Dartmoor – a Wild and Wondrous Region

A new exhibition featuring the portrayal of Dartmoor in art between 1750 and 1920 has just opened at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. It is part of the National Park’s ‘Moor than meets the Eye Project’. The Exhibition runs until the 31st March 2018 and is free to enter.

Prior to the mid 18th century Dartmoor was a place to be avoided it was variously described as ‘sqallida Montana Dertmore’, ‘the dreary mountainous tract’, ‘awful’ and ‘horrid’. However landscape artists who had been inspired by their Grand Tour expeditions to Europe were drawn to Dartmoor and the Lake District when the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars made Europe inaccessible.

This exhibition tells the story of how via the work of landscape artists Dartmoor evolved from ‘squalida Montana’ to a ‘Wild and Wondrous Region’.

It is very good and features dozens of paintings, sketches and illustrated books and includes artists such as JMW Turner and the Widgery’s (William and Frederick).

There is an accompanying book by Peter Mason (which is very good)

I particularly liked the Exhibition as it features a number the places I was involved with when I was the General Manager for the National Trust on Dartmoor, such as this Lutyens water colour of his proposed masterpiece – Castle Drogo.

I also love this watercolour of the Teign Valley by John Glover painted from just below Prestonbury Iron Age Hill Fort.  How the scene has changed since 1829, Castle Drogo is now visible just beyond the middle peak, the Fingle Bridge Inn is now set just to the right of the bridge and the Mill and Mill owners house is now a ruin (destroyed by a fire in late 19th century) in the bottom left corner.

There is a William Payne painting of Brent Torr from around 1790 situated in a pre-enclosure landscape, i.e. it is all open – no hedges or fields – how things change.

I was also struck by how few of the paintings featured sheep …… maybe sheep weren’t considered a good feature in a landscape picture or maybe I’ve just become obsessed with sheep numbers on Dartmoor (see here). Either way – there should be more sheep!

Highly recommended.

Double Exposure – The landscapes of Devon through painting and photography

This evening I was invited to attend the preview of an exhibition of paintings and photographs by my friend, fellow photographer and Fingle Woods devotee Paul Moody.

Paul Moody 5The publicity flyer gives you all the details – note though it ends on the 14th May – i.e. this Saturday. It is well worth a visit and is free.

Paul Moody 4
Paul Moody explaining his philosophy

Paul Moody 3
I love his capture of the light here in Fingle Woods

Paul Moody 1
A cracking image taken near Lustleigh

James Tatum 1
I hadn’t met James Tatum before this evening – his evocative paintings capture the spirit and weather of Dartmoor and Devon.


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.

Sexton’s Cottage – the new Gallery floor

Pam Thomas our shop manager in Widecombe has been working really hard over the winter transforming the first floor of Sexton’s Cottage into a new Gallery floor – a place where Dartmoor and Devon crafts people can exhibit and sell their work.

I spent a couple of hours there yesterday with my friend Jon Hare of Full Fat Photography taking some shots of the new gallery. I got in late last night and am off again in a minute so here is my starter for 10 – a series of pictures of the type of things that we are now selling. More details will follow elsewhere soon. I posted 65 pictures on my Flickr account here and 12 photos follow below.

Gallery 6

Gallery 4

Gallery 19

Gallery 66

Gallery 60

Gallery 56

Gallery 43

Gallery 40


Gallery 28

Gallery 17

Gallery 11


Gallery 7Amazing – brilliant stuff Pam –  a superb new part of our shop full of locally made things

Ancient Dartmoor exhibition

There is a new exhibition on at the Princetown Visitor Centre  – run by the Dartmoor National Park Authority and admission is free. It is called Ancient Dartmoor and contains photographs of Dartmoor’s archaeological remains and ruins by Adrian Oakes and Anna Curnow. There are also some prints available for sale.

Ancient Dartmoor Full details in the poster above

Ancient Dartmoor exhibitionThe exhibition still includes the time-lapse video of Dartmoor which I have written about before – see here

PRP Granite SongThere is also one of Peter Randall Page’s sculptures in the Visitor Centre – Dartmoor Song – I have highlighted other pieces of his work previously – see here and here





Randall Page

Last week I went to  a couple of places which host Peter Randall Page’s art – he is one of my favourite sculptors and of course he is a Dartmoor resident – more details here.

PRP1Three pieces outside Plymouth University (opposite the Plymouth Museum)


PRP-Phyllotaxus Phyllotaxus

PRP-Fructus Fructus

PRP-2Three in a row

PRP-4‘Passage’ in Whiddon Deer Park – in the Teign Valley opposite Castle Drogo


Buckland Abbey’s Rembrandt

We held our Devon General Manager’s meeting at Buckland Abbey yesterday. At the end of the formal meeting we visited the Abbey to see the Rembrandt. Press here to read the story of the ‘discovery’ of the Buckland Rembrandt.Here are a few photos.

Rembrandt 2Fully restored and looking great – the Rembrandt we never knew we had!

Rembrandt 1Part of the interpretation – the story behind its discovery

Rembrandt 4The painter’s colours

Rembrandt 3Tools of the trade

Rembrandt selfiePart of the exhibition encourages you to take a selfie with Rembrandt – here’s mine! You then upload it to a special Flickr gallery to become part of the story.

We also had a whistle stop tour of the newly opened top end Cider House Bed and Breakfast business – see here – wow! And we had a quick visit to the lovely Cider House gardens.

Cider House 4The Cider House B and B is fitted out and decorated to a very high standard

Cider House 3Room with a view

Cider House 2Gargoyle in the garden

Cider House 1A garden full of flowers – a tranquil oasis

Full set of photos from the visit here.

Wheatear – the polite name for white arse

When I had my walk around the Upper Plym I saw quite a few Northern Wheatears. They are one of the first migrants back to this country with the first ones arriving in mid March.

WheatearWheatear on a rock near Trowlesworthy

Tweet of the day WheatearLovely illustration of a wheatear by Carry Ackroyd from the book ‘Tweet of the Day’

Wheatear is a polite derivation of the original name of the bird – used to be called the white arse! The picture above shows how appropriate the old name is. Anyone who has ever seen a wheatear will normally see the white patch before focusing on the grey back.