Friday, 7 March 2008

Keeping busy . . . and the Hairy Hands!

Postbridge, Dartmoor - the ancient (Medieval) clapper bridge over the River Dart and the modern road bridge beyond it. Back to that later . . .

If I am worried about anything I like to keep busy. Because it was the anniversary of mum's death yesterday, I have been keeping busy by redecorating our bedroom. It has needed doing for I don't know how long - I don't think we've touched it for a good ten years. Anyway, here are a couple of photos, though I swear we didn't have a salmon pink on the walls before - it just looks that colour in the photo. On another bit it looked terracotta, but as we mixed the paint ourselves, it was probably not stirred well enough in some parts.

This pic shows the old colour, and a little potty chair we bought covered in gunky varnish and a stratetically-placed piece of linoleum in a junk shop in Manchester when the children were very little (though I didn't make them use it!) The painted wild flowers on the fireplace surround (made by OH) are mine own - I'm not so good drawing things freehand, but I can copy anything (and my dad was the same, and so are my children). These flowers came from some painted by Marjorie Blamey - I have a wonderful wild flower book illustrated by her, and she is easy to copy.

It was a deep pink before, but is now being "raspberried" - a similar colour (if not the same) as we have (with lots of white and beams to break it up) in middle daughter's attic eyrie, which is very Medieval in look.

Our room is tall and has a big North-facing window which makes it light in the daytime (unlike the rest of the house which faces East and spends all but the early morning in a deep gloom!) I made the mistake yesterday of trying to have a light wall behind our bed and sloshed some white about, but it looked foul and I then spent the remainder of the day repainting it in raspberry.

We do actually have a PAIR of curtains, but I have taken them down one at a time to wash and iron and rehang. That is also the only time you will see the top of my Beaworthy* chest of drawers bare - normally it's covered in nick-nacks and photos of the children when they were little.

(*We were given this chest of drawers in a very distressed state - imagine it grey from where it had been bunged in a damp old barn - when we were house-hunting in Devon before we moved here. I was devastated when the sale of our house fell through and Beaworthy Mill was sold to someone else, but we have the old chest of drawers to remember it by. My husband lovingly restored it.)

And the Hairy Hands, I hear you asking? Well, another of my favourite Dartmoor tales . . . I hope you're not alone when you're reading this, and I sincerely hope that it's not dark outside, and that the wind isn't wuthering around the house, throwing hail against the window panes like musket fire . . . Down on old Dartymoor, along the B3212 between Postbridge and Two Bridges is a lonely stretch of road which passes the old Powdermills near the River Dart. Just before the First World War, there were some strange occurrences hereabouts. They seemed to be focused on a stretch of the road near a farm called Archerton at Postbridge. Folk were terrified as cyclists had their handlebars wrenched from their hands so they ended up in the ditch, and a similar thing happened to pony traps - where the reins were taken over and the pony and cart ended up off the road. In the years that followed, cars and coaches were also driven off the road and a local man - Dr Helby from Princetown - was killed after his motorbike and sidecar was forced out of control. Shortly after this, an Army officer (who you think had some credibility) was badly injured whilst riding his motorbike along this stretch, but he lived to tell the tale - that "a pair of large, muscular hairy hands had closed over his own and forced him off the road."

Well, this made for sensational front page news and the Daily Mail (of course!) sent intrepid reporters to the scene to get the story and such was the furore, official enquiries resulted in the camber of the road being modified, and the accidents were attributed to an adverse camber.

So why, in the mid-1920's, did a lady in a caravan parked by the side of this very road (can't you tell she wasn't a local?!) see a very large, very hairy hand clawing its way up the outside of the window. She panicked (well you would, wouldn't you?) and made a sign of the cross, whereupon the hairy hand disappeared, never to be seen by her again. Ooooooh, that has sent SUCH a shiver down my spine!

Over a 20 year period between 1910 and 1930 there were a number of serious accidents along this stretch of the road, including another fatality, but who can say whether it was the Hairy Hands taking charge or simply an accident? All I can say is, we used to camp on the moor not too far from there, and I took great care not to have to go out with a torch in the middle of the night to answer a call of nature!

I leave you with a photo . . . of the hairy hand(s) . . . .


Farrah said...

Your room looks beautiful! I just skimmed the hairy part, because I don't like scary tales! LOL!

I'm having a blog giveaway! Hope you can stop by!

LBP said...

Your Show and Tells are so interesting! I love the tale of the Hairy Hands. I love local folk tales.



Gattina said...

If the hairy hand looks like this I would love to see it, lol ! Dartmoor anyway as what I have heard from is a scary place ! I read a few crime stories happening there. Your pictures show a cosy place !

~~ said...

Oh goodness.. I don't think I'll go down that road..
I love your little chair with the little bear! So cute. Your raspberry room looks is marvelous!

MammyT said...

Dartmoor has such a rich and creepy legendary history. Thanks for the story. It reminds me of the bigfoot creature (Oaluk) who was believed to have lived near us in Port Chatham Alaska. The sound of it in the woods was documented by some newspaper reporters who tried to spend the weekend out there. None of the local natives would have even tried it. They barely lasted the one night. I'll have to tell about it sometime.

Bovey Belle said...

Oooh Nancy - that sounds so creepy. What's it meant to be? A Bigfoot or something?

Dartmoor has a very rich history of legend and spooky tales, and is wild and beautiful.

I'm glad my raspberry room is meeting with approval. It's like walking into a big hug when we come up to bed!

Kim said...

I LOVE that little hairy hand. Sooo cute. The story gave me a shiver too, jennie. Thank you.

Kim x