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28 October 2014

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Hatherleigh Town Crier Ros Chard
Hatherleigh Town Crier Ros Chard

Home Town - Hatherleigh

by Geoff Hodgkinson
Hatherleigh has been a thriving agricultural community for hundreds of years where the cycle of seasons plays a still-dominant role.

At the focus of the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001, the market town of Hatherleigh was hit harder than most.

Devon determination saw the town shrug off its troubles and a fresh self-confidence shines through today, with new shops, a dynamic community spirit and a lively artistic heart.

A pottery thrives in Market Street and around the town are examples of the work of local artists, notably the Rams Head sculptures in the Square commemorating those dark days of 2001.

Shepherds sculpture at the entrance to the market
Shepherds sculpture at the entrance to the market

Hatherleigh lies at the centre of Devon alongside the River Lew which feeds the mighty River Torridge.

Established over 1000 years ago, it was founded by monks and has been a thriving agricultural community for hundreds of years.

The cycle of seasons plays a still-dominant role; as the summer wanes and crops are gathered in attention turns to the Annual Carnival in November.

Tar Barrels, torches and crepe paper floats
Tar Barrels, torches and crepe paper floats

Established in 1903, Hatherleigh Carnival is unique, with its flaming Tar Barrels which start and end Carnival Day. It is also famous for its crepe paper tableaux, lovingly assembled by family groups working in secret from as early as August.

During the evening procession, 52 flaming torches accompany the floats and guisers, one for each week of the year, while a frame carrying 12 flaming torches (one for each month) leads the way. It’s a fantastic sight, not to be missed.

High on Hatherleigh Moor, where stock can still be grazed free by ‘pot-boilers’ (local houseowners), is a monument to William Morris, one of the Light Brigade heroes.

William Morris monument
William Morris monument

Over the hill is Belvedere Castle, a simple Victorian structure offering a panoramic view across the length and breadth of Devon.  Both Dartmoor and Exmoor can be seen at once, but can you see 12 church spires too?

Three Pubs, excellent shops, the pottery, the church (whose steeple fell during the big hurricane) offer plenty of opportunity to browse, buy or simply sip coffee.

On Tuesday, the Market seethes with humanity as bargains are snapped up from stall and auction. Hatherleigh lies on the Tarka Trail and is a great base for touring and there are many local walks and drives.

Geoff Hodgkinson is a journalist and publisher. He and his wife recently opened Tussie Mussie Spode in Hatherleigh. He is co-publisher of a brand new community web site for the town.

All photographs © Geoff Hodgkinson

last updated: 15/12/05
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