Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Settle

On Sunday I joined the second Ribble Valley Rambler walk of the year organised by The Friends of DalesRail (of which I am now a member) : Horton to Settle via Helwith Bridge and Stainforth Force: 7 miles, easy. Book and alight Horton; return from Settle. I worked out that since 21st December I have walked from Ribblehead to Long Preston in 3 sections.

On Saturday morning the sun was shining and the sky was blue so I decided to book my train ticket for Sunday from Shipley to Horton. As I left Bagshaw Museum at about 4pm it began rain and I don’t think it stopped until after midday on Sunday. But as I’d paid for my train ticket I resigned myself to a wet walk and dressed for the occasion.

Leaving Horton

The Group moves off from Horton Station

The wind blew and the rain fell but 9 of us met on Horton station and headed off towards Settle on a tarmac track. In fact much of the walk had to be diverted away from the Ribble Way and onto nearby lanes since the paths became extremely muddy and in some cases totally waterlogged and flooded. The river was running full to overflowing and many fields were under water.

Waterlogged fields

Typical Waterlogged Field

Liable to flooding

Liable to Flooding

Full Ribble

The Fast Flowing Ribble

Muddy field tracks

Muddy Field Tracks

Flooded footpath

Path Closed Due to Flooding

Path disappeared

Ribble Way has Disappeared Under Water

Stainforth Bridge

Fast Flowing River Ribble at Stainforth Pack Horse Bridge

The Force

The Full Force of Stainforth Force

Nearly at Settle

Nearly at Settle

The sun did eventually peep through and on arrival in Settle there were glimpses of blue sky. It was good to get out though despite the wet weather.

At Settle

The Aislabie Walk from Fountains Abbey – The Short Route

Referring back to the Barden Moor Access Area practice walk a couple of weeks ago I’m pleased to announce that the alternative walk, which I had initially thought rather dull, was a big success so here’s a brief description of it and some photos. You will notice that the weather was exceptional that day. Several days on either side were dark and wet but the weather last Thursday was truly a gift.

Aislabie Walk

The walk was taken from a rather nice leaflet I picked up on a previous visit to Fountains Abbey. The Aislabie Walk (subtitled A journey through picturesque landscapes) is 17.5 miles (allow 8-9 hours) altogether. It’s a circular walk from Fountains Abbey (car parks and toilets) to Hackfall and back. However, along the way there are several points at which you can cut short the route and I chose the 7.5 mile option.

Aislabie map

We parked at the main Visitor Centre car park and set off down the road to the River Skell following it west and then north for nearly two miles until we reached the old sulphur springs and ruined buildings of Aldfield Spa. You could smell them as you approached.

Sulphur Springs

The Wanderers disturbing the Sulphur Springs

From the Springs we headed slightly uphill to Aldfield village itself, passed through a couple of fields of kale (this had been what I remembered as the ‘dull’ part of the walk, across meadows to Laver Banks where we lunched at Woodhouse Bridge and joined the road later at Galphay Mill Bridge (point 5 to point 16 on the map).

A pleasant track through former parkland, now grazed by cows, brought us back to the the gates of Studley Royal Park. We crossed the deer park (only spotted one) taking in views of the Choristers’ House, St Mary’s Church and Ripon Cathedral.

Studley Royal

Studley Royal Hall much of which was destroyed by fire in 1946

Ripon Cathedral in the distance

Ripon Cathedral in the distance

Church and House

St Mary’s Church and the Choristers’ House

St Mary's

St Mary’s, Studley Royal Church

So my concerns about the walk were not at all justified and a good day out was had by all!

The Hepworth Wakefield : James Tissot: Painting the Victorian Woman

Approaching The Hepworth

Approaching The Hepworth over The Aire and Calder Navigation

It was a miserable, grey, wet day last Wednesday and after my usual Nordic Walking session I decided to take a trip to Wakefield and revisit The Hepworth. Back in March I clipped a review of the Tissot exhibition from the Weekend Financial Times, Visual Arts section. Reading the review and knowing Tissot to be a Victorian artist I was intrigued that he should be showing at such a modern and avant-garde gallery as The Hepworth. The answer, as I found out upon enquiry to a steward, is simply that the Wakefield City Art Collection is also housed at The Hepworth and this show is based around pictures in the collection.

From the Tissot Exhibition webpage:

On The Thames

On The Thames (1876)

Taking the much cherished painting On the Thames, 1876, from our collection as a starting point, this new collection display explores the representation of women in the work of French born artist, James Tissot (1836-1902).

The display will also feature loans from Tate and several regional art galleries, and will discuss the portrayal of Victorian femininity in relation to Tissot’s life-history and the contrasting roles of women in the region’s coal industry.”

Subtitled “How happy I could be with either” the painting caused a scandal when it was exhibited at The Royal Academy.

Other paintings in this small single room show include:

Portsmouth Dockyard

Portsmouth Dockyard (1877) [Tate]

PD 1877

Portsmouth Dockyard notes

HMS Calcutta

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) (1876) [Tate]

GHC 1877

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) notes

The exhibition looks at the representation of women in Victorian England through two contrasting sets of images: the fashionable women of James Tissot’s society paintings (above) and photographs of female workers in northern coalfields (not so easy to photograph in the display cases). Costume was a key element in Tissot’s work. He was born in the French port of Nantes where both his parents worked in the fashion and textile industry.

The painting “On the Thames” was originally owned by Kaye Knowles whose wealth came from his family’s Lancashire based colliery business. The Lancashire “pit brow lass” was mostly associated with the Wigan coalfields where women worked at the pit head. Their costume was also central to the pictures since there are wearing trousers which in Victorian times were perceived as a threat  to the moral and social order.

I see from the press that another exhibition featuring James Abbot McNeil Whistler’s London and the River Thames has just opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. I wonder whether I shall manage to get to see it before it closes on January 12th 2014?

d9198ee9-7193-43c8-a20f-8eb309d41518.img

Wapping (1860) [National Gallery of Art, Washington]

“To be here is glorious” : The Tamina Gorge in Bad Ragaz

Bad Ragaz is famous for its hot springs and the other Friday I met a good friend who is Swiss at the town’s station and we took the special “Schluchtenbus” (Schlucht = Gorge) to the source of these springs and the dramatic gorge itself a few kilometres out of town.

Altes bad Pfäffers

Alten Bad Pfäffers

There’s a small charge for turnstile entry into the Gorge itself where you walk along a narrow footpath – alongside the torrent of a stream and being dripped on from above – to the source of the hot springs itself.

Tamina Gorge

The Gorge

I think the gorge and spring are in happy coincidence with each other since the thermal waters seem to be independent of the rushing stream waters. It was only afterwards that we discovered the supply of free to loan rain capes.

P1100767

The springs were discovered in about 1240 by two hunters. The monks of the nearby Monastery of Pfäfers recognised the healing powers of the thermal waters. The reputation of the spa spread far and wide and became internationally known and were visited over the centuries by many famous people : Hans Christian Andersen, Joanna Spyri, Thomas Mann to name some of the literary visitors.

Spyri and Mann

Altes [old] Bad Pfäfers is the former monastery on the site and is now a restaurant, meeting rooms, museum and exhibition centre.

Baths

The Original Bath in the Museum

Paracelsus

Exhibition about Paracelsus

As former visitor, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Hiersein ist herrlich” [To be here is glorious]

The Battle of Tewkesbury: The Bloody (Muddy) Meadow

32 St Mary’s Lane

32 SM Lane

Last weekend, to break my journey between South Wales and home in Leeds, I stayed in the lovely old town of Tewkesbury. 32 St Mary’s Lane is tucked away between the main road through town and the River Avon. Beyond the river is a large expanse of flat, grassy land called Severn Ham (‘Q’ mentions it in his poem ‘Upon Eckington Bridge‘) bordered on the other side by the River Severn. The two rivers meet at Tewkesbury and it’s liable to flooding sometimes in summer.

Severn Ham

River Avon and Severn Ham

Beyond the main road, on the other side, is the great edifice of Tewkesbury Abbey which dominates the town in the nicest of ways.

Tewkesbury Abbey

The house in St Mary’s Lane was formerly a framework stocking-knitter’s home dating back to the 17th century. The row of cottages, of which no. 32 is one, were in a parlous state by the 1970s and The Landmark Trust stepped in to help a local conservation group who were unable to raise the funds required to restore the houses. No. 32 only joined Landmark’s collection of properties to let in 1982.

32 Kitchen

Welcome to St Mary’s Lane : The Kitchen

SML Sitting room

The First Floor Sitting Room

It’s a lovely warm and comfy house on 4 floors each of the upper floors accessed via steep, narrow, twisting staircases; but you soon get used to them! On the ground floor is the kitchen and a cloakroom (and there’s a backyard with picnic table for the summer months), on the first floor is the sitting room, above that is a bedroom and a bathroom and on the fourth floor is another bedroom with magnificent view of the Abbey through one tiny window.

upstairs day view

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by day

32 upstairs window

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by night

In fact there is another Landmark Trust property in Tewkesbury – The Abbey Gatehouse.

The abbey gatehouse

To Battle!

Battlefield-Trail-949x1024

The Battlefield Trail at Tewkesbury (photo)

On Sunday morning, having found a Battle Trail leaflet at the house, I decided to leave its cosy confines and venture out into the cold, windy fields on the edge of Tewkesbury to discover the location of The Bloody Meadow – scene of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 between the House of York and the House of Lancaster saw the death of 2000 soldiers, including Edward, Prince of Wales, who was just 18 years old. It was a defining battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey from The Battle Trail

Crossing the main road and taking Gander Lane behind the Abbey I soon found the first Battle Trail sign. It was easy to follow and well-waymarked BUT there were some very very muddy parts and at one point I was unable to reach the exit gate from the Bloody Meadow due to two rather frisky-looking ponies. I had to take a detour, give them a wide berth and climb over a fence. There’s an information panel at the Meadow itself and towards the end of the trail is a monument to the town recording important events in the history of Tewkesbury.

Battle Trail

The Bloody Meadow

The Bloody (and muddy) Meadow

Info Board

Muddy Field

Horses and Mud block the Trail

Tewkesbury Monument

The Tewkesbury Monument and Abbey at the end of the Trail

Close-up of panel

Close-up of the Monument

Tea at Lock Cottage

I was pleased to get back to St Mary’s Lane for a wash and brush-up before heading up the M5 to partake of afternoon tea with Landmarking friends who just happened to be staying at Lock Cottage which lies between locks 31 and 32 of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Lock Cottage

I have to concur with the comment in Lock Cottage Log (Visitors) Book, namely, that “Sitting in the cottage with a cup of tea and watching the boats go by is infinitely preferable to jumping on and off a boat watching the cottages go by.”

Upon Eckington Bridge

Eckington Bridge

My friend Simon, who is always stuck-in-a-book, grew up in Eckington in Worcestershire and recently mentioned to me a poem called Upon Eckington Bridge by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.

UPON ECKINGTON BRIDGE, RIVER AVON

by: A.T. Quiller-Couch

PASTORAL heart of England! like a psalm
Of green days telling with a quiet beat–
O wave into the sunset flowing calm!
O tirèd lark descending on the wheat!
Lies it all peace beyond the western fold
Where now the lingering shepherd sees his star
Rise upon Malvern? Paints an Age of Gold
Yon cloud with prophecies of linkèd ease–
Lulling this Land, with hills drawn up like knees,
To drowse beside her implements of war?

Man shall outlast his battles. They have swept
Avon from Naseby Field to Savern Ham;
And Evesham’s dedicated stones have stepp’d
Down to the dust with Montfort’s oriflamme.
Nor the red tear nor the reflected tower
Abides; but yet these elegant grooves remain,
Worn in the sandstone parapet hour by hour
By labouring bargemen where they shifted ropes;
E’en so shall men turn back from violent hopes
To Adam’s cheer, and toil with spade again.

Ay, and his mother Nature, to whose lap
Like a repentant child at length he hies,
Nor in the whirlwind or the thunder-clap
Proclaims her more tremendous mysteries:
But when in winter’s grave, bereft of light,
With still, small voice divinelier whispering
–Lifting the green head of the aconite,
Feeding with sap of hope the hazel-shoot–
She feels God’s finger active at the root,
Turns in her sleep, and murmurs of the Spring.

‘Upon Eckington Bridge, River Avon’ is reprinted from An Anthology of Modern Verse. Ed. A. Methuen. London: Methuen & Co., 1921.

So I thought it would interesting, as I was staying a few days in nearby Tewkesbury, to have a look at this bridge and take a few photos. Due to traffic problems and road closures yesterday my only chance was to take a diversion from my journey home and check it out this morning, en route for Leeds.

Eckington Bridge was built in 1728 of local sandstone and is a scheduled monument, enjoying a Grade II listing. I like Q-C’s references to the countryside and to battles and man outlasting his battles and returning to the land. There is nothing too dramatic about the landscape of Worcestershire but again it isn’t dull and flat and featureless. Man has definitely had a hand in shaping it. No barges passed down the river as I stood on its bank today and I’m afraid I wasn’t sufficiently brave enough to stand on the bridge’s parapets.

Bredon Hill

Bredon Hill, near Eckington

When I arrived at the deserted car park and picnic site by the River Avon I risked frostbite to take a few snaps and life and limb to cross the road to see the bridge from both sides! I’m sure on a warm summer’s day when folk are picnicking and messing about on the river its a divine spot. Quite frankly a couple of minutes were enough and I soon leapt back into the car to make way along various motorways home.

Simon, these pictures are for you!

Information board

A three-and-a-half mile walk is recommended – for a warmer day, perhaps?

River Avon and Bridge

That water looks pretty chilly!

Bredon Hill and River

River Avon and Bredon Hill

Canoe Launch

Canoe Launch and Walks

Other side

The Bridge from the ‘other’ side

Agatha Christie at Home and at Hotels

It was great news when The National Trust announced in 2000 that they had received the gift of Greenway to add to their inventory, although the house did not open to the public until 2009. Being a regular visitor to Devon I made particular point of arranging a visit to Greenways on 22nd August that year. I’d seen the house, perched above the River Dart, several times from river excursion boats and apparently travelling by river boat (The Green Way) is the best way to approach it.

But I had my elderly mother in tow so we booked a car parking space and a table in the restaurant (converted from Agatha’s own kitchen). The gardens are beautiful and varied and paths lead up above the house to the kitchen garden and down to the River Dart and the Greenway Boat House.

Greenway Boat House from the River Dart: featured in Agatha Christie’s ‘Dead Man’s Folly’.

The Greenway Boat House (above and below)

Agatha Christie used the boathouse as the location for the fictional murder of Marlene Tucker in ‘Dead Man’s Folly’

We made a tour of the house with an introduction by a room steward and were then left to our own devices. I don’t have any interior photos so we were probably asked not to take any. My question to the guide was “Which books did Agatha actually write here?”. The answer was “None”. She used the house as a summer retreat and invited guests of friends and family to join her. Here she would read her latest manuscript to these guests in the evenings before publication in the following autumn. However, one book was written based entirely around the Greenway location : “Dead Man’s Folly“. I read loads of Christie novels in my late teens but have never gone back to them since. With the exception of DMF which I bought secondhand the day after visiting the house and read straightaway. All the locations came back to me with immediate clarity. The boat house featured as the location where the murder took place.

Greenway Library – my favourite room (Photo from Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill)

[The frieze was painted by Lieutenant Marshall Lee when he was stationed at Greenway by the US Navy. The house had been requisitioned by the Admiralty during the Second World War.]

After our house tour we used the servants’ entrance to the dining room where only 3 or 4 tables were set for lunch. We enjoyed our meal surrounded by Agatha Christie’s cookery books and kitchen equipment.

Moorlands Hotel

Interestingly, I have come across two hotels with Agatha Christie connections within just a couple of weeks. The first is Moorlands near Haytor just on the edge of Dartmoor. Whilst staying here Agatha Christie was inspired to write her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Moorlands is now a hotel belonging to the HF Holidays organization and it was just steps away from our cottage on Dartmoor in October. There’s a lovely cafe (with wifi) – Dandelions – which is open to non-residents. I already knew about the Christie connection and asked to see the picture.

Agatha Christie Portrait and Complete Works

Then this weekend I visited a friend who was staying at The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. This was the hotel where AC was found 10 days after she mysteriously disappeared following her husband’s revelation that he was leaving her for another woman.

And finally, what do Agatha Christie, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Edith Wharton (all featured in these pages) have in common? Answer : they all had doggie cemeteries for their own pets.

Some Suffolk Curiosities

I’ve moved on down to Aldeburgh a lovely little seaside town on the Suffolk coast. For a coastal resort it’s a funny place – it kind of turns its back on the sea – as walking down the High Street you would not believe that beyond the shops on the east side is a beach and fishing shore.

A Landmark

Aldeburgh has a local Landmark Trust property. It’s about a mile out of town and it’s a Martello Tower.

“This is the largest and most northerly of the chain of towers put up by the Board of Ordnance to keep out Napoleon. Built in the shape of a quatrefoil for four heavy guns, nearly a million bricks were used in its construction. It stands at the root of the Orford Ness peninsula, between the River Alde and the sea, a few hundred yards from Aldeburgh.” From The Landmark Trust website.

To me the exterior has very little appeal, the beach nearby is very stony and rocky and it’s a long old trudge from the town but I understand it’s possible to reach the roof from inside so there is somewhere outside to sit in privacy and enjoy a sea view so maybe it has something going for it after all.

A Purpose-Built Edwardian Resort

Just a couple of miles north of Aldeburgh is the quirky resort of Thorpeness. It seems to be having a revival these days.  When I visited one summer a couple of decades ago the place seemed rather quiet and run down but today children (and some adults) were enjoying rowing and sailing on The Meare and the shops and pub seemed buzzing.

Thorpeness was the brainchild of Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie the owner of nearby Sizewell Hall. He bought an area of coast and dunes and in 1910 set about establishing a purpose-built resort based on the fishing hamlet of Thorpe. He changed the name to Thorpeness. Like Aldeburgh Thorpeness also turns its back on the sea.

The Beach at Thorpeness

The main attraction for children and adults alike seems to be The Meare a manmade lake covering 64 acres with scattered islands and at no point deeper than one metre. The islands feature playhouses and characters from children’s books, in particular Peter Pan – Ogilvie was a friend of J M Barrie. The Meare opened in 1913 and many of the boats are 100 years old!

I had a leaflet outlining a trail around the village which included the Golf Club, the famous House in the Clouds, the windmill and the other eccentric and quaint seaside houses and cottages. It was good to follow the trail and see that the village was experiencing a resurgence in popularity since my last visit. Read the newspaper article that inspired me to revisit Thorpeness here.

The Former Water Tower – The House in The Clouds

A Clapperboard Holiday Bungalow – Thorpeness

Tudor Style Holiday Home

The Almshouses, Thorpeness

The Boat House with Clock Tower

Modern Sculptures

We missed many of our ports-of-call on our brief visit to the Suffolk coast this year but we did manage to get to one of our favourite places – Snape Maltings. This year we joined a River Trip on the Enchantress for a 45 minute cruise down the River Alde to Iken church and back. The highlight was seeing a family of harbour seals.

But on dry land I love to re-visit The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth. It’s  such an evocative sculpture standing between the great concert hall of the Maltings and the acres of reed beds that so characterise this estuarine part of Suffolk.

Snape Maltings, [Barbara] Hepworth, Family of Man, 1970, group of three from the larger series, presented in memory of Benjamin Britten, wonderfully sited. The abstract – totemic appearance of the figures further suggests a non- western – timeless iconography, looking back to Hepworth’s earlier interest in Mexican sculpture and pointing to the universality of sculptural language across cultures.” ( http://www.racns.co.uk/trails/Ipswich_Southwold.pdf )

Then on the beach between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness is Maggi Hambling which I also love to revisit – but didn’t actually fit in on this visit. I was last there in February 2010.

Aldeburgh, Beach, Scallop to celebrate Benjamin Britten, Maggi Hambling, with Sam and Dennis Pegg unveiled 8 November 2003, I HEAR THOSE VOICES THAT WILL NOT BE DROWNED; fine tribute, intensely disliked by most locals.”  ( http://www.racns.co.uk/trails/Ipswich_Southwold.pdf ) How strange is that?

A walk in the woods: a Ruin, follies and another Turner view

A Walk in the Woods‘ is one of my favourite walks in Yorkshire. I made three visits last year. The walk starts from Masham car park and initially follows the Ripon Rowel route alongside the River Ure. After about 3 miles you enter Hackfall Woods.

There’s a choice of walks through the woods and all of them include views of the river and follies. The first viewpoint is Limehouse Hill. At the top turn and look back to see the river and the spire of Masham Church from where you have just walked. I think you can just about spot it right in the middle of the picture.

The next view is pretty special. There’s a seat at Sandbed Hut and from this point William Mallord Turner painted his view of Hackfall. The painting itself forms part of the Wallace Collection in London. In the distance is Mowbray Castle a mock ruin thought to have been built for William Aislabie some time between 1750 and 1767.

John Aislabie of Studley Royal bought Hackfall in 1731 but it was his son William who set about transforming the woods into an ornamental landscape in 1749/1750 and this work continued until around 1767. The Hackfall website includes a potted history of the site and here’s a list of the features Aislablie created :

“1750 Fisher’s Hall was completed, inscribed on plaque above the door.

1751 The view from Limehouse Hill to Masham church was created by felling trees and digging a ditch.

1752 Work on the reservoir above the 40 foot Fails and ‘Alcoves in ye wood’.

1755 Kent’s Seat completed.

1755 Planting and work on a wooden stable at Hackfall it is thought near to Fishers Hall.

1756 Fountain Pond dug and Rustic Temple completed.

1766 Work started on the Banqueting House at Mowbray Point. The pond at the entrance to the Grewelthorpe Beck valley and wiers had been completed; Fisher’s Hall was used for entertaining guests; Nicholas Dall the landscape artist painted two views of Hackfall.

(1768 William Aislabie purchased Fountains Abbey ruins and set about incorporating the Abbey into Studley Royal gardens.)”

William died at Studley Royal in 1781.

It’s good to see that the Hackfall Trust, founded in 1988, are restoring many of the paths and features. But they are not the only ‘Trust’ to be involved in preservation and conservation at Hackfall. The piece de resistance is the former Banqueting House mentioned above which is now owned by the Landmark Trust and let as holiday accommodation for two people. The public path out of Hackfall Woods (after a gentle climb) emerges onto the terrace of the Ruin (as it is now called) from where there’s a marvellous view over the wood and landscape beyond.

 View of Hackfall from the terrace at The Ruin
The Landmark Trust hold regular Open Days at some of their properties throughout the year and the Ruin is one that is regularly open one weekend each September :

The Ruin

Hackfall, North Yorkshire

Saturday 8 to Sunday 9 September 2012 10am to 4pm

As part of Heritage Open Days

This little pavilion is dramatically perched above a steep wooded gorge, in the remnants of an outstanding mid eighteenth-century garden at Hackfall, conceived and created by the Aislabies.

The walk then leaves this fascinating area of woodland and continues through Oak Bank, Nutwith Common (sounds like somewhere out of a Rupert Bear story!), along Roomer Lane and with a glance at Swinton Park the last section of the walk is along the quiet roadside between the Park and Masham.

Swinton Castle, near Masham, now a posh hotel, was bought in 1882 by Samuel Cunliffe-Lister born at Calverley Old Hall (another Landmark Trust property) and later owner of Lister’s Mill (also known as Manningham Mill) in Heaton, Bradford.

If you’ve time there are some good tea shops and pubs for refreshments in Masham and I recommend The White Bear Hotel where, if the weather is fine, as it was for me, you can have tea or something stronger on their terrace outside.

A River Runs Through It


We have a print hanging on our sitting room wall called River Dart by Terence Millington.

The River Dart at Holne

Devon is one of our favourite holiday destinations and this week we’re staying near the lovely Stannary town of Ashburton. Our cottage is on an estate that borders the beautiful River Dart. There’s a path from our cottage that takes you right down to the swift-flowing river which borders the Holne Chase estate.

The River Dart near New Bridge

This 42 mile long river rises as 2 branches – East and West Dart – in the Okehampton area of Dartmoor.  The two branches join on Dartmoor at Dartmeet and from then on the single river slips past our cottage ‘home’, flows swiftly down under Holne Bridge and then runs parallel with the road and the railway line towards Totnes, from where for the final 8 miles the river is navigable.

At Steamer Quay, Totnes

It was  at Totnes, on a beautiful November morning, that I boarded the Dart Venturer for a gentle cruise down the river to Dartmouth.

Sharpham Vineyard

Not far from Totnes is the Sharpham Estate, an award-winning vineyard that hugs the right-hand bank of the river for about two and a half miles.

We passed three villages: Duncannon, Stoke Gabriel and Dittisham, Agatha Christie’s former home Greenway (above) and Sir Walter Raleigh’s boat-house. As the boat glided through the still waters it was fascinating to look out for wildlife along the banks – we even spotted a seal bobbing in the water. Bird life included egrets, herons, swans, a cormorant, a buzzard and masses of Canada geese.

As we neared Dartmouth (and its opposite neighbour, Kingswear) the river broadens and we watched naval cadets (above) from the nearby Britannia Royal Naval College for Officer Training (below),

and saw empty and forlorn looking boat building yards that had supplied the nation with over 400 craft during the Second World War. Have a hanky ready if you want to watch the following video about the demise of Philip’s.

At Dartmouth we disembarked from the cruise an hour and a quarter later at the only railway station in Britain that has never been served by a railway line. It was built in anticipation of the railway reaching the town but local efforts to prevent it crossing the Dart were successful and in the end the line had to terminate at Kingswear.

The Dart Estuary at Dartmouth