Bovey Tracey is a picturesque market town on the South-East edge of Dartmoor National Park. There are a variety of interesting buildings in Bovey Tracey, including Cromwell’s Arch, the Parish Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury and the Old Railway Station, which is now the Heritage Centre. Full of history but surrounded by wonderful scenery, Bovey Tracey is a great place to use as a base to explore the moors but also to enjoy the past and current culture of the town.
A Brief History
Bovey Tracey takes its name from the River Bovey, when it was established as a Saxon settlement. The Domesday Book quotes Bovi, and the Tracey comes from the de Tracey family who, after the Norman Conquests, were the Lords of the manor. William de Tracey was implicated in the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, and it is thought that he rebuilt the parish church of St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury as penance for the murder.
Local legend states that in 1664, during the English Civil War, Cromwell’s troops surprised Lord Wentworth’s Royalist officers whilst they were drinking and playing cards in an inn. To enable their escape, the Royalists threw some money out of the window, distracting the poorly paid Roundhead troops who grabbed the money and fled to neighbouring Heathfield. The Battle of Bovey Heath was fought the next day - in which Cromwell prevailed. Bovey Heath is now managed by Devon Wildlife Trust and is a haven for rare plants and wildlife. Cromwell lives on in Bovey Tracey today, in The Cromwell Arms Inn and also a stone arch known as Cromwell’s Arch - although this was actually the remains of a priory.
In 1750, the pottery industry was established in Bovey Tracey on the edge of the Bovey Basin - which was famous for its production of valuable ball clay and lignite which enabled the industry to expand swiftly, providing jobs for around 250 people at Bovey Tracey Potteries alone. The potteries played a significant part in the foundation and development of English industrial pottery. Today, the bottle kilns and examples of local pottery can be found at the museum at World of Marbles. Some potteries survived and are still in production today.
In 1866, Bovey Railway Station was opened; this closed to passengers in 1959, although goods trains continued until 1970. The station has now been renovated and is the Heritage Centre.
Points of Interest
There is plenty to see and do in Bovey Tracey. Why not follow the Mosaic Trail - a short walk through Bovey Tracey, marked by a set of 12 mosaics relevant to the history of the town. A free copy of the trail can be collected from the Heritage Centre.
The Heritage Centre is a converted and restored railway station and is an ideal place to pick up information and learn about the history of Bovey Tracey. There are exhibitions, archive material, artefacts, displays about the town's contributions to the world wars, information on the pottery industry, local mining and so on – a huge range of interest for all ages.
The Devon Guild of Craftsmen can be found in the restored Riverside Mill, built in 1850 as a stable. This is a crafts venue offering a programme of exhibitions and events from 250 South West based contemporary craft makers. Also on site is a large craft shop and an excellent café with homemade bread and cakes plus a seasonal lunch menu. A great place to relax and watch the river and be inspired to buy, make and learn about contemporary craft.
Parke is a National Trust estate within walking distance of Bovey Tracey. The woodland is extensive (approximately 200 acres) and if you wander by the river, you will find a medieval weir or stroll down the disused railway line and take in the wildlife and wild flowers. Parke is also home to Home Farm Café.
The House of Marbles is a wealth of entertainment featuring glass making, a marble museum with a marble maze, three museums – glass and marble, games and pottery - shopping, the Old Pottery Restaurant and an outdoor games area for children.
The Jolly Roger is a store of life-size models of just about anything. Found on Pottery Road, it is worth a visit as it is something so completely different. You can view or purchase pretty much anything from a sheep to a full size bull fighter, Captain Jack Sparrow or super-villain Gru from Despicable Me.
There is an interesting variety of shops in Bovey Tracey, and on alternative Saturdays there is a Produce Market in the centre of the town where you can purchase a wide variety of locally produced fresh products. There are also convenience stores, craft shops, gift and coffee shops.
Where to Eat
There is a great selection of restaurants, cafes and public houses in Bovey Tracey, which cover a filling breakfast, a relaxing lunch or dinner for a special event. A good variety of cuisines are catered for, but worth mentioning are Home Farm Café at Parke - which serves locally sourced produce - and Brookside Café and Restaurant on Station Road, where you can order a Devon cream tea or full English Breakfast. Plus, the Old Pottery on Pottery Road serves freshly prepared food in an interesting building. The Dolphin Hotel, Rock Inn, Palk Arms and Cromwell Arms, to name just a few, provide good pub food and ales to sample at your leisure. Also worth a visit is Wildmoor Deli Café and Wine Garden, where a vast selection of locally sourced produce can be purchased in the deli or chosen from the menu and eaten in the café.
There is a produce market in Bovey Tracey every fortnight – held in Union Square on a Saturday. You can purchase meat, game (if available), fish and homemade cakes, preserves, cheeses and pies etc. This market is long-standing and in 1260 a Fair and Market Charter was granted by Henry III.
Bovey Tracey Horticultural Society has a Spring show in April and a Summer show in August, for those wanting to show their prize flowers and vegetables.
April also brings the Green Man Spring Festival, with food and craft stalls, entertainment, music, and Maypole and Morris dancing.
The Contemporary Craft Festival was founded in 2003, and in 2017, will be held 9th – 11th of June. There are now nearly 10,000 visitors attending, which brings greater prosperity to the town in addition to the tourist industry. The fair showcases the best in British crafts, including silversmiths, potters, furniture makers, textile artists, print and paper artists, glassmakers and jewellers. There are workshops, exhibitions, and demonstrations, entertainment for children, food and live music.
Nourish Festival is to be held on September 2nd in 2017, and for its fourth year there will be music, crafts and food - and for the first time, a Gin Festival. The food market will be predominantly in Fore Street and will include produce from all over the South-West, including street food of all descriptions. There will be craft events at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and evening concerts as well.
There are three pay and display car parks in Bovey Tracey; one on Mary Street with 62 spaces, one on Station Road with 129 spaces, and the third being the Methodist Church Public car park on Waterside, with 78 spaces.
ATMs and Banks
There are two banks on Fore Street – Lloyds and NatWest. There are cash machines at both those banks along with at the Tesco store, also on Fore Street.
There are public toilets on Station Road and also at the Recreation Ground off Ashburton Road.
Image credits to: Wildmoor Fine Food & Drink, Bovey Tracey Celebrates the Green Man Spring Festival 2017 and devonguide.com