Monthly Archives: October 2014


The Den 1903, extract from Frith postcard

The Den 1903, extract from Frith postcard

Someone else also once walked the Den over a hundred years ago and was inspired to write a sonnet about Keats and Praed.

Yes it’s Teignmouth’s ‘Railway Poet’ again, Thomas Aggett.  I wonder what the reference to bricks and lime at Bitton meant?

(Thomas Aggett)

I often marvel as I tramp the Den
That bards who cultivate their beauty-bumps,
I mean especially those gifted men
Who draw grand inspiration from old pumps
And bubble over quite with ecstasy
At scenery inferior to this,
Or that found on the Teign; I say, to me
It seems surprising that not more there is;
For here transcendent Keats was beauty-smitten,
And Mackworth Praed tho’ somewhat less sublime,
(O Praed! The builders thy beloved Bitton;
Are desecrating now with bricks and lime).
The River Teign could sing both bright and clever,
For both knew “beauty is a joy for ever.”

Want to know more?   Check out:

Thomas Aggett …..
John Keats …..
Mackworth Praed …..
The Den …..


"a brown rock towers on the other side to me"

“a brown rock towers on the other side to me”

So we’re back from Hopes Nose and descending from the Ness we see Teignmouth stretched before us.

There have been a number of poems so far just entitled ‘Teignmouth’.  This is another one I have found. It sounds as though the author is walking along the seafront promenade adjacent to the Den in the opposite direction to us.  The Den has long been a focal point of Teignmouth and the ‘brown rock’ that ‘towers on the other side to me’ must be the Ness.

(Ollie Glanvill)

Trudging down the endless tarmac,
footsteps sound faint but crunch
like fresh winter snow, pacing the monotony.

As pitch black facades waver, brickwork welcomes
the occasional rash of shrubbery
along the Victorian Promenade.

The quay edging ever nearer,
sways gently to the soft cries from gulls circling far overhead
as the dimly lit main roads dissipate
into shadowy hedgerows
echoing the lowly drone of whirring cogs.

All the while gauging my surroundings
a brown rock towers on the other side to me.
Seemingly supporting the moon in its ascent
it’s bathed in the milky glow
and sparsely lit by beacons on the beach below.

Birds circle trying to find
their favourite corrugated iron perch,
on the blue roofs they murmur to their young.

And all the while, softly changing tides lap up
over the sand and shingle to cool the baked stones,
barely seen in the warm light of the street lamps.

Want to know more?  Check out poetry and history via:

Ollie Glanvill …..
The Den …..

Passing Through

SW Coast Path Teignmouth - The Ness to Holcombe Head

SW Coast Path Teignmouth – The Ness to Holcombe Head

So back to the wreck of the Teignmouth Coal Boat –  our shore journey in verse begins from that wreck off Hopes Nose.  How will we return to Teignmouth?  We’ll walk ….. yet another of the fine features of Teignmouth is that it lies on the South West Coast path.

This National Trail is rated as one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world by Lonely Planet and voted Britain’s best walking route by the readers of Walk magazine.

Sam Allen - walking the South West Coast Path

Sam Allen – walking the South West Coast Path

It was originally a means for the coastguard to track and pursue smugglers and continues to provide access to 630 miles of stunning coastal scenery from Minehead to Poole.

Early in September I met a woman, Sam Allen, with a 40lb pack and three dogs who was walking the whole length of the trail for charity – Macmillan Cancer Support and the Dogs Trust.

That was a catalyst for this poem which gives a different take on the South West Coast Path.

Passing Through

You peer from the eyrie of the Ness
through gauzy mist
that warps and drifts from sea to shore.

In sinuous hush between the river banks
it veils the distant flanking hills,
the guardians of the Teign.

Maybe you rest on the salt-stained bench,
shrugging off your pack of life
to ease the tension coursing from your shoulder blades

down the knobbled pennines of your back.
You reflect you’ve travelled so far
from your Minehead birth

when you crawled and skipped and slid and ran
your youth and teens along the northern coast
gyring at the end of land, finisterre,

from where you shed the hinterland of youth,
grew up and garbed the journey of your stride
treading on the edge of life.

To your left the safety of the land,
to your right the cliffs
and risk of slip to pitbull rocks below.

The path’s not easy on the coastal clefts,
chasms carved by wind and brook,
smoothed by toughened hands of time.

You brace yourself for each descent
and feel the lactic pain
of every tortured step you climb.

Babbacombe, Watcombe, Maidencombe –
the deceptive wombs of comfort
that lead you to that Shaldon Ness.

Teignmouth lies below,
a flat oasis, a musing ground
in your autumnal haven years.

But you’re just passing through.

Want to know more?  Check out:

South West Coast Path …..

King’s Shilling

Trafalgar men

Trafalgar men

Thought I would post this whilst I have access to the internet. So it’s about tomorrow and slightly out of order.

October 21st is Trafalgar Day.  The history books record the exploits of the officers and Teignmouth was a popular place for retirement of naval captains.  But …..

Wander through Teignmouth, look carefully and you will see signs of Trafalgar everywhere.  Start from the Ship Inn where a plaque on the wall commemorates fourteen Teignmouth men who took part in that battle, (some perhaps not so willingly if they had been press-ganged outside the Jolly Sailor!)

Their names are to be found also on benches throughout town, placed there in 2005 to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle. I think this is particularly poignant because what do we usually remember of naval battles? – the admirals and the warships (the Ajax, for example, appeared again in the Battle of the River Plate in WW2).

Remember instead ordinary men, with ordinary names, leading ordinary lives in a town like Teignmouth.

King’s Shilling

The Achille, the Colossus, the Conqueror,
the Ajax, Defiance and Spartiate,
Temeraire, Polyphemus and Bellisle;
bearing the brave, those ships of the line,
ruling the waves
with names that live on,
glorious, proud, heroic, blood-chilling
names of which Empire was made.

Ordinary seaman, able seaman, Royal Marine,
master’s mate, caulker’s mate, carpenter,
quartermaster, ….. lieutenant;
bearing skills for the ships of the line.
Some, press-ganged slaves –
Jolly Sailor men.
Rum-soaked, ale-soused, they took the King’s Shilling.
All hail! Thus Empire was made.

Arscott, Bishop, Blacklock, Brown,
Collins, Corsley, Edwards, Sweet,
Richards, Walker, Tibbs and Gay,
Squarey and Kay, all men of the line,
forever engraved
so their names can live on
on brass plates on benches in Teignmouth,
a town where Empire was made.

The Teignmouth Coal Boat

Teignmouth Coal Boat, aka SS Bretagne

Teignmouth Coal Boat, aka SS Bretagne

We’ve done the estuary so the next series of post are going to follow the shoreline ….. vaguely.

It actually starts off-shore about six miles from Teignmouth with a wreck off Hopes Nose which has been a regular destination for divers and fishermen over many years.

It is/was known locally only as the ‘Teignmouth Coal Boat’ until in 1966 a group of divers discovered the barnacle-encrusted ship’s bell which revealed the words “Bretagne 1903 Christiania” – the ship was the SS Bretagne missing for almost 50 years.

Back Beach Boyz, shanty crew from Teignmouth

Back Beach Boyz, shanty crew from Teignmouth

The story of the coal boat is the subject of a shanty recently written by Bob Freshwater for  the Back Beach Boyz, a sea shanty crew from Teignmouth. Many thanks to them for allowing me to reproduce the words of the song here.  History suggests though that the final three lines of the last stanza may be poetic licence!!


The Teignmouth Coal Boat
(Bob Freshwater, Back Beach Boyz)

From Barry Dock, in 1918,
The Coal Boat set sail, with a full head of steam
Heading for Rouen, 8 hours up the Seine
To offload the coal, and head out again
To offload the coal, and head out again

Around Hope’s Nose and into Lyme Bay
The Coal Boat steamed east on a still summer’s day
The Car-go lies down, deep safe in the hold….
Two thousand tons of the Rhondda Black Gold
Two thousand tons of the Rhondda Black Gold

Way up ahead, sea smoke rolls in
Swallowing the Coal Boat, and turning it dim
Smothering fog, an omen sea borne
The Coal Boat slows down, and sounds the horn.
The Coal Boat slows down, and sounds the horn.

‘Round Thatcher Rock, and into Lyme Bay
Renee Marthe came, from the opposite way
The crunching sound, turned the crew awful cold
The Steering gear jammed, her stern was holed
The Steering gear jammed, her stern was holed

A Torbay trawler, pulled up alongside
To support Coal Boat, against the run of the tide
‘Abandon the ship’, was Johannesson’s command
The Steamer went down, with the loss of one hand
The Steamer went down, with the loss of one hand

Bretagne sits proud, on the cold sandy floor
Divers and fishermen, come to adore….
A vessel of steel, still safe in its hold
Two thousand tons of the Rhondda Black Gold.
Two thousand tons of the Rhondda Black Gold.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Teignmouth Coal Boat …..
Back Beach Boyz …..

Teign Verse Launch

Lifeboat - The Two Annes

Lifeboat – The Two Annes

Some days ago, we started the journey in verse up the estuary with the Blessing of the Boats so it may be appropriate to end it with a short walk to the Lifeboat station.

When I started “Teignmouth in Verse” I thought that it was quite an original idea. Little did I know that someone had done something similar a few years ago to raise money for the RNLI, an organisation which plays a significant role in the life of Teignmouth

Marjorie Whittington is described as one of the most loyal supporters of the RNLI and has over the years written poetry. In 2011 she gathered the poems together in one small book “A Miscellanea of Happiness” which she had printed at her own expense. She sold the books to raise funds for the RNLI. Quickly selling out, the books raised £500 for the cause so dear to her heart – quite an achievement for someone no longer in the Spring of youth.

This poem describes the launch of a Teign Verse booklet.

Teign Verse Launch
(Marjorie Whittington)

In the library we gathered
On an April afternoon.
A moment of fame not far away,
In fact ’twill be quite soon.

We’re the quiet unknown poets,
Our objective is now very clear.
For the launch of the Teign Verse Booklet
Is the reason we are here.

There were poems from the old folk
Down to the very young,
We sat and chatted happily
Before proceedings had begun.

The Mayor was there, and photographers,
The Chief Librarian too,
Along with other notables,
We numbered quite a few.

A welcome speech to one and all
With an explanation clear
Of how it all was organised
And why we’re meeting here.

And then some lucky poets;
Names pulled out of the hat,
Recited their compositions
Which told of this and that.

Thus the afternoon soon ended
And was time to leave the scene,
A cup of tea before we go,
How friendly it had been.

So thank you to our library staff
For this our pleasant day,
And something nice to think about,
As homeward we wend our way.

Want to know more? Check out:

RNLI Teignmouth …..
Teignmouth Lifeboat Service …..

Also see:  We Honour Them


Kingsteignton to Teignmouth on the Number 2 bus

The Number 2 Bus

The Number 2 Bus

Time to return back down the river to Teignmouth.

This time we travel by bus to relish the spectacular views along the estuary and reflect, leaving behind eighteenth century verse for a more modern piece.  Thanks to Virginia Griem for this.



Kingsteignton to Teignmouth on the No 2 bus
(Virginia Griem)

After the roundabout
The road rises, steep,
Winds right and left.
On the lower deck windows
Grey dusty rape stalks – hedgerow invaders,
Tap, flick flack
The bus stops, picks up a hiker,
Dark head amongst silver holders
Of bus passes, shopping bags.
Gears grind, and the hot smell of engine
Joins cut grass for a moment,
Fades, is forgotten
As the Estuary sweeps into view.

And where are they going these people
With their bags for life and their memories
Down to the shops, Spend £40,
get a voucher
a free cup of coffee

On the top deck
The great arrow of mud
Pierces the eye,
shot from the distant sea.
Channels meander, hit high ground
Change direction, bubble, suck, stick,
Release, flow, shimmer, shine.
Vast banks of silt stretch empty,
but at their edge
White egrets dart with delicate step
Oystercatchers probe
Herring gulls strut their stuff.
Smaller black heads search brackish pools

And where are they going these gulls
After they’ve raided the mud flats
Down to the seafront, steal a warm pasty
From a tourist
A free ice cream

On through the valley
River no longer in sight.
Swifts hunt above waves of wheat,
Devouring their weight in winged creatures.
And all the while from the top of the bus
The landscape is being revealed.
Behind us the moors herald rain
As fields turn to gardens,
Washing lines, wheelie bins,
Manicured lawns,
Shop fronts, traffic lights,
Playgrounds and car parks.

And now the bus rests.
The shoppers, the hiker, silver haired lunchers,
Beachgoers, sandseekers
Dropped off in the town.
Estuary past
Journey completed
Kingsteignton to Teignmouth
On the No. 2 Bus