Beacon of Lettaford

Let’s go back to The Chapel in Dartmoor, where we enjoyed a relaxing long weekend a few weeks ago…

This modest granite-stone building, our temporary abode, started its life as a schoolroom / chapel. Sometime in 1860, the door was opened to a small number of local people who were there to attend a Sunday prayer meeting. And for the occasion to take place, there were two women who made it possible – Mrs Susan Walling, the schoolmistress, whose influence must have been a catalyst to initiate the construction of the building. And Miss.Pynseat, who funded the project and became the owner of the building.

Inside of The Chapel, there was a reference on the wall to indicate who was behind the plan…

The Landmark Trust always furnishes and decorates their properties with hints of the individual history of which each building underwent originally. The maiden in the artwork must have implied one of the aforementioned women and a lamb must have been the locals who were the recipient of those women’s goodwill.

The images of the abandoned chapel before the Trust started its restoration…

The congregation of the prayer meeting was consisted of local farmers and farm labourers and the number was once over 25 in its hay day. However, the number dwindled after the agricultural depression of the late 19th century and the departure of the funding member, Mrs.Walling, from Lettaford in 1904. Apart from a thank you note address to her by the locals, there was no record which explained the reason why Mrs.Walling left the hamlet. Could she have emigrated to Australia in search of a better life as the area around Dartmoor was never wealthy?

During the 1920’s, the number of attendance must have increased significantly, and as a result, the schoolroom / chapel was extended…

A single-storey structure made of galvanised iron and wood was attached to the existing building.

In 1943, gas-lighting was installed, and then, finally, electricity came to the chapel in 1963. Despite the modernisation, however, the number of congregation continued to decrease and it became as little as four in the late 60’s. Eventually, the decision was made in 1977 that Latteford was to be incorporated into the Exeter Methodist circuit, and the entrance to the chapel was closed until the Landmark Trust started a restoration work in 1981.

The charter of young Methodism was on the wall…

It was touching to realise that, once upon a time, this place was a centre of the community, filled with the laughter of children, hymns and Christmas carol. This small chapel must have been like a lighthouse for those who inhabited the unforgiving terrain of Dartmoor which sprawling out like ocean.

Yes, you did provide us warmth and comfort…

We said good-bye to the hedges of Lettaford…

So which property of the Landmark Trust we gonna visit next? I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Dartmoor longhouse

Across a green, there was another property, owned and run by the Landmark Trust, called Sanders…

This oblong building had a long history…

Sanders is believed to be the oldest and the least modified from the original farmhouse constructed in the style of Dartmoor longhouse around Lettaford.

Dartmoor longhouse is a type of stone building which was once prevalence around the uplands of Devon, Cornwall and Wales. The most notable feature of the design is that the oblong structure was split in half, one half was occupied by humans and the rest was used to house their livestock. The benefit of living with livestock, especially cows, under a single roof was immence during the Dartmoor’s hard winter. Instead of having to venture out to the field everytime the farmers wanted to milk the cows, they could do so from the comfort of their own home.

The name Lettaford first appeared on an Assizes record in 1247 and Sanders may have been existed by then already. (An Assizes record is a record of the periodic court established by King Henry II in the 12th century). The location of the hamlet of Lettaford speaks for the origin of its name – it means “the clear ford”. The ford still flows and supplies all the water for the farmsteads.

No one know how and when the community was born in the hollow but it was likely that they found a sheltering landscape and an abundance of water supply favourable to settling in…

These sceneries probably hadn’t changed since the medieval time. How about that. I was impressed.

Bella was also setting in nicely in the comfort of hollow between Hubbie’s legs…

It’s always lovely to snuggle up to the person you love, isn’t it?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Moggie & doggie

I don’t know why but there seem to be not many feline residents in our neighbourhood. Since Hubbie and I moved into our present loft more than a decade ago, we haven’t seen a single cat, domesticated or feral, crossing a street or parking a furry bum at a front porch and grooming itself. Come to think of it seriously, my last sighting of moggie was when I happened to walk past a cat cafe on Rivington Street. I saw a tabby looking out through the window while perching on the cat tower. Is that all?! How bizarre! Where are you, cats?

Anyway, my girl Bella hadn’t met any cat until she bumped into one at a village post office in Postbridge…

There was a black & white cat on the shop floor, minding its own business while a post mistress dealing with the customers.

So how did she react to her very first encounter with a feline kind?

Ultra-super keen to befriend it. She was so overenthusiastic and the cat was definitely not on the same wavelength. It gave her a quick glance and disappeared behind the louvre. ‘Why? I only wanna say hallo to you!’ Bella was crestfallen.

The post office also served as a general store and some snacks and hot drinks were available from the counter. ‘A Cornish pasty please!’ A woman queuing before me asked the mistress. ‘Heated up?’ ‘Yes, please!’ She disappeared behind the door and the familiar hum of a microwave oven filled the quiet shop floor. Soon after a chime of the oven rang, the mistress emerged with a bag and handed it to the woman. Then she turned to me and asked ‘How can I help you?’ I ordered a cup of hot chocolate and she disappeared into the back room again. This time, I heard the hiss of an electric kettle and the sound of rattling spoon as the mistress was giving a good stir to the cocoa powder. While I waited for my drink, I studied the interior of the post office / store. The shelves were sparsely filled with household essentials, such as toilet rolls, cleaning products, washing powders, sliced breads, bottled condiments, newspapers, weekly magazines, soft drinks, etc. Since the high season of Dartmoor was long gone and over, the shop seemed to be slowly getting ready for hibernation.

The mistress came out with a paper cup, ‘£1.40, please!’ I handed her the money and walked out of the store with Bella in tow.

There were two wooden benches in front of the post office and I settled myself in one of them. The hot chocolate was unexpectedly rich and moreish and the warm November sunshine made the fallen leaves, which Bella was busy flipping over, looked like golden nuggets. Ahhh, what a blissful moment! Then, I noticed that we were watched…

That black & white cat came out of the door and sat itself down. I think she was curious about Bella. ‘Look Bella. The cat is back!’

Two of them stared at each other for quite a long time. Then, the cat lost interest in her and walked away behind the telephone box.

I wondered what Bella made out of her first encounter with a feline kind. She probably thought it was an unfriendly dog?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Danger zone

‘I’m gonna go back to Wistman’s Wood with my Leica tomorrow’, Hubbie declared after dinner as he gave a once-over to the images which he shot with his Canon. ‘What is wrong with them?’ I peered into his iBook screen. He explained that the details around the edges were too soft for his liking. ‘Leica will be better for the job’. Alrighty. So, came next morning, I dropped him off at the car park near Two Bridges, promising him that I would pick him up at the same spot after 2 hours.

Down B3357 towards Rundlestone…

Contrary to the day before, it was sunny but also a little nippy. I parked the car at Dartmoor Training Area and had a little walk with Bella…

The moorland has another purpose apart from being used by local people to graze their animals…

A sizeable chunk of the moor – approximately 13,000 hectares (32,123 acres) – is regularly used by the military for training. The place is known as The Dartmoor Training Area (DTA)…

Royal Marines and other forces, army and Royal Air Force, based in the south west of England train regularly in the area, sometimes using live ammunitions.

A hatched area indicating the live firing ranges…

The area is altogether 9,187 hectares (22,664 acres) and the access to the site is restricted if any firing exercise is taking place. I later learnt that one such exercise was planned on the very day when we left Dartmoor. It was a shame because we would have hang around there longer if we knew about it.

There was no tree in the moor except around car parks…

Heather and fern were the only vegetation on open moorland stretching out in front of us…

The sun was warm and the wind was light. On a beautiful day like this, walking in the moor feels like a walk in the park…

The sky was full of dancing clouds…

Bella and I walked away from the road. We saw two riders hacking in the distance…

Unlike the ponies, sheep on the moor seemed to be weary of us. They always walked away as soon as we got nearer…

‘Wait! We mean no harm!!’

There was a steam in the middle of the field. A simple footbridge was made with a slab of stone…

Let’s go and see moo cows, Bella!

Well, the moo cow we met was not particularly friendly. As we stopped to take a photo of them, one definitely took offence…

The cow eyeballed us and started to grunt. ‘Oh bu**er!’ I scooped up Bella in my arms and made a beeline for our car as fast as my legs could carry!

Why didn’t they like us?

I don’t know, darling. But it was a close call…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Dartmoor pony

One of the Dartmoor ponies which were grazing behind a wooden fence by the roadside approached me as I climbed up the fence. ‘Oh thank you, sweetie. Will you let me stroke your forehead?’ I reached out and ran my hand up and down while the pony stood there contentedly. Ahhh, I love ponies and horses…

A chance of meeting these adorable creature of Dartmoor can be elusive as the moor is vast and their number is not many – only 800 were found to be grazing  the moor in the spring of 2004.

Some may say ponies in general are very cheeky, and can be impatient, snappy, and sometimes even unreasonable. To some extent the opinions are true. But that is precisely what makes ponies lovable and entertaining. I used to ride a lot in Hyde Park and heard a lot about typical pony antics. There was a story of one pony which tossed a child out of her saddle and ran amok in the park for 2 days. She worried the stable staffs to sick as they knew she could have colic by eating too much fresh grass. Another one was a pony going berserk with excitement when she met the cadets of Horse Guards practicing their drill on Rotton Row. Loud jingling of their breast plates was too much for her and she just lost herself.
My personal account was one crafty pony which stole her stable mate’s cone. I was adjusting a headcollar of one of the ponies before late afternoon hacking. All the sudden, she started to roll her eyes agitatedly. Puzzled, I turned around and immediately knew why she was upset. Her next door neighbour, a blond shorty, managed to slip out of her headcollar somehow and was now busy scoffing her stable mate’s treat from her bucket! The fact, that she decided to steal from her equine companion while she left hers intact for later, tells a lot about how intelligent and cunning they are. Yes, ponies can be wild…

This bunch I met was mellow and chilled out…

Dartmoor ponies are well known for their hardiness and gentle temperament…

In its heyday during the early 20th century, the number of Dartmoor ponies was as many as 25,800. Because of their excellent stamina, they were used in local tin mines and granite quarries.

Their chunky and sturdy legs went up and down over the rugged landscape of Dartmoor, pulling carts and carrying sacks on their back through the extreme weather conditions…

Nowadays, they are left in the moor unmolested, going about their business, free as a bird…

Go on, troopers. Have a lovely day!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Blog at WordPress.com.