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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Ditsum Part 2

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 15, 2021

If you are wondering why Ditsum Part 2 follows Dittisham Part 1 you need to read Dittisham Part 1 first.

This is one of the exits from the churchyard, below. It is either the start of Lower Street or Higher Street. You get to choose. Higher Street is up hill and Lower Street is down hill. Half way is The Level, another street, which this time seems ill named. When I show it to you I will let you decide if the name fits.

The other exit from the churchyard leads right out to The Level and I was intrigued by the old gate, below, so I had to include it.

It's the first time I have seen a gate like this in a churchyard. A gate that does not need hinges as it pivots in the middle.

You can tell from the gate itself, made of oak, and also from the rusty bolt, that this has been here a long time. This bolt is not something you could buy in a hardware store, and to me it looks more like something the vicar of the church would have asked the blacksmith in the village to fashion, maybe a hundred years ago or more. Back then you could probably take your pick of local blacksmiths. Everything and everyone travelled either by horse or around here by boat. The blacksmith here would have had to be multi skilled both in horse related hardware and boat related hardware.

Now I am on The Level at the junction with Riverside Road. The level isn't level and there is no riverside at the top of the hill. The sign saying unsuitable for long vehicles is an understatement. The only confusion is that the road to the village is also unsuitable for long vehicles so practically speaking it's highly unlikely a long vehicle would ever get to this point. The largest vehicles I saw were delivering cider so that is proof that emergency vehicles can make it, which is the main thing.

As usual around here, all roads, even unsuitable ones seem to end up at Totnes.

To prove my point here is the cider, below. This cider is on The Level, although I don't want to belabour the point.

Belabour - argue or discuss (a subject) in excessive detail. The figurative sense of "assail with words" is attested somewhat earlier (1590s); and belabored is attested from mid-15c. with a sense of "tilled, cultivated."

I really like "assail with words" it's more poetic. This cider is on The Level, although I don't want to assail you with words on that point. Don't worry though because inside the pub, the floors, tables and chairs are more or less level so you won't spill a drop. More on the pub on my return journey.

At every turn there are beautiful views of the river. Opposite the bluff is Galmpton Creek and Dartside Quay, below.

The ancient manor of Galmpton was first recorded in the Domesday Book as ‘Galmetona’, the name deriving from the Saxon ‘Gafolsman’, meaning a community of rent-paying peasants. After the Norman Conquest, Ralph de Feugeres became Lord of the Manor of Galmpton; it remained a manorial holding well into the Victorian era.

Richard Harvey, a Cornish copper magnate, acquired the manor in the 1860s, residing locally at Greenway House. Harvey was noted as making great improvements to the Tudor housing of Galmpton's inhabitants, which he had called “miserable hovels”, and for making a generous donation towards the restoration of Churston's medieval church, St Mary's.

Greenway House was later the home of Agatha Christie.

Large numbers of troops were stationed around Galmpton during World War Two. Small boats from the Dart joined in the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940 and the river provided anchorage for many of the landing craft used in the D-Day invasion. Motor launches and motor torpedo boats used in the war effort were built and repaired at Galmpton Creek.

In case you were wondering where I am going up this steep hill below, don't worry as I am on The Level. That junction ahead is The Level too even though it is sloping in all directions.

This is the view back down the hill on The Level.

And this is the junction on The Level, below, where The Level plummets down hill to the river and the ferry crossing below. That's when it is not plummeting down behind me or plummeting up hill on the right. Can a road plummet up hill? Not sure. Anyway it plummets in all directions here, that's how you can tell you're on The Level.

.......and in case you didn't believe any of this, here it is in black and white. A sign that is sloping that says The Level.

.... and as I plummet down to the ferry and look back at The Level I just see a steep slope.

I am now in Manor Road and although there is a Manor Cottage there is no sign of a Manor, so if there ever was one right here it has gone or been renamed.

There seems to be a running theme in Dittisham of road names that don't quite fit, named inaccurately or after things that don't exist.

Most of the properties are small cottages leading down to the water's edge. It is a steep road down and a sign at the top warns that there is no public parking down here. In fact there is barely room to turn around should you go down. The only parking was on the beach and you have to know your tide times if you are going to risk that.

This tiny Georgian Post Box, below, was my favourite find and I am not sure if it got like this through negligence or design. There is an argument for keeping it well maintained and freshly painted but surely a better argument for leaving it just like this. The rust along with countless layers of paint, peeling in the salty air, all finished off nicely by the delicate early morning cobwebs is a delight to the photographer's eye.

I like the way it specifies in cast iron "Letters Only" as if you could squeeze a parcel in there if you wanted to. I also love the fact that the Last Collection Time which is normally a warning about getting your mail posted at the end of the day is in fact 9.00 am. This means you have to get up early for the last post unless it is Saturday, when you need to get up really early. The mail man who collects the mail must also be carrying an antique key to open the thing.

Below, this is a view across the village rooftops with an unusual sight, a full sized banana tree, growing outside.

A banana is an elongated, edible fruit – botanically a berry – produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. Musa species are native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea.

This gives you an idea of the micro climates found around here and explains the name coined a hundred years ago for this part of England, The English Riviera.

This angle gives a good idea of how steep the road down to the ferry is. I should add that it is a passenger ferry.

Here, below, you can see opposite, the ferry on it's way across to the Greenway Quay. The land the other side is The Greenway Estate, former home of Agatha Christie.

In 1938, the writer Agatha Christie and her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, were becoming disenchanted with their home in nearby Torquay. The town had changed in the previous years, and the once uninterrupted view of the sea from the house became obstructed with new buildings. Looking around south Devon, Christie saw Greenway was available. She had seen the property during her youth and always thought it "the most perfect of the various properties on the Dart". In her later autobiography she wrote:

One day we saw that a house was up for sale that I had known when I was young ... So we went over to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and grounds were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees – the ideal house, a dream house.

The house was occupied by Christie and Mallowan until their deaths in 1976 and 1978 respectively, and featured, under various guises, in several of Christie's novels. (Wikipedia)

Following the modern trend of publicising the heretofore unnamed achievements of wives of famous men, I thought I would here tell of the achievements of Agatha Christie's husband.

Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan CBE was a prominent British archaeologist, specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history. He was educated at Rokeby School and Lancing College (where he was a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh) and studied classics at New College, Oxford.

In 1932, after a short time working at Nineveh with Reginald Campbell Thompson, Mallowan became a field director for a series of expeditions jointly run by the British Museum and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq. His excavations included the prehistoric village at Tell Arpachiyah, and the sites at Chagar Bazar and Tell Brak in the Upper Khabur area (Syria). He was also the first to excavate archaeological sites in the Balikh Valley, to the west of the Khabur basin.

After the war, in 1947, he was appointed Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology at the University of London, a position which he held until elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1962. In 1947, he also became director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (1947–1961) and directed the resumption of its work at Nimrud. (Wikipedia)

Greenway, also known as Greenway House, is an estate on the River Dart near Galmpton in Devon, England. The estate is served by a steam railway service with trains from Paignton and Kingswear stopping at Greenway Halt station. Little is known about the original Tudor building. An archaeological examination of the current house's hallway shows evidence of a Tudor courtyard underneath. Remnants of the Tudor slipway from the boathouse, can be seen at low tide.

The Ferry Boat Inn, known locally as the FBI is a charming, traditional pub on the shore of the River Dart in Dittisham (Dit’sum to locals). A local pub has stood on this spot for over 200 years. Despite its popularity with visitors, it has retained its original character and offers a warm welcome to locals and tourists alike. (

Now that I have walked down to the river, I can risk following the beach to find Riverside Road or walk back up the hill. Not knowing my tides I decide to walk back up the hill. In part 3 I will cover the last part of the walk down Lower Street.

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