Sheep, Spelt & a Medieval Church

On Tuesday we traveled to Dartmoor National Park where the sheep roam free, the roads are narrow, the turns are blind and the speed limit is 60 kph. I’ve never been on a moor and very much felt like Jane Eyre trekking in the rain. Does it always rain on the moors? Seems to in all the movies. The landscape was quite spectacular, despite the weather.

Sheep are a common sight along the roads in the UK. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t tickled when we came across these two lovelies chomping away at the brush – doing their part to control the vegetation.

Besides trying to sharpen my psychic abilities by staring at the roadside sheep … goat … sheep … whatever … I tried to use my spidey-senses to detect on-coming traffic. I came up empty all around. Maybe it really does take a goat.

Regardless of my failures, or lack of success, we arrived safely at the Ullacombe Farm Store – my first ever visit to such a location. English farm stores are very much like American farm stores, only the folks running the place have better accents and offer lots of tasty-looking meat pies with incredible crusts and creamy, dreamy cheeses.

Don’t freak out. Unwashed eggs do not need to be refrigerated in the U.K. and other parts of Europe. Washing eggs (per USDA standards) actually increases the risk of transferring bacteria (like salmonella) from the outside to the inside of the egg because the washing process can compromise the outer shell.
Spelt products seen on the shelves here in the form of flour and cereal have become quite popular over the years. Spelt is a power grain and hails back to ancient times, feeding entire Roman legions. It has a nutty flavor, is high in fiber, has more protein than processed wheat and is easier to digest. While it’s a healthy addition (or substitute) to your diet, there’s no such thing as a low-carb grain, so just give it up. I mean, asking … not eating.
We come to the preserves and canned goodies portion of the store. Personally, I’m not into chutneys, marmalades or curds and such. I like plain, ol’ grape jelly. Gasp!
What’s a sheep farm without sheep products? Really, there’s nothing quite like a sheep skin stool, key chain or door stop, right? Somehow, I don’t picture the locals with something like this in their homes. But what do I know? I eat grape jelly.
And … we have more sheep skin, pickled olives and booze advertised on red and blue bunting. Local art is usually my favorite, but I resisted.

We decided to have a late lunch at the farm store. I regret not taking pictures of The Cheesecake Factory-sized meat pies and pasties in the display case. What was I thinking? Instead I took a picture of the pretty twinkle lights and colorful bunting hanging from the ceiling because, well, I’m a girl.

Entranced by the sight of even more bright colors, I was drawn to this line of carbonated drinks. I selected the Lemonade and Elderflower because I’ve always wondered what Elderflower tastes like.

I still don’t know what Elderflower tastes like.

Jumping back onto the twisty, winding road, we entered the charming village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Eager to explore, I headed directly for the church. You can see the bell tower in the moor pictures at the top of this post.

It had started raining in earnest while we were still in the farm shop, but the shower turned into soft droplets as I made my way into the churchyard.

The Church of Saint Pancras (Yes, I keep wanting to say pancreas) is known as the “Cathedral of the Moor,” originally built in the 14th century. In the 17th century the church was struck by lightning during a great thunderstorm. Unfortunate timing, as three hundred people were in attendance for the afternoon service. Several dozen members were injured, including four deaths. Two of the victims are buried in the nave, but I couldn’t find their markers.

Back outside in the rain, I circled around the church looking at gravestones. But age and weather had erased all markings from most of them. As I stood gazing out across the moor, the scenery was peaceful and perfect – as if nothing had changed in hundreds of years.

I intend no disrespect, but I realize these old churches are a dime-a-dozen in Europe. Despite that, they never fail to impress me. Not only have these structures survived for centuries against weather, war and hardship, they have sheltered generation upon generation from the highest born to the lowest. People come and people go. They are born, baptized, married and buried. Still the stones, pillars and stained-glass windows stand, bearing witness to every historical event, both great and small. These medieval monuments may be inanimate, but they are not without energy or heart.

Circling back around to the front of the church, the main part of the village stands quaint and relatively preserved. The Old Inn (pictured below) was apparently built by workers as a place to eat and sleep while they built the Saint Pancras Church across the road. The beams running through the pub are believed to be 700-years-old. The old stable is still fully intact and is now part of the restaurant. I believe the “newer” parts of the Inn date back 200 years.

Thanks for joining me on my journey across the moor. I definitely felt a twinge of Jane Eyre while walking in the rain – the only way to cross a moor, right?

6 thoughts on “Sheep, Spelt & a Medieval Church”

  1. Lovely adventure. We went to the Dartmoors back in the 80’s. I remember arriving at a working farm a few hours before sunset. Knowing we’d only be there overnight we immediate donned our Gortex suits and braved the pouring down, almost horizontal rain. The proprieters looked on with shock. Later when we returned to the fireside they informed is that the weather wasn’t always like this. We said nothing over hot tea as we recalled the boulders sitting it the middle of open fields covered on all sides with heavy moss. It was beautiful, mysterious, bleak and raw. We’d go back again in a heartbeat.

  2. A lovely set of photos. I have rarely been to Dartmoor, but it looked similar to Cumbria where I live, apart from the fact that we have the Lake District!

  3. Very nice photos. Lovely scenery. Pity you didn’t try the Elderflower. My grandmother used to make elderflower champagne up until the 1970’s. A very light, sparkling, delicate and fragrant white wine. Of course if you don’t pick the flowers to make wine, they become elder berries – which also make a very nice deep red-almost-purple strong wine. We used to drink elderberry syrup to ward off coughs and colds as kids. Delicious!

    1. Thank you so much! I did try the elderberry & lemon drink. I think the elderberry was too delicate for me to detect. I’ll try it in something else next time.

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