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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

River Avon Moor to Sea 16

Addendum. Originally published as Aveton Gifford Photo Walk in August 2022. Later added to my River Avon Moor to Sea series.

A little stroll into the village of Aveton Gifford on the river Avon in the South Hams of Devon. If you have been following my posts you may know I am working on a series of posts that follow the river Avon from source to sea. The posts will feature all the different stretches of the river and what I find along the way. While working on the project I am making some advance posts on specific places that will be too great in detail for the series, so I am making seperate posts about these. That's how I come to be making this post about Aveton Gifford.

At Aveton Gifford the river is tidal, very tidal. In fact it is so tidal that the road signs specify the speed limit in knots and not miles per hour.

Aveton Gifford is a small rural village in the south of the English county of Devon. It lies at the head of the estuary of the River Avon or Aune, at the point where it is crossed by the A379 road. It receives its name from this river and also from the family of Giffard who held the manor. Walter Giffard came across with William the Conqueror in 1066 and helped with the Domesday Book. The bridge across the River Avon is believed to have been completed in around 1440. Wikipedia

But that is all I am going to say about the river here. Aveton Gifford is unusual in this area for having a bypass so it is a rarity in being a village with very narrow streets that you do not need to encounter. You can drive right past and that is what most people do, including me for many years, until my river project gave me reason to stop here, and while waiting for the tide to recede I spent a short time walking the length of the main street to do a short "photo walk".

Samsung predictive text changes Aveton Gifford to Acetone Gifford, which is another interesting fact, that I now bring to the world.

As well as Samsung being confused I have to say in my experience that every time I hear the name it is pronounced differently. I have always pronounced it Ayve-tun Giff-urd, but it comes as Avvaa-tun Jifford too, and only this week I heard it pronounced Avvtun Jiffurd, and of course there's just plain old AG as some locals playing safe, refer to it. That is all before you get to the original name being Giffard with an A and Avon being Aune. So take your pick.

It was a very hot day and I was already flagging as I had just explored the bridge and riverside. I wanted the tide to recede so that I could finish, by photographing the tidal road, and the river at its widest point.

Flagging- I am adding some info on this word as it was just pointed out to me that this word's meaning in this context is not universal. Languid, weak. Becoming progressively less : dwindling. The "weakened" meaning of flagging comes from an early meaning of flag, "to flap about loosely."Mid 16th century: perhaps from obsolete flag ‘drooping’, of unknown ultimate origin.

I don't think I was actually flapping about loosely, but I was definitely languid and quite probably drooping.

As a consequence of time running out and effort already spent I did not discover the church, and in fact didn't even know there was one. It turns out to be up a steep hill at the edge of the village, so I will have to return at a later date as it looks like being worth a visit and has some interesting history including a bizarre bombing raid during the second World War.

I start the photo walk at the pub which is the first building you see when entering the village from the river.

Fore street is what counts for level and straight around here, and with the bypass meaning very little traffic it is a pleasant walk. Although Fore street is fairly level, the village is built on a steep hillside with Fore Street following the contour. If you turn left you go steeply down to the stream which empties into the Avon near the bridge and if you take a right turn you go steeply uphill.

Here is the drop down to the lower level. I have noticed that the apple crop seems to be very early this year and this in times past would be a good spot for scrumping. Scrumping apples was mostly a pastime of children who might lean over a wall on the way home from school to steal a few ripe apples, or even, if they dared, climb over a wall into an orchard, risking a smack or two.

Two points here, children are now too risk averse to try anything as dangerous and life threatening as climbing over a wall, and if they did, they would get counselling, not any form of punishment, not to mention that most children do not eat apples and see them as the work of the devil.

Scrumping - steal (fruit) from an orchard or garden. mid 19th century: from dialect scrump ‘withered apple’. Etymologists aren't sure of its history but it's thought to come either from a dialectical term meaning 'something shrivelled or withered' (which probably comes from the Middle Dutch, schrimpen) or from the adjective 'scrimp' which meant thrifty, and later morphed into the verb 'to scrimp and save' that we use today.

In my experience though it has only ever applied to apples as has the derivative scrumpy.

Scrumpy - Scrumpy is a type of cider originating in the West of England, particularly the West Country. Traditionally, the dialect term "scrumpy" was used to refer to what was otherwise called "rough", a harsh cider made from unselected apples.

Today the term is more often used to distinguish locally made ciders produced in smaller quantities and using traditional methods, from mass-produced branded ciders.

The name Wesley, below, is a big clue that you will find a non-conformist chapel nearby.

John Wesley was an English cleric, theologian, and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism. The societies he founded became the dominant form of the independent Methodist movement that continues to this day.

Moving across Great Britain and Ireland, he helped form and organise small Christian groups (societies) that developed intensive and personal accountability, discipleship, and religious instruction. He appointed itinerant, unordained evangelists—both women and men—to care for these groups of people. Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the abolition of slavery and prison reform.

In his early ministry years, Wesley was barred from preaching in many parish churches and the Methodists were persecuted; he later became widely respected, and by the end of his life, was described as "the best-loved man in England". As his societies needed houses to worship in, Wesley began to provide chapels, first in Bristol then in London and elsewhere.

The front doors on these two cottages have to be some of the shortest I have ever seen. My eye level was at the top of the wall light. I suspect that there is a step down when you enter, surely.

As you can see the church is a quarter of a mile from the village centre.

This is the view up Rock Hill.

As promised here is the Wesleyan Chapel, which is now converted into a home. The religion around here is now paddle boarding. The evidence is there.

I know police forces have been making cutbacks but this is taking things to a whole new level.

There is a tiny reminder of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of last month still remaining here. Three patriotic triangles of bunting were just s bit too high for someone to reach.

The Giffard family who came over in the Norman Conquest were French speakers. Are there some descendants still here?

Ukrainian flags are still visible in many places, even in Jubilee Street.

This was my favourite find on the walk, below. Sixty years on and there are still fans of The Thunderbirds out there.

Thunderbirds - Thunderbirds is a British science fiction television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, filmed by their production company AP Films (APF) and distributed by ITC Entertainment. It was made between 1964 and 1966 using a form of electronic marionette puppetry (dubbed "Supermarionation") combined with scale model special effects sequences. Two series, totalling thirty-two 50-minute episodes, were filmed; production ended with the completion of the sixth episode of the second series after Lew Grade, the Andersons' financial backer, failed in his bid to sell the programme to American network television.

Here out on the pavement is a great looking Tracy Island, the home of International Rescue. Also here are Thunderbirds One and Two. In the series, the swimming pool retracted to reveal the launch pad for Thunderbird One and a row of coconut palms folded down to reveal the runway for thunderbird Two. I had a real Thunderbirds hat back in 1967. I could only have dreamed of a Tracy Island this good. Worryingly it is laid out on the recycling box which is awaiting collection. I hope it isn't about to be collected.

I particularly like the small home made figures on this sign. Please note, there is even a paddle boarder. Somebody obviously was not going slow and has removed the S with the side of their vehicle.

Here is the community shop set up with the help of the Parish Council.

Aveton Gifford Village Shop Association was formed when the last village shop with its Post Office closed in 2003. Fundraising for a new community shop began and villagers bought shares priced at £5 each. The new premises, a purpose-built timber-framed building that opened for business on the 1st August 2009, is a result of the hard work of committee members at the time, the shop staff, and the community’s support for the scheme.

Unfortunately SatNav takes the unwary stranger through the narrow part of the village so these signs both advertise the shop and deter those just going to the beach from driving through the middle.

These are the original village stocks, which records show were last used for punishment in 1860.

...... and here is the tree although Google Street View dated 2011 shows no tree at all so this is a Johnny Come Lately of a young oak tree.

Johnny Come Lately - A late arrival; a newcomer. This term originated in the early nineteenth-century British navy as Johnny Newcomer, meaning a seaman new to a ship. In the United States it was changed to Johnny-come-lately, first appearing in print in Charles F. Briggs's novel, The Adventures of Harry Franco (1839).

More speed warnings at the school, Twenty is Plenty.

Aveton Gifford School was built in 1867, in place of the old village workhouse. The Rev William Parr Pitman was instrumental in getting the Church School built. There were four classrooms and children sat at iron-framed wooden desks; there was also a school house for the headteacher and his family. The original school building forms part of the present school, although an extensive half a million pound enlargement programme was carried out in 1991. In the early days the school day started at 9am and finished at 5pm (with a two hour lunch break); parents had to pay to send their children to school. Discipline at the school was maintained through the use of the cane!

The entrance to the Village Hall.

The lowest part of the village at the ford.

As you can now see, the tide has receded enough for me to drive along the tidal road and finish taking pictures for this section of the River Avon Series.

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John Durham
John Durham
Aug 18, 2022

So interesting how people adapt to an area where nature, in the form of the tides, dictates freedom of movement to some degree. Changes the mindset, I think, in a better, more natural way. Could be just me, though - might be annoying as hell to most folk.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Aug 18, 2022
Replying to

Those who haven't adapted, non local delivery drivers and tourists have drowned a total of 4 vans this week, nobody hurt. I think it's a record. Very high tides, second highest I have seen.


Unknown member
Aug 08, 2022

We are back at Doc Martin country, especially the cottages and the short door. Love the perspective/ angle/ crop (whatever you want to call it) you take on some of your captures. For example the two colored wall with the window on one side and door on the other...perfect! Anything larger and the beauty of the colors/design would be lost. I wish we had areas like much character.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Aug 08, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Camellia. It constantly amazes me how much history there is around here which makes us so glad we moved when we did. Keep finding new stuff right on our doorstep. I am going to look for a new challenge to set you.

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