Cornwall and Devon (Spring Geography)

Disclaimers:  I've never been to Cornwall or Devon.  I've never been to England.  My aim here is only to update Charlotte Mason's chapters on Cornwall and Devon geography (written in the 1880's) for our own family's purposes.  I have included information, here and there, from Wikipedia and other websites.


Cornish lads are fishermen and Cornish lads are miners too.
But when the fish and tin are gone, what are the Cornish boys to do?
~~ Graffiti outside the South Crofty workings

The County of Cornwall

Cornwall is at the very end of England, the southwest end; it is a sort of horn, stretching out into a stormy sea, which washes it all round except on the Devon side. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar, which nearly makes an island of it.

Cornwall has a population of 536,000 (slightly more than the population of Hamilton, Ontario), and covers an area smaller than Prince Edward Island.

In the 1880’s, when Charlotte Mason wrote about Cornwall, you might have entered the area by train at the town of Saltash, crossing the Tamar on the Royal Albert suspension bridge. Now you can cross the river on the A38 highway bridge, also going into Saltash.

When Charlotte Mason described Cornwall, the major industries were tin and copper mining, fishing, and agriculture, especially dairy farming and vegetables. It was the manual nature of many of the jobs that led to the rise of the Cornish pasty (pronounced pass-ty), a sealed pastry that contains a whole meal and can easily be carried from place to place – down mines, out into fields or out onto boats. The wet climate and relatively poor soil of Cornwall make it unsuitable for growing many farm crops. However, it is ideal for growing the rich grass required for dairying, leading to the production of Cornwall's famous clotted cream, along with Cornish fudge and Cornish ice cream.

Most of the mining and quarrying is finished now, and the other industries have also slowed down. These days, the biggest industry in Cornwall is tourism. Five million tourists visit Cornwall each year, mostly from within the United Kingdom but some from other countries as well. The Southwest is warmer than the rest of the UK because it catches the Gulf Stream via the North Atlantic Drift. It’s also a good place for surfing!

(From here on, most of the descriptions are Charlotte Mason’s, but I have updated information about the towns etc.)

The Saxons called this out of the way corner “Cornwall,” which means the horn of the strangers or foreigners, because here the Britons held their own for from four to five hundred years against the invaders who had conquered the rest of the country. The descendants of the Britons still occupy Cornwall, and though most people no longer speak the ancient Cornish tongue, they still have words and customs which show their origin. Perhaps because of the region’s long seafaring tradition, the West Country way of speaking has become associated with a popular version of ‘pirate’ speech. You know--Arrh, maties.

This county is in itself a history of England, the most ancient of all histories, to be read, not in printed books, but in rocks and ruins and in strange folk-lore; a history which carries us back to days before those when King David ruled in Israel. Its rocks are made of granite, an exceedingly fine, hard stone, which takes a high polish, and is beautiful to adorn our churches, and firm and durable enough to support our bridges. This granite formation goes through the whole length of Cornwall, from Devon to Land’s End, rising in huge bosses here and there, and giving a peculiar character to the country. For granite is no friend to the farmer; there is seldom any depth of soil upon it. Though here and there, even upon the moors there are cultivated patches and trees, much of central Cornwall is waste moorland.

So if we drive into Cornwall across the bridge at Saltash, we still see the railway station close to the town centre. Nearby are the castles at Trematon (want to see?) and Ince, as well as the nature reserve at Churchtown Farm, where there are wonderful walks, with stunning views of the river. The town of Saltash expanded in the 1990s with the addition of new housing areas. In the summer of 2009, the Saltash postcode area was judged as the most desirable place to live in Great Britain.

Going on to Liskeard, we pass through country full of hills and hollows and deep gorges, but not by any means bare. This part of Cornwall is richly wooded with all kinds of forest trees and many apple orchards. Between the four towns of Liskeard, Bodmin, Camelford, and Launceston, lies the Bodmin Moor, which we will describe in the next section.

The Moors

Most of Bodmin Moor has been officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, much like a national park. For many miles the waste stretches away without any break except the rounded moor hills. These are commonly capped with cairns, formed of huge blocks of granite heaped together in fantastic shapes. These cairns tell a tale of their own, and are a bit of very early history. The Britons loved to bury their famous warriors upon their hill-tops; and, to make the graves more conspicuous, they piled cairns upon them, that men who came after should say, “Some warrior lies here.” The coffin was often placed upon the top of the cairn, and was a great stone chest, or Kistvaen. Sometimes the kistvaen was placed in a mound of earth, or barrow, which, also it was the custom to place upon a hill-top. There are many such barrows on the hills in the north of Cornwall. The slopes of the moor hills are usually strewn with great blocks of granite.

Rowtor, also spelled Roughtor or Rough Tor, but pronounced Rowtor, bristles all over with cairns, perhaps more than any hill on the moor. These cairns are formed of the largest blocks of granite in Cornwall, lodged on one another in a curious way, and giving Rowtor a magnificent appearance, more grand and rugged than any mountain in Cornwall, though it is not quite the highest. Under the north side of this hill are many of the circles of unhewn stone which are supposed to be the foundations of the round huts, with pointed roofs, which were the homes of the ancient people.

Not far from Rowtor is Brown Willy, the highest of the Cornish hills (1368 feet). It is perhaps more beautiful than its neighbour, if not so grand. Granite cairns surmount the crest of Brown Willy, but its sides are less rugged than those of Rowtor. Brown Willy is a popular destination for walkers and is said to be one of "the UK's best-loved high points."

Near this mountain is one of the many valleys, or bottoms, as they are called, which furrow the Cornish moors; most of them were occupied for hundreds of years by stream-works. The tin which made Cornwall famous for more than 2000 years is generally to be found in granite; and when, in the course of ages, the granite becomes worn down, much of the tin is dislodged, and sinks in grains to the bottoms. It is supposed that the tin for which the Romans came to Cornwall, before they had conquered Britain, was obtained by streaming, that is, by sending a stream of water through the bottom with force enough to carry away the earthy matter, and so leave the heavier tin exposed. The Tolgus Tin Streaming Mill, the last to work in Cornwall, closed in the 1980’s and is now a working museum. (see )

Launceston has a remarkable ruined castle, surrounded by three walls. It was very loyal to Charles I. during the Civil War. Bodmin, near the borders of the Moor, was once the “county town” of Cornwall; it is still a major town.

King Arthur and Tintagel

In days gone by, after exploring Bodmin Moor, you might have gotten onto a train at Camelford Station in North Cornwall. But the railway station was closed in 1966 and turned into a cycling museum, so if you want to explore, you’ll probably have to drive. Slaughterbridge, Treague and Camelford Station are three adjoining settlements in the area. At Slaughterbridge the road drops dramatically into the valley of the River Camel, narrowing over the single-track “Slaughter Bridge” over the river. Slaughterbridge is a very old settlement and is said to take its name from two battles which reputedly took place nearby during the Early Middle Ages. As 'slaughter' is an Old English word for 'marsh', though, it provides no evidence that battles were fought here.

Beyond the bridge, upon the coast, is the village of Tintagel, and Tintagel Castle, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. The village has, in recent times, become attractive to tourists and day-trippers from many parts of the world, and is one of the most-visited places in Britain. Tintagel Castle is a fitting spot to have been the home of the hero-king. It is built upon a high headland, one of the most wild and beautiful spots in Cornwall. The walls, of rude stone, with china clay for mortar, still cover a great space, and show the square apertures through which King Arthur’s knights may have aimed their arrows, and the low-arched entrances under which they must have come and gone. Major excavations around the site of the 12th century castle have revealed that Tintagel headland was either the site of a Celtic monastery, or a princely fortress and trading settlement dating to the 5th and 6th centuries. Archaeologists have found numerous remains of expensive pottery, glasswork, and coins, which are preserved at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. In 1998, excavations discovered the “Arthur stone” which has added to Tintagel's Arthurian lore though historians do not believe the inscription refers to King Arthur himself.

About three miles to the north of Tintagel is Boscastle; the town stands on a steep hill which rises out of furze-covered valleys; and the harbour of Boscastle is one of the sights of Cornwall. It is one of the little lovely inlets, or porths, as they are called, which break every part of the Cornish coast,--sheltered coves bordered by high cliffs. The cliffs between Boscastle and Tintagel are of slate, so curiously broken and storm-worn as to look like huge ruins.

Still in the slate district, about seven miles south of Boscastle, is the Delabole slate quarry. It has run continuously since the 15th century, making it the oldest working slate quarry in England. Also nearby is the Delabole Wind Farm, the first commercial wind farm in the U.K.

The Mines

Historically mining of tin (and later also of copper) was important in the Cornish economy.

St. Piran is the patron saint of tin-miners and is generally regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall. His feast day is the 5th of March, when there are festivities across Cornwall. One story about St. Piran is that he was thrown with a millstone around his neck into the stormy sea off Ireland by a heathen tribe. As he landed in the sea, it became calm and the storm disappeared. The millstone then floated and carried St. Piran to Cornwall. He landed at Perran Beach and built himself a small chapel in Penhale sands, where his first disciples were said to be a badger, a fox and a bear.

Truro, the capital city of Cornwall, initially grew as an important centre of trade from its port and then as a central town for the mining industry. The city is well known for its cathedral (completed in 1910), cobbled streets, open spaces and Georgian architecture. Places of interest include the Royal Cornwall Museum, the Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall's Courts of Justice and Cornwall Council.

The copper-mining country lies to the south of Truro; and Redruth is the centre of a famous mining district which includes Gwennap, St. Agnes, and Illogan. By the end of the 19th century, the Cornish mining industry was in decline and Britain was importing most of its copper ore. To find employment, many miners emigrated to the newer mining industries in the Americas, Australasia, and South Africa. Cornwall's last fully operational mine, South Crofty at Pool between Redruth and Camborne, closed in March 1998.

The Town Trail is a short walk through the town of Redruth, featuring places of historical and other interest, including the Mining Exchange and the Old Courthouse. Many of the buildings on Fore Street, the main shopping area, originate from the nineteenth century. The street is dominated by the old clock tower and the new Tin Miner Statue, and features the famous Redruth dogs, or 'Tinner's Hounds', made from miner's boots.

Gwennap Pit is an open air amphitheatre, near Redruth, made famous by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Possibly a hollow created by mining activities, it has remarkable acoustic properties. It became the favourite open air preaching place of John Wesley, who was taken to it in 1762, describing it as "a round green hollow" and as "an amphitheatre". He was to preach there on 18 occasions between 1762 and 1789. Since 1807 it has been used for the annual Methodist Rally in spring. As well as worship, as on summer Sunday afternoons, the Pit is used for musical events, drama, and weddings.

St Austell is Cornwall's largest town. It is larger than the capital Truro, and is a centre of the china clay industry. The St Austell Brewery, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2001, supplies cask ale to pubs in Cornwall and the rest of the UK. As in much of Cornwall and neighbouring counties, tourism is increasingly important to St Austell's economy. Tourists are drawn to the area by nearby beaches and attractions such as the Eden Project, sited in a former clay pit, and the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

What are the Lost Gardens of Heligan (pronounced H’LIG-en)? They are one of the most popular botanical gardens in the U.K. According to Wikipedia, they boast “a fabulous collection of aged and colossal rhododendrons and camellias, a series of lakes fed by a ram pump over a hundred years old, highly productive flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, and a stunning wild area filled with primaeval-looking sub-tropical tree ferns called "The Jungle". The gardens also have Europe's only remaining pineapple pit, warmed by rotting manure, and two figures made from rocks and plants known as the Mud Maid and the Giant's Head.” So now you know.

And what is the Eden Project? More plants! It has two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. The first dome emulates a tropical environment, and the second a Mediterranean environment.

The Pilchard Fishery.

The pilchard is a fish found only about the Cornish and Devon coasts; it is smaller than a herring, but so like it that only people who are accustomed to pilchards can tell one from the other. Do you know the other name for pilchards? Sardines!

Pilchard fishing and processing was a thriving industry in Cornwall from around 1750 to 1880, but with overfishing and so on, it almost disappeared as a business…until quite recently. Since 1997, the fish have been sold as "Cornish sardines", and they now have Protected Geographical Status.

Garstin Cox, "A Morning with the Pilchard Fishers"

Many artists painted the pilchard fishers during their busy years, so it is worth hearing what the pilchard fishery was like way back when. This is the way Charlotte Mason described it in the 1880’s:

Twice every year, in July and August, and again in October and November, the Cornish folk all along the south coast are busy with the pilchard fishery. The pilchards, or sardines, spend the winter in the deep waters to the west of the Scilly Isles; when spring comes they begin to collect in small shoals, and about the beginning of July, millions of them gather together under the “Pilchard King” and make for the shore with such force that the foremost ones are driven upon the beach.

Now is the time for the fishermen. “Huers” (callers) have been watching upon the headlands for some time—solitary men gazing out to sea, with glass fixed upon the most distant spot at which the pilchards will begin to darken the waters. Heva, heva, heva! (found) they cry, and at once all is bustle in the villages below, where the people have been on the watch for this signal. Boats are manned; the great Seine net, perhaps 300 yards long, is taken out, and millions of pilchards are caught in a single taking. They are kept in the sea, enclosed in the net, for perhaps a week, being taken to shore a few thousands at a time, as fast as the girls and women can salt them.

The casks of pilchards are mostly sent to Italy and Spain, Roman Catholic countries, where fish must be eaten many days in the year. St. Ives is one of the fishing towns; it is very pretty and picturesque, but has a strong odour of pilchards. About 10,000 persons are employed in this pilchard fishery.

The traditional "Toast to Pilchards" refers to the lucrative export of the fish to Catholic Europe;

"Here's health to the Pope, may he live to repent
And add just six months to the term of his Lent
And tell all his vassals from Rome to the Poles,
There's nothing like pilchards for saving their souls!"

The Mousehole Cat (pronounced Mowzel) is a children's book written by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Based on the legend of Tom Bawcock and the stargazy pie, it tells of a cat who goes with its master on a fishing expedition in rough seas.

Land’s End and the Lizard

The Land’s End, the most westerly point of England, is a large rampart of granite cliffs, which seems to have been set where is is to resist the fury of the Atlantic storms. Perhaps the fact is, that land which lay beyond this point has been washed away. The point which juts farthest into the sea is about 60 feet high, and is pierced by a sort of natural tunnel; on either side are still higher cliffs. Below these cliffs are huge rocks against which the sea is constantly breaking, and in the cliffs are caverns, many of them large enough to hold twenty men, with smooth, shining walls of granite polished by the action of the waves.

People usually visit Land’s End from Penzance, the home of the pirates in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance. At the time the libretto was written, in 1879, Penzance had become popular as a peaceful resort town, so the very idea of it being overrun by pirates was amusing.

Penzance was the birthplace of the chemist Sir Humphry Davy. Davy was President of the Royal Society (of scientists) and invented the process of electrolysis; was the first person to isolate sodium; was the first person to discover laughing gas; as well as proving (with Michael Faraday) that diamonds are made of pure carbon. Today he is possibly best known as the inventor of the Miner's Safety Lamp, or Davy lamp. There is a statue of Davy at the top of Market Jew Street, near the house in which he was born.

About 30 miles from the Land’s End are the Scilly Islands, a large group of islands formed of granite. Farming and fishing continue there today, but the main industry now is tourism. The islands are famous among birdwatchers for their ability to attract rare birds from all corners of the globe.

Three children's books written by Michael Morpurgo (Why the Whales Came, The Sleeping Sword, and The Wreck of the Zanzibar) are set around the Isles of Scilly.

The whole of the projection forming the heel of Cornwall, which ends in Lizard Head, is formed of a beautiful rock called serpentine, perhaps because it has streaks resembling the skin of a serpent. It is generally of an olive-green colour. The Lizard district approached from inland is rather a dreary tableland, but its soil favours one beautiful plant, the white Cornish heath, the rarest and most beautiful of English heaths.

(Fast Fact: Lizard Point is the most southerly point on mainland Great Britain, at 49° 57' 30" N.)

Lizard Point is for many ships the starting point of their ocean passage and a notorious shipping hazard. The Lizard lighthouse is situated at Lizard Point. The area is famous for its carved serpentine items, which range from ornaments to the pump handles in the local pub, the Lizard Inn. The geology of the Lizard district is fascinating, with a number of planned walks available from local tourist authorities in order to discover more about the local rocks.

The most beautiful sight at the Lizard is Kynance Cove. A snow-white beach, washed by a blue sea; a background of cliffs, green and purple and red; pebbles of gorgeous colours strewed on the white sand; the cliffs pierced by caverns with polished walls of all beautiful colours, fresh and glowing form a sea-bath—these are some of the beauties of Kynance Cove. You may be able to spot seals and basking sharks off the shore of the Cove.

St. Michael’s Mount, upon which was a chapel dedicated to the archangel, looks down upon the cove. Near it is the old town of Helston. Cornwall has a full and vibrant folk music tradition which has survived into the present and is well known for its unusual folk survivals such as Mummers Plays, the Furry Dance in Helston played by the famous Helston Town Band, and Obby Oss in Padstow.

Penryn, famous for its beautiful granite (of which Waterloo Bridge is made), and Falmouth, are the last places of interest we can notice. Falmouth is known for its harbour, the largest port in Cornwall. Together with Carrick Roads, it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe. Falmouth is still a cargo port and the bunkering of vessels and the transfer of cargoes keep the port's facilities busy. The port is also becoming popular with cruise ship operators.

Falmouth was the birthplace of Toad, Mole and Rat: Kenneth Grahame's classic Wind in the Willows began as a series of letters sent to his son. The first two were written at the Greenbank Hotel whilst Grahame was a guest in May 1907. Reproductions of the letters are currently on display in the hotel.

And one more thing about Cornwall: Cornwall is a Duchy, which means that it is officially ruled by the Duke of Cornwall. The title of the Duke of Cornwall goes to the eldest son of the sovereign of England, so right now that is Prince Charles, who is also the Prince of Wales.

Map Questions.

1. What waters wash the coast of Cornwall? What river divides it from Devon? What are the hills called which run through the middle of Cornwall?

2. Name the four towns which surround Bodmin Moor. What is the height of Brown Willy? Name one or two other moor hills.

3. Name three or four (former) mining towns which lie to the south of Bodmin. Name six (former) mining towns which lie within eight miles or so of Truro.

4. Name the fishing towns on the south coast, beginning at St. Ives Bay. What is the most western point called? The most southern? The bay between these? What mount overlooks it? What cove opens into Lizard Head?

5. What castle stands on a headland on the northern coast? What bridge is near it? What slate quarries are near the bridge? What town stands at the mouth of the Camel? Name two head-lands on the north-western coast.

6. Make up some of your own (contemporary) map questions!

Helpful site:


The County of Devon

Devon, also called Devonshire, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is a part of South West England, and is bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the northeast, and Dorset to the east. Devon's area is 6,707 km2 (2,590 square miles), and its population is about 1.1 million (about as many people as live in Calgary, Alberta). It is the fourth largest county in England.

This is what Wikipedia says about the economy of Devon: “Like Cornwall to the west, historically Devon has been disadvantaged economically, owing to the decline of a number of core industries, notably fishing, mining and farming. But agriculture has remained an important industry in Devon… Since the rise of seaside resorts with the arrival of the railways in the 19th century, Devon's economy has been heavily reliant on tourism. The county's economy followed the declining trend of British seaside resorts since the mid-20th century, but with some recent revival and regeneration of its resorts, particularly focused around camping; sports such as surfing, cycling, sailing and heritage.”

Fast fact: Geographically, Devon is distinguished as the only county of England to have two separate coastlines (northern and southern), both of which are peppered by lofty cliffs and sandy shores.

From here on the descriptions are mostly Charlotte Mason’s, other than updates on cities and industries.

Leafy Devon is the beauty of the western counties. It has a blue sea margin north and south, bordered with cliffs, which on the south coast are often of pink and grey marble. Trees fringe the coast almost to the water’s edge, and the very cliffs are hung with creepers.

Much of central Devon is breezy moorland, bleak and barren enough; and there is another stretch of moor towards the north; but spurs from these high moors reach the coast, both north and south, and between these spurs are deep, shadowy combes, the valleys of the sparkling moorland streams.

The villages nestle in these combes; and very pretty a Devon village is, with its narrow, steep lanes, bordered by high hedges, and its snug-looking cottages, with thatched roofs and rosy walls of cob. Cob is made of the reddish mud of the district mixed with pebbles or straw. The villages often lie among great orchards of apple trees, and myrtle grows freely about the cottage doors.

[The rest of this section is taken from Wikipedia.]

Pleasant as the whole county is, the very garden of Devon is the South Hams, the district south of Dartmoor, and between the Tamar and the Teign. South Hams is a local government district, with its headquarters in the town of Totnes. It contains the towns of Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Ivybridge, and Salcombe — the largest of which is Ivybridge. Traditionally, it was an apple-growing and cider-making area, but in the last hundred years, many of the orchards were lost. In parts of Devon, farm orchards (mainly cider orchards) are now being saved and re-planted. These orchards are of tall, well-spaced trees and grazed underneath by sheep or cattle with varieties with wonderful names such as Slack Ma Girdle, Fair Maid of Devon, Spicey Pippin, Tremlett's Bitter and Whimple Queen.

The Apple Wassail is a traditional form of wassailing practiced in the cider orchards of South West England during the winter. On Twelfth Night, men would go with their wassail bowl into the orchard and go about the trees. Slices of bread or toast were laid at the roots and sometimes tied to branches. Cider was also poured over the tree roots. The ceremony is said to "bless" the trees to produce a good crop in the forthcoming season.
It has long been disputed whether clotted cream originated in Devon or Cornwall, and which county makes it the best. There is evidence that the monks of Tavistock Abbey were making clotted cream in the early 1300s. After their abbey had been ransacked by Vikings in 997 AD, the monks rebuilt it with the help of Ordulf, Earl of Devon. Local workers were drafted in to help with the repairs, and the monks rewarded them with bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves.

As with many Cornish and Devonian icons, clotted cream has become entrenched in local folklore. For example, one myth tells of Jenny who enticed the giant Blunderbore by feeding him clotted cream. He eventually fell in love with her and made her his fourth wife. Another myth, from Dartmoor, tells of a princess who wanted to marry an elven prince, but according to tradition had to bathe in pure cream first. Unfortunately, a witch who wanted the prince for her daughter kept souring the cream. Eventually, the prince offered the princess clotted cream, which the witch was unable to sour.

North Devon

The combes along the north coast lie between the spurs of Exmoor, which come down to the water’s edge.

Exmoor itself is a tract of moorland rising everywhere into dark hills, of which Dunkerry Beacon (1668 feet) is the highest. The two Lyn Rivers, East and West, are mountain torrents, which, when they leave Exmoor, come tumbling along over stones, the one through a thickly-wooded combe, the other between bare, stony hills, till they flow into the sea by one mouth. Here stands the beautiful little village of Lynmouth, shut in among the cliffs. A steep road leads from Lynmouth to Lynton, which looks out over the moors. The novel Lorna Doone was set in the Lynton area.

Combe Martin is a long village, also lying in a valley. It is famous for its two historic silver-lead mines, which did England good service in the reigns of both Edward III. and Henry V., for they helped to pay the cost of the Hundred Years’ War with France. The tunnels of these mines run underneath the village.

Ilfracombe, a seaside resort; Barnstaple, which is the main shopping area for North Devon; and Bideford, which is built on a hillside and overlooks the Torridge, are all pleasant North Devon towns. Barnstaple Fair begins on the Wednesday before 20 September each year and is of ancient origin. The ceremonial opening of the fair survives from ancient times and commences with a meeting of the town council in the Guildhall, where various formal toasts are drunk in a spiced ale which according to tradition is made from a secret recipe handed on from generation to generation. Whilst the toasts are being drunk, a form of sweetmeat known as "fairings" are handed around. At 12 o'clock a civic procession forms at the entrance to the Guildhall and the proclamation is read, at the start of which a large stuffed gloved hand garlanded with flowers, representing the hand of friendship and welcome to the visitors, is hung out of a window of the Guildhall. Today the fair consists of rides and amusements located in the car park of the leisure centre.

This area of North Devon was home to the author Charles Kingsley, and is where he based his novel Westward Ho!. A small seaside town, named after the book, was built after the book's publication. Westward Ho!, which is the only town in the United Kingdom which officially contains an exclamation mark in its name, is approximately three miles (5 km) from Bideford. A statue was erected in honour of Kingsley near the car park of Bideford Park.

Clovelly is another nearby village. It is a major tourist attraction, famous for its history and beauty, its extremely steep car-free cobbled main street, donkeys, and its location looking out over the Bristol Channel. The impossibility of getting vehicular access to the main street has led to deliveries being made by sledge. This is not done as a tourist attraction but as a matter of practicality. Goods being delivered are pulled down the hill from an upper car park. Refuse is pulled down the hill to a waiting vehicle at the harbour.

Lundy Island, about eighteen miles off, may be seen from Clovelly—a granite island, bordered by granite cliffs.


Dartmoor is a great granite tableland, which measures about twenty miles each way, and that comes out to 954 square kilometers or 368 square miles. It is protected by National Park status, and is rich in antiquities and archaeology. Dartmoor has a permanent population of about 33,000, which swells considerably during holiday periods with incoming tourists. (It is also the home of a famous prison.) The largest settlements within the National Park are Ashburton, the largest town; Buckfastleigh, Moretonhampstead, Princetown, Yelverton, Horrabridge, South Brent, Christow and Chagford—some of which are very old. Ashburton’s website says, “Ashburton is not only a splendid gateway to Dartmoor, but is also the ideal base from which to explore the whole region from Moor to sea.”

Out on the moor are billowy hills, and dark glens, where not even furze will grow. Heather, reeds and moss, and whortleberries are the moor plants. There is a large morass in the centre of the moor, which will not bear the lightest footed creature, and here rise many of the streams which rush as brawling torrents across the moor, and then descend through the beautiful combes of South Devon. The Dart, Teign, Tavy, and the Taw all get their pure azure waters from this morass; azure except after heavy rains, when the torrents are read with the peat they have torn up. And this is not seldom; for north wind, south wind, east wind, west, every wind that blows, seems to bring rain to Dartmoor. When there is not rain, a thick sea-mist often wraps the moor for a week together. The prospect (view) when it is to be had, is very fine—the wide stretch of hilly waste, the faint tints of the hills, and their delicate shadows.

Some of the bogs on Dartmoor have achieved notoriety. Fox Tor Mires was supposedly the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sabine Baring-Gould, in his Book of Dartmoor (1900) related the story of a man who was making his way through Aune Mire at the head of the River Avon when he came upon a top-hat brim down on the surface of the mire. He kicked it, whereupon a voice called out: "What be you a-doin' to my 'at?" The man replied, "Be there now a chap under'n?" "Ees, I reckon," was the reply, "and a hoss under me likewise." (Source: Wikipedia)

The Tors, great granite rocks crowning the hills, of all strange shapes, like castles, or giants, or huge beasts, are the most remarkable things on the moor. They all have names of their own, and give their names to the hills they crown. Yes Tor (2050 feet) is the highest; a good deal higher than the Cornish Brown Willy, than which, indeed, nineteen of the Dartmoor Tors are higher.

Cawsand Beacon and the Great Lynx, with its Tor like a ruined castle, and many others are visible from Yes Tor, which is itself a desolate hill, with streams of loose granite down its sides.

Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor in the 19th century and has become increasingly popular in recent decades. Watertight containers, or 'letterboxes', are hidden throughout the moor, each containing a visitor's book and a rubber stamp. Visitors take an impression of the letterbox's rubber stamp as proof of finding the box and record their visit by stamping their own personal stamp in the letterbox's logbook. A recent related development is geocaching. (Wikipedia)

Whitewater kayaking and canoeing are popular on the rivers; other activities are rock climbing on the granite tors and outcrops; horse riding, which can be undertaken on any of the common land; and some fishing.

a)The City of Plymouth

Plymouth's history goes back to the Bronze Age, when its first settlement grew at Mount Batten. This settlement continued to grow as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until the more prosperous village of Sutton, the current Plymouth, surpassed it. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony – the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, Plymouth grew as a major commercial shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas, while the neighbouring town of Devonport grew as an important Royal Naval shipbuilding and dockyard town. In 1914 the three neighbouring and independent towns, that is, Plymouth, Devonport, and the urban district of East Stonehouse, were merged to form a single County Borough. The new, merged town took the name of Plymouth which, in 1928, achieved city status. The city's naval importance later led to its targeting and partial destruction during World War II, an act known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war the city centre was completely rebuilt. Although Plymouth is in Devon, it is also the nearest big city for the residents of Cornwall.

In Charlotte Mason’s day, you could go to Stonehouse and see the Royal William Victualling Yard for the ships. This is how she described it:

“It is an enormous place, with a beef-house where there are always many thousands of pieces of salt beef in store; there are stores for vegetables, for books, for clothes, for bedding, and a long wing of the building for corn and baking. Within the bakehouse all the work is done by an invisible giant, a mighty fellow, who does the work of a thousand bakers at once; grinds the corn, kneads the dough, spreads it ready for biscuits, cuts it up, and has a sack of flour ready for the oven in two minutes. Steam is this rapid workman, who is employed in all the stores.” What happened to the Victualling Yard? Look it up on Wikipedia—you might be surprised!

Charlotte Mason said that “The great show in Devonport is the Dockyard.” And it still is; Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport is the largest naval base in Western Europe. “The vast site covers more than 650 acres and has 15 dry docks, four miles of waterfront, 25 tidal berths and five basins.” This is also a good place to look up on Wikipedia (HMNB Devonport), or on its own website: .

b) Lighthouses

The Sound is a great station for England’s ships of war; but the southerly winds made it unsafe until Mr. Rennie, a famous engineer, invented a way to keep the breakers outside of the harbour. He found that the action of the water had itself raised shoals of sand to a height little short of the top across the mouth of the Sound, and he thought that if rubble—rough blocks of stone some tons in weight as well as smaller stones—were cast into the sea, the waves would arrange it in the best shape to keep out the breakers. His plan was adopted; many men were employed in quarrying, and many vessels in carrying the stone and casting it into the sea.
The Breakwater has answered perfectly; the waves coming in and going out fixed the stones at the proper slope, and now, however stormy the outside sea is, the waters within the waters within the Sound are always calm.
A terrible danger to home-bound ships was the Eddystone, a narrow rock about fourteen miles from Plymouth, which is daily covered by the tide. A Mr. Winstanley, a brave gentleman of Essex, raised a lighthouse here (built 1696-1698) to warn the ships of the hidden danger. It was a most difficult undertaking, for as fast as the foundations were laid at low tide, high water washed them away.

The work was finished with much toil, but it had not stood more than a couple of years when lighthouse and architect were engulfed during a great storm (1703). There was a second lighthouse, but it burned down.

In 1757, an engineer named John Smeaton planned the third lighthouse. It is said he looked about for a model of perfect strength, for some natural form which stood firm in the most furious gales, and he fixed upon the trunk of an oak, with its curve inward, and then its slight outward swell towards the top.

The building was of granite; the foundations, of marvelous strength, solid blocks of granite dove-tailed and clamped with irons to the rocks below and to each other. It remained in use until 1877 when erosion to the rocks under the lighthouse caused it to shake from side to side whenever large waves hit.

The current, fourth, lighthouse was designed by James Douglass, using Robert Stevenson's developments of Smeaton's techniques. The light was lit in 1882 and is still in use. It is operated by Trinity House. It was automated in 1982, the first Trinity House 'Rock' (or offshore) lighthouse to be converted. The tower has been changed by construction of a helipad above the lantern, to allow maintenance crews access. The tower is 49 metres (161 ft) high, and its white light flashes twice every 10 seconds. The light is visible to 22 nautical miles (41 km), and is supplemented by a foghorn of 3 blasts every 60 seconds. Next to the new tower, you can see the foundations and stub of the old tower --they proved too strong to be dismantled, so the Victorians left them where they stood. (Wikipedia)

The Dart and Torbay
The Dart, with its rapid course and sudden bends, deserves its name (which, however, is derived from the Celtic word Dwr, which means river); these sharp turns make it look like a chain of lakes, for bit after bit of the river seems to be shut in by land. It begins on the moor, flows, a mountain torrent, through rocky defiles, through the ancient oak forest of Holne Chase, past quiet Ashburton and old Totnes. The valley becomes more fair and fertile as it reaches the sea; rich meadows, studded with trees, and apple orchards border the banks of the river, and at its mouth is the ancient town of Dartmouth, with its projecting upper stories.

Dartmouth fishers were among the first who went after Newfoundland cod, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert who took that island for Queen Elizabeth was a Dartmouth man. Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne, after whom the character Christopher Robin in the Winnie-the-Pooh books was named, used to own the Harbour Bookshop (now closed).

Torbay, a beautiful bay with blood-red cliffs, lies between the Dart valley and that of the Teign. Torquay is under its north headland. The town's economy was initially based upon fishing and agriculture, as in the case of Brixham across Torbay, but, in the early 19th century, the town began to develop into a fashionable seaside resort. Renowned for its healthful climate, the town earned the nickname of the English Riviera. (Wikipedia)

Brixham, to the south of the bay, is a fishing town. It has a focal tourist attraction in the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship the Golden Hind that is permanently moored there.

Farther north is Teignmouth, a popular holiday town at the mouth of the Teign.

a)Exeter and the Otter Valley

Exeter, the Queen of the West, stands on the Exe; a city on a hill, and with hills around it. The cathedral with its two high old towers built after the Norman fashion, was the work of the Normans. Exeter has been identified as one of the top ten most profitable locations for a business to be based. The city has good transport links, with Exeter St Davids railway station, Exeter Central railway station, the M5 motorway and Exeter International Airport connecting the city both nationally and internationally.

Crediton, a centre for shopping and business for the surrounding area, and Tiverton, are higher up in the Exe valley. Dawlish, in a sheltered valley, and Exmouth, on a hill, are two resort towns near the mouth of the estuary. During the early and middle part of the 20th century, Dawlish became famous for Devon Violets perfume, and hundreds of varieties were grown in market gardens surrounding the town. Violet escapees can be found growing wild across the area. Lately the town has become known for growing freesias, daffodils and strawberries. The sheltered location in Lyme Bay means the climate is mild and frost/snow are rare, ensuring a long growing season.

In addition to its substantial summer tourist trade, Exmouth serves as a regional centre for leisure industries, particularly water sports such as sailing jet-skiing, and wind-surfing, and outdoor activities such as bird-watching, and walking.

b) Honiton

Did you know that most lace used to be made completely by hand? Charlotte Mason describes the Honiton lace-makers she saw in the 1880’s, a trade that is now done only as a hobby or for demonstration:

“The beautiful and costly Honiton lace, the manufacture for which Devonshire is most famous, is made chiefly in the Otter Valley. It is a snug valley, sheltered by hills on each side, well-wooded hills, from whose tops the pink marble of Devon crops up. The cottages lie among the orchards, and the lace-makers may be seen at work at their cottage doors. This delicate fabric is made altogether by hand. The lace-makers sits on a stood with a hard cushion on her lap; the pattern is sketched on a piece of parchment which is laid upon the cushion; pins are put through the pattern to mark it, and the worker forms the mesh and makes the pattern with many small bobbins on which threads are wound, fine threads for the meshes, coarse for the pattern. Though the lace is costly, it takes so long to make it that the workers are not very well paid.”

There are still indications in Honiton of its history as a centre for lace making, such as places called "Lace Walk" and the "Honiton Lace Shop".

The Honiton Hot Pennies ceremony takes place annually on the first Tuesday after 19 July in the High Street of the town, and dates back to the reign of King Stephen, in the 12th century. The ceremony has its roots in the practice of landed gentry taking pleasure in throwing hot pennies from windows to local peasants, a seemingly generous gesture resulting in burns. The custom also had the purpose of encouraging people to travel to the town from the surrounding area to attend a subsequent fair. Nowadays they just throw “warm pennies.”


1. What counties does Devon lie between? What waters wash it on the north? On the south?

2. What moor occupies the west of the county? Name two or three of the highest Tors. Name the three longest rivers which rise in the moor and flow south. Into what estuary do the Plym and the Tamar fall? What town stands on this opening? Two other towns join Plymouth—name them.

3. What is the southern corner of Devon called? Name the port at the mouth of the Dart. Another town on this river among the hills. Name the watering-places north and south of Torbay. What is the southern headland of the bay called? What town stands at the mouth of the Teign?

4. In what moor does the Exe take its rise? Name five towns upon this river. Name three towns in the valley of the little river Otter. Two in the valley of the Axe.

5. Name four towns on the north coast, among the Exmoor Hills. What river rising in Dartmoor flows north? What town stands at its mouth? Name two towns on the Torridge. A town near Hartland Point. What island lies beyond Barnstaple Bay?

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