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Knattaburrow Pool

Knattaburrow Pool

The other side of Ivybridge is a small place called Ugborough. Many years ago a young peat cutter called Peter lived in a small cott on the edge of the village. Now there were two things ‘Peter the Peat Man’ had earned a reputation for, one was  his fondness of boasting about the parish of Ugborough, which at that time was the largest in the South Hams. The second thing he was reputed for was his firm belief that no girl could refuse his charms and that he was a proper ‘ladies man’. The only problem was that he had not yet proven this fact although he liked to think that this was only because he had not found a girl worthy of his attentions. Every Sunday he would attend church and after the service he could be found leaning on the Lych gate where he could be seen by every young girl of the parish as they walked by. He would just stand there leering and smirking at the girls who would return his attentions with a pitiful smile. These he took to mean looks of admiration which further boosted his inflated ego. On such a Sunday night he had received his so called affirmation and so made his way home to bed. That night he dreamt that he saw a beautiful girl stood by the edge of a pool and that she was beckoning him towards her. By the way she dressed she was obviously very rich and this combined with her beauty made her the ideal partner in life. He was about to walk towards her when he suddenly awoke, never to find out with whom his destiny lay.

Everyday he would go to his turf tie high on the moor to work the peat. It was a good seven miles to Quickbeam Hill where he would either be cutting, stacking or transporting his peat which he would then sell to householders in the area. A few days after his dream he was returning home past Knattaburrow Pool when he suddenly realised that this was the place in his dream and it was there the beautiful girl had been standing. He had convinced himself that such dreams should never be ignored and that if he was to have a future married to a pretty and wealthy girl who would keep him in the lap of luxury he must return to the pool to find her. The following day was a Saturday and so bright and early he set off for Knattaburrow to meet his destiny suitably dressed in his ‘Sunday Best’ and carrying a large flagon of ale. It was a hot balmy day and by the time he reached the pool he was ‘spitting feathers’ so Peter the Peat Man found a comfortable tussock, sat down and drew the cork on his jar. Comfortably ensconced on his ‘throne’ he spent the next hour expectantly surveying the moor and drinking his ale. Surveying the moor from a grassy throne can be thirsty work and Peter even amazed himself when he realised that he had finished the whole flagon of ale. By now he was not so much sat on his tussock but more sprawled out with his head spinning. It did not take long for the heat combined with the alcohol to send him to sleep and in a trice he was snoring away like a farrowing sow.

It so happened that also on this day a party of youngsters from South Brent had come to the moor to pick ‘urts’ and on reaching Knattaburrow Pool one of the girls had decided to stay there for a while to cool down. The rest of her friends carried on with their quest down in a nearby gully. As the girl walked around the pond she heard an awful noise and soon discovered that it’s source was the snoring peat cutter who suddenly awoke. Imagine his excitement when the drunken haze cleared to reveal a pretty young girl. Immediately he scrabbled to his feet and dusted down his Sunday suit, “‘ere I be,” he said, “I bin expectin’ of ee.” The girl looked non-plussed but smiled sweetly. Peter needed no more encouragement, he eagerly walked towards her saying, “I be ‘n Ugbro’ man, an you daun’t belong to thik parish do ee? Still ee bant the wuss fur that an’ I knaw ee kent ‘elp it.” The girl frowned, “I should hope not” she replied. Undaunted Peter carried on, “I knaw’d ee was a comin’ I draimed about ee.” The look of distain on the girls face was as sharp as any turving iron. She stepped back from the overpowering smell of the beer on his breath and started to walk away. “Daun’t rin away,” cried the peat cutter, “I’ve a com’ out heer a purpose t’ see ee, You u’ll be proud of that fact when ee knaws who I be. I be Peter the Peat Cutter vrom Ugborough,” he proudly announced. As it happens the girl along with most of South Devon had heard of him and now she could see what people meant. The lad continued, “ee bant zackly like the one I draimed ’bout but you’m a goodish soort of maid, an’ I s’pose ee u’ll suit I, us u’ll go along together.” The girl just stared round eyed at him which as usual he took to be a look of adulation. “You stay here and I will go and tell my friends that I am not going ‘urt picking with them, they are only in yonder gully so I won’t be gone long,” the maid sweetly said. With that she skipped off in the direction of Petre’s Pits.

Peter knelt down by the pool to check his reflection which reminded him how thirsty he had become, ‘much wants more’. “Aw wished I ‘ad a drap more ale, I be chucked (dry),” he said to his reflection. Had he not been so intent on preening himself in the pool he would have noticed two Brent men coming up out of the gully and walking towards him. “Ees, tis a pity,” continued the peat cutter, “But there us be; her’ll gi’ I a kiss directly, I daresay, an’ that’ll make up fur ‘n. But I surely could ha’ drinkt a drap mor’ ale for I be mortal dry.” “No you bant!” cried the Brent boys as they charged towards him, “You’m wet ‘nough Peter the Peat Man.” With that they grabbed him and pitched him into the dark, peaty pool. By now the rest of the Brentonians had come to see what the commotion was about and they all stood jeering and laughing at the bedraggled figure sat in the pool. “There,” one of them yelled, “you’m ‘knatt a burrowing’ our girls.”


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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