Random thoughts from Pencefn

…. an engineer, singer and photographer living in Scotland

Devon 2010: Day 2 – Buckfastleigh

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Day 2 of our trip to Devon and we headed for Buckfastleigh. Our route was over Dartmoor, however the weather was not playing and low cloud meant there were no views to be seen. As we came off the moor we followed some narrow lanes with high banks. This made passing oncoming vehicles a challenge – especially with the lack of passing places.

5526 – GWR 4575 Class 'small prairie' 2-6-2T

5526 – GWR 4575 Class 'small prairie' 2-6-2T

Upon arrival at Buckfastleigh, our first stop was the South Devon Railway. You may it by a previous name – Dart Valley Railway. We arrived in time for the first train of the day, however there was a large school party on board, coupled with tour group. We decided to wait until the next train. Whilst we waited, we visited the museum and sampled the on-site catering. The museum looked like a “work in progess” project. There were some fine items, however some displays were incomplete and unlabelled. The catering, however, was exemplary. There was a wide choice of food available and it was possible to take items onto the train. Ideal for the 12:15 departure we embarked on. If anything, the only criticism was the slow service, probably made worse by a limited number of staff coinciding with the arrival of the train just before midday.

The locomotive hauling the train was a 1928 Great Western Small Prairie tank engine, number 5526. Both the locomotive and the carriages were clean. The upholstery in the carriage (a Hawksworth Brake Composite Corridor, number 7377) we travelled in was starting to look worn. The guard was friendly when he came to check our tickets.

When I last visited the railway (in the late 1970s), there was nothing at the Totnes end of the line, and it was before the station at Littlehempston was built and the bridge across the river Dart. Since then there has been a period when trains ran into the main station (between 1985 and 1988) in Totnes, followed by the construction of the bridge in 1993.

Raptor at Totnes Rare Breeds Farm

Raptor at Totnes Rare Breeds Farm

In 2002, the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm was opened, accessible from Littlehempston station. When we arrived the school party we had previously seen were assembling to get back on the train to Buckfastleigh.

It is amazing how much there is on the site. First of all you come across the Raptor (Birds of Prey) display. As can be seen from the picture to the right, we were lucky to see a raptor with a handler.

Out in the open the animals included ducks, hens, goat, squirrels were available, many of which you could touch. Part of the entrance fee included some feed to allow us to feed the animals. A goat was successful in eating my feed. Around the farm there are also dispenser were you can buy more feed.

With the weather being dry it was an ideal way of spending the time whilst waiting for the next train. As we got on the train back to Buckfastleigh, the weather broke and the rain started.

The tower of Buckfast Abbey

The tower of Buckfast Abbey

Upon our return to Buckfastleigh, our next stop was Buckfast Abbey. A religious community was first established in 1018, and run by the Order of Cisterciansy from 1147. This survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII when it was destroyed. In the late 19th century a small group of Benedictine Monks who had been exiled from France came to Buckfast and re-established the religious community.

As you walk from the Car Park, the commercial side of the Abbey is evident – Restaurant, Souvenir Shop and Book Shop. However as you approach the Abbey, its peacefulness becomes evident. The monastery is to the south of the Abbey and is in a closed area.

The architecture of the Abbey is typical of the late 19th/early 20th century with mixed Gothic and Romanesque styles. On either side of the nave are a series of altars dedicated to various saints. Behind the High Altar are a series of chapels (see the pictures in my smugmug collection)

The parish chapel as the east end of the building has a stained glass panel of around 8 metres wide. Screened from the rest of the building with a glass panel, it is an area of quiet for relfection and private prayer. Even from outside the glass panel, the chapel exuded a atmosphere of calm.

The Abbey is self-supporting having its own farm where vegetables are grown and bees, pigs and cattle are kept. There is also a produce shop which sells wine, honey beeswax, fudge and other items made by religious communities throughout the world. There is a also a conference and seminar centre. Before we left we visited the various shops to by books, souvenir and fudge.

Buckfast Methodist Chapel

Buckfast Methodist Chapel

In the grounds of the Abbey is the Buckfast Methodist Chapel which is shared with a local Anglican congregation. This chapel pre-dates (1881) the re-establishment of the Abbey at which time it was on the main road through the village. (see the pictures in my smugmug collection). The inside of the chapel is simply decorated and furnished, especially when compared with the Abbey. One of the windows is very reminiscent of the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh although probably predates his style becoming widely known.

Author: Stewart

An instrumentation engineer who enjoys photography and singing. Working in the West of Scotland; a member of St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow and Southwark Cathedral; and a volunteer guard/signalman on the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales.

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