Nestled on to the edge of Dartmoor are a host of pretty and welcoming villages to tempt you into rural living, some are steeped in history, whilst others are home to some excellent food producers as well as fabulous places to eat, right on your doorstep.
Above the Skaigh Valley, nestled 1,000 feet up on the northern tip of Dartmoor, where the river Taw tumbles over the rocks, lies the little village of Belstone. The village boasts only 250 inhabitants, but with this small population comes a friendly and close-knit community ranging from newborns to those in their nineties.
This charming village is part of the National Park, and the cattle grids around the village allow the sheep, cattle and ponies to roam safely within the village.
All year round the village attracts locals and tourists to their seasonal celebrations. In the summer months, the annual Village Fair attracts large crowds to the food stools, sideshows, Maypole and Morris Dancing as well as to the quirky competitions such as dog racing and egg throwing. Autumn brings the tranquil peace of greens turning slowly to browns and golds, the perfect time of ear to attend the local Craft Fair, featuring handmade goods from Devon’s craftspeople and all-day gourmet food and drinks.
The Tors Inn located at the heart of the village boats a strong menu of the wonderful food and drink the region has to offer. Their beer, ale and cider are all made in Devon by micro-breweries, and they sell locally produced gin, vodka, rum and wine. Even their coffee is roasted in Dartmoor! You can’t go wrong with fresh locally sourced meat, and all of their produce is free range locally bought, including the cheese, bread, veg and eggs to name a few.
Belstone Tor overlooks Belstone village from its peak at the edge of the moor. It’s the highest point in a chain of tors which leads you throughout the stunning views of the Dartmoor highlands. The view from here gives you a full panoramic vision of every direction, with the tiny village of Belstone laying at the base of the hill and the stunning north Devon coast being visible on clear days.
If you take the winding path from Belstone village up the steep ascent to the Tor you will pass the Nine Maiden Stone Circle, a Bronze Age stone circle that acted as a burial chamber. Although today the chamber lies pillaged and the cist destroyed, it still stands as a fascinating monument to the past, allowing you just a small glimpse of what life used to be like on the misty Dartmoor hills. The area is steeped in folklore; the stone circle is said to have originally been nine maidens who were cast into stone and damned to dancing every noon for eternity as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath. Not only is this stone circle an intriguing local legend, but it has inspired numerous poems and stories over the centuries.
South Tawton, a village parish situated on the banks of the River Taw, houses a population of around 1,600. The small village is home to the manor house of the Burgoyne family, which now serves as the Oxenham Arms public house which you’ll find in South Zeal. Built as a Benedictine monastery, the Oxenham Arms is steeped in history and has played host to many a famous visitor.
The award-winning Loveton Farm rears a range of native breeds of cows, sheep and pigs to produce beef, lamb and pork of a superb quality. Using sustainable farming methods and the highest standards of welfare, this award-winning farm can deliver a wide range of products right to your door.
Lying around eight miles to the south-west of Okehampton is another village, parish and former manor. It’s a delightfully situated farming community with a long and interesting history going back to the Neolithic period. Perhaps because the area hasn’t seen great development or ‘modernisation’, the village and surrounding hamlets retain a great deal of charm. The village itself is clustered around the Clovelly Inn public house, the church of Saint Mary the Virgin, the restored school – now a community centre – and the parish hall.
Ellacott farm is home to The Eversfield Organic Family, a local family dedicated to the preservation of nature and the rejuvenation of farmland which had undergone years of intensive farming. Their aim is to provide the highest quality food, produced honestly and naturally with animal welfare at the heart of their core values. They have planted over 30,000 trees, reinstated miles of hedgerows and laid fencing, and after two years of work the farm achieved organic status. Over time, natural flora and wildlife has flourished, with bees, birds and deer being regularly spotted.
We are fortunate to have a fabulously tempting range of local food and drink producers in the area, the following are just two more examples of that...
The Harvest Workers Co-op
The Harvest Workers Co-op is a non-profit workers’ co-operative made up of farmers, educators and storytellers. They grow and source quality organic food for their little farm shop in Okehampton. Through providing organic fruit, veg and sustainably produced products from local small-scale farms and producers throughout Devon, they aim to create opportunities for the local community to explore all the benefits from fresh food and ethical organic farming.
Located on the outskirt of Okehampton, this bespoke farm shop’s philosophy is that for meat to be right it has to be bred right, fed right and hung right. They specialise in breeding quality stock, sourcing produce from local farmers and providing an unrivalled service. They also have a fantastic range of hot snacks, cakes and take-away goodies from their farm shop café.