Category Archives: Surrounding Teignmouth

The Donkey Seat – Youth and Age

As the collection of Teignmouth in Verse grows it is intriguing to reflect on how new pieces are discovered.

Sundial pillar by donkey seat

These particular quatrains were found during a walk from the Teign, through Shaldon and up what I have always known as “Beacon Hill” but is actually “Pickethead Hill”.  About half-way up is a bench next to a large pillar which was once the mounting for a sundial.  The bench is known locally as “the donkey seat” because is supposedly marks the grave of a donkey.

On the stone are carved two quatrains entitled “Youth” and “Age”.

The first is now almost illegible and seems to be a sundial motto.

The second appears to be an extract from a sacred hymn. The earliest reference I have  found is from “A Selection of Hymns adapted for Divine Worship” published in Edinburgh in 1818.  The wording doesn’t match exactly but other hymnals and collections of sacred poetry published later also have slight variations in the wording.

Although the first quatrain is barely legible I have found a reference to it the Western Antiquary of 1883.  A certain “P.F.R.” of Teignmouth wrote a piece in the Antiquary describing how he had tracked down the pillar and copied the inscriptions.  So here they are:



Mark well the hour of need
The too-fleeting shadow tells,
And, reader, ne’er commit a deed
On which a shadow dwells.





And as yon sun, descending, rolls away
To rise in glory at return of day,
So may we set, this transient being o’er,
So may we rise upon the eternal shore.


Want to know more?  Check out:

Donkey Seat

Sacred hymn

The Western Antiquary … (go to p 106)


Beaver Soul 27

Beaver Soul

Beaver Soul

We continue the theme of the Teign and come up to date now with a poem by an American author and poet, Judy Hogan.  This poem is number 27 in a book called Beaver Soul, a collection of meditations evoked by a closely observed world of nature ranging from the Haw River in North Carolina to the Russian countryside of Kostroma, and ending on the banks of the River Teign in Devon, England.

This was written on October 13th 1992 by the river Teign near Sandy Ford.  So this is not strictly within the Teignmouth area but it is inspired by the river that makes Teignmouth what it is today.  It is the first of three poems inspired by the Teign in the Beaver Soul collection; the others will be posted in future weeks.

Beaver Soul 27
(Judy Hogan)

And what is love?  To be human
is to allow It to pierce you with
Its tender arrows, though you
feel certain you will die.
Only we don’t die.  We live
more vividly.  Life without Love
is like a stream bed through
which no water runs; like a
house without a clock that
chimes the hours so musically
that you wait eagerly for the
next one.  Or like an afternoon
sitting on the bank of a small
river without sun to intensify
the green of grasses and mosses,
to lift the warm brown of the
sand, patient between the black
hulks of the rocks, into view.
You can have all the love you
want if you aren’t greedy; if
you can live with a certain number
of absurd hours in every day;
if you understand that sarcasm
on the beloved’s tongue is his
way of keeping himself from
aching too much; if you’re
clear about where your own
heart has rooted itself, no
matter how many miles from
home you are.  After suffering,
and then paradox, and then
more suffering; after you’ve
yielded all the fruits, and watched
the leaves turn brown and drop
off, one after another; after
your blood has had to retreat
from the terrible, frozen wastes
of winter, and Zeus never pelted
his Greeks with ice like you’ve
had your soft skin pelted, then
you learn the truth of Love:
how it lives with its own whimsy
and its own secret power, beyond
thought, beyond reason, beyond
understanding.  It doesn’t even
require to be fed or given to
drink in the long famine.
Drought It already knew about and
was prepared for.  Memory held
It safe below the water’s surface.
You might be full of despair
but your heart, its roots
tucked into Love’s power, never
lost faith.  It accepts Evil
and Good, the Hate that Love can
mask His face with.  It bides
Its time.  And Time, for Love,
is redemptive.  The river has to
keep rushing, but the stones and
their mosses stay.  The sand will
be there.  The roots are persistent.
They know what we forget:
that only such tender moments
of clear-eyed seeing into each
other’s souls matter.  Only
those times last.  The rest passes,
like water.  The sand may shift,
but it stays; it knows.  The rocks
have their memory, too.  And
every year the graceful grasses
stretch up because the sun,
of course, leans down.

Copyright© Judy Hogan

If you want to know more, check out:

Judy Hogan …..
Beaver Soul …..


Poly-Olbion Cover Page

Poly-Olbion Cover Page

It’s been a quiet few months on the blog site but now the book is completed and back from the printers it is time to get back to some more regular blogging here ….. and there is a backlog of poems to catch up on!

I have a selection of new pieces related to the river Teign, starting with one that has its origins back in 1598 – Poly-Olbion.  Written by Michael Drayton, it was otherwise known as “A chorographicall description of all the tracts, rivers, mountaines, forests, and other parts of this renowned isle of Great Britaine and is an extraordinary poetic journey through the landscape, history, traditions and customs of early modern England and Wales.

It is written as a series of 30 ‘Songs’ in alexandrine couplets totalling 15000 lines.  No I am not going to reproduce the whole of it, only the section of 10 lines relating to the river Teign (or ‘Ting’ as it’s described in the Song).  You’ll also see a reference to the river Lemon which flows into the Teign at Newton Abbot.

Poly-Albion – extract

‘Ting (whose banks were blest
By her beloved nymph dear Leman) which addrest,
And fully with herself determined before
To sing the Danish spoils committed on her shore,
When hither from the east they came in mighty swarms,
Nor could their native earth contain their numerous arms,
Their surcrease grew so great, as forced them at last
To seek another soil, as bees do when they cast;
And by their impious pride how hard she was bested,
When all the country swam with blood of Saxons shed.’

The above extract has been taken from:  Devon, its Moorlands, Streams and Coasts by Rosalind Northcote.

For more information check out:

Poly-Olbion …..
Michael Drayton …..

The Devil’s Footprints

The Devil's Footprints 1855

The Devil’s Footprints 1855

The second quirky piece of verse concludes the myths and legends of Teignmouth – The Devil’s Footprints.

The legend goes back to 1855 when a trail of ‘cloven hoof’ footprints appeared overnight in Teignmouth and extended from the Exe estuary to the river Dart. The trail crossed the rivers, went over roofs, across trees – in fact it just went straight over anything in its path. The story was reported locally and in the Illustrated London News with much speculation on the origin of the footprints but no definite explanation ….. and the mystery remains today.

I have found a few poems about this story. The others may well appear as later posts.

The Devil’s Footprints
(John Parslow)

On one peculiar precipitous night in February eighteen fifty five,
A dense and heavy fall of snow in the south of Devon arrived,
In the towns of Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, as everyone asleep,
Teignmouth and Dawlish in a cloak of white were buried very deep.

On waking villagers saw thousands of strange foot-tracks on the roof,
Bipedal steps at eight inch gaps all with a convex cloven hoof,
Over five parishes they extended covering an area of one hundred miles,
On tops of houses, high narrow walls with palings – even over styles.

They covered local gardens, enclosed courtyards bounded by walls wide,
Vertically up drainpipes tall, up fences and down the other side,
And trails would suddenly stop as if the creature vanished into thin air,
Right in the middle of open fields as though it landed or took off from there.

The locals were shocked to discover the tracks of an animal so strange,
A mysterious creature endowed with the power of ubiquity and such range,
Approaching and retreating many dwellings but no resting place was found,
Only the cloven-hoof marks on two legs were left as markers on the ground.

Rather than navigate a straighter course possible for any creature to follow,
It steered the most complicated of climbs over every acclivity and hollow,
The greatest excitement was caused among all classes athwart the land,
The superstitious believing they were the marks of Satan or his band.

So what did happen on that night in early February eighteen fifty five?
Some thought it could be Extraterrestrial beings others thought it best to hide,
The eyewitness’s of hundreds was later printed in the Times, so long ago,
As to what the creature was on a spree that night- perhaps we’ll never know …

Want to know more?  Check out:

The Devil’s Footprints …..

Cockleshell Hero

The Salty

The Salty

We’ve had a few poems about the Salty and its inhabitants – the cormorants, oysters, oystercatchers etc.

Here’s another which gives a different view of the shellfish to be found on these low-tide estuarial flats.

(Barbara Hine)

Mussel bound
They sift the Salty
To ply their trade –
The winkle pickers,
The shell seekers –
Here a bucket,
There a spade.

I hitch a ride
On a bit of the Teign
Left behind by the tide –
Free-falling down
To anonymous sand,
A cowering cockle
On a seaweed strand.

They crouch and probe
These mussel men,
Performing amniocentesis
On glorious mud,
And the pile in the bucket
Grows thud by thud.

I open a valve.
‘I’m stale’, I cry –
I know it’s naughty
But it’s worth a try!
The blue shells rattle
Like dead men’s bones
As the buckets pass by…

Blue not white.
Then I’m all right!
Moules Mariniere’s
The dish of the day.
I breathe a bubble.
Rule OK.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Barbara Hine …..

The Shaldon War Dead Memorial Clock Tower

Shaldon War Dead memorial Clock Tower (from Frith Collection)

Shaldon War Dead memorial Clock Tower (from Frith Collection)

Walk back towards Teignmouth along the main road from the Clipper and you soon reach the village green, the site of the Shaldon War Memorial.

I found this poem on the Internet written by ‘Philip’ (I know no more than that). Together with the poem was a small tribute by Philip:

“This little Poem means little to anyone outside our little village in South Devon…A village of only 300 and yet 30 names on the local War Memorial. I composed this Poem for my own satisfaction, just to make these Heroes names to live again ….. Written at the Life Gateway to 11.11.11 in humble appreciation.”

You may notice the acrostic.

The Shaldon War Dead Memorial Clock Tower

The Shaldon War Dead Memorial Clock Tower.
Heroes who gave their lives in war time;
Everlasting Memorial to their sacrifice.

Shaldon would remember Brave Souls ;
Hail to these Heroes as we remember.
As fought and died in the 1914-19 War.
Let us never forget the ultimate debt.
Dutifully paid by the local families
Of Graeme, Lucas, Cornish , Stephens
No not forgotten Gates or Colbram.

War took the Sons of Shaldon and Ringmore
And Carter, Loram, Matthews, Taylor, Payne
Reed, Merchant, Sheppard, Windeatt, Wood

Dutifully, bravely Volunteered in 1914
East , Lambe  and Eardly-Wilmot RFC.
As did brave Tothill, Withey , Conybeare
Died all heroes in that world conflict.

Memories still fresh of the 1939 – 45
Ever remembered names of Shaldon
Men fully brave S.Brimilcombe, G Hicks
Or R Fielding , J Houston, J Long , T.Payne,
Regiments of Britain and Commonwealth
In Royal and Merchant Navy and RAF.
An endless list of sons E. Slater, R Stoyle
Last W.Theobald. In sorrow Forget Never.

Collections made by public contribution 1921
Laid foundations for the Memorial Clock
Originally built: Albert Best (Teignmouth)
Clock built  by Harold Mole, Watchmaker.
Kings and Countries mourn in unity.

To later conflicts A.J .Roberts in Malaya
Of R.S.Baker-Faulkner. D.S.O, D.S.C, R.N
We owe them all an irrevocable debt.
Ever as time goes by, may we not forget
Righteous Brave Sacrifice in time of War.
Want to know more?  Check out:

Shaldon War Memorial ……

The Clipper

Dog friendly .....

Dog friendly …..

Verse has many purposes. I was walking past the Clipper Café in Shaldon a couple of weeks ago and spotted this sign outside. It made me smile, and isn’t that one of the roles of poetry – to provoke an emotional response? So much better than just a “Dogs Welcome” sign – well done the Clipper for your little piece of street poetry.

The Clipper

The Clipper is happy for me to come in
and have a treat from the biscuit tin.
It’s fine if I have sandy paws
but very wet dogs make slippery floors.
If I have lots of woofy things to say
it’s best if I wait outside that day.
So next time you’re on your walk with me,
remember the Clipper is dog-friendly.

Clipper Cafe

Clipper Cafe

Want to know more?  Check out:

Clipper Cafe …..