Thursday, December 20, 2012
Question: What do you get when you combine wild ponies in a national park, a cream tea by a stone courthouse, and a new church in an ancient monastery? Answer: A tour of Devon.
In the same way that Durdle Door was exactly what I least expected to find in England, Dartmoor National Park was exactly what I most expected find. The dense fog, the stone bridges, the rolling hills, the wild ponies, and the prison. Okay, so I wasn’t expecting to find the prison, but it did add a bit of Great Expectations to the mix, and it doesn’t get more English than Dickens.
My trip to Dartmoor was a continuation of my three-day southwest England tour with Rabbie’s. We drove across bridges so narrow I worried we would get stuck, followed the trails of wild ponies as they roamed the hillsides, and walked along rushing rivers full of kayakers. We even drove past the prison.
The weather was grey and the skies threatened, so eventually we sought shelter in nearby Tavistock, a pretty town with a beautiful stone churchyard and colorful boutiques lining the high street.
We made our way to a cafe for cream tea, another English tradition that left us pleasantly stuffed full of scones, jam, and clotted cream.
From there we continued our tour with a stop at the Buckfast monastery, home of a certain it’s-an-acquired-taste kind of tonic wine that I tried on a trip to Newcastle a few years back.
The monastery was a pleasant place, with beautiful gardens, a sparkling new church (that, incidentally, was built to look like a very old church), and several gift shops.
One of them sold goods produced by monasteries and convents from around the world. From anti-ageing remedies (is that really something the church should be promoting?) and honey to soaps (cleanliness is next to godliness) and liqueurs, there was no end to what the religious orders could produce.
Back on the bus, we made our way through Devon to spend our second night in Exeter. It had been a big day, but our tour of southwest England wasn’t over yet. To be continued…