjoyed a previous visit to St Martin’s church in Exeter, also looked after by the CCT. Torbryan’s ‘imposing Perpendicular’ exterior is notable for the fact that it’s rendered and painted white, and although the finish is currently rather worn the tower still looks very strange against a backdrop of woods and farmland. It’s always exciting to approach a place for the first time along a network of winding lanes, and Torbryan offers lots of promising glimpses from quite some distance away.
The rood screen dates from circa 1470-80. The original 15th-century oak benches still survive but have been enclosed within 18th-century panelling to form box pews.
A stone reredos circa 1840 has two panels displaying the Ten Commandments. The surrounding stonework is mediaeval and the carved woodwork of the altar front comes from the mediaeval pulpit.
Baskett was responsible for printing many fine books but this particular edition contained many errors. The most famous misprint occurs in the page heading in Luke 20:9, where “The Parable of the Vineyard” became “The Parable of the Vinegar”, hence the nickname. Because of their value a number of these bibles have been stolen in recent years; this one is stored in a locked case and positioned safely out of reach within a side chapel.
These beautiful slate ledger stones date from the 17th century. The floor throughout the church is uncarpeted and along with the plain glass in many of the windows this creates an atmosphere of modest simplicity. As a result the elaborately carved and painted rood screen appears even more lavish by contrast.
Our original plan to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather by visiting Wistman’s Wood had to be abandoned after we found the Two Bridges car parking spaces completely full. Instead we headed down towards Whiteworks, where we ate a picnic lunch and set off for a short walk along a nearby footpath to enjoy the views.
Although we’d chosen our route pretty much at random, and mainly on the basis that it looked easy for me to cope with, it turned out to be an inspired choice and led us towards Nun’s Cross, or Siward’s Cross as it’s also known. The building in the picture is Nun’s Cross Farm, and Siward’s Cross is visible on the path to the right.
After I got home and did a search online I discovered that this is the oldest and largest of all the Dartmoor crosses, so finding it by chance was wonderfully lucky. Tim Sandles’ brilliant ‘Legendary Dartmoor’ website has all the necessary information here…
It seemed like a good place to take a photo of Tom and Lil. We weren’t able to decipher the writing on the cross, although Lil’s guess of ‘Bug Land’ came close and really should have given us a clue. It’s generally agreed to read ‘BocLonD’, and may refer to Buckland Abbey, but it’s clear from the Legendary Dartmoor entry that there are many possible theories around.
The usual bleached post-winter colouring of the moor has been made more dramatic this year by the fact that we haven’t had as much rain as usual. This view to the north east of the Whiteworks road was taken as we were on our way back from Siward’s Cross.
A second attempt at the Wistman’s Wood car parking showed it hadn’t got any emptier, so we continued to Bellever Forest and headed up towards Laughter Hole Farm (a name that calls for some research…). We saw a big fox silhouetted on the track some distance ahead of us, and when it turned and moved away through patches of sunshine its coat lit up bright russet.
It’s always a surprise to me how swiftly Dartmoor changes in a very short distance, especially when travelling on foot – during the first part of the day conditions altered in moments from chilly and wind-battered to hot and sun-baked. At Bellever some parts of the forest were windy, dry and hot, but in other places the air was damp and full of the scent of pine trees. Laughter Hole Farm occupies a lovely position high above the East Dart Valley, and sitting on some piled timber listening to siskins and crossbills and soaking up the afternoon sunshine before heading back to the car made a perfect way to finish the day.