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The Fragments of Devon collection of paintings and drawings is split over 3 pages on this website simply for ease of viewing because of the numbers involved. There are 24 pieces in total. Please also see the Introduction and Artist’s Statement relating to this work.
Tug and Dartmouth Castle
Throughout the day in Dartmouth ferries are crossing the river to the Kingsweir side, an assortment of foot and car ferries. This one, the smaller of the car ferries, is merely a pontoon for maybe 12 cars, driven by a tug boat. It crosses the river in a few minutes with the tug at a queer straddle beside the pontoon, leaving the two ends free.
This important connection taking traffic West to East links Dartmouth and surrounding district with the main town along the coast to the East; Paignton, Brixham, Torquay, Dawlish and so on.
Looking south from the ferry, in the middle of the river, you can see this view of Dartmouth Castle. This medieval fortress stands guard at the mouth of the river opposite a tower on the eastern bank. There was a chain that could be pulled up to stop shipping in dangerous times gone by.
Dartmouth Castle from the Church
The castle looks little more than a lookout here, but in truth this is merely a tower of the castle with tuck shop to the right excluded. I like this extended composition with the slanting tomb stones lying at almost right angle to the slope in some cases, like the tree.
You can just see the tower on the other side of the river.
I like the slice that passes through the picture, giving a slight optical illusion of being folded. It is like a distortion of space, refraction of light caused by a change of density, or some other cause.
ROXs 12b Above Dartmouth Castle
This is a view of Dartmouth Castle at night from 144 slightly different angles.
The grid, imposed over the image, simplifies it, and orders a thoroughly disorderly subject. It is tamed by this structure as well as being supported by it. It turns the real world out there into a model of the real, inside here, our heads. Thus it is.
Also it reminds me of the multiple lenses of the insect eye.
The image itself, above the castle, is borrowed from a photograph taken in 2006 of exoplanet ROXs 12b. I made a painted copy of an extraordinary photograph taken by a powerful telescope.
7 miles up river from Dartmouth lies this attractive old walled town. This classical Norman Mott and Bailey, now with a medieval stone shell keep on the top, was built to intimidate the Saxon town of Totnes. It is now hemmed in with housing and in the quiet backstreets of town, so only parts of it can be glimpsed. Its existence testifies to the important position of Totnes, built on a commanding hill, in a region of agricultural fecundity, navigable by boat from the sea. When the Normans arrived it was already a thriving trading centre. It is still a busy town.
Totnes Clock Tower
In the modern centre of Totnes, this clock tower is one of the distinctive features. Here we look down Eastgate Street towards the river. There is a legend that Brutus landed at the bottom of the hill and said, “Here I stand and here I rest. And this town shall be called Totnes.” However, as this was reported by Geoffrey of Monmouth, it is likely to be a pack of lies, like most of his History. There are many similar legends connected to this town, it has great antiquity. Before the Normans there was a Saxon town here, and no doubt a Celtic one before that.
The Eastgate, here adorned by a clock tower, stands on the old wall, protecting the town from the river. You can see down the hill to the ford, now a fine 4 arched bridge, that connects the river with one of the main trunk routes into Cornwall.
Staverton Mill Canoeing
There is a fine bridge here in Staverton, a small village with a single pub and an exceptionally large Gothic church. Unfortunately it was difficult to find a good viewing place for the 5 arch bridge. From this view it is possible to see the triangular passing places built onto the head of each of the massive piers.
In 1413, the Church decided to finance the rebuilding of the bridge by issuing Indulgences, an apparently common means of raising finance for such projects in medieval times. Indulgences were sold to people so that they could spend less time in Purgatory, the equivalent of paying a fine instead of going to prison. The morality of this method might be suspect, but at least we now benefit from the superstition of those who had done some wrong and were paying their way out.
A priest knifed a man to death on this bridge, but was deemed innocent, and (on another occasion) John Murry, the Bailiff of Haytor Hundred, in his second job as highwayman, relieved travellers of their possessions on the bridge.
Now it is convenient place for canoeing clubs to meet and access the Dart at a beautiful spot. The ‘wild swimmers’ also come here for the same reason and so too do the artists.
Bridge at Old Mill Creek
Just up the river from Dartmouth, in a creek around the corner from the Royal Navy College, there is a lime kiln beside the bridge, and the old mill, now converted into flats.
This is the tidal limit where small trading vessels would bring lime for the local fields. It is also the site, invisible in the painting, of 2 boatyards one of which still builds wooden boats. It is here where we met a local who helped restore a sailing trawler, one of the splendid vessels we saw moored in Bridgeport earlier in the day.
This creek is typical of many similar spots on the Dart, where the complex agricultural hinterland is served by the wider world.
Little Redlap Wild Flower Garden in Autumn
There is rich soil hereabouts, on the cliffs overlooking the sea to the west of Dartmouth.
This is all part of the Jurassic Coast, although that name is misleading as it refers only to the geology of part of its length. The cliffs that are exposed along the 185 miles of Dorset and East Devon display a fossil record that spans 185 million years.
This part of the coast was laid down in the Lower Devonian Slates and Sandstone, attesting to the time, 410 million years ago, when the area was covered in water. This rocky base is covered with freely draining slightly acid loamy soils that are slightly acidic.
The rich plant life that flourishes on these cliffs is evident in this lovely wild garden. It is rich in colour throughout the year, changing with the seasons. It is preserved, in this ample garden laid out like a group of rooms, as a space full of wild surprises.