Several property-hunting forays started promisingly but ended in disappointment; until, that is, we were lucky enough to find ourselves (via the wonders of online estate agents) buying a house in Mid Devon, nearly five years ago.
Bampton has the distinction of being an historic Charter town, firmly rooted in ancient times; it is located north of Tiverton, on the edge of Exmoor.
The town was an obvious trading point for livestock, and some residents recall ponies being traded at the annual Charter fair, always held on the last Thursday in October, these days fitting in with school half-term.
Our route to finding our new home was circuitous, taking us through parts of Dorset and Somerset on weekends away from Surrey suburbia.
Now, I am often asked where I live. I reply, “Bampton, near Tiverton”, and the response is usually, “Ah, Bampton, that’s a lovely place. Got everything, Bampton has. Including interesting parking habits!”
(This last referring to the tendency to double park vehicles either side of the main route through town whilst ‘just popping into the shop for a paper’).
Our hometown certainly has a great deal to offer residents at any stage of life. The place is friendly, warm, and welcoming, a proper community with church, library/resource centre and primary school, and organisations catering for everyone from bellringers to knitters and wellbeing walkers.
The worrisome days of Covid lockdowns were greatly eased by local folk who willingly set up as wardens, looking out for neighbours and running numerous errands for those self-isolating.
The butcher delivering meat door to door became a common sight; Bampton’s pubs and bistro offered take aways or supplied meals. The greengrocer began a local delivery service; and innovations such as a jigsaw library came into play.
When storm Eunice struck last month, I had to go to the dentist in Tiverton. It was not too windy when I set off but, by the time I headed home, the wind had gathered considerable force. As I approached the Exeter Inn along the A396, I was confronted by a large ivy-clad tree lying right across the road, blocking the way. It must have toppled just before my approach; thank goodness I hadn’t been a little earlier!
Soon, other cars came along the road either side of the obstacle. Without any hesitation, all the drivers jumped from their vehicles to deal with the problem. One said, “I’ve got a tow rope, we’ll pull it away”, whilst another set to, enthusiastically sawing bits from the main trunk. In the end, brute force and collective heft enabled the tree to be pushed to the side of the road. What a fantastic example of community spirit!
The countryside around Bampton is hilly and beautiful. I get a particular thrill from walking along the ancient green lanes, imagining those for whom these routes would have represented toil and hardship, rather than the easier times we enjoy today.
The hedgerows become alive with colour each spring, from celandine and primrose through to wild garlic, bluebells and orchids, and I feel privileged to see and photograph nature’s bounty within easy reach of home.
As incomers from the ‘burbs, a most delightful and refreshing aspect to Bampton is that everyone greets you when you are out and about. There’s no ‘I’m pretending I didn’t see you on the footpath’ down here; it’s the Devon way and we love it!
Someone said to us, “Most people who move here will either keep chickens or get a dog!” Well, there are no hens in the garden, but we do have a canine, of whom more another time.
From limestone to sheep, fields to moorland, Bampton is a great location; look out for more local offerings in the weeks to come!
Author of Living in the Mourning Light and Into the Mourning Light
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