The Tamar Valley
not only divides Devon and Cornwall, but is also an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The reason for its inclusion as a World Heritage Site is that it forms part of the wider Cornish mining landscape.
Boundary lines make no distinction where the geological landscape is concerned and West Devon’s mining history is recognised as being just as important as its neighbour across the river. There are ten distinct areas that are identified as of special significance within the Cornwall and West Devon Mining World Heritage Site and the Tamar Valley and Tavistock area is one of them.
Morwellham Quay played an important part in the Tamar Valley’s mining history and should be on everyone’s list of places to visit if you have an interest in this sort of thing – and even if you haven’t.
The site and museum at Morwellham used to be financed by Devon County Council but funding was withdrawn in 2009. The following year it was re-opened as a paid for visitor attraction by the people that run Bicton Park in East Devon.
This picturesque village with a population of less than a hundred, lies in a secluded valley under Buckland Beacon, just a few miles north-west of Ashburton.
A drive through the narrow lanes will bring you to a cluster of thatched cottages and an unusual church.
St Peter’s is a simple 12th c church probably built over an earlier Saxon one and still retains some Norman features, but what makes it unusual is the clock which was only installed in 1930.
Commissioned by the owner of the Buckland Estate, William Whitley, the clock was dedicated to his mother, Elizabeth, who had died the previous year.’, but instead of using numerals he replaced them with letters that spell “My Dear Mother”. If you take a closer look at my picture of the clock you’ll see that it was almost A past E when I was here.
Torre Abbey is undoubtedly the single most important medieval building in Torbay, and although its appearance has changed over the years, it should be on every visitor’s list of things to see.
Founded in 1196 by Canons of the Premonstratensian (!) order they became wealthy landlords adding the ‘quay’ to Torre.
They carried on their business for over 300 years until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.
During the reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I, one of the Spanish Armada’s galleons, the Nuestra Senora del Rosario, was captured by Sir Francis Drake and its crew of 397 were imprisoned in the abbey barn – known ever since as the Spanish Barn.
The remains and ruins of the medieval abbey are still here to be seen, but successive owners started to change the abbey into a comfortable home, and in 1662 it fell into the hands of the Cary family.
The Cary family are one of Torquay’s most notable families with a long history and they stayed here right up until 1930 when they sold it to the Borough of Torquay for £40,000.