Saturday, 28 May 2016

Ted Hughes poetry at Stover Country Park and tea at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen

I spotted the name Ted Hughes on the Stover Country Park
sign board as we drove past on the way to Trago Mills a week or so ago. Loving his book The Iron Man as a child, I was keen to discover the advertised Poetry Trail within the Park as well as the Park itself.

Stover Country Park is now owned and managed by Devon County Council, but its history goes back several centuries. Young orphan James Templer ran away to sea to make his fortune - and actually succeeded! Returning in 1765, he purchased an 80,000 acre estate on the edge of Dartmoor and had Stover House (which is now an independent school) built for him and its extensive grounds landscaped. Much of the original grounds is what now forms the 114 acres of the Park. Run as a local nature reserve, it comprises woodland, grassland, heathland, lake and marsh which provide differing habitats for both resident wildlife and visitors. The 14 acre lake is one of the main features. In the early 1900s it was a popular skating spot in winter.  This no longer happens though and, now, the lake is so important for dragonflies that it was designated a site of Special Scientific Interest in 2002. We spotted varied types of dragonfly including vivid blue ones and bright scarlet ones!

The Ted Hughes Poetry Trail was created in 2006. The large
River through Stover Country Park 
wooden book sculpture pictured above lists the sixteen poems that can be found by following a loop walk through the Park. The whole walk is about two miles, but this can be shortened if wanted. Selected poems are displayed on tall wooden columns and my favourites were The Kingfisher and Work And Play. Ironically, the column for poem number thirteen, an extract from The Iron Man (a story about a giant), is actually being slowly destroyed by the tiniest of creatures. There must be an ants' nest nearby and we watched them eating away at the wood!

I think our favourite facilities at the park is a short section of woodland aerial walkway along which we walked up to five metres above ground. We were delighted by a very tame squirrel which posed for photographs, then when we got to the farthest side of the walkway a loitering wildlife photographer told us he had seen a Great Spotted Woodpecker coming to a conveniently hung bird feeder. We waited briefly and it returned, twice, in a flurry of black, white and red. It was taking food from the feeder and then stashing it in bark cracks for later. Unfortunately the many squirrels knew this and, apparently, often nicked the food soon after it was hidden! From the walkway we also saw a Jay and a Nuthatch.

After our couple of hours at Stover Country Park (£1.50 for
Former coach house that is now the
Devon Guild of Craftsmen 
2 hours parking!), we drove to Bovey Tracy and the fantastic Devon Guild of Craftsmen gallery and shop. It turns out there is a lot of work by Devon craftswomen too! We started out in the Terrace Cafe from which I can highly recommend the Chocolate Date, Almond And Olive Slice and I was quite envious of Dave's beautifully light Carrot Cake too. The Terrace Cafe is upstairs with great views across to Dartmoor from its outside, err, terrace!

Back downstairs again, we admired an exhibition of prints by Devon wood engraver Hilary Paynter. She had taken aging bikers as her subjects for one humorous range of prints, and there were more sobering images illustrating dementia and a dwindling class photograph.

The Guild's shop is a dangerous place! Crafts range from
pottery and leatherworking to glassware and millinery. There is furniture, tableware, clothing, jewellery, art and sculpture, and so beautifully laid out that it is hard to come away empty handed. I nearly managed, but did buy Just A Card. The Devon Guild of Craftsmen is certainly somewhere I could return to again and again and the Guild was even advertising for cafe staff. How perfect would that job be?! It's probably a good thing that our new Torquay base isn't exactly commutable. All my wages would go on cake and precious things!

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