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

Mama Piggy

‘We met piglets!’ Hubbie informed me as he returned from Bella’s “spend a penny or two” tour. ‘Piglets! Where?!’ I was all excited about meeting them. ‘They were in a field behind us!’, he answered as he scraped off the mud from his boots.

After finishing my breakfast, I went out to see the piglets. ‘Oh, where are they?’ To my disappointment, I found them no longer running around the field but being all cozy in a shed with their mum.

Feeling dejected but I decided to call out for them. ‘Hello!’ Guess what happened next…

Their mum, Mama Piggy, came out to greet me! She made a beeline for me to say hello too…

Hello, you! She seemed very curious about me. I thought about offering her an apple but then I decided against it as she was still breast feeding and being fed from a stranger may not be a good thing.

Her body was magnificent. Truly an embodiment of Mother Nature…

Then, I heard the leaves rustling.
Hey, there was another pig! It was emerging from behind the trees…

Are you a papa of those piglets?

Later on, I had a glimpse of the family…

They were trailing behind Mama Piggy like baby ducklings. They were so tiny! Are they really gonna grow as big as their mum?! They would eventually but it was difficult to imagine from their teeny-weeny size…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Path to Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

Uh-oh, it is wet. I drew a curtain and signed. Leaves of the overgrowth over the stream were so vividly green and shiny which meant only one thing – it had been raining overnight…

Our girl Bella was an outdoorsy kind of lass. She was delighted to have a good sniff around after spending her penny.

The reason why I was keeping quiet blog-wise during the weekend was not because I was practicing digital-detoxing but because there was absolutely no mobile coverage around the Dartmoor area. It was so complete that even our car radio went silent as the grave. On reflection, we were extremely lucky to be able to use my iPhone’s sat nav when we were driving to The Chapel for the first time. A signpost to Lettaford was so small and oh my, the bush along the path was so dense. They were literally as solid as a wall! I don’t think we could find the place without the sat nav working. Then, came next morning, signals for our handsets dropped completely and we could no longer receive any data at all.

Out we went on a wet path, heading to Two Bridges…

Hubbie wanted to take photos at Wistman’s Wood which was famous for its twisted and gnarled branches of the stunted oak trees. We parked our car at the car park at the start of the footpath and started to walk towards the wood.

The sky lightened a little but the drizzle still continued…

I was really glad that I didn’t forget my Timberland boots when I was packing. However, I was so hopelessly underdressed for a proper country-walking! A bomber jacket and blue jeans?! Embrassingly out of place I felt…

A practice of swaling was evident along the footpath…

Swaling is the term used in the West Country for burning the land. The burning of overgrown heath land clears the ground of dead vegetations, and as a result, new growth can appear for wildlife and grazing livestock.

Because of the overnight rain, the path was muddy and slippery and riddled with paddles…

Despite her overflowing enthusiasm, Bella had to be carried under my arm most of the way as her elbow was not robust enough to walk on an unstable ground…

As we reached to a farmhouse along the route, I decided to throw in the towel. I had been to Wistman’s Wood once before and knew that climbing the uneven rocky path up to the wood wouldn’t be easy with a wiggly puppy under my arm. ‘Are you sure you are turning back?’ Hubbie sounded surprised by my announcement. ‘We will be waiting for you in the car!’ I waved good-bye to him and headed back to the car park…

Our wild girl Bella smothering herself with very very wet grass…

She became soaking wet and dirty! My bomber jacket shared the same predicament as she had to be held while I was climbing down a narrow rocky part of the path.

As we reached to the car park, we encountered a flock of geese, relaxing by the road side…

Hey guys, be careful with the traffic…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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