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Widecombe’s Landscape

It is said that “one should never judge a book by its cover,” and in the case of Roger Claxton’s new book the cover says it all. The title “Widecombe’s Ancient Landscape” has been cleverly designed to portray many aspects of exactly that in such a way as one wants to immediately delve into its pages. When I pick up a new book for the first time I always turn to the back pages. Is there a comprehensive index – in this case yes, are there links to relevant internet sources – yes, and is there a comprehensive bibliography – yes. Finally, who appears in the acknowledgements and in this work many professional and respected experts in their fields have collaborated with the author. All of these components suggest to me that the book has been meticulously and expertly written and I can’t wait to start reading it. So what are the author’s intentions of this book, in his own words “This book is about the landscape around Widecombe-in-the-Moor, a village in Dartmoor, Devon, UK. The focus is mostly on the immediate area around Widecombe village, and encompasses the hills and moorland as well as the valley in which the village sits, but also includes parts of the wider parish. This is an ancient landscape, as evidenced by the many archaeological features still present, which can easily be spotted just by walking around. Many of the buildings that can be seen today also bear evidence to this earlier time. This is not a comprehensive study, but picks out specific aspects of Widecombe’s history, either areas that have not been addressed before, or where a new perspective is shown on existing familiar history. As a result, the reader should discover some new and, hopefully, surprising, and interesting Widecombe related topics.”

Widecombe’s Ancient Landscape takes the reader on a journey through time and through the landscape around the Widecombe-in-the-Moor area.  Starting from when the prehistoric hunter gatherers led their nomadic ways of life and on to medieval and post medieval times. If you would like a true example of a Dartmoor palimpsest then one can be found in this book. Within the 160 pages are three main parts which are then subdivided into various aspects of the Widecombe landscape. These include twenty three topics ranging from the early prehistoric landscape furniture, the geographical features, the industrial archaeology, the flora and fauna, the various manor and their bounds, early religious connections and land ownership. The book is full of numerous photographs, OS map extracts, digital mapping, diagrams and early document extracts all of which add to the narrative and bring it alive. If ever they was something to encourage people to get out and explore Dartmoor for themselves then it must be this book.
I can thoroughly recommend purchasing “Widecombe’s Ancient Landscape” for an informative and enjoyable read and its a book that surely must have a place in any Dartmoor library whilst also appealing to those visiting the area and those further afield. If I have but one small suggestion to make it would possibly be the inclusion and etymology of the old evocative placenames to be found in the area. Roger also has an excellent website which also contains some fascinating information about the book and can be found here on Roger Claxton’s Musings.

“Widecombe’s Ancient Landscape” can be bought on Amazon and comes in three formats – hardback @ £21.99, paper back @ £15.99 and Kindle @ £4.99. With Christmas just around the corner this book would make the perfect gift and one that would be treasured by its reader. Finally for anybody who has missed out on buying Roger’s previous book “Welfare in Widecombe” there are still copies available from his website which have been reduced from £17.00 to the bargain price of £12.99 plus pp.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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