Dartmoor day trip: 1~Towns & a prison
We had one more night left in Cornwall and another big day trip planned. The pace was fairly relentless but we had to see as much as we could before moving on. Dartmoor was a focus of today’s gadding about, which I was really looking forward to seeing. So with the expert guidance of the tiny Englishman trapped inside the satnav, we set off in a south-easterly kind of direction.
We made a short stop in this town near the border with Devon. Mum needed to run a couple of errands in a town with more facilities than Boscastle, and Launceston (evidently pronounced ‘Lanson’ by the Cornish) seemed a good candidate. As well as being fairly much on the way, it is home to some castle ruins and, well, castle ruins were still a pretty appealing novelty to these Kiwis.
On the western border of Dartmoor, as the grey sky started to leak, we stopped in the market town of Tavistock. It’s a bit on the old side, having established after the Tavistock Abbey was built in the late 900s. Today very little remains of the abbey but the town’s market heritage is still alive and well with a permanent market building and regular festivals throughout the year.
And then we were in the moor, which I’ll cover in the next post. Such an interesting landscape with an atmosphere enhanced by the grey and brooding day. It would have been great to spend more time roaming around it.
One feature I was curious to see was in Princetown. I was probably a bit surprised it was located in amongst civilisation as I imagined somewhere quite isolated, though clearly staff and supplies have to come from somewhere. The things you kind of perceive without really thinking about it.
Anyway, I’m talking about Dartmoor Prison.
Driving down into the town we saw glimpses of it over a wall and through the trees. In need of a car park, we decided to stop at the prison museum which is on the main road into town, located amongst some old dairy buildings. Dad decided he wanted to look inside and I popped in to the shop briefly, though I was more keen to use the time to take a walk and hopefully a photo or two.
I noticed a sign saying it was ok to take photos of the prison, but not of staff or prisoners. So with that I trotted down the road to the main gate – where a couple of guards were visible. While they unhurriedly departed the scene, I tried to nonchalantly lurk out front. At least with having abandoned my DSLR a couple of days ago due to its intermittent fault, the compact camera was very easy to whip out at a moment’s notice.
The prison was built in the early 1800s to hold prisoners of war and several thousand Americans from the War of 1812 were detained there. Since then its target ‘clientele’ has changed a few times and the prison has gone from housing high-risk serious offenders to those more toward the other end of the spectrum.
This village lies in the heart of the moor. Famous for its annual fair, after which a well known (though not to me) folk song was penned, it is a charming village that bustles with tourists. Particularly quaint is the unfenced village green on which a herd of cattle graze and generally lounge about. The large church nearby, known as the Cathedral of the Moors, was badly damaged in an event called the Great Thunderstorm of 1638. Gruesome reading, but interesting.
The next post will have more moor 🙂