Cornwall & Devon

June 2002…way in the past…

A two week trip travelling around the south-east of England. Pity the weather was nasty for most of it, but we still had a nice relaxing time and were out and about every day, in spite of the wind and rain. We’ve just had 20 or so films developed from the trip so it’ll take us a while to get them together. Here’s the first lot. Four different places feature, starting with Dartmoor and moving on to Stonehenge, which isn’t even in Cornwall or Devon:

The same hill, looking up as we walked to the summit.
Dartmoor, Keryn sitting next to a stack of stone on a hill.

In the first week be spent a lot of time in both Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor, just driving around and visiting ancient monuments, many over a thousand years old. The oldest place we visited was the Grimspound, a walled hamlet thought to date back to 1000BC. The pound in the name refers to a small hamlet of stone huts surrounded by what would have been a high stone wall. Most of what is known about such sites is conjecture, but its still amazing to walk through a site that was built and occupied about 3000 years ago, and now is just populated by sheep.

The stacks of stones pictured above and below were on the top of a hill that looked over the Grimspound. As the hills erode away over time the rocks become exposed themselves, and they erode away to leave amazing formations. Everywhere in the moors you find these formations at the tops of hills.

The same hill, looking up as we walked to the summit.
The same hill, looking up as we walked to the summit.

This particular afternoon we were again lucky with the weather, though it did cloud over eventually and started to get a little cold. We didn’t really notice the cloud formations as we took our photos, otherwise we would have taken many more shots. There is just so much to photograph out here.

The stream of rain cloud approaching Stonehenge
The stream of rain cloud approaching Stonehenge

It was again sunny when we got to Stonehenge, on our way back from London in the second week of our Holiday, heading towards Devon. We had headed back for a concert by Jewel at the Royal Albert Hall. Anyway, we stopped off and went in, we’re members of English Heritage now and this gives us free entry to EH sites, of which one is Stonehenge. The weather for the day was scattered heavy rain, as evidenced by this massive stream of rain cloud that was advancing towards the henge.

So, when it was in the sun, Stonehenge was quite impressive. There weren’t that many people around which made things a bit easier. You’re not allowed intothe henge now, they’ve got the place roped off.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

While we were there a couple of bus loads of tourists were dropped off. There was one load of young (well, younger than us) American’s and the other was a mixed lot of Germans.

So, we wandered around the henge taking photos. Most people were getting as far back as possible on the path to get everything in. We, with the luxury of a wide angle lens, were able to take photos from the nearside of the path, which meant no dodging of people walking past. All the time we were watching the dark clouds get closer and closer. After about ten minutes it started dripping, and then the wind picked up and brought the rain. A couple of minutes and it was a downpour.

Again, Stonehenge.
Again, Stonehenge.

Everyone ran back towards the entrance, with most hiding in the access tunnel which ran under the road (the entrance was on the opposite side of the road to the henge). Thankfully we were both wearing our raincoats and had a towel in the backpack. About five minutes later it was all fine again. English weather…

There were crows flying around, adding to the air of ancient times.
There were crows flying around, adding to the air of ancient times.

While the rest of our clothes dried we wandered around the gift shop. We came away with a magnet (a habit we’ve stolen from Karyn and Brian) and a book of photos of ancient British sites. I went back to the car and Keryn went back for some more photos.

Old Waldour Castle, with one of the groundsman's dogs.
Old Waldour Castle, with one of the groundsman’s dogs.

Next we have Old Waldour Castle, which is again not in Cornwall of Devon, rather Wiltshire which is on the way to Devon from London. Old Waldour is a great castle to visit, being mostly intact but uninhabited. Wandering around the ancient halls and rooms is exciting, you can try to imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago when this was a place of residence. They actually filmed some of the movie ‘Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves’ here as well.

We got to talk to the main groundsman for the area who was at Old Waldour when we visited, it’s his dog you can just make out above. He was a mine of information, happily telling us about the various historical sites he manages. He also told us a lot about the movie, how it was filmed here, in Cumbria at Hadrian’s wall and Dover at the white cliffs, amongst other places.

Shot from within the castle looking over the caretakers property next door.
Shot from within the castle looking over the caretakers property next door.

In the course of the movie Robin (Kevin Costner) travels to all three of the sites mentioned above in the space of a day, when in reality it’d have taken him weeks to walk that far. The actual groundsman for Old Waldour wasn’t present, which was unfortunate. Apparently he’s actually got a few props, like Robin’s sword, which we could’ve seen. Oh well.

We took a lot of shots at Old Waldour, the weather was mostly fine so there was plenty of nice light to take interesting shots inside and out. We’re attempting to get a bit more artistic with some of our photos, hence slightly more different shots like the one above of the tree through the window and the spiral staircase. I like the patterns you get in these old places, there’s always something to see and the patterns draw the eye into the frame. Or maybe I read too many photography magazines.

Looking up a stairwell inside the castle.
Looking up a stairwell inside the castle.

While we were there we mostly had the place to ourselves, so we got to spend lots of time looking for shots without hoards of people walking through the frame. One thing about these weeks, the bad weather kept the numbers of people down.

Keryn poses on the second floor.
Keryn poses on the second floor.

Keryn is also getting more used to me taking shots of her, she doesn’t make faces and complain so much now. We’re also learning more about exposure and how the camera works, which is hopefully demonstrated in our photos.

The Tarr Steps.
The Tarr Steps.

Next we have the Tarr Steps, in Exmoor. These steps (actually a bridge across the river Barle) are ancient, the stones were thought to be brought to the area thousands of years ago, though the steps were built in Medieval times. I just read something that said there is Legend that has it the devil built the bridge and owns the sunbathing rights on the stones. Just as well we were there just after dark I guess.

Being so dark we were highly sceptical that the shots we took would come out, how wrong we were. We’d never really done night photography before but we had the camera on the tripod and happily took a few shots. The exposures were over 20 to 30 seconds, so Keryn had to stay very still for the shot to the right.

Keryn stands very still.
Keryn stands very still.

With such long exposures the water gets a misty, silky look to it, which looks really nice if done right. A lot of shots we took to achieve this kind of effect were ruined somewhat by the weather, the constant rain swelling the streams and rivers and meaning the water just looked messy.

Once we’d taken our photos it was back up the hill, past the restaurant, towards the carpark at the top. It was a bit of a trudge at the end of a long day where we’d been driving around Exmoor visiting various places. Back at the carpark the owner of the only other car there came back and we talked a little bit. He asked if we were from New Zealand and in the resultant conversation it turned out he had lectured in a University in New Zealand for a few years. He lived in the area and regularly took walks down along the river. He was just about off to pick up his wife from the bottom of the hill when we were speaking to him.

Looking back from on the Tarr Steps at the Restaurant.
Looking back from on the Tarr Steps at the Restaurant.

Earlier in the day we’d driven past a little village called Brendon. I’ve got a photo of the main town sign, it was funny to be in the middle of Exmoor in a town bearing my name. It was a quaint little village, surrounded by trees and next to a lovely stream.

The far side view.
The far side view.

That’s where we’ll end for now. Hopefully we’ll have a lot more photos and more tales of our travels over the next few months. That’s the plan anyway…don’t hold us to anything.

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