What glorious weather this bank holiday weekend! We decided to make the most of it and got ourselves to Dartmoor on the Haytor Hoppa bus (Stagecoach 271). We were – eager as always – the first customers on the first bus of the season, and Stagecoach, who now operate the hop-off hop-on route round Haytor, Widecombe, Hound Tor and Manaton, were running a promotion for £1 per ride, so that was a pleasant surprise at the start of our day. Now, I shall save my views about the demise of tourist information offices all around the country for another time and celebrate the fact that Bovey Tracey still has one and provides excellent customer service – like getting an up-to-date Haytor Hoppa timetable to take with us onto the moors, where smartphone and signal can easily fail us and – quite frankly – ruin the atmosphere a bit, too, don’t you think?
A short ride later, we found ourselves at the rocks with helpful advice from the staff at the National Park Visitor Centre and a discussion about the new policy of not providing bins. Personally, I fear people will simply start littering instead of taking their rubbish home – but here’s to hoping the initiative takes off and we all take responsibility.
It’s surprising how hungry the short climb up to Haytor can make you, so we hopped back on to the trusty bus to Widecombe-in-the-Moor, surely one of the most picturesque villages in all of Dartmoor. The Old Inn provided well for us, and with all that sunshine we sat in the garden where their feathered friends literally come up to the table and eat out of your hands… a most entertaining spectacle. Thus refuelled, we decided to walk from Haytor back to Bovey, following the tracks of the Templar Way. It took us a leisurely two hours’ easy walking, through beautiful woodlands with amazing bluebells and affording us stunning views across Dartmoor.
In the meantime, things were busy at the priory. We had Commotion Times visiting us and setting up in our kitchen, answering visitors’ questions and generally making merry. Now, have you heard about Nine Men’s Morris? Well, I hadn’t and found it fascinating to learn that it is one of the oldest games in existence – you should come along and try it yourself next time! And meet their wonderfully medieval dogs, patiently viewing our steady stream of visitors.
The Devon & Exeter Medical Heritage Trust gave a talk about the instrument collection, all online and easily accessible. They run regular handling and exploration sessions at the priory, so for anyone wanting to know more about a Roman scalpel, a bone saw, or other less easily identifiable objects, this will be a good chance to gain access to the South West’s largest collection of historical medical instruments.
The priory is never short on things to do for families and children, and our various activities and kids’ workshops are running throughout this week. You can take part in a designing competition www.nicholaspriory.com/education, explore our new brass rubbing trail, learn about Tudor games and much more. Local artist and art historian Sarah Spencer has been in to be inspired by the our building to work on her “Tales and Temporality” project, and our additional opening hours on Mondays from 10-4pm.
What a busy week! As always, stay safe and be in touch, Judith
Dr J Morgane, manager of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter