Ghosts and Ghouls visit Plymbridge

Over 200 children and parents descended on Plymbridge Woods to be scared out of their wits on our annual Halloween trail.

This year saw the trail reach new spooky heights, with the help of 10 actors from the University of Plymouth. Haunting sounds of a howling werewolf and a ghostly steam train kept people on edge as they walked the candlelit trail.

All the actors were dedicated to their task of giving the children a fright, and it was difficult to know whether Dracula, the Grim Reaper, the Witches, the Mummy, or Frankenstein were the most frightening. The Litter Ghoul warned children about the penalty of dropping litter so well that several parents felt that message had hit home.


The children were particularly terrified of the Troll, played by one of our regular volunteers, Jim Bloomfield, as he roared and refused to let people cross his bridge.

Despite the rain, everyone had an excellent time. Now all we have to do is figure out how we can make it even scarier next year!


The River Plym: Source to Saltram

Last Saturday,  Rangers  from the Plym Valley led a guided walk down the River Plym as part of the National Trust’s first ever nationwide Walking Festival which is running from the 22 – 30 October.



The Plym Valley walk covered 16 miles from its source at Plym Head all the way to Saltram House. Included along the way were stops at Cadover Bridge, Shaugh Bridge and Plym Bridge which encouraged those people looking for a shorter walk to join in.

Checkpoint at Cadover Bridge

In total, 16 people joined the event at various points with the intrepid 7 starting the walk at 8am, being rewarded with an impressive sunrise! Weather conditions for the day were excellent and ground conditions for Dartmoor in late October were surprisingly dry.

On the way to Plym Bridge


The finish at Saltram House was reached at 3 o’clock with a much welcomed tea or coffee (and biscuits!). A thoroughly enjoyable day was had by all with several also expressing an interest to do it all again next year!


Spitfire over Drogo


The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will now be a Hurricane and is currently expected at 14.25.


On Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 September Castle Drogo will be rolling back the years and recreating the atmosphere of war time Britain with our World War Two Weekend.


Whether you want to turn back the clock and see the sights and sounds of the 1940’s or have a great family day out, there will be lots to see and do as the Castle grounds will be transformed into a bustling war time camp, complete with military vehicles, re-enactors, music of the period and family activities.


As this year marks 100 years since building work on Castle Drogo started there will be a very special flypast by a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire on Saturday 24 at 1.40pm.


Children can participate in an Evacuee Trail around the Castle and grounds to take them through the Home Front experience. They will be able to find out about evacuation, the Blitz, air raid shelters, rationing, code breaking and take part in other exciting activities as they play the part of an evacuee arriving and surviving at Drogo.


To add to the atmosphere, the volunteers of the Military Vehicle Trust are    co-ordinating a display of 40 vehicles including war time ambulances, jeeps, command cars and weapons carriers, along with almost 100 associated re-enactors. There will be many varied display tents and demonstrations including the chance to try on clothing of the period.


Blitz and Peaces will be roaming the Castle and grounds performing music of the period and visitors will be invited to join in. They will also be performing a special air raid concert in the Chapel at 3pm each day.


During the war, Castle Drogo was used by the Church of England’s “Waifs and Strays Society” as a home for evacuees and orphaned children. This was ably run by a Matron in Charge and Mary Drewe, daughter of Julius Drewe, the founder of the Home and Colonial Stores for whom the castle was built. There were probably 30 to 50 children in attendance at any one time with the Dining Room being used as the children’s day room, where they took their meals and studied, and the adjoining Service Corridor where they had their afternoon naps.  The children from the Society were also allowed access to part of the Castle grounds and particularly enjoyed playing in the Bunty House, which can still be seen at the Castle.


Normal admission charges apply plus £2 per person for trail and activities. Please telephone (01647) 433306 for more details of the event.

A Saxon King’s Treasure Horde

Anglo saxon Workshop at Castle Drogo

Judith Richardson-Dawes is running a workshop at Castle Drogo near Chagford on Tuesday 11 October between 11am and 4.30pm.  The workshop is a unique chance to discover the fantastic jewellery found in the Saxon Ship Burial at Sutton Hoo.

Participants will create their own unique artwork based on Anglo Saxon treasures!   Participants will gild their work with gold!

The workshop is suitable for all abilities and costs £35.00 per person.  This does include lunch, coffees and teas.  Expert tuition and fine materials provided.  Book your place on 01647 434144.



Yes the cycling tour of Britain comes to Dartmoor this Thursday 15th September. You can make a day of it as the race passes by the door step of two properties, Castle Drogo and Parke at Bovey Tracey. Unfortunately my own sportive around Dartmoor (see previous blogs) has been cancelled.  This however gives me more time to prepare for my next challenge, The Drogo 10 (see website for details  The training starts here!

Mellow fruitfulness

Autumn is beginning to show its wares. I spotted this fine show of Fly Agaric on the side of the path to Sharpe Tor at Castle Drogo. These wonderful fungi are a real herald of autumn their bright red colour telling everybody to look out we are poisonous. Although seldom lethal they will make you very unwell. Their close relatives in the Amanita family the Death Cap and Panther Cap will be lethal however.

Eating fungi can be very rewarding and on the continent everybody does it. The problem is you do need to know what you are doing or suffer the consequences. Interestingly with some fungi two people can sit down to the same plate one can be fine the other suffer severe sickness. Some fungi can be fine unless you have alcohol with them.

We have some fugal forays in our events this Autumn its great to go out with an expert and learn about these amazing things. Did you know that the single biggest living organism is a fungus. A fungus is like an apple tree growing underground with its branches and twigs growing through the soil the ‘mushroom’ is the fruiting body like the trees apples popping out above the soil.


The parasol mushroom is an elegant beast sometimes standing over a foot above the ground it is very difficult to confuse with anything else and very good to eat.

One of my favorites is the giant puff ball it is impossible to mix up with anything else and if picked young, sliced and fried with butter and garlic is to die for. Hmm probably not the best way to say that.

We have a fungal foray at Hembury woods on the 9th of October and another on the 23rd October at Castle Drogo. See our web site for more details.

Lost in Translation

This year sees the NT host a number of cycling sportives across the country at various properties. Distances range from a few miles, to more testing 50-100 mile rides. Parke Estate at Bovey Tracey will  be this years penultimate challenge on the 2nd October.

I’ve been messing about on bikes since I was a kid and decided I was up for a challenge; that was until I had my first bonk! Yes bonking, clearly an american term spawned by those unschooled in the art of ‘carry on’ films. Bonking is what cyclists call hypoglycaemia which is the medical term for abnormally low levels of blood glucose.

Sniggering aside I would not wish it on anyone. I was out training with 10 miles to go when my body virtually shut down. I began to shake uncontrollably, sweat profusely and felt dizzy. But it was when I started having heart palpitations that I really began to worry. Easily the worst day I’ve had on a bike, ever.

It was all my own fault of course, next time I’ll follow the old mantra; eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty. Look out for my next installment on Friday.

For more details about taking part click on this link

Cornwood Show

The Plym Valley team had a great day out at the Cornwood show on Saturday.  After a damp start because of a mighty deluge of rain the sun came out and dried us all off for a warm afternoon.  The visitors to our stand enjoyed the challenge of riding the virtual bike, in fact our senior ranger Pete encouraged 80 people to try to outride each other with the fastest time posted at 1.02.  The children enjoyed making clay bugs with Jonny one of our long term volunteers and designing their own badges with ranger Beth.  Takings were good at the shop as well thanks to the enthiusiasm of Sarah the retail manager from Lydford Gorge and her volunteer Joan.  Jeff was with us too, talking to visitors about the benefits of becoming a National Trust member.  But of course the star of our stand was Bella the VW camper, everyone wanted to take her home and many had their photo taken with her.  She really is a great attraction to all ages and a colourful addition to any event.

Chagford Show

The day started wet and grey, but I always think of the old saying wet before 7 dry by 11. Luckily the tent had been put up in the dry so all looked great inside. The gardeners had done a great job setting out a colourful garden with seating. The shop was all set out with merchandise. The rangers had a range of activities set up to keep the visitors happy and the Castle had volunteers ready and waiting to answer questions about the ‘Design for Life’ project.

At first it was the stalwarts, I don’t care if its raining I am going to the show, then as the day dried and brightened it got busier and busier.

We had children making badges and fridge magnets, the pole lathe was busy all day and Steve did a great job helping kids on the shave horse make our speciality one legged stools. The big cross cut saw was popular, Tom had his geocaching introduction going. Other children were drawing on the what you saw at the show picture.

The gardeners were busy talking to people and answering their gardening questions.

All in all a very busy day where allot of people defied the weather and had great time.

Then to put the cherry on top we were awarded first prize for the best trade tent. If you look closely you can see the blue rosett hanging from the sign.

Our next outing will be to the Lustleigh show on August bank holiday Monday please come along and say hello.