Day Out at Dartington Devon with Dovegreyreader

The Dovegreyreader has made several comments to me to the effect that reading Milady’s posts here save her a great deal of time and expense and the bother of travelling when she can read about the places that appeal – with her feet up by the fire in winter or in her deckchair in the garden in summer. Well, last Thursday she was persuaded to leave home and travel a few miles across misty Dartmoor to join me and act as guide for the day at the Dartington Estate near Totnes.

The arrangement was to meet late morning at The Cider Press Centre, now called simply, and to the point, Dartington Shops. This was the part of the Estate that I was already familiar with and it was by mutual consent that we headed straight for Cranks Restaurant. I’d eaten here many times over the years since the early 1980s and I have the cookery book still. It’s been well-used and the recipes are well-loved. The restaurant and the food were little-changed and with tea and cake followed later by soup and cheese scones we clung to our table for probably three hours (who’s counting the time when there is so much book and family talk to catch up with??).

Eventually we decided a walk was in order as that had been the ‘plan’ for the day in the first place and our reason for meeting at Dartington; besides we needed to work up an appetite in order to take afternoon tea at some point later in the day!

We headed straight out of the car park along a public path (past the former Dartington School) and along the main approach road to Dartington Hall to our first port-of-call the School’s  former Headmaster’s House – High Cross House.

It’s now under the auspices of The National Trust and is a fine example of Modernist architecture and a host to a number of exhibitions and resident artists. There’s a cafe (that spreads out onto a roof terrace in summer) and small bookshop. The house has a relaxed atmosphere and you may sit on the chairs and handle the books.

Comfy chair originally to be found in the common rooms at Dartington Hall residences

Cafe Terrace

Colour Theory and the View of  High Cross House Garden

Staircase at High Cross House

Any artist who is in residence that day and helpful room stewards will also answer any questions you may have. Here is the NT brief resumé of the house :

“Built for William Curry, headmaster of Dartington Hall School, this Modernist gem was commissioned by Leonard Elmhirst and designed by William Lescaze in 1932. The house still evokes the ‘serenity, clarity and a kind of openness’ described by Curry.

High Cross is one of Britain’s most celebrated Modern residences, and we are excited to be presenting it to the public under our management, working in partnership with the owners of High Cross House, the Dartington Hall Trust.

The architecturally important building is playing host to contemporary art exhibitions and sales, talks, demonstrations and musical evenings, and is a perfect and unusual space for events. High Cross is to become a local centre for contemporary arts, as a community-led sustainable model of management.”

View from the footpath – High Cross House to Dartington Hall

From the HCH we headed towards Dartington Hall which I particularly know of as host to the summer Ways With Words literary festival. I’ve only heard of it and read about it but DGR has attended and participated there. This makes her the perfect guide to the estate and buildings.

In the gardens we admired the autumn colours and sculptures and topiary and we entered the Hall and the Residences. Lynne painted a vivid picture of leisurely picnic lunches, crowded halls of participants on tiered seating and comfy common room chats bringing the summer festival alive for me.

Dartington Hall and Garden Topiary

Henry Moore Reclining Figure Sculpture

The Dartington Hall

Calligraphy at Dartington


21 comments on “Day Out at Dartington Devon with Dovegreyreader

  1. ms6282 says:

    I’m really going to have to stop reading your blog. I keep seeing places that just have to be added to my “places to visit” list and it’s getting too long. But as a fan of well designed Modernist buildings, High Cross is now a must see. I like the Henry Moore too – more “realistic” than most of his works.

    Oh, and you got to meet the Dovegreyreader too.

    • Barbara says:

      Well, I don’t know what to say … I could say the same about your blog … but I just hope we go on reading each other’s and adding to lists of “must-go-to-places”!

      • ms6282 says:

        I guess that’s what blogs are about – sharing ideas and enthusiasms and providing entertainment and inspiration to others – you certainly do that. Keep up the good work!

  2. Sarah Wrightson says:

    What a beautiful mix of old and new, in an extraordinary setting; the Moore sculpture is very fine. Yes, like ms6282 above me, unless I want to move to Britain, I must stop reading you! Thank you.

  3. Barbara says:

    Thank you, Mick! I never started out to do that – just to post my photos with a bit more commentary and linkage than I was doing on Flickr so I’m gratified to receive the flattering comments from you and from others. Hope you will continue to enjoy.

  4. dianabirchall says:

    Nice to see Dartington Hall again – I did go to a Ways with Words festival years ago with Joan Austen-Leigh, and remember talking to Nigel Nicholson. It was lovely in summer. Now you have given me a new perspective on it: I had no idea that this modernist house even existed! And to meet Dovegreyreader, which seems a fine embellishment to a trip into Devon! I would love to go there again, and do the same…

    • Barbara says:

      It’s just so beautiful even on an overcast October Thursday – the gardens too. There is one thing to be said for an out-of-season visit – no crowds, no queues and easy parking! Thank you for sharing your own happy memories, Diana.

  5. Nilly says:

    Your blog makes me want to visit all those places – I didn’t realise Dartington was so interesting. I have a well-used Cranks cookery book too – I used to visit the first restaurant in Carnaby Street with my Mum in the ’60s. We felt very daring when we tried quiche that wasn’t “lorraine” for the first time.

    • Barbara says:

      Ah! We could reminisce at length over favourite Cranks recipes. My own book falls open (or the pages are loose) at certain favoured dishes. I think the Dartington Estate has only more recently been opened up to the general public.

  6. Didn’t we have a lovely day Barbara, thank you so much, I really enjoyed our meeting and visits. Thank you for dragging me out of the armchair though if I had one of those you would have a task on your hands:-)

    • Barbara says:

      We did indeed, Lynne. I’m sure you will come up with another idea (for next October) which combines tea and cake and books and a place of interest – you have a whole year to work on it. Thank YOU!

  7. Fran says:

    Cranks cookery book has a great recipe for ‘Root Soup’. Been making it for years.
    I live close to the De La Warr Pavillion, the iconic Modern building in Bexhill, beside the sea. Seeing High Cross house set in the countryside is a delightful contrast.

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks, Fran. Homity Pies (p.141) and Lentil & Tomato Soup (p.65) have been favourites here for years. De La Warr Pavilion has long been on the ‘list’. One day.

  8. Carol N says:

    I too have a well worn copy of that book Barbara – the flapjack recipe, using treacle, is a family favourite here. Dartington is so beautiful – I particularly like the sort of green amphitheatre of tiered lawns. I’ve only been to the Festival a couple of times but it’s a lovely venue and the place really comes alive.

    • Ha! Carol, thanks for reading and commenting. There we all were in the 1970s and 1980s poring over our Cranks Recipe books – all with our own family favourites. You are lucky to have been there at festival time. Do call again!

  9. Margaret Powling says:

    I think my Cranks books is a later issue, from around 1984? But still much in use, esp. homity pie and some of their soups. Some things were, to mimic Craig Revel Horwood on Strictly, “A Dis-aaaas-ter” but most have worked out!

  10. […] High Cross House, 1932 [National Trust] […]

  11. […] The chance arose when I was wondering how to belatedly celebrate her big birthday on our annual Devonshire Day […]

  12. […] was my annual Devon outing with Lynne, the dovegreyreader. In past years we’ve met here, here and here. Not forgetting (and I never will) our weekend at Port Eliot last […]

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