High up on the rocky hill of Brentor there stands the lonely little church of St Michael de Rupe. It is thought to have been built in around 1130. Why anyone would want to build a church in such a difficult spot and expect the brethren to climb up once a week, draped in Sunday best, is beyond my ken. Unless, of course, they thought it important to test the mettle of the believers.
These days, services are only held in the drier six months but, once upon a time, men and women would have to trudge up there in the foulest weather the moor could throw at them.
There’s the tale of the funeral that took place in such foul weather, that everyone was forced over double and ended up ‘walking like frogs’ in order to get from the church to the grave site. It was written in the 19th century that the weather was a penance for the parishioners and their sinning ways.
We walked up there today. It’s a rather steep climb, not helped when the rain is falling as a light drizzle making everything wet and slightly slippery. The path spirals up and around the rocks, making the trip appear less steep than it actually is, which is nice.
Mirinda had found mention of this church and (quite correctly) thought I’d love it. Then, today, as we drove towards Cotehele, the church loomed high up above us. We pulled into the car park and trudged up and up.
The views from the church are magnificent, even on a murky day like today.
Obviously, a path would have solved a lot of problems so, a Tavistock curate took it upon himself to employ people in the task. His approach was interesting. He would tempt sturdy labourers into his lodgings with whisky then, once ‘moist and smiling’ the man would be pliant enough to give a day to help build the path.
I have no idea if the above is true – it comes from The Book of Dartmoor (1900). It sounds a bit more lascivious than pious. Still, it makes an interesting tale. And I do wonder how much more difficult it was to negotiate before the path was made.
Inside, the church is small and cute, perfectly formed for a tiny congregation. Apparently, in the 18th century, there were around 19 families in the parish but each Sunday there’d only be around nine or ten people sitting in the pews.
In January 1951, thieves stole some lead from the roof of the church but, having climbed all the way up then all the way down carrying the lead, they decided to give up. Speaking of stealing…the Tavistock curate mentioned above, dug up stones used in a prehistoric castle to use in his path.
We left the church behind as we headed for Gunnislake, Calstock and, finally Cotehele. It was not easy to get to. Mirinda’s patience was sorely tried as Maxine led us down impossibly narrowing paths and cars threatened to squish us at every turn.
Naturally, Miss Cranky Pants put in an appearance. As the roads narrowed, I kind of thought she might. It was not pleasant. Still, she convinced me the best option was to return to the main road. Then, helped by Mirinda’s little friend, we managed to find the better route.
I should mention the general shit Internet access we have come up against here. The 4G signal is not always around and the connection in the house is sketchy to say the least. In fact, while the wifi connection in the house is fine, the link to the Internet only started working today. Though it is remarkably slow. There’s no way I could live here.
Still, we managed to reach Cotehele in one piece and pulled into the car park. We took some time to calm down a bit before going inside.
We’ve been to Cotehele before. We visited in 2004 when we stayed in the Tamar Valley. We took the small ferry from Calstock and it was all very smooth and simple. Though, being a Friday, the house wasn’t open. Not that that stopped me. I wrote quite a comprehensive history of the house back then. As a companion piece, this entry is about the inside of the house.
National Trust volunteers are a knowledgable bunch. Today we had David and a lovely lady whose name I didn’t catch. David was not just an authority on Cotehele, it was as if he had a handle on just about everything historical. He was wonderfully informative.
The lady upstairs, in an unfamiliar room due to staff shortages, was bright and bubbly. She pointed out the impressive door with its motif of flowers which could depict either roses or marigolds. The rose being Tudor, the marigold Elizabethan.
I suggested they could be chrysanthemums because Richard I loved them. I lied. Obviously, Richard was a rose man. His was the first royal name to pop into my head after I suggested chrysanthemums. Perhaps I should have suggested the Japanese royal family which has the chrysanthemum as its symbol.
We had a lovely wander all round the house. Well, in the accessible rooms. Not all of it was open but enough to make the visit most enjoyable. Then, naturally, we had a stroll around the gardens which are most extensive.
Heading back to the cottage was a lot easier than the going and we were soon driving back through Lydford.
We decided to try and have dinner at the Bearslake Inn which is renowned for a decent meal. Unfortunately (for us) it was fully booked so we had to make do with a drink. Still, it’s a lovely little bar with some interesting beers from Hanlon’s Brewery in Exeter. I can thoroughly recommend the very interesting Yellow Hammer.
Back at the house we decided to eat in and hunker down as the rain drifted in and out. Which brings me to the title of this post.
Before we left home last Friday I fitted a new set of wipers on Max. I wasn’t sure if they’d work. The weather has been glorious, so there’s been no need to give them a test run. Then, today, as predicted, it rained. My concerns regarding the wipers suddenly flying off were completely unfounded. However, the blades do not really fit the curve of the windscreen very well leaving a bit of a smurdge across the centre every now and then. I don’t think this has anything to do with my fitting skills but, rather, a lack in the manufacturing process.
Mind you, I’m sure Miss Cranky Pants would blame me.
In passing, I rather liked this small sign in the porch of the church at Brentor.