Picture this, if you will, a quintessentially English picture-postcard village in the depths of the glorious Devonian countryside. Thatched cottages stand in neat little terraces, their front gardens alive with spring flowers, the occasional gazebo, and the all-important small bistro table where their owners can sit and watch the world go by as they sip a glassful of red wine on a warm afternoon.
There are three pubs, two of which are superb for both ale and food, well-run and with a hearty welcome for the local and visitor alike, a well-stocked village store that sells everything from tinned food to fresh bread and newspapers, and a wonderful “olde worlde” atmosphere that is epitomized by the fact that I can’t walk down the lane without everyone bidding me a cheery “good morning” as we pass by, with some of the more senior citizens even doffing their hats.
Rush hour in the village means that a few mums are dropping their beloved offspring at the local junior school and as such, are filling the little village square with their vehicles whilst a few farm hands drive their bulky 4x4s past the square en route to their various places of gainful employment. Then it goes quiet and, boy, I’d forgotten how quiet quiet can be.
Dolton is such a peaceful retreat and makes one hanker for the days when we all led a pastoral lifestyle before the invention of all the devices that only help our modern lives to pass by even more quickly. The pub opens at 9am in case anyone wants to drop by for a coffee or even a cooked breakfast; I’m sure a beer wouldn’t be out of the question either.
I’m taking a stroll on my first full day here on a wonderful warm morning; the frost has cleared leaving it’s legacy of a crisp, blue sky without a cloud in sight. I stroll past the village War Memorial, sitting as it does in a secluded little spot, well tended and replete with potted plants and flowers. The village church clock strikes eleven with a preceding peal of bells that indicates that somewhere along the line, one of the bells is missing but no-one really cares. The churchyard is full of old headstones, many bearing family names that are easy to follow for hundreds of years but they all eventually end up here under the spread of the huge yews and sculptured bushes, ultimate peace in an ultimately peaceful place.
The village has existed since at least Saxon times although the old wooden Saxon church would have been replaced by the stone-built Norman one during the 11th or 12th century. Many of the cottages are at least 400 years old, their massively thick exterior walls precluding the need for any kind of modern insulation. Most still have open fires or at the very least, a wood-burning stove to heat the house and to cook on. I stroll past one beautiful property and see the small bistro-style table in the garden with it’s two chairs, no doubt awaiting it’s next role as the householders sit for a drink prior to their evening meal.
Everybody knows everyone else here; my new friend from last night in the Union, “Gobby Jock”, sits astride a ladder repainting the pub’s window frames. I’ve only known him for a few hours but he gives me a wave and inquires as to whether I’ll be joining him for a beer again later. Further down the lane, I bump into two more folk from last night’s hilarious session in the Union and I just about manage to greet them before they return the action.
I’d almost forgotten that places like this still existed. I lived in Polperro for several years but it was never like this, so warm and inviting and full of genuinely friendly, caring people; almost an “all for one and one for all” ethos. I’m sure there are other places like this in Devon and across the UK, and it’s probably no wonder that those folk who discover them keep the information tucked well away beneath their hats as we say.
I so like Dolton,it’s people, it’s lifestyle, it’s relaxed atmosphere, and it’s location. It might not be on the regular tourist network but I will certainly come back again soon if I have any say in the matter.