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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods July 2022

The South Hams is a small area within South Devon. It's where I live. It is not like other places, not even other places in England. You soon start to adjust to a new way of life when you decide to live here. Even though the Industrial Revolution started in England in about 1760 the coastal villages of the South Hams were not linked by proper roads until the 1840's. This view below constituted a main road back then. It is a Green Lane, hundreds of miles of which still exist. The reason that roads came late to this area was because it was already on the international super highway of the English Channel and everything that mattered happened in sea lanes and aboard boats. But that was all about to change. Canals were already built, for the same reason, that boats were king , and railway networks were well under way.

I was exploring some remote parts of the South Hams the other day following a river, for a long series of posts that I am working on. The series will be about the local river Avon which originates on the roof of Dartmoor and meets the sea at Bantham Bay. The series will show the different villages and bridges on the river's journey to the sea and give some history to that route. This means most of my sorties out at the moment are to take in stretches of the river and to find out what is there and why. That is how I found myself driving along some very narrow roads, which were real roads, following my Sat Nav to this point whereupon I received the instruction to "Follow this road straight ahead for about one mile". Even in my 4X4 Suzuki I wasn't in the slightest bit tempted to follow that instruction.

I have a rule around here, I don't drive down a road with grass down the middle unless I can see the two sides either side of that middle. People who don't live here just stop at "I don't drive down roads with grass in the middle".

So I took a left and ignored a further two insistent missives from her indoors under the bonnet, before finding a lane with visible tarmac although admittedly not a lot, and a lot of grass down the middle. This eventually brought me to a very old, very narrow bridge, which is what I had been looking for.

This is a Devon hay wagon, and I am specifying a Devon hay wagon because these narrow lanes are as I have said, a thing around here. This wagon was built by the Farr brothers in East Charleton around a hundred years ago. East Charleton had only been linked by a modern road to the rest of England for about eighty years before that. These wagons were designed to be light and manoeuvrable for the steep narrow lanes. The old route from Charleton to Kingsbridge was up and over the top by Green Lane. In the 1840's the bridge at Bowcombe was built as part of the new turnpike road. This wagon has been restored and now has a new lease of life on the quayside in Kingsbridge as part of the floral scheme which forms part of the Britain in Bloom entry for the town.

Another part of my excursion took me past this hillside where I spotted these ancient sheep steps. Sheep are reputedly very stupid, hence expressions like "stupid as a sheep", but they are not that stupid and know it is a lot easier crossing a steep field at an angle on a gentle slope, and if you and your foresheep ancestors have done it for long enough you end up with a landscape not unlike the rice terraces of Asia on a smaller scale.

Sheeple - A combination of the words "sheep" and "people" meaning that the person or persons are acting as a group or to only behave based on what is trending. People unable to think for themselves. Followers. People who have no mind or free will of their own and go with the flow.

I love the English language's ability to coin new words at the drop of a hat.

To coin a word or phrase - To coin a phrase means to invent a new saying or idiomatic expression that is new or unique. The first use of the word coin as a verb occurred during the 1300s, referring to the process of stamping new metal coins with a die.

At the drop of a hat - To do something at the drop of a hat means to do it immediately, without delay and at the slightest provocation. The phrase 'at the drop of a hat' originates in the 19th century. During that time it was common to signal the beginning of a fight or race by either dropping a hat or sweeping it in a rapid downward motion.

Another stop on my river journey, and I came across this tree which is growing over and around a granite boulder, in a very slow motion attempt to swallow it.

Descending from the heights of Dartmoor I came to South Brent and St. Petroc's church where I found this beautiful stained glass rendition of St George, the patron Saint of England. For these river route shots I will go into more detail when I make those posts. For now they are just a taster of what is to come, probably on cold wet winter days.

St Mary the Virgin church at Diptford and the unusual sight for me was the path to the front door, because it appears to be a trench cut through solid rock. The surface is natural rock and the sides are the cut through rock which begs the question how did they dig the graves? Were they also cut from the same rock?

This was just a nicely weathered piece of driftwood in the creek which I was tempted to drag home to my garden, but it was just too far and too heavy.

It always fascinates me how some plants are able to thrive on so little, in the least likely places.

Being July and a heatwave there are obviously going to be beach photos.

This is one from my favourite flower beach at Strete gate, where the flowers seem to thrive even in a drought year.

Also flowering in their garish colours in the summer are the paddle boards.

A moment caught in time.

You can also paddle the old fashioned way, without a board.

I have been following the progress of this cottage being renovated. It is a former cafe and B&B now available to buy if you fancy it. A snip at offers in excess of £695,000 or about $850,000 US. You will see it here in winter with it's old darker thatch prior to the facelift. Appropriately named Sea Breeze.

Kingsbridge from an unusual angle, looking up the creek, it's main street a stack of buildings closely packed climbing the hill from the quayside, or tumbling down the hill, depending on your viewpoint. At the top is the church and the old Town Hall clock tower. For a walking tour through Kingsbridge look here.

Looking west from the same vantage point is West Alvington. A small village and much older than Kingsbridge, now almost joined to it's newer neighbour. It was originally part of the manor of Bowringsleigh, which took its name from the Bowring family, who were lords of the manor from about 1330 to the early sixteenth century. At one time, Alvington was part of the Royal Estates.

Thomas Bowring (c.1440-1504) was an English-born lawyer and judge in fifteenth-century Ireland, who held office as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He belonged to a prominent landowning family in Devon, who gave their name to the manor of Bowringsleigh, which they acquired about 1330. His main estate was at nearby West Alvington.

As early as 747 the area was raided by Danes, when Brichtig was King of the West Saxons. Viking raiders came up the estuary in 850. In 846 King Alfred's father drew up the OM HOMME charter by which he took into his private possession most of the South Hams in order that he might bestow land to his favourites.


The Principal manor in the Parish was at Gerston. It has been reported that as a result of the mild climate the Bastard family were able to grow oranges and lemons outside and supposedly once gave them to George 1.

I can confirm that my neighbour has lemons growing outside on her back patio. For further information on the surname Bastard see my Slapton post on this historic local family which has it's roots in the Norman Invasion of 1066.

Lots of shots of the tide out in this post including the local creekside fair this time held for the first time on the creek bed itself.

Included in the many events was the ancient sport of Welly Wanging.

Welly throwing, also known as welly hoying, welly wanging and boot throwing, is a sport in which competitors are required to throw a Wellington boot as far as possible. The sport appears to have originated in the West Country of England in the 1970s, and rapidly became a popular activity at village fêtes and fundraising events across Britain.The sport is now played in many different countries, including Australia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Russia.

The Wellington boot was originally a type of leather boot adapted from Hessian boots, a style of military riding boot. They were worn and popularised by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. The "Wellington" boot became a staple of practical foot wear for the British aristocracy and middle class in the early 19th century. The name was subsequently given to waterproof boots made of rubber and they are no longer associated with a particular class. They are now commonly used for a range of agricultural and outdoors pursuits. Wikipedia

Outdoor pursuits? They weren't thinking of Welly Wanging.

Another local sport, crabbing.

and just to prove that the tide sometimes comes in.

One reminder of my Chilli post, if you haven't seen it and want to know why these chillies are wearing a veil then check it out here.

Who knew those horrible, aggressive Seagulls waiting to ambush you when you eat a pasty could look cute and cuddly? This little guy's pasty thieving training has not begun yet. I had not seen a seagull nest before and frankly although it seems to have done the job, it is not a thing of beauty. It seems to be more of a mound that stopped the egg and then the chick from just sliding off the roof. It's a sort of minimal input affair made by a bird that has evolved to do this same task on the edge of a windswept and rainswept hundred foot cliff. The corrugated metal roof is a positive luxury by comparison. The construction methods are not the best advert for the builders merchants below.

There are many events locally now that the summer is here and Covid is in the past. This one is a gathering of classic cars in Kingsbridge town square, which looks to become a regular weekly summer event, during July and August.

MG is a British automotive marque founded by Cecil Kimber in the 1920s, and M.G. Car Company Limited was the British sports car manufacturer that made the marque famous. Best known for its open two-seater sports cars, MG also produced saloons and coupés, with engines up to three litres in size.

MG cars had their roots in a 1920s sales promotion sideline of Morris Garages, a retail sales and service centre in Oxford belonging to William Morris. The business's manager, Cecil Kimber, modified standard production Morris Oxfords and added MG Super Sports to the plate at the nose of the car. A separate M.G. Car Company Limited was incorporated in July 1930. It remained Morris's personal property until 1 July 1935, when he sold it to his holding company, Morris Motors Limited.

No outside event in Britain would be complete without folding chairs, and fish and chips, eaten right out of the paper. Not that long ago the paper came complete with old news. Today the paper is print free. Long gone is the ink stained finger tips experience of a fish supper on the way home.

Another traditional English idiom still in use “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip papers”. This was always used to mean that the news is just ephemeral. These old words of wisdom were often used to console those on the receiving end of unwelcome publicity. The next day would bring a new headline, and the world would move on.

I just included this shot to demonstrate what a zoom does on a modern camera.

A recommended trip is the scenic harbour cruise in Plymouth. It takes you around Plymouth Sound, and then up the river Tamar that forms the border between Devon and Cornwall and views of Devonport Docks. It is impossible to overemphasise the part Plymouth has played over hundreds of years in the defence of Britain. Remains of every famous voyage and war are here to see in the form of wartime relics or memorials.

The huge natural harbour is surrounded by forts and gun emplacements from every era. This is the Cornish shore at Mt Edgcumbe and it was at this point that The Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard lay at anchor for several days waiting for favourable North Easterly winds to start it's circumnavigation of the world which further led to Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" to give it it's full title. A book which changed humanity's view of itself for ever.

Other notable snippets of history.

Aircraftsman Shaw was stationed at Mountbatten, a former Royal Air Force flying boat and search and rescue base, located at the northeast corner of the Sound, he later became famous as Lawrence of Arabia.

The Titanic was due to dock here on it's return journey to England. It carried on board a painting of Plymouth Sound.

Sir Francis Drake was based in Plymouth when the Spanish Armada appeared in the English Channel.

Following his surrender to Captain Frederick Maitland of HMS Bellerophon off Rochefort in 1815, Napoleon was taken to Plymouth Sound where he remained on board, 26 July – 4 August, while his future was decided. This event caused a local and national sensation as thousands took to the water; several paintings in London's National Maritime Museum document the event.

The Mayflower 1620, bearing the Pilgrim Fathers called in to make repairs and take on supplies.

The Pelican 15 November 1577: departed on Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation.

Departing on 27 August 1966 and arriving on 28 May 1967, Francis Chichester became the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route.

The largest warship on show the day we went.

HMS Albion is one of the Royal Navy’s two amphibious assault ships. Together, their mission is to deliver the punch of the Royal Marines ashore by air and sea.

HMS Albion has been described as the Royal Navy’s ‘Swiss Army knife’ – and for good reason. This amphibious transport dock is capable of carrying 400 sailors and Royal Marines with a huge range of skills and experience, from technicians and engineers to medics and chefs.

The loading dock of HMS Albion is packed with the trucks, machinery and water craft her crew use to carry out their duties. The ship also carries emergency supplies for use in disaster relief operations, from food supplies to water pumps.

This is a good view of Royal William Yard which until recently still belonged to the Royal Navy. It was the victualling yards for navy ships, purpose built in the 1830's during the reign of William IV. It is now a complex of businesses, apartments and restaurants with an integral marina. For a more detailed view check out my photo walk.

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Peter Smith
Peter Smith
Aug 21, 2022

A sign of advancing years? - spotting a MkIII Escort van in a classic car line up! Never the less, an interesting post and great images Gethin.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Aug 21, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Peter.


John Durham
John Durham
Aug 18, 2022

Always my favorite of your posts - love the variety. I just have to remember to check your blog because I don't get notifications of posts, even though I subscribed. A calendar reminder, I think!🙂

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Aug 18, 2022
Replying to

Sorry about that John, I will check to see if there is some setting not ticked. Glad you enjoyed it though. Thanks for stopping by.


Unknown member
Aug 03, 2022

So much to see and read, but I had stop at the Welly Wanging and write my comment ( in the event I forget) it is similar to our cow chip thowing, except in our case we use cow poop.

I scrolled back up and took in (with a smile) all the photos and commenatries. As always the odds and sods at the end of the month are treat to look/read.

The photo of the Royal Navy Yard is, in my opinion, another frameable one. But then again I know you are no longer in the framing business. 😊

Just made a connection seeing your "Plymouth 5 Harbour to Hoe" cover photo, we both enjoy taking photos of bins 😉

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Aug 04, 2022
Replying to

As they say, bin there, done that.😊

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