Let’s Move to Tavistock
Tavistock is centrally placed for Plymouth, Cornwall and West Devon, and just a stone's throw from the moors. There are plenty of benefits in living in this small but thriving market town
Gary Jungheim and his wife, Elise, first started Country Cheeses some 15 years ago from a table in the Pannier Market, selling home-made artisan cheeses mainly from the Westcountry. Five years later they moved into their shop in the town and have since expanded to own further shops in Topsham and Totnes. "Anywhere that has a good cross-section of society is a good place to be," said Gary. "There are lots of down-to-earth farming folk who appreciate food and good things. There are also a lot of artists in the area who are free-thinking. Supermarkets spend millions of pounds brainwashing people into thinking you must buy what they sell. Free-thinking people are able to think outside the box. If you've got that type of thinking going round it is infectious."
Gary strongly puts quality first in local food. "I think it is important to buy local if the product is good. It is a travesty to pin a local tag on something mediocre and expect it to sell."
Country Cheeses can be found just outside the Pannier Market, where the range includes buffalo and washed rind, and you can even order a cheesy wedding cake as a change from the fruit variety. The shop also runs an internet ordering service. www.countrycheeses.co.uk.
The three primaries in town are Tavistock Community, St Rumon's C of E and St Peter's C of E. The neighbouring villages of Gulworthy, Milton Abbot, Mary Tavy, Whitchurch and Lamerton also have their own primary schools. Tavistock Community College is the only state secondary school. Full details from www.devon.gov.uk.
Kelly College is an independent secondary school (01822 813100) and has its own prep school (01822 612919). The other prep school is Mount House (01822 612244). The Kumon Study Centre offers maths and English tuition up to 18 (01822 834024). Tavistock Community Pre-School received an outstanding Ofsted report and takes children from two to school age (01822 612335).
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Roads radiate from Tavistock in a star network. The A386 spans the western side of Dartmoor from Okehampton to Plymouth. Two roads cross the Tamar: the A390 in the south-west to Liskeard and the B3362 in the north-west to Launceston. You can easily reach Dartmoor along the B3357.
The town is tolerably well-served by buses, with regular hourly services or more down to Plymouth and less frequent trips west into Cornwall up the A386 to Okehampton and thence to Barnstaple as well as east to Princetown. Occasional services even run to some of the smaller communities, like Peter Tavy and Horndon.
The Tamar Valley railway line that runs between Plymouth and Gunnislake once continued to Tavistock as the Drake Line, and the trackbed is still there. It's the aspiration of the Tamar Valley Line to reopen the route to Tavistock, but that's something for the future.
Tavistock is very much a café society. You can pick up breakfast at The East Gate Café & Brasserie, Donella's and The New Pantry, genuine Bodmin pasties at The Original Pasty House, enjoy a Victorian high tea at The Victorian Parlour, or traditional home-cooked teas at Foulston's. Dukes Coffee House serves a mean panini and Café Liaison organises quizzes on the first Thursday of the month and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as Sunday brunch. The Bedford Hotel www.bedford-hotel.co.uk also does morning coffee and afternoon tea or you can try dinner in their award-winning Woburns Restaurant.
For a taste of France, visit Steps Restaurant, and for curry, the Ganges Restaurant and Thariks 11. The Cornish Arms & Monterey Jacks serves pub food, Mexican and a Sunday roast. Four other pubs are dotted around the town centre.
Tavistock's Pannier Market is one of the largest in Devon and is open from Tuesday to Saturday, selling antiques, crafts, home-baked cakes from the Women's Institute and organic food, with a Victorian market on the fourth Saturday in the month. The Farmers' Market in Bedford Square www.tavistockfarmersmarket.com is open on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, from 9am to 1pm.
Ellis Bakery in West Street is the only outlet serving goose rolls at the Goosey Fair, besides its home-baked bread, cakes and scones; and if you're planning a party you might like to visit Sponzi's deli in the Pannier Market for top-quality home-made Italian bites.
Kilworthy Kapers is a general health food store, The Market Garden is an independent greengrocer, and The Funky Food Deli calls itself 'a small farm shop in the town centre' and sells organic vegetables, meat and frozen organic ready meals. Carnivores can buy meat from the four butchers.
The number of independent boutiques is indicative of Tavistock's move towards niche shopping, with the focus on clothes, and there are around eight outlets for women and three for men, all selling designer labels from smart casual to dressy. Three shops sell lingerie, two sell shoes and two sell children's clothes. The ten gift and lifestyle shops and two florists more or less complete the line-up.
There are enough hairdressers to cope with the ravages of the moorland wind and rain, and a similar number of beauty salons, all adding to Tavistock's upmarket image.
Out and About
An industry in ruins
Once home to the world's largest copper, silver and lead mines, one of the few remains of the mining industry at Mary Tavy is the ruined engine house of Wheal Betsy, which was built in 1867 and restored 100 years later by the National Trust. www.nationaltrust.org The chimney slants at a precarious angle. No wonder it is called Dartmoor's own 'leaning tower'.
As the Tamar's only inland port, Morwellham Quay was perfectly placed to ship the spoils of the Dartmoor mines, and was linked by rail to Devon Great Consols, the largest copper and arsenic producer in the world in the second half of the 19th century. Morwellham is now a museum, where you can view the assay or quality-control office, the tiny miners' cottages and take a journey underground into the copper mine. www.morwellham-quay.co.uk
Lydford Gorge, owned by the National Trust, is 11/2 miles long and leads to the spectacular 90-foot high White Lady waterfall. From there you can walk along the River Lyd as it plunges into a succession of whirlpools including the famous Devil's Cauldron.
Another National Trust property, Buckland Abbey, which is near Tavistock, was the one-time home of Sir Francis Drake - and even has the original plastercast for the Tavistock statue.
Rows of stone
The Merrivale stone circle and stone rows are famous, dating back to the Bronze Age (around 2300-700 BC), Their purpose is unknown but could be religious or astrological. From Merrivale on the B3357, park at Four Winds, the second car park past The Dartmoor Inn. Follow the leat westwards until you come to the rows. Look out for the kistvaen (burial chamber) which is covered by two broken pieces of stone because a 19th-century farmer cut out the middle stone for a gatepost.
On yer bike
Tavistock lies on Sustrans' National Cycle Route 27, which stretches from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. Hire mountain bikes all year round from Tavistock Cycles in Paddons Row (01822 617630). Cycle hire is also available from April to September at Dartmoor Cycles (01822 618178).
What can I get for my money?
Redrow, Wimpey and Cavanna have been particularly active, resulting in a plentiful supply of new-build houses and, as Duncan Carse, surveyor for Ward & Chowen, says, "an abundance of flats". Current housing market conditions are paving the way for buyers to strike a deal with developers as valuers are subtracting the new-build premium and pricing these properties on a par with those a year old.
Older properties vary from traditional stone cottage to contemporary red-brick, and you can buy a one-bed flat in the town centre for under the stamp duty threshold of £125,000, a two-bed flat for £140,000 and two-bed terraced house for £155,000. The cheapest three-bed house with garage costs around £180,000, and four-beds start at £230,000, well within the 1% stamp duty range.
Arts, entertainment, sport & youth groups
The Wharf in Canal Road www.tavistockwharf.com is Tavistock's prime centre for the arts and music, offering an extensive programme of theatre, cinema, live music and exhibitions. There's also a coffee shop selling home-cooked food and a bar, and a pleasant outside terrace by the water.
The Acoustic Café hosts a charity evening of local performers in the Parish Church Centre next to the Bedford Hotel, usually on the fourth Saturday of each month (except August and December). Acts range from blues singers to classical guitarists, vocal harmony groups to singer-songwriters.
The Body Zone Fitness Studio has a full gym with free weights, cardio and resistance machines, sauna, sun showers (stand-up sun-tanning booths) and a beauty salon, and is open seven days week (01822 611013). Tavistock Football Club has a ladies' team, two under-18s, and first and second male teams (01822 614447). Tavistock Rugby Club runs four male senior teams, junior under-sevens and under-16s teams, and two girls' teams for under-15s and under-18s (contact Hon Secretary Jeff Lawson on (01822 616588, www.tavistockrugbyclub.co.uk. Tavistock Golf Club, at Whitchurch Down on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, has men's, women's and junior sections and also offers coaching (01822 612344), www.tavistockgolfclub.org.uk.
Sue Jones runs the West Devon Explorer Scouts for 14-18-year-olds (01822 859220).
Could you live here?
Deer Park Lodge in Deer Park Lane is a Victorian, Regency-style house, built in 1850 by Theophilus Jones, architect to the Duke of Bedford, the peer who rebuilt the town with some of the money he made from copper. A large family can spread itself out in the seven bedrooms, three receptions and kitchen/breakfast room. The original coach house has been converted into a double garage with storage, and the landscaped gardens offer plenty of privacy in a property so close to the town centre. The house is on the market with Ward & Chowen at £900,000, (01822 612458)