The Grand Tour Part Two: Dartmoor

Part One: USA

Part Three: Iceland!

As usual, this is a best-bits version of the trip, where “best-bits” = anything that stayed still long enough to be sketched. You should be able to see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, which in most cases will take you through to their Flickr page.

I was on a round-the-world ticket so I guess that is why I had to sleep in Helsinki airport between NYC and Heathrow.

IMG_0199

Once landed, I picked up my hire car and drove directly to Dartmoor – unexpectedly passing Stonehenge in the evening sunlight. I spent the whole week in one town and it was of course wonderful, because it’s the sort of town where even the local scandals feel like the start of a Midsomer Murders episode, and it is full of many friends who are busy writing and painting and making things.

Page13Detail-Sheep

I was there a few days earlier than originally planned, but Terri soon found me hanging over this gate, drawing sheep.

IMG_0305

I spent my first few nights at Greenbank B&B, a 10 minute walk out of town, and I highly recommend it. They had poultry and a bad-tempered parrot and dogs and a great big Aga stove and lent me Cold Comfort Farm.

Some notes on Cold Comfort Farm.

Cold-Comfort-Farm

I went back to visit several times after moving on.

Page 14

And this was the road along the back fence.

IMG_0261

When drawing English plants, Liberty prints suddenly make a lot more sense.

 

Page 14 Detail - plants

Sheep-shearing at Greenbank.

Page 14 Detail - sheep

Page 15

And one night, on sunset, I walked up the top of Maldon Hill barefoot in the cold golden light, which was chilly but felt important, especially as I was thinking about Picnic at Hanging Rock for academic reasons at the time.
IMG_0231

Here is Terri’s beloved Tilly, being mystical in the woods.

IMG_0260

 

For Ruth’s birthday, we went to a ’70s space disco in a Devon field.


IMG_0309

After Greenbank, I moved in with the lovely Elizabeth-Jane, harpist and dealer in sugar-mice.

IMG_0266

Page 17

Her house was full of music and books, and one evening we went down to the woods where Alex was living and owls hooted overhead.

Also, I finally visited Chagfarm!

Page 18

Page 18 Detail - Chagfarm

IMG_0321

At the farm I drew goats and pigs (for reference), and one evening I drove out over the moors and drew the Dartmoor sheep and ponies.

Page 19

Showing my sitters their portraits.

IMG_0337

You have to drive carefully over the moor – the sheep and ponies are unruffled by traffic.

Page 19 Detail - horses

I did leave Chagford once to go to Moretonhampstead and see the Widdershins exhibition with Virginia (whose hand and art are shown here).

IMG_0353

One of the many things I love is that you can just go… walking out over the fields and the moor: up behind the studios with Terri and Tilly, over the common with Alan and Virginia after tea, wandering over to Todd’s for maps, traipsing out by moonlight with Elizabeth-Jane in search of standing stones which look deceptively like sheep.

IMG_0360

One last sketch of goats and parking inspectors, then off to Heathrow again. The last song to play on the radio as I reached the airport was, suitably, “Jerusalem.”

Then, off to Reykjavik.

Page 20

Next: Iceland!

What I Did on My Holidays: Part the Second – Dartmoor

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version.

Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.

Then I flew to Heathrow, hired a car and drove across England to the middle of Dartmoor. This was not as simple as it sounds. Reverse was in an unfamiliar location, I’d never used a GPS before, the lanes when I reached them were as wide as the car, I kept forgetting which side the indicators were on and for a while I didn’t think I’d ever escape the gravitational pull of Heathrow.

Scattered impressions:  Driving

But I made it to Dartmoor, unscathed. After a day I was scampering happily around the lanes, and did not have an altercation with a lorry until after Dartmoor was behind – but I am getting ahead of myself.

That week was enchanted. Art and music, poetry and puppetry, commedia dell’arte and rosehips, cream teas and rambling.

Page 04

Paths lined with blackberries, evenings with lady writers.

Page 05

Bells and pubs and bushy-eyebrowed lurchers.

Page 06

Driving over moors and meeting black dogs.

Scattered impressions: Black Dog

Dashing outdoors with my pockets full of pens whenever the sun shone.

Scattered impressions: Sunshine

Bell ringing and Jacobean manor house hotels.

Page 07

Musical evenings, with dogs and hearth pipes, violins and accordions.

Page 08

The haunting beauty of Wistman’s wood, like the garden at the heart of an emerald.

Page 09

Moor ponies and honour boxes.

Page 10

Endless kindness and hospitality, conversations, walks. The swift familiarity of a tiny town, the constant astonishment of finding oneself in any of a dozen fairytale landscapes. Quiet hours in the cottage with Ellen and Delia, writing and reading, brisk walks across town to visit everyone. Walls of art, Terri’s poem-lined walls, lives lived as art, indistinguishable from their retellings, sunlit studios, studios reached by a ladder through a trapdoor. Puppets and harps, masks and puppetrymusic, songs and bells. Painted worlds bleeding from the spaces of one house to the next. People and objects from movies which have shaped my life – from my Narnia, the goblin worlds. Trees and faces which I knew from illustrations in my favourite books – Middle Earth in a stand of oaks, the mists and tors of The Hound of the Baskervilles,  Virginia Lee‘s strong sweet fairytales, Rima Staines‘ crabbed and earthy myths. Houses through which the civil war was fought. Birch and alder gardens haunted by sculptures and geese. Words and books, stairs steep and twisted as a screw. Stiles.

I do not know how long would be enough, whether that week was a world which can be returned to. I hope it is.

Too soon, it was time to leave for Brighton.