Category: Devon

Bordering Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, Devon has become one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the South West. With numerous holiday cottages and barns making it ideal for holidaymakers spending time in the area while visiting the surrounding heritage sites.


I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful and well-preserved estates in the UK. Buckland Abbey, a 700 year old estate in Devon, England, weaves a spell as you stroll through the halls and across the gardens. Currently under the ownership of the UK’s National Trust, Buckland Abbey was once owned by the legendary Sir Frances Drake.

Historic Roots

The Abbey was built in 1278, and served as an abbey until 1541, when it was sold to Sir Richard Grenville. He and later, his son, converted the property from an abbey into a home, using the church itself as the house and demolishing the rest. This increased the historic value of the property, because most abbey churches were destroyed during that time.

The Grenville family owned the estate for 40 years, before his son sold it to Sir Francis Drake. Sir Drake lived there for 15 years, and various descendants lived there until it was sold in 1946. The new owner, Arthur Rodd, gave the property to the National Trust two years later.

Public Access


The National Trust opened the property to the public in 1951. The City of Plymouth Museum keeps some of its collection there, and we got to see historic items that fed the imagination. There, we saw Drake’s Drum. Sir Drake took this snare drum with him when he sailed around the world. Before his death, he had the drum taken to Buckland Abbey. With it came instructions that if England were ever in danger, someone should beat the drum. He promised to return to defend his homeland.

The public also has access to the ox sheds, where various craftsmen demonstrate authentic crafts and skills. The wooden joinery is fascinating, and truly puts to shame some of the self-assemble stuff we find these days.



Sir Drake is a legend, himself, having sailed around the world during the years 1577 to 1580, when he was about 35 years old. He is one of the most famous seamen from that era. Unfortunately, he started a successful slave trade. After being nearly killed by the Spanish, Drake developed a hatred of that nation that eventually lead to his defeat of the Spanish Armada. He spent much of his career plundering Spanish settlements in South America for the valuable silver and gold for Queen Elizabeth I.


The National Trust Costume Group has its headquarters at Buckland Abbey. They are focused on the creation of authentic clothing pieces patterned after the Elizabethan era.


There is even a self portrait of Rembrandt at the Abbey. It was only recently authenticated, and is a wonderful representation of the creative genius himself.

The Gardens

The gardens at Buckland Abbey are beautiful, with breathtaking arrays of woods and farms, and a peak at wildlife at times. There are 4 different paths you can walk o and we tried all of them. The shortest walk was one mile, and the longest was three miles.

It was a beautiful place to visit, and I highly recommend it.

Cedar timber cladding is as ubiquitous as stone in the UK. Used in the earliest structures across the area, cedar is one of the most beautiful and durable timbers available. Cedar cladding is resistant to moisture, so is less likely to rot. This makes it invaluable in the high humidity of parts of the UK, and one of the reasons that many ancient buildings stand to this day.

Historic Structures With Cedar Timber Cladding


You can see historic structures that still have their centuries-old cladding in such places as the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum. Not only will you see reenactments of activities from the history of the area, you will see authentic architecture and equipment used over time. They hold a food and folk festival as well as a wood show during which the artisans and craftsmen show how cedar cladding was once made by hand.

Structures in this property are great examples of beautiful wooden countryside buildings, with the hip roofs and Tudor styling. These buildings have been recognized by the government as being of national and/or international importance. They were carefully taken apart and moved to this site, to be carefully reconstructed by hand. Over 50 buildings, from worker’s huts to farmhouses and barns, give you a good feel for over 600 years of heritage, with different uses of cedar cladding used effectively and beautifully.

Bell Frame From St. Mary’s Church

From Stoughton, West Sussex, you will see the bell frame from St. Mary’s Church. This structure is covered with hand-cleft oak shingle cladding. The original structure was built around 1350. The second phase of building for this structure was around 1470. The spire itself is new, and was placed on the site of the museum in 2009. However, the structure and building was designed to be authentic, giving participants experience in ancient arts and construction techniques.

Upper Hall From Crawley

Crawley, Sussex, was home of the Upper Hall. Scheduled for demolition, it was discovered to be a more historic building that should be preserved. It was dismantled in 1972 and rebuilt on the site of the museum 6 years later. The long history of the building took it from being a town hall to an inn to a barn and storage shed. The construction of this building is a combination of cedar timber cladding and oak cladding, sandstone shingles, brick, and stucco, along with solid oak timbers.

Wollaton Hall


Wollaton Hall, built in the late 1400s, is another great example of craftsmanship and design. This beautiful estate features stone structures, along with artistic and skillful use of oak and cedar cladding. All structures have undergone extensive remodeling and additions, but the basic structures are the same. Gardens and avenues were added, along with parks. However, lavish improvements during the 1800s failed to dim the beauty of the ancient building practices and materials that serve as the core of this striking estate.

Cedar cladding continues to be one of the most popular building materials in today’s structures. Small wonder. It is easy to work, and beautiful.

The South West of England is incredibly beautiful, with just about every kind of terrain for the rural photographer. Weather plays a part, too, in the photographer’s work, with bright sun, mists, fog, and diffused light at different times of the day. The shadows of rugged cliffs and the sparkle of surf on the beach all provide the photographer with a plethora of subject matter. The people of the areas have vigorous lifestyles, and the rural life always offers fantastic opportunities to feature nature and working people. Here are some pointers for succeeding in rural photography in the Southwest.

Sheep Shearing


The South West part of England is sheep country. Any photographic opportunity involving animals and the people who work with them is golden, and sheep shearing season is a flurry of activity. The working dogs stalk the flocks, moving them into the pens, and hard working people go about their amazing jobs with casual expertise. Every step of the process provides opportunities for still-life shots, action shots, and studies.

In fact, the shearing is only a part of the season. Lambing season is another excellent opportunity to get some great photos. The animals, farm structures, machinery, and farmers all are terrific subjects.



What photographer can resist Stonehenge? This World Heritage Site is as important to the world as it is to the UK. Located in Wiltshire, it is thought to have been built as far back as 3000 BC. Photographing the mortise and tenon joinery, or wide shots of the entire area at sunrise, can be the crowning glory to your portfolio. Built by a culture that left no written record, you can create a pictorial record of your own.

The Jurassic Coast

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Another World Heritage Site in the South West of England is the Jurassic Coast. Set up at Old Harry Rocks and catch the shadows throughout the day as they evolve with changes in sunlight. Cliffs from the Triassic and Jurassic eras, as well as the Cretaceous era, provide dramatic scenery for photographers. Storm Beach offers amazing shots of weather at its worst. The Durdle Door Arch is another striking geological feature, offering unique photo opportunities.

Glastonbury Festival


The Glastonbury Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the UK, providing excellent photographic opportunities . Observe the cabaret, theatre, period costumes and contemporary musicians. Over a 175,000 people attend the festival, held on a farm in Somerset.



Follow the steps of the Anglo-Saxons at the Bokerley Dyke at the Cranborne Chase. Photograph the fields where the famous battles of England were fought. The Battle of Bedwyn was fought here, as were battles against the Vikings.

The Corfe Castle

Who wouldn’t like to have a series of shots with an authentic castle? There are many castles throughout the UK, whether you’re looking for an intact castle with well kept garden and garden plants, or an amazing ruin where you can use your imagination of the past. The Corfe Castle is one of many in the South West region, and a great destination for the photographer.


Visit the Southwest for a holiday taking beautiful photographs. Whether you prefer portraits or landscapes, your journey will be rich and rewarding.