The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Walking on the Moor – Dartmoor National Park

One personal goal of this trip was to walk among pre-historic stone remains.  Dartmoor National Park contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom in it’s 368 square mile area and is home to 15 stone circles.

Reflecting, at the time, I had scant knowledge of what I was walking amongst.

Once home,  I fell down the rabbit hole we call the internet and learned a lot.

We found one – and a stone row, and a standing stone (menhir).


The first village in the park we passed was Merrivale. Just a wee handful of buildings, it once served an old granite quarry that closed in 1997. You can see the quarry in the right of the photo below.


My Lonely Planet book noted a pullout just past Merrivale and vaguely described a walk to a stone circle. We stopped.

Striding across the soggy ground, cloaked in drizzle and rain,  the wind buffeted us.

The vista was stunning!


Merrivale in the distance:


We crossed a stone-lined Leat,  an artificial watercourse (they often led to mills) with a hefty clapper bridge or stone bridge.


Two stone rows parallel to each other run on either side of the Leat.

Fortunately, the Leat’s been repaired and doesn’t leak much.  I read that some have mucked up and destroyed ruins this way.  Had I walked up the leat,  I’d have seen remnants of these other rows. Not knowing the extent of this site, we did not search out the kistvaen (or burial chamber), a more modern, abandoned mill grinding stone, many cairns or the crossing point of a section of the Great Western Reave, a Bronze Age stone wall that stretched 6+ miles  running roughly NW-SE.   This Website provides many photos of each notable remain in this area, a map and much background info, too much for me to relay so if your interested, I encourage you to click the links and join me in that vast rabbit hole of information.

The first stones I noted were a sort of gate with a line of stones stretching away from them. The are directly in the middle of the picture. I believe this is the southern end of an avenue and a cairn may have been housed here. Note the reading told me these parallel rows were not more than 1 degree off from perfectly parallel.


And here’s a tid bit of trivia, the Merrivale stone rows were once known as the Potato Market or Plague Market. Provisions for a town were left here during an outbreak of plague or so they say.

Anything you could possibly wish to know about this place you can find at the Guide to Dartmoor Stone Circles and the Legendary Dartmoor/Merrivale Complex sites.

Stone walls delineate pasture. The heavy, grey clouds softened the lines.


I wonder if the foundations of some of these walls/parts of them are pre-historic as well?

See that rocky knob at the top in the photo below?

It’s called a tor.

A tor is a hill topped by bedrock. Dartmoor has the largest concentration of granite in England. Most is exposed, some is buried under peat. Coming from a land made of mostly sedimentary and volcanic rock it was a treat to see so much weathered, old granite. The highest tor in Dartmoor is called High Willhays at 2,037 ft above sea level.


A little further on past the Leat the circle appears. I was dumbstruck.


This one is notably unusual for the uneven placement of the 11 stones, some up to a meter off from true to the circle.


The true purpose for these circles is unknown. This location had evidence of fires. It’s speculated some circles,  including the Merrivale circle may have been used for cremations, feasts, or celebrations. I read it’s thought the British Isle’s circles are from 2500-1300 BCE corresponding to the rise of farming and the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age.  The kistvaen (or burial chamber), has been looted of its contents as have the cairns. I saw mention of flint shards.

Farmers and road builders have taken stones over the years. Imagine the temptation of pre-shaped granite stones to them? The roof of the kistvaen’s been broken in half, reputedly a part of a gate post somewhere. Fortunately, grazing animals and not wide-scale farming is the norm here which undoubtedly’s helped these sights stay as intact as they are.

Just past these stones a little gully passes by and a farm sits in the distance.

Swaths of fall colors paint the landscape.  It was gloriously beautiful!



Though a temperate area, Dartmoor’s weather varies greatly depending on altitude. Some of the higher places get 79+” of precipitation per year (leaving bogs that rarely dry out). Cold, snow and wind make some parts quite harsh.

There are sheep everywhere much to my amusement. I could not find local wool yarn anywhere until I got to York, and then just a tiny bit.  Wild ponies roam as well but I do not remember seeing any.


The village of Postbridge is home to a medieval (thirteenth century) clapper bridge. Four, ten foot long slabs sit propped on stacked stone columns over the Dart River.



Oak trees, which make me weak in the knees, abound in England. This one was a fine specimen and marked a trail that begs for a stroll.


Public walkways abound in England and here in Dartmoor we saw many signs to mark them though I hear map and compass skills are needed.   This is a wonderful concept! Walkers have a right of way through farms as long as you respect the critters, close gates and keep to the paths. We’d love to return and hunker down here and walk and walk and walk.


I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty here over and over. And I can’t wait to return. I’d gladly hunker down here for weeks.





Coming Home

From my first sight of the far, northern latitudes ever:


To the wash of comfort and familiarity of home. Fall is here and the crabapple in the front yard surprised me with brilliant, orange and yellow leaves.


Normally I wouldn’t be blogging this early in the AM.  Jet lag. Humph! Yesterday I was awake at 0200 but managed to fall back asleep. Today, 0500 and awake since.  Back to work I go today. I hope I make it through a day of visiting patients without needing to curl up on their couches for a nap. What a thought!

It’s so good to be home!  A grand trip to England Pete and I had.  I just finished transferring photos off my phone to my laptop this AM.  There is so much to share with you all.  I’ll be off tomorrow. A storm of epic proportions is due to arrive today. Just what I need to hunker down, blog, drink coffee and watch the Outlander series my sis Ali insisted I see to add more fuel to the tinder lit inside me for moors and emerald green English countryside.


Until later-and thanks for stopping by my blog.

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Polperro – A Picturesque Fishing Village

Paul and Judith kindly took Peter and I to many sights in the Cornwall, England area they live in.  One beautiful day we visited Polperro, a quaint and picturesque hamlet, established as early as the 13th century as a fishing village.


The river Pol runs through the town. Peoples’ gardens grow over the watercourse.  Under the car park a half mile above the harbor sits a huge storm surge catch to help prevent flooding.  I so admired the gardens and greenery on the walk down as well as the preserved old homes.


Narrow streets and walkways now prevent vehicles from driving through. A public tram and horse and cart help those up and down.

Exploring narrow walkways, in England, was a theme for me. This provided endless ‘ah ha!’ moments of delight in discoveries.



Rock walls abound and wee gardens seem to take over.



Fuchsia, a new found love of mine, grows in huge masses here. I’m not kidding!  I saw an entire HEDGE of some at one point.


Rock landscaping and walls (and fencing!) are very common in England. Many photos of such will go in our gardening idea folder.


The famed Shell House, all manners of shells were applied to the home’s surface.


More rockery – this time a wall high above the Net Loft which I’ll show you in a bit.


This cat knew the pleasures of a warm, slate roof as well as a tourists attention.



They got an “A” for effort.


The walk down gets one to the harbor.  Very old fisherman’s’ cottages line the water.  Here, you see a higher tide.  I’ll show you a pic of low tide in another post.  The South West Coast Path, the 630-mile long walk from Dorset to Somerset can be caught on either side of the mouth of the harbor.


L-R: Peter’s dad Paul, his wife Judith and Peter. Max, the furry guy in the front did not want to look at me.


The mouth of the harbor welcomes a few fishing boats, much less than of past.  At one time, a huge volume of fish called pilchards (in the herring family) were processed here, salted and cured and packed into barrels.  The oil was used for lamps.


Piles of nets, pots and lines add splatters of color.


Smuggling of alcohol, tobacco and other goods was commonplace here until the late 18th century as imported goods were highly taxed.

I see these hand-carved out steps in a rock slope to the water’s edge and imagine people shouldering goods, in the dark of night, at the risk of being caught.


Looking back up to the village from the harbor you realize how vulnerable it is to storms. According to Wikipedia, “November 1824 the worst ever storm occurred: three houses were destroyed, the whole of one pier and half the other were swept away and nearly 50 boats in the harbour were dashed to pieces. Of the six boats that survived, only one of which was a Gaffer.”


A quick walk we took up to the Coastal Path to look down upon the mouth of the harbor and a historic structure called the Net loft.  The coast is wild and wind-beaten in these parts. It reminds me a lot of the Marin and Sonoma Coast, places I miss dearly.


We had a lovely visit.  Many thanks to Paul and Judith for showing us this treasure.

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The Church of St. Michael-Landrake

Paul and Judith live in Landrake which is about 10 miles from Plymouth and in Cornwall-close to the very southwest point of England  It’s a small village of about 1,000 people.  Last night Pete and I took a stroll before supper.

Turning a corner the church of St. Michaels pops into view.  As early as 1086 a ‘wood and wattle’ (Per the Domesday book) structure of Saxon origin stood in this village. Landrake was an important spot, being at the south-east border of what is now Cornwall. It was close to the border delineating Saxon and Celt lands. Sandwiched between two rivers it allowed for the movement of goods.

Churches were places of refuge and safety and placed high on hills to meet these needs. They were also seen as status symbols, the hills showcasing tower heights.   It’s no coincidence towers grew and grew in height.


A peek at the headstones revealed sad and dramatic tales. Dates ranged from the 1700’s to modern times at the northern side of the church.  One I read told of a man falling off his horse, dying young and widowing a wife and 7 children. It then continued to pity her to have to feed those children.

This one, less dramatic, is dated 1759.  Many were unreadable, wee remains of slate tablets, sanded smooth by years of weather. Somewhere in here is a headstone dedicated to a man who was lost to the Titanic’s sinking.







The first stone church was probably rectangular with pillars at the sides. It’s been expensively added on to and refurbished (mostly in the 15th century) and unrecognizable like most churches built at that time.   Inside, the granite font is likely the oldest part of the present day church, dated to about 1100. Unfortunately, lacking a vicar, the church rarely opens.  The side facing us in the photo above may be  one of the older sections.

The faces in the stone intrigued me.  I noted most were on the north side.



A 100ft Tower, built in three stages, began in the late 14th century and took  nearly fifty years to complete. One document I read suggested the  Black Death hit the village around that time and delayed its completion. Sixty eight people from the village succumbed at that time and every family lost at least two members to the Black Death.The Plague hit again in 1593.  59 more people were buried at Landrake, all but 8 being buried in the month of August per the writings I perused.  Approximately half the Cornwall peoples died during the plague.

The stone used to build this church came from nearby Tartan Down Quarry at Landrake.


The photo below turned out horrible. But I’m leaving it in as it is the only pic of the entire front I have.


Today, one bell is all that remains as two of the three original were sold to raise funds to replace the internal woodwork of the tower in 1904.

There has been a Clock in the Tower since 1671. I presumed it was more new.



Stain glass windows were not added until the late 19th century and the south side originally had small, slit-like windows for protection.

Look at how the stones’ edges are gently wearing smooth along the glass.


After soaking that in we walked to the end of the street and drank in this view.  It was getting dark.


Flowers look much brighter against old stone walls. These rose hips were the size of ping-pong balls and the flower so beautifully scented. I noted these next to another impossibly old home steeped in history.

Fuchsia, one of my new-found favorite garden plants, thrive here. You’ll see more pics of them later.

Today we really went into the moors to explore.  Tomorrow, a walk along the coast.  What a trip! So much history. Such a reminder of the gaps in my knowledge. I’m enticed to re-learn.



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Plymouth: The steps that led the Pilgrims to the Mayflower in 1620.

Peter and I left London drizzle and rain Wed. AM. I took my first long-ish train ride (aside from one Amtrack run form Sacramento, CA to Santa Clara, CA) through beautiful, bucolic countryside to Plymouth.  His dad Paul and wife Judith kindly picked us up at the Plymouth train station. Down to the waterfront we went to explore.


From this spot, in 1620, 102 passengers and a crew estimated to have been about 30 left for the Americas. Wikipedia tells me the ship was a simple trading ship on her last legs, so to speak.

A plaque reminds us these are the steps that carried the English Separatists to the ship.

Exposure to history, in physical form, on this trip is something I’ll go on and on about in the posts to come.  I’ve never left the U.S.  Historical relics there are young unlike here in England and I am buzzing from it.


A pretty harbor shelters sailing and working boats.


Some are particularly crusty – which interests me.


We threaded around narrow streets and I gawked up at old buildings.  I read up a bit on Wikipedia, that source for instant summarized information. The oldest surviving house still standing in Plymouth is dated 1498. However, artifacts from the Bronze age have been found here.


After a bit we headed up to the Hoh, a public park on the cliffs above the town.  Here we stretched our legs, let the dog run free and admired the panoramic views over the Plymouth Sound harbor and along the coast. My panorama pics did not make it but you get a peep of the view past a lighthouse from the 1800’s which used to lie off the coast and was moved to this position piece by piece.

There’s an apocryphal story that Sir Francis Drake played his famous game of bowls here in 1588 while waiting for the tide to change before sailing out with the English fleet to engage with the Spanish Armada.

A star shaped stone fortress sits up here. It’s called the Royal Citadel. It’s narrow slits of windows actually face into town, not the sea, pointing to the need  to intimidate the townsfolk who had leaned towards Parliament during the Civil War.  It is occupied by the military today. We watched a royal ship maneuvering into port.

Here’s a new concept to me. This is a Lido, a stone pool constructed in the 1930’s as a way to employ folks during the depression.  It is unheated and open through September. The Cornish Coast stretches from the left of this pic.

Another novelty I just have to share, SIGNS-wonderful notice signs-polite signs-I’ve seen several marked Polite Notice.  They don’t make signs like this in America.

Next up…quaint and picturesque seaside towns. Hold onto your socks. They may be blown off by the charm.

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Farm Tour day one

It’s farm tour weekend here in Jefferson County, WA.  Sat., day one, was rainy and cool. We visited a couple places within stone’s throw of home.

Wilderbee Farm is a lovely little place that grows and sells lavender, blueberries, u-cut flowers, and pumpkins for the fall and is now building a building for making and selling mead.  They have many hives on the property as well as hens and sheep.  Their gift shop is a great stop for lavender-infused products and wood-craft gifts. Check out their website for sun infused photos.

These are a rare breed of sheep called British Soay. They originated in an archipelago of islands in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. This remote place protected their genetics.  It’s thought they are relatives of man’s first domesticated sheep.  They are sturdy, hardy, agile and great mothers. Interestingly, they molt in the spring and their fleece is hand plucked, not shorn. They also lack a flocking instinct and will scatter if herding dogs attempt their duties.

Rams and Ewes have horns.



We noted an extra squawky hen carrying on.  One of the owners declared her a Bantam and suggested we avoid them if considering backyard hens.  He instead recommended Buff Orpington as they are docile and very quiet.

Chicks might be on the agenda in this household this spring…heads up!


The setting is lovely!


Do  stop in if you are in the area.


Next stop was Rosebud Ranch, literally through the woods from home.  The raise Alpacas.

Tucked into the trees is a pretty little farm. I can’t find a dedicated website but you can reach the owner via this information.


Here you see a few alpacas being guarded by their lone Llama second from the right. She is a diligent supervisor and protects the flock from intruders.



Alpacas are adorable, fuzzy things that make very warm fiber.



An exhibitor spun in a tent of her wares.  On site they had woven blankets and rugs, yarn  and a blacksmith with beautiful items for sale. Having a huge trip coming up, I refrained from spending.

Tomorrow we’ll visit our favorite farmers market vendors, Max and Chris from Onatrue Farm here in town.

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A fall walk – Anderson Lake State Park

Fall arrived and I am a happy girl. My favorite season, hands down,  our maritime climate allows a lingering fall.

In search of fall color I walked at a local state park, Anderson Lake, one I frequent.  It’s quiet. It’s rare to see anyone else while there. Sometimes I really need that.

The autumnal light’s hanging low theses days, casting a calm glow.



It’s a beautiful time of year.


Setting out after 5, I was conscientious of the fading light.  I approached the upper loop I usually favor for its huge maples.  No light filtered through the trees up there, it was d-a-r-k.  I closed my loop on the trail that encompasses the lake for it’s exposure to the sun.

I rather like examining the banks of the lake. Low-hanging trees and water plants provide habitat for many critters. Usually there are herons to watch. I saw none today.  I also looked for the parasitic  ground cones and Indian Pipe plants but cool nights must have sent them back into the ground from which they came.


Fall color can be spotted in the profusion of rosehips.

Like rubies they glow.


Big Leaf Maples are just starting to brown at the edges. Some of the smaller saplings are more decisive in their change to yellow.

The intersection of the Quimper and Cascade Trail marks some of my favorite specimens.  I stand and gawk upwards each time I pass.

With minimal light at this hour, you see just black tracings. Peek at this post for more revealing photos.

Such grand, primeval-looking trees.



The Indian Plum shrubs sport a peppering of yellow leaves.

The Memorial Trail has tunnels of them that glow. Note that due to the waning light I couldn’t capture the true haze of gold I saw.


As more fall gold appears I’ll do my best to share.