Dartmoor Revisited – A Shared Experience

I had the pleasure of leading a group of members and friends of Galmpton & Churston Ferrers History Group and Kingswear Historians on a personal day of renewing my love affair with Dartmoor, developed over my life, and now sharing that experience with my travelling companions.

Meeting up at Buckfast Abbey we then entered the National Park moorland environment of narrow tree-lined lanes to climb up to the enchanting village of Buckland in the Moor with its historic church of St. Peter’s, complete with unique church-tower clock where digits were replaced with letters MY DEAR MOTHER by Squire William Whitely.

John Risdon and fellow history enthusiasts on St. Peter's, Buckland in the Moor, Dartmoor

Fellow Travellers at St. Peter’s, Buckland in the Moor, Dartmoor

On then, an elusive moorland route to Widecombe in the Moor and a chance to both take in the heritage of this ancient community, huddled around the Church of St. Pancras, patron saint of tin miners, and have time for some refreshment in this idyllic setting.

From Widecombe, then we continued cross-country through a sparsely populated mix of managed enclosed farmland and open moor to reach the main Moreton Hampstead to Postbridge road. Here at Bennett’s Cross, close by the Warren House Inn, we stopped to view the ancient Saxon Cross and the panorama of an historic area of tin mining over the centuries, the Birch Tor Vitifers Mine.
Then onwards on the main trans-moor highway; Post Bridge, Two Bridges, a view of Princetown, Merrivale and other scattered granite quarries, Vixen Tor, then the long descent to Tavistock for our finale as a group.

Tavistock, built on the banks of the River Tavy, became a Stannary Town and grew in wealth largely due to tin being worked on Dartmoor over the centuries. As tin mining began to subside during the 19th century the town was incredibly fortunate to find that immense deposits of copper were deposited nearby. As that also eventually began to run out the final natural wealth to be extracted would be valuable but lethal arsenic! The family that benefited the most from this extraordinary natural wealth were the Bedfords but the town as a whole still reflects this era in its architecture and layout.

Today Tavistock is designated A World Heritage Gateway and within the Guildhall you will find the Heritage Centre where the history of mining within the area of West Devon and North Cornwall is interpreted in detail and in such varied and creative ways

Another building that appealed to our group is the Tavistock Pannier Market. Again historic, it provides a vibrant link of past and present, safely insulated from the sight and sounds of town traffic!
Our enjoyable day together was much enhanced by beautiful weather conditions which enhanced the beauty of the moor for all concerned.

John Risdon