Discover dinosaurs, crafts and Cromwell in Gateway to Dartmoor

Torbay Weekly

Walkabout with Keith Perry:

For a relatively small town - population 7,721 at the 2011 census - Bovey Tracey has played a significant role in the history of the nation.

It takes its name from the De Tracey family who settled in the area after 1066 and from the river which flows through the town, originally the River Bovi or Boui.

One of the De Tracey family, Sir William, achieved notoriety for his part in the murder of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 and it is said that, as a penance, he built the town’s original parish church of St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury.

Bovey Tracey promotes itself as the Gateway to Dartmoor but it is bypassed these days and many motorists heading for Haytor and beyond miss the opportunity to discover its charm.

The information centre in Station Road car park is a handy starting point for a town walk.

Turning left, you pass The Dolphin Hotel, where the manor and borough courts were held in the 19th century, and on your right is St John’s Lane, where you will discover the remarkable Jolly Roger and its showroom of life-size models.

Youngsters will be fascinated by this amazing collection of dinosaurs, sharks, tigers, racing cars and famous faces - all of them for sale.

Just around the corner you can explore local history in the Bovey Tracey Heritage Centre, housed in the former railway station.

Opposite The Jolly Roger is an entrance to Mill Marsh Park, which has a large children’s playground, and you can return to Bovey Bridge along the riverside footpath.

Across the road you will see the restored Riverside Mill, headquarters of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, a free exhibition of work by 250 South West-based makers encouraging visitors to buy, make and learn about contemporary craft and design.

In Fore Street is a reminder of Oliver Cromwell’s links with the town in the form of The Cromwell Arms.

In January, 1646, Cromwell’s army entered Bovey Tracey, surprising Royalist troops who were defeated the following day in the Battle of Bovey Heath.

To the left of the building you will see what is known locally as ‘Cromwell’s Arch’ the remains of a priory which stood on the site of the nearby Baptist Church.

Further up Fore Street is the old town hall which now houses the Dartmoor Whisky Distillery.

A tour and whisky tasting can be booked on their website

Continuing into East Street you pass one of the oldest and most prestigious houses in the town - the Manor House - and eventually arrive at the parish church of St Peter, St Paul and St Thomas of Canterbury.

The present church dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and is noted for its fine coloured rood screen and carved stone pulpit.

For a more comprehensive history of Bovey Tracey and the town walk visit