Widecombe History Group Minutes October 2002

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A Meeting of The Widecombe and District Local History Group was held at The Church House, Widecombe on Wednesday 2nd October 2002 at 7.30 p.m.

Click here for the talk on Dartmoor Wildlife

Mrs Margaret Steemson was in the chair and 45 people attended including some visitors to the district, some new members, and Mr Roger Hoskings from the South Hams who was to give the meeting a most enjoyable wildlife film show about Dartmoor. Roger was deputising for our advertised speaker, Mr Geoffrey Weymouth, who unfortunately was unwell. The Chairman agreed to send a get well card to Geoffrey on behalf of the meeting.


Sylvia Needham, John Kimber, Rodney & Wendy Cruze, Jenny Pascoe, Mary Pascoe, David West, Ken & Andrew & Sue Hamlyn and Kate Strasdin.

The Chairman began the meeting by thanking Peter Hirst for standing in for her at the last meeting. She also thanked the group for her get well card.


Church Dropcloth Dimensions. It is 14feet long and about 7 inches in diameter. The process of getting a wrapping for it can now begin.

Family History Co-ordinator :-

Secretary will attempt to get a name of a volunteer for this post by the next meeting. Freda Wilkinson offered to help with research and explained that all her notes would then need copying for e-mail transmission.



E/1 - Enquiry for information on The River Lemon. Replied suggesting a read of the book by Judy Chard - "Along the Lemon".

E/2 - Enquiry about Kitty Jay - Jay’s Grave. Replied suggesting Lois Deacon’s novel "An Angel from your Door". This novel is based on the story. There are plenty of references to the story in several different Dartmoor books.

E/3 - Enquiry from New Zealand regarding the Widecombe Fair print by T Richards 1916. Replied that Whiteway’s Cider of Whimple did use it as an advertising poster by changing the word on the signpost of the centre picture from Mugford to Whimple and adding in about 1 inch red letters Whiteway Cider along the bottom of the picture.


E/9 - (October E/5) Further to information August E/9, recorded in September minutes, concerning the Frenchs’ of Rowbrook in the 1800’s. A reply has been received from James Hylton Tuckett of New Zealand offering thanks for information sent to him and the gift of a copy of his genealogical study of the French family from Rowbrook. Secretary has written to say the group would appreciate this. He mentions the following local family names that link with his manuscript.

Daw, Hamlyn, Irish, Langdon, Norrish, Smerdon, Stancombe, Tremain, Tuckett and White. His study concentrates on the 19th century.

Tower Lead. We are still looking for the best way of utilising this. The two pieces rescued with local names, Horton and Palmer (see September Minutes), have been given to the families concerned and they have sent donations totalling £30 to the secretary who has passed the money on to The Widecombe Church Tower Funds. The Rector has promised to write thanking them for their generosity.

Outings. Ann Claxton hopes to be able to report on this at the November meeting.

Tea Rota. Thanks to all those that make the tea and coffee for the interval at our meetings.

November Betty and Ruby

December Bring and Share Party Night**

** Please bring in addition to some food and drink, something of interest to show the group from your personal archives.

A folder of our trip to Shilstone Rocks Pony Stud is being prepared by Aileen and Peter Carrett for our records.


A letter received from Francis G. Hamlyn of Kingsteignton, requesting details of any Hamlyn connections to the parish with particular reference to the Church Bells. One of the bells has an inscription regarding Hamlyn on it. (see minutes of June 2000). Also see article by Chris Mayhead and Anthony Beard on "The Cathedral of the Moor and The Bells", in ‘Dartmoor - The Country Magazine Issue 9 Summer 2000’. He requests information and a picture of the bells. Roger Claxton will try to obtain a picture and we will inform him that the data base of parish names etc will not be completed for a while.

Important point of interest:- Two new bells are to be added to the peal at Widecombe Church, hopefully before Christmas 2002.

One donated by John and Mary Mousley will be inscribed : - "John and Mary Mousley of Norleigh - Ruby Wedding 2002".

One donated by the Pascoe Family will be inscribed :- "In memory of Ern Pascoe & brothers, Bellringers. By the Pascoe family".

Mrs Knapman has offered to get a copy made of the Hilda Mann photograph at Chittleford for the present owners. (see September minutes).

Frank Hext is to give the group details of his family connections to other local family names, to date he has not heard from Julie Higgins.

The Working Grist Mill. The secretary has found details of a Working Grist Mill at Otterton where guided walks and talks are provided. Visitors can see the corn being ground and then processed and the flour used to produce bread. Contact 01395 568521. The details have been passed on to Mary Pascoe who is hoping to arrange a school visit. Mr Bert Powlesland of Bovey Tracey has a vintage crusher/grinder that he takes to Vintage Rallies, which he would be prepared to show the children or anyone. Contact 01626 833731.

The speaker for the next meeting on Wednesday 6th November is John Weir of The Dartmoor National Park, and the title is Dartmoor Artists and Writers.

Peter Hirst will be leading a walk around Peek Hill, Leather Tor and Burrator Reservoir on Sunday 6th October at 12 noon., bring a picnic. The walk is arranged for Sunday this time to attempt to find out which is the preferred day of the week for such walks.

Ann Claxton produced copies of the 2003 programme of events, talks and guided walks. All meetings will continue to be held on the first Wednesday of each month except for January 2003 when it will be the second Wednesday, the 8th January 2003, thus avoiding New Years Day. More details of starting points and times will follow. Mr L. Seward of Bullaton Farm, Bovey Tracey has agreed for the group to have a guided walk around his farm in April 2003.

Roger reminded the meeting that the Annual Contribution is now due to our website. It was agreed that secretary should write to other organisations that use and benefit from the site to ask if they can contribute to the charges.

An invitation was received from Princetown Local History Group to join them on a guided walk at Old Walls Hydro Electric Scheme. PLEASE NOTE a change of date. It will now be held on Saturday 9th November at 2.00 p.m.

Peter & Dylis Harvey were congratulated on their Golden Wedding this month.

Teignbridge Voluntary Services wish all people in the community to be aware that there are many organisations in the community available to help and advise all ages on welfare, health, security and other problems, just contact Teignbridge Council Offices and they will point you in the right direction to get this assistance and guidance. Advice on grant application and much more is only a telephone call away.


Richard Wells has agreed to be our librarian and he will be responsible for the Group’s collection of books, pamphlets, folders, write-ups etc. that we are now accumulating. Please borrow and return any of these items through Richard, he will then be able to ‘keep track’ of where these are and with whom, so enable anyone who wishes to read them, a chance to browse through them and keep the collection constantly circulating. They will all be inscribed with our LOGO!

Chairman thanked Roger Hoskings for most interesting and enjoyable film show

The meeting closed at 9.55 p.m.

Wildlife on Dartmoor by Roger Hoskings.

The talk scheduled for October was to be a slide show by Geoffrey Weymouth, on the Wildlife of Dartmoor. However Geoffrey had been taken ill and so a great friend of his, Roger Hosking of The South Hams stepped in to fill the ‘gap’!

Roger gave the meeting a film show of Dartmoor Wildlife which he had taken back in 1972-73.

The first point that Roger made was that the numbers of some of the birds featured in his film have declined substantially during the intervening thirty years. There is no one reason for this, but the increased use of Dartmoor for recreation of all kinds does seem to be having an effect particularly amongst the ground nesting birds like Skylark, Plover, Ringed Ouzel and the like.

He told the meeting how he had met Geoffrey in 1984 when Geoffrey was getting involved very much with bird photography. Hides are an invaluable asset when photographing birds. They help one to get nearer to them than would otherwise be possible, and Geoffrey is a perfectionist. He likes to make his hides to look as natural an object as possible. When using them people have been known to walk past a ‘rock’ or ‘boulder’ without even a second glance, without a word of comment! A wire netting frame covered with papier-mache, a little sand sprinkled on to some paste and possibly a little paint and you’ve got your make-believe rock. This can be positioned and then gradually moved near the unsuspecting subject.

The film showed the Dartmoor Pony, one mare with twins, a rare sight. Birds from Wheatears to Ringed Ouzels, Wagtails to Winchats. Flowers from orchids to bog weed and sundew to cotton grass, plants of many species both from dry areas and bogs. The Lapwing numbers are down to about thirty percent now, from what were on the moors in the 70’s. The reduction of Meadow Pipits due to a shortage of its natural food could be the reason for less Cuckoos as the Pipit is the most popular ‘host’ for the cuckoo to lay it’s eggs! While discussing plants there does seem to be more thorn bushes, could this be due to less ponies? The pony is so well adapted to keeping the vegetation under control, they are happy to eat gorse particularly during a hard winter. Wistman’s Wood with its age old gnarled trees covered in lichen and moss, the beautiful Dartmoor streams also featured well in the films. The birds that nest close by these streams, Dippers, Wagtails, their nests cleverly hidden from view, but in the films we could see the parents disappear amongst some stones with mouths full of food for their young, well protected from harm. The Dipper walks along the beds of these streams, completely submerged, collecting Caddis-fly larvae for food, these little grubs camouflaged with grains of sand, the Water-skaters to feed the Wagtails, the food chain is a remarkable study. The use of strong chemicals for worming livestock came in for some criticism as the residue in the ‘dung’ has the added problem of killing off the Dung Beetles and their larvae so reducing one good source of bird food! The importance of the food chain can also be seen in the insect life and the flowers. The heather giving nectar to them and the butterflies which too can be food for the hungry chick. Dragonflies, the heather too amongst other plants giving the bees their ‘raw material’ for honey.

The films also showed how the physical remains of man over the centuries has also provided ideal nesting sites. The walls, the hut circles, the ruins of places like Powdermills, rock faces and tors and of course the trees and bushes. An Heronry high in one of Dartmoor’s Forestry Plantations bringing food to two chicks, filmed from a thirty-five foot high tower topped with a hide made interesting viewing. Returning every three or four hours with a crop full of fish or frogs and the young encouraging the parent to regurgitate the food for them, quite fascinating. The fact that in the 1970’s thousands if not millions of starlings used these plantations for roosting sites, now the starling is on one of the endangered species lists.

The film ended with an example of one of those delightful sun sets that can be appreciated in the western sky of Dartmoor. So ended an interesting and enjoyable look at Dartmoor through the eye of the camera controlled by a real enthusiastic naturalist.

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