National Geographic : 1963 Aug
Like a lonely gull, a sloop skims waters once white with the sails of ketches, brigan tines, and schooners built in Appledore yards. The village on the Taw and Torridge estuary now flourishes as a yachting center. Low tide leaves boats high and dry. opened on Lundy Island (which also is part of Devon) contained the skeleton of a man more than eight feet tall. Men have been living in Dartmoor a long, long time. In such a wild and remote retreat, enemies stood little chance against those with local knowledge. Ancient Celts built hill forts around its fringes. Tin was once worked on Dartmoor, but none is panned from streams or mined today. Now the waterways are a paradise for fisher men. I saw scarcely a brook without anglers hopefully casting flies for salmon and trout. In rain or gray mist or colorful sunshine, they are lost in their thoughts, oblivious to ghosts of Bronze Age men or tough tin miners. Beyond the moor, quickly the villages appeared again, and the pretty homes with gardens so full of flowers that one wondered how so many glorious blooms could flourish in so small a space. We stopped at an old thatched inn, the George at Hatherleigh. The house is believed to have originated in the 10th century as a humble dwelling of monks; later it became a chapel. 228 In a dining room beamed with oak black ened by centuries of smoke from enormous open fireplaces, we regaled ourselves with roast beef and beer sauce. Broken Kingpin Proves Profitable The talk turned to the old days of travel by stagecoach; a villager had some stories to contribute. "Those old coachmen were colorful char acters," he observed. One driver, he said, pretended to find a broken kingpin underneath his coach every time he had a load of strangers. A defective kingpin could wreck the coach, and they all knew it. So the passengers would have a whip-around of half crowns for the coach man. His kingpin was perfectly all right, of course. He kept a bad one in his big coat pocket for use on appropriate occasions. "The same old rascal used a ruse to lighten his coach before going up steep hills. He'd just say loudly what a wonderful thing it would be if all the young women would get down and walk, to help the poor 'osses. Every woman aboard unfailingly got off."