Mike Smallcombe’s photographs in the Teign Valley

As part of Castle Drogo’s restoration project a new set of installations have been put up in the Teign Valley called Teign Spirits. The modern photographs give a sense of the history of the Valley along with an insight into the Drewe family. In total there are 10 photographs created by Mike Smallcombe a Devon artist who works in London. Here are four of the works.

Teign Valley 2
Just up the River Teign from Fingle Bridge is the charcoal maker hung high along the riverside path

Teign Valley 3
Detail illustrating the life and times of the charcoal maker – this used to be a major industry in the valley

Teign Valley 1
To the right of the path near Fingle Bridge is a photo depicting the aftermath of the fire at the nearby Fingle Mill – the miller’s wife and children have just escaped the fire. The ruins of the Mill can still be seen near to Fingle Bridge on the way to Fingle Woods

Teign Valley 5
By the salmon pool by the weir is a photograph of the Venetian chandelier purchased by the Drewes whilst on their honeymoon – it has been photographed in the formal gardens so as to ‘blend the inside and outside’.

Teign Valley 7
On an island near the weir is a photograph depicting Blackenstone Quarry where much of the stone for Drogo was quarried. The photo shows the daughter of a quarryman bringing him his lunch.

Teign Valley 6
Another installation near the turbine house shows Julius Drewe salmon fishing. This is not one of Mike’s pieces but has been produced as part of the restoration project. On a good clear day you can see this piece from the Castle

Teign Valley 4
The Iron Bridge over the salmon pool – a classic turning point on a Teign Valley walk.

There are 6 other Smallcombe photos on the Drogo Estate – for full details and a map visit the Drogo Visitor Centre. Well worth a visit – great photos and a great walk.

Chagford Show 2015

It was the Chagford Show yesterday – in my view the best country show in Devon! Here are some pictures I took.

Drewe's Pool
I walked in from Whiddon Farm and crossed the Teign at Mr. Drewe’s Pool.

Chagford 1
There are lots of walks in the area

Chagford 2
The National Trust and the Woodland Trust sponsored the main area to highlight our work at Fingle Woods

Chagford 4
This is Dylan one of our Rangers in the Teign Valley on a shaving horse

Chagford 3Tom, Teign Valley Ranger and Paula, Community Engagement Officer in costume on the Castle Drogo stand

Chagford 5
A charcoal kiln – part of the NT’s ‘stall’

Chagford 6
Demonstrating old country woodland crafts

Chagford 7
The Woodland Trust were at the show too

Chagford 8
Matthew Cole one of our Commoners from the Plym Valley exhibiting his Dartmoor white faced sheep

Chagford 9
A lovely Dartmoor white faced ram

Chagford 10
Judging the Dartmoor grey faced sheep

Chagford 11
The show ground sits under the looming  presence of Castle Drogo – under going its restoration – remember it is still open – so you can visit and see the restoration work

A great day out – Dartmoor at its best

Dartmoor during the First World War

A new exhibition has started at the DNPA’s Princetown Visitor Centre entitled ‘Dartmoor life in the the First World War’. The exhibition has been put together by the Dartmoor Trust – rather than talking about the battles in France and Belgium the exhibition describes what impact the war had on Dartmoor – how farming changed, where hospitals were set up, conscientious objectors etc.

Princetown 1Princetown’s Visitor Centre

Princetown 5Kitchener calling you in

Princetown 2A number of panels make up the exhibition

Princetown 4 There is a panel on the impact of the War on the building of Castle Drogo

Princetown 3A bit  also on the role people in Widecombe played collecting moss to treat wounds – the shell is outside the NT’s Church House


The exhibition also makes a plea for more information or photographs to help fill some of the gaps in our knowledge about Dartmoor in WW1. We are still trying to find out more about Major Hole of Parke  in World War 1 – see here for further details – can you help?

You might also be interested to know that there are a couple of WW1 exhibition rooms at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter – one of recruiting posters and the other on facial reconstructive surgery.

Drogo video installation

This is my third blog about the new installations at Castle Drogo. This one focuses on a great video which is on show in what was the old nursery.

It is  clever video which uses 2 projectors shooting onto a zig zag shaped screen which allows two different films to be shown simultaneously and then interwoven.

Here is a short clip which gives you the idea

IMG_3217The video shows the building repairs alongside the flowing river Teign

IMG_3216Comparing the repairs with the men and the works when it was originally built

Hard to describe – much better to go and see it for yourself

The new Drogo installations – must see

As promised in yesterday’s blog here is a quick introduction to Castle Drogo’s new installations. We only had 30 minutes to whizz around yesterday before we ‘shot up’ onto the roof. I will definitely return and have a more detailed look. Before then here is a little insight and some photos. The full photo set can be seen here.

Drogo 4The Castle entrance – the works office 1911 and 2015

Drogo 12An installation in the ‘library’ – the history of the Drewes and Drogo illustrated on a model of the Scullery lantern – Julius Drewe himself

Drogo 20The recently refurbished chandelier in the main living room

Drogo 21The restored huge window on the main staircase – with  the scaffolding in the background

Drogo 23The amazing restored Louis 4th tapestry – only one of five in the world – look at those colours

Drogo 26The back of the tapestry showing the repairs and the ‘reversed’ face

Drogo 36A woodlouse – a potential inhabiter, if the Castle were not to be repaired

Drogo 38The ‘outside in’  – Dartmoor striving to enter Drogo

Drogo’s roof and scaffolding

Castle Drogo opened to the public yesterday to preview the new interpretation inside the Castle “Nothing is normal – everything will be different” – I will post a blog about that tomorrow but I haven’t processed all my pictures yet! So today I will show you some pictures of the building works and views as seen from the Viewing Tower. Only a few weeks to go for the viewing tower in its current format  – it will be changed as the project progresses over the coming months.

Roof 3From the Tower looking down to the Teign Gorge towards Fingle Woods

Roof 2Up the drive – all those creamy coloured ‘blobs’ are bits of the Castle still to be reinstalled

Drogo pan small 1A panorama of the Castle inside its huge tent – double click on the photo to view the detail

Roof 5Much progress is being made – compare these photos to the ones in my November 2013 blog here

Roof 4So much scaffolding …

Roof 6‘When the day is done
Down to earth then sinks the sun’
Nick Drake

Drogo – epic works continues

I was up a Castle Drogo last week for a meeting and whenever I am there I can’t resist the temptation to walk down the drive to see how the building project is getting on.

Drogo106The top 20% of the Castle has been removed to allow the repairs to be done – all the individual stone blocks are labelled and laid out – waiting to be put back where they belong

Drogo107Amazing scaffolding

Drogo108Apparently the largest scaffolding structure in the country

Drogo109The sun setting in the Teign Valley over Chagford

Julius Drewe’s Home and Colonial Stores

One of the wonders of Dartmoor is the National Trust’s Castle Drogo near Drewsteignton. Construction began in 1911 by Britain’s best known architect Edwin Lutyens and the owner Julius Drewe. This was an epic project representing the ambitions and dreams of Drewe. This short post tells of the story of where Drewe derived his money to embark on such a grand scheme.

It is a story of major Victorian and Edwardian entrepreneurship and success. In 1883 Julius Drewe set up the company in partnership with John Musker – the business consisted of a single grocery shop on the Edgware Road in London – the shop mainly specialised in tea and traded initially as the Home and Colonial Tea Association. Shops were opened in Islington, Leeds and Birmingham. The company then rapidly began to expand – by 1900 there were over 100 stores and by 1903 there were over 500 – it was now known as home and Colonial Stores Ltd.

Drogo101H and C sign outside the cafe at Castle Drogo

During the 1920s various acquisitions and mergers occurred and by 1931 there were over 3000 branches. This expansion and growth is as impressive as anything we have seen since in the food retail sector!

The company’s aims were to sell food to people from Britain and from her Empire – introducing shoppers to food and drink (particularly tea) from around the world. By 1955 it was the 27th largest company in the country.

I am of a generation that was born after the end of the British Empire and therefore never experienced this company but many of an older generation do remember it. By 1961 reflecting the end of the Empire the stores were rebranded as Allied Suppliers. In 1972 the business was sold and eventually it became part of the Safeways chain in 1981.

At Castle Drogo today the importance of the Home and Colonial Stores is remembered as a key part of the history of Drogo itself.

Drogo102Remembering Home and Colonial – a display in the Drogo cafe

Drogo104A tea cup celebrating how it all began back in 1883


A Lily Warne poppy and other Dartmoor connections

After their appearance on Countryfile Lily Warne Wool poppies are in great demand! I managed to get one yesterday from our shop at Sexton’s Cottage in Widecombe. By the way – they still have 20 left – well they did yesterday afternoon….

Lily1A classic

Lily2The wool for these poppies and her other products are made from the wool of Dartmoor Greyfaced sheep which I have written about before – see here. I bought the wool poppy for my partner and by coincidence she visited the Tower of London to see the poppy installation there. I am now very jealous as I really want to see that myself too.

Poppies at the TowerHere is her iPhone picture

Poppy day is all about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice along with those who fought and survived and every year at this time I think of two National Trust related people.

-This is Major Adrian Drewe – the son of Julius Drewe who built Castle Drogo. Adrian was killed  in 1917 in a mustard gas attack at Ypres. There is a moving room in the Castle (which you can visit) in his memory and it contains many of his possessions.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 22.26.26

The other person I think of is Major Willam Hole – who donated his Parke Estate to the National Trust in 1974. Major Hole survived the war but served in the Devon Imperial Yeomanry at Gallipoli, in Egypt and in Palestine during World War 1.

My colleague Fred Hutt – the Ranger at Parke is currently looking for a volunteer to research more into the history of the Hole family at Parke and perhaps even find a photograph of the Major in his uniform! If you would like to help – let me know and I will pass on your details to Fred

Lest we forget



Around Sharp Tor in the autumn – a great walk

Sharp Tor in the Teign Valley near to Castle Drogo is a popular and well visited Tor. It is easy to get to and find as it is not on the high moor in the middle of nowhere! It is on the route of one of Dartmoor’s most popular walks ‘The Teign Valley Classic‘. This walk starts at Castle Drogo and heads towards Fingle Bridge and then loops back along the river and up to Drogo again. It is around 5-6 miles long and does involve going up and down at bit but it is a brilliant walk giving some of the best views in England. Highly recommended and perfect as an autumn walk.

Sharp TorSharp Tor from Hunter’s Path

BirchThe birch leaves are turning brown and beginning to fall


It’s a good sloe year