Sunday, 24 July 2011

The mighty spinsters of Drewsteignton

The heart of this hilltop village is the square, with the impressive church on one side and a welcoming pub on another. This is clearly a village where the womenfolk are a redoubtable lot. The pub had a landlady who managed the business with efficient charm for no less than 70 years in the 20th century.

Just as impressive is the feat reputedly carried out by three spinsters from Drewsteignton one morning many years ago. The three sisters awoke this particular morning but, for some reason, did not feel up to eating their usual fried breakfast of impressively large size. So, in order to work up an appetite, they went for a stroll down the hill. There they came across four boulders which they playfully tossed about. Eventually, tiring of their game, the girls placed three of the stones upright and balanced the fourth across the top. Now suitably in need of nourishment, the girls trotted back up the Drewsteignton to tuck into their sausages, bacon and eggs.

The Spinsters Rocks still stand where they left them. These must have been strong girls. The upright stones stand over six feet tall while the slab across the top measures about 14 feet in length. In reality, of course, this is a prehistoric tomb. Originally there would have been a mound of earth over the stones, but this has worn away in the course of the past 4,500 years. There is no doubt, however, that women are connected to the stones in some way for the faintly outlined shape of a lady in a long cloak has been seen here in the early morning. Perhaps it is the ghost of a prehistoric noblewoman who was buried here.

The village of Drewsteignton itself was formerly famous for an indelible bloodstain on the pavement outside the house where a foul murder was committed in the 18th century and the blood came leaking out from under the front door. It was said that on the anniversary of the crime each year, the stain became wet and the pavement once again ran red with blood. However in 2004 the stain could not be found, though several local people knew of the story.

Just below the village the River Teign runs through a narrow gorge which is famous for its trout fishing. In the midst of the quiet ravine lie the still, dark waters of Bradford Pool. It is here that a ferocious ghost lurks which claims the life of one person each year. Some believe that talk of this ghost is merely a way to dissuade the local children from swimming in the fast-flowing river which can, after heavy rain, be treacherous. Others believe that the ghost, if it is there, is the last surviving manifestation of a pagan water god to which human sacrifice was once made.

Just to be on the safe side, it is probably best to keep to the dry riverside paths when visiting the gorge.


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