Alice in Tavistock

After an unexpected trip into London and Mirinda’s trip to The Forge with the puppies, we managed to leave by 2. Of course I had to drag Mirinda away from pottering around in the garden. Eventually we once more joined the A303 and headed west.

We pulled off the highway and stopped in Chilmark for a tea/coffee, ignoring the various lay-bys no matter how attractive. This area of Wiltshire is very famous for its quarries. The Romans settled near Chilmark and quarried the local stone. Roman tombs and the site of a villa have been discovered. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the stone was much used in the building of Salisbury Cathedral. It also came to prominence after the great fire of London, when there was a massive demand for stone.

It’s hard to imagine this sleepy village being a hive of activity but I guess it was! There was a great sheep fair held every year on July 20 in the 17th century. What the sheep did or where the humans went, is a mystery.

St Margaret of Antioch, Chilmark

Of course we popped into the lovely St Margaret of Antioch Church, perched high on a hill. As you enter the porch there are two memorials dated 1666 for Henry Frickly and his son. Mr Frickly appears to have been a well to do member of the parish and was subsequently buried in the wall. He was a farmer who managed to leave significant bequests in his will. One hopes it helped him into heaven.

The earliest they can date the building is by a 12th century doorway, though, as usual, it is claimed that a primitive church probably stood on the site in ‘very early times’. The list of priests dates back to 1302.

St Margaret of Antioch was a beautiful virgin who had pledged her life to Christ. It’s not sure when she lived but she MAY have died around 300AD. Having left her family and living with her devoted nurse and doing pious things, she was one day spotted by a randy Roman who commanded her to be either his concubine or wife. Obviously she refused so, not being used to rejection, the Roman decided to burn her at the stake. Unfortunately (for the Roman) the flames would not burn her. He then tried to boil her alive by tying her hands and feet and chucking her into a cauldron of boiling water. Again she was protected by some divine power. It seems he’d then had enough pussy footing around and simply had her beheaded. She is oddly venerated as a patron saint to pregnant women.

Inside the church, the stained glass is relatively new. The organ, given to the church in 1848, is very colourful, painted originally by Mr Seamark, the organist and headmaster of the school. It was lovingly restored around 1948 by John Harding, the organist at that time.

In the graveyard is the tabletop tomb of William Privett, who died in 1772. He built the temple and grotto at Stourhead. The outside corbels are 13th century and all look rather cute.

Some of the corbels

To the north of the church there are a few odd depressions in the ground. This was the site of the village cockpit!

We managed to leave and vacate the bus-stop before the next bus arrived and returned to the A303, suitably refreshed.

Dartmoor was looking mighty fine as we skirted it, all beckoning and desolate. Up to this point the drive had all been a bit too easy, so we managed to find a tractor just outside Tavistock for the last bit. It proceeded to direct us, at 5mph, all the way through town and up the adjacent hill. Reminded me of Bernay and, of course, sent Mirinda’s irit-meter up into the red zone. Due to this, we managed to miss the turn off at Gulworthy Cross but did a quick turn and soon found the oddly named Chipshop, which appears to be a village pub, garage and house. From here the roads gradually became smaller and smaller and increasingly quiet until we pulled into the driveway for Capeltor, the property where the Count House sits.

How utterly brilliant is THIS place! The view across the valley is amazing; it’s like living in a postcard.

View across the Tamar Valley from the Count House, Capeltor

The house was originally the mine office for the Devon Great United Copper Mine. The Foxhall’s, who own the farm, have created a wonderful retreat from the world. Sally Foxhall came up and welcomed us and then we climbed back in the car to drive into Tavistock for supplies.

A stroll through the streets gave glimpses of a fascinating daytrip. Francis Drake came from round here and there’s an odd White Rabbit weather vane. I never did find out the significance of Alice’s White Rabbit to Betsy Grimbel’s tower. Perhaps if someone reading this knows, they could pass the info on!

We bought groceries (and fish and chips for a treat) and went back to the cottage. The TV guide was wrong so we watched Jennifer Aniston in Picture Perfect, a film that could so easily have NOT been made, then Mirinda went to bed, leaving me to watch Man U thrash Millwall 4-0 in the FA Cup final.

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