Category Archives: local

Beer Festival (Tavistock style)

Just been to the “Beer Festival” at the Trout and Tickle pub, with John and Helena. It was really just a bit of a publicity event for the low season, featuring five different beers from Otter Brewery. Anyway, we indulged ourselves in a three course meal with generous amounts of beer.

The pub itself is reasonable but not distinguished, and I’d say the same for the food and beer. It’s a little out of town, but still easy walking distance. It’s rather more pleasant than our (disappointing) in-town pubs, but no match for some of the nicer rural pubs further out. I also consider it overpriced for what it is.

For an evening meal in the area, if you definitely want a pub rather than (say) a chinese restaurant, and if you lack the mobility to get to, for example, the Royal Inn, the Elephant’s Nest, or the Plume of Feathers, then it’s a reasonable choice. But that’s more “if”s than are likely to happen very often.

A pleasant surprise

Went for a new year Dartmoor walk with two friends yesterday. We picked the right day for it, with very pleasant weather, though after recent heavy rain and with folks who are squeamish about getting too wet, we avoided any real hound-of-the-baskervilles bogs or river crossings.

In view of the season, we’d already decided to lunch at a pub. After an unfortunate experience on a previous Jan. 2nd walk (when we found the pub where we planned to eat a late lunch closed, and had to walk an unplanned extra three miles into driving wind and rain on empty stomachs), we made Princetown our lunch venue this time.

The Plume of Feathers pub has always been a decent lunch spot. But now it’s moved up from decent to very nice indeed, with an interesting menu (few but very nice veggie options). It’s not so easy to describe a dish you’ve never eaten before, but mine was a big filo stuffed with a cheesy filling and served in a sauce that enriched the accompanying spuds & veg. Prices were higher than before, but not to the obscene extent of some other Dartmoor pubs that fancy themselves as gourmet eateries.

The bridge is back!

Today the footbridge is finally back.  I walked across it, and took a good look.

It’s a rather ugly beast, presumably built to minimum budget  and having all the elegance and charm of the railings put up around 1960s main roads in our cities to make it clear that pedestrians were no longer welcome.  Not that the old one was a thing of beauty, either.  Given the generally nice setting, that’s a shame. But at least we have the route back.

In other local news, I’ve looked at the details of that planning application.  There’s absolutely no access except from Old Exeter Road, and they’re going to have to close it for an extended period (having cleared it of parked cars) to build this lot.  There’s already an excess of demand over supply for parking, and new flats will only make that worse: that’s the kind of thing that’ll weigh fairly heavily with the planning folks, unless something substantially more than a Free Lunch is involved.

Still, the mere fact of the application is yet another reason to move from this blighted place.

How to (not) consult the public

I have on my desk a letter from the Council, addressed to “The Owner/Occupier” of my address.  It tells me they have a planning application to erect four flats, at another address just across the road from me.  So that’ll take over the general disturbance to the area when the last lot are finally done.   I (and others who will be directly affected) can view the plans at the council’s offices, and have two weeks to comment.  The letter is dated December 18th, so two weeks give us until January 1st.

This is the second time I’ve had a notice of this kind in Tavistock.  And on both occasions, the two weeks consultation period have come in late december.  This time I’m not going anywhere for christmas, so I have the option of going to their offices and (if anyone concerned with planning can be found) demanding to see the plans.  OTOH if I want professional advice – for example from a lawyer or civil engineer – I’m going to be stuffed.  Many others will be away (as I was last time), or working at full stretch to entertain family and friends.

I said last time this happened that I wouldn’t want to suggest any sinister motive, but if someone wanted to subvert the planning process, this is exactly how I’d expect them to go about it.

But, two out of two?  If we just narrow the coincidence down to one week (actually it’s even closer), that gives us a probability of 1/(52*52), or less than 0.0004, of it being pure chance.

The Bridge’s progress

I passed the site of our footbridge this afternoon just after four.  The workmen were there, so I asked about it.  No they can’t open it quite yet, but it should just be a couple of days.

As I was there, they opened up the bridge end of the section of path that had been closed.  They didn’t know why it had been closed, either, unless it was Health and Safety (a possibility, and a good scapegoat if not). If it was on some spurious safety grounds, they’ve scored a great big own goal there: the fallen leaves and moss that accumulated on the unused path are certainly more slippery than that path would normally be.

midwinter birdsong

I’ve never learned to distinguish one birdsong from another. But in the darkness of winter, a tuneful bird can be very noticeable. Especially on a Sunday night, when we’re relatively free of noise pollution.

I have a vivid recollection of midwinter birdsong from a few years ago. I’d been to a new years bash in Saltash, and was cycling back home through the leafier suburbs of Plymouth at about 2 a.m, when I heard several birds, which I took to be nightingales from the tunefulness and time of day. But when I mentioned it, it was suggested they could’ve been blackbirds, confused by the streetlights into nighttime song.

Yesterday (Sunday) just after dusk in Tavistock I heard the same bird, in strange conjunction with the harsh cry of the raven (or is it just a crow?) that is utterly characteristic of English winter. And as I write, I can still hear – intermittently – the nightingale (or is it blackbird?) in the distance.

Alas, I expect it’ll be a while before we get such another quiet night that I can hear birdsong around here.

The illusion of light

Yesterday it felt like springtime, because there was some decent light after an extended dull grey period.

Today, that’s gone. It still looks as if it’ll be bright: there’s a heavy mist in the valley, but the moon (a tiny sliver of crescent) is bright and clear above it. But, reverting to seasonal norm, it’s such a long wait:-(

It’s still absurdly warm, with temperatures more like October than December.  In any normal year we’d get our first daytime frost sometime in November.  This year we haven’t even had a night frost yet.


Technically speaking, the solstice is yet to come. But going by time of sunset alone, it was on Wednesday, and we’re past the worst. Not that you’d have noticed on Thursday or Friday, both of which were dull and grey.

Today was different. The dawn, though technically still getting later, came bright and sunny. So the daylight came much earlier than of late, in defiance of seasonal details. I took advantage of it to go up the moors on the bike, and of course feel much better for it.

Getting our footbridge back?

Tavistock is built in and around the valley of the river Tavy. It is also the start of a canal leading to the Tamar, the larger, navigable river that forms the border with Cornwall a few miles away. The canal is a fine example of Industrial age engineering, and includes a big tunnel through the hills, and a big drop – too big to work on just conventional locks – where it joins the Tamar at the far end.

Around the river and canal, there is a park. Normally there are paths along both sides of the river, and a footbridge connecting them near the Wharf area (little theatre, library, and sports facilities). But for some weeks, one of the paths has been closed, and the bridge has been removed and left as an ugly mess on the remaining path. Not good.

Today I passed the site of the bridge, and they appear to be replacing it. Nothing is open yet, but there’s a new footbridge. Let’s hope it’s for real, and they reopen that other path!

Little boxes’ progress

As I write, they’re taking down the scaffolding on the building site across the road from me. This time last year they’d already been working several months on knocking down the (far nicer) buildings that occupied some of the space. In December 2005, the heavy pile drivers were out, shaking the whole area. The worst nuisance was in the summer, when the builders were putting the roof on and blaring out Radio 2, the BBC’s monument to mindlessness: I had to spend the hottest July on record with my (double-glazed) window firmly closed, the sun blazing in, and the computer running.

It’s been on the market for a while, and is described by the estate agent as “A private new development offering a fine selection of nine individual apartments ideally situated for level access to town centre shops and amenities.” And given that we have lots of single-person households and a major shortage of space, I guess little boxes like these make sense.

The road I’m on goes diagonally up a hill. On the other side of the road is a stone wall, about 5 feet high, with a long drop on the far side to the building site, and the gardens of neighbouring buildings. The new flats are below the level of the road, so I look over them, and they presumably look over nothing much.

They have one interesting feature: grass roofs. And no car parking or even access, so there’s at least something that could attract good people to live there. But apparently the eventual inmates won’t have access to the roofs; neither do they have balconies, which seems like a missed opportunity for a little token luxury. Neither do they have solar panels: another missed opportunity. And they’re going to suffer dreadful noise. No thanks.