Saturday, 31 May 2014

A Three Hares Pilgrimage Part I

Though I've done it already - visited all the Three Hares churches in Devon, that is.  Plus the stained glass in the Castle Inn, Lydford and the roof bosses in the chapel of Cotehele, over the border in Cornwall, and in Selby Abbey, Yorkshire.  Yup - been there, done that, written the poem.  



However, now that Dru has relocated onto NB Eve on the Kennet & Avon, space is at a premium and she's decided that some of her work must tie up its goods in a red and white spotted handkerchief and go out into the world to earn its keep.  So I offered to drop some of her beautiful Three Hares postcards into each host church in and around Dartmoor, while I was on holiday in Devon, as a free-gift-cum-advertsing-campaign rolled into one - or card-bombing, if you prefer.  



 There are 17 churches with mediaeval carved roof bosses depicting three hares running in a circle, each sharing a single ear with their neighbour so that it looks as if they have two apiece, and they are fairly widespread, from Ashreigney in the north to Paignton in the south and from Kelly in the west to Broadclyst in the east.   So visiting all of them does constitute a pilgrimage, and allowing for pub time, the most you can really expect to do in a day is half a dozen.  

Conversely, you can stop off at any you might happen to pass, and this is what I did at St Michael's, Ilsington, a minor diversion en route for the bluebells of Holwell Lawn.  

Ilsington is a lovely village on the edge of Dartmoor, but turning its gaze towards the smaller and less celebrated Haldon Moor.  It has a decent pub and the church, with its dark and mysterious interior and weathered churchyard, is typical of the area.   



Having found a suitable spot in which to deposit Dru's cards, I set about locating the three hares roof boss, remembering belatedly that the last time I'd undertaken this mission, I was younger and sharper-eyed and had four positively eagle-eyed offspring with me.  Alack, now I was reduced to squinting and craning and trying to recall whether this was one of the churches with the boss in the centre aisle or to the north or south? In the nave or the chancel?  Painted (and easy to spot) or merely carved?  


Ah, there they are!


Two days later I had the chance to cross several churches off my list in one go.  First, Widecombe's St Pancras, which must have one of the best churchyards in the country (though I suspect that the me in the parallel universe where I am living on Dartmoor and enjoying wild literary success will end up mouldering with all those Harveys in Manaton).  




The Widecombe hares are also amongst my favourites, partly because I love their naturalistic colouring, but mainly for being The First Hares Of My Childhood, when they were believed to be tinners' rabbits and their mystical significance had been mislaid.   


Also, it's next to one of three amazing Green Men. Look at this one!  He's just scored a penalty against Germany!


And in the porch, a couple of swallow nests.  


On to Tavistock, graced by the River Tavy in unwontedly sober mode.


The Church of St Eustachius - they made him up! -  with its hugger-mugger graves ... 


... and the last remaining arch of the Abbey cloister in its grounds.





More baby bunnies than hares here, I think ... 


... but a fantastic monument to Judge John Glanville, who fell from his horse and broke his neck in 1600, and his wife, Alice.  


Next, St Andrew's in South Tawton, with its lovely Church House, and just opposite the Seven Stars pub too.  



More swallows in the porch and Dru's cards looking very much at home ... 


... presided over by possibly the best carved of all the hares, with their lovely fluted ears.  


Finally to Chagford, where I had a bit of a shock because the Church of St Michael the Archangel has been improved mightily since I last ventured inside in - ooh - probably 2005, because England were playing Australia in the Ashes in one of those nail-biting games that went right to the wire. 
I know that a Church has to serve the needs of its community and be useful as well as beautiful, and that often this means making changes to the fabric of a building, but it's lost a lot of its darksome mystery.  



Plus, with the doors of the screen chained shut, presumably for reasons of security, I had to perform gymnastics to espy the hares.  (Did it in the end, though.)






So. Five down and a dozen to go, I'm going to enjoy the rest of my mission, whenever the next instalment falls. 





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