Boring Buckfast

The second abbey visit from my wanderings to Dartmoor. This is a complete and utter contrast to my meanderings around Buckland Abbey (you can read about that here). As I arrive can’t work out whether it sits in its own village or is part of the town of Buckfastleigh. The view as I drive in is dominated by the tower of the abbey from which, I imagine, the whole of Buckfastleigh may be seen.

As most abbeys lost their wealth and land because they were dissolved during the Reformation, it was surprising to learn that this was still an active and clearly wealthy monastery. Whereas Buckland Abbey had been sold to someone who converted it to their home, Buckfast was an active place of living and worship.

It has a long history dating back to 1018AD when there was a Benedictine abbey here. By 1150 it had become a Cistercian monastery. It remained so until the dissolution of monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign in 1539. After centuries of decay and rotting the Abbey was to be built again as some monks from France found their way to the site in 1882. The present church was consecrated in 1932 which is evident in that the church looks relatively new. Silly me, I thought I was on my way to see an 11th century building. The whole complex (living quarters for monks as well) is now part of an international organisation.

Upon inspection, the organised layout gave an aura of corporate and commercial management but that is not to say that a fee was demanded for entrance. I was immediately directed into a new looking information centre. Clearly there was some money being made somewhere and somehow. Has this got anything to do with the tonic wine that is produced here? Although I didn’t understand the need for this centre, much of the information gleaned there is quoted above. It also gave me a view of the monks who were, ostensibly, there to assist the tourist. Perhaps it is not the way I think of monasteries, but it was interesting to see two monks debating and trying to work out how to use a single mobile phone!! They were hardly millennials but were trying to embrace the technology.

Upon leaving the exhibition and getting the customary outside photos, I immediately headed into the abbey. Unlike some of the recent cathedrals and churches I have visited it had a rather dull and spartan looking interior. This is in no way meant to be offensive – it was just that it wasn’t that impressive. The only nice part of the ceiling was roped off and inaccessible. So, took a couple of shots and left without spending more than 10 minutes inside. Perhaps I discovered that not all abbeys are blessed with amazing architecture and craftsmanship as seen in many other buildings up and down the country.

So I left the abbey neither impressed nor inspired. The visit took place in October and this may explain why it has taken me so long to write this blog. It’s amazing to think how a little bit of commercialisation, professionalism and advertising can entice people to a place. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone making the effort to visit this place, but I believe on doing so you will be disappointed.

Buckfast, England, United Kingdom

Top notch Tavistock

I’m very lucky that I get to travel with my work around this wonderful county. Today was no exception as my work took me to West Devon and the town of Tavistock. Upon my arrival I was greeted by a roundabout in the centre of which was a statue. Closer inspection revealed it was of Sir Francis Drake. This name is known to many and will feature greatly in up and coming blogs. It is believed that he was born near to this town. The statue looks straight down the street that leads to this well-established town. I’m informed that it is or was a stannary town and a visit to the museum would have explained all that this, but time was at a premium!! It has something to do with tin.

A whistle-stop tour of St. Eustachius church (who was St. Eustachius?) Never heard of a church called this but it gave sight of beautiful stained glass and ancient, Tudor, tombs to Fitz and Glanville. It was evident to be a place that hosted concerts more than religious gatherings but maybe it was just that time of the year??  Exon Singers were due to perform a number of events; if I had stayed all day I would have been blessed with a rendition of Handel’s Messiah.

After leaving the church and crossing Bedford Square the town hall is encountered. Between this impressive building and the guard house sits the Pannier market, a great combination of knick knack stalls and coffee shops/eating places surrounding the market area. First thing in the morning barely a person disturbs this area, but visiting at lunchtime, this had become a hub of activity.

Tavistock town is an architectural gem; it provided a quirky shopping experience for those with me but my best time was spent at the river Tavy that flows adjacent to the town. There are a set of falls which, with a road carrying, stone, bridge behind them, are most impressive.  I perhaps could have sat there all day but being so close to Dartmoor National Park its seemed silly not to tie in a visit here as well.