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Okehampton


Okehampton is situated to the far North of Dartmoor National Park. This Dartmoor town is a great base for visitors to Dartmoor especially walkers and cyclists. It sits close to both the Dartmoor Way and the Dartmoor Cycle Route and Millennium cycle route. Okehampton itself is a charming town, with lots of traditional Dartmoor accommodation, including old coaching inns, converted self-catering barns and pretty cottages.

Okehampton even boasts one of the only cinemas on Dartmoor.

Close by there are beautiful natural features, Yes Tor, Okemont River ,the beautiful Meldon Village and reservoir and many other Tors, Oke Tor, Steeperton Tor and High Willhays  are all worth a walk.

Situated in the heart of rural Devon, on the shoulder of Dartmoor’s heights Okehampton offers a wealth of wildly differing landscapes. Rising dramatically behind Okehampton lie the highest peaks of Dartmoor with Yes Tor at over 600m. These hills topped with striking, weathered granite tors, surrounded by clitter seem almost shaped by human hand, but are in fact the stumped remains of mountains millions of years past.

The landscape’s ancient trackways provide a haven for the adventurous in spirit, who in passing the countless preshistoric settlements, stone circles, rows and industrial litter of medieval tin workers will discover it is not quite the wilderness it first appears. The distinct upland habitat of peat bogs running down valley sides to fresh streams rippling through granite boulders provides an experience unequalled in the South of England, not to mention the outstanding views of the countryside below.

One of the prettiest villages to be surveyed from these heights is Lydford which boasts the National Trust property Lydford Gorge. Here you’ll find several spectacular sights including the thunderous Devil’s Cauldron ravine and the impressive White Lady waterfall.

Picturesque villages abound many with thatched cottages like Sampford Courtenay, which is approached via narrow country lanes decked with hedgerow flowers. The village of Belstone hosts a village green that is often known to be explored by both local sheep and Dartmoor ponies. All of the villages surrounding Okehampton exude typical Devon charm and many local characters can be met in village pubs throughout the area.

Villages are interspersed with rolling farmland much of which has been farmed by the same families for generations. The handsome market town of Hatherleigh hosts a farmers market every Tuesday at which farmers throughout North and West Devon buy and sell their produce and catch up with the latest news.

In addition to rolling hills the area enjoys great expanses of fresh water with Roadford Lake providing more than 730 acres for watersports, fishing and birdwatching. The lake also has a network of paths and bridleways, including a special path for wheelchair users. Similarly there is Meldon Resevoir just minutes away from Okehampton, which offers opportunities for walking alongside a stretch of still water which provides fantastic reflections of the surrounding Moorland.

Lovers of more formal landscapes are also well catered for with the National Trust house and garden at Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton. Mythic Gardens at Chagford not only has some wonderful plants but also a fantastic sculpture garden too, whilst Bowden Hostas at Sticklepath features a National Hostas collection.

Yet visitors need not leave Okehampton town centre at all to enjoy greenery and tranquillity. Simmons Park at the heart of the town offers mature parkland complete with its centrepiece the East Ockment river which is one of two moorland rivers that keep Okehampton town in their midst.
Okehampton has been greeting visitors for over 2000 years. Some were invaders rather than visitors! The area was initially settled in the bronze age, extensive evidence of which can still be found on the slopes of surrounding moorland.

Saxon rule came in the 7th century; the name 'Ocmundtune', meaning settlement by the Ockement, is first recorded in AD 980 as a place where slaves were freed at a cross-roads so they could choose their own destiny. The Saxon settlement was probably built up around the parish church, which still stands over half a mile from the modern town.

The Saxon lords were overthrown however, by Norman conquerors. Baldwin de Brion, the first Norman Sheriff established Okehampton Castle as the administration centre of his vast estates in Devon. These passed by marriage to the Courtenay family, who rebuilt the castle as a lavish but defended country retreat. Then, in 1538, Henry VIII seized the estate and had Henry; the 9th Parl, beheaded for conspiracy.

The town grew in importance during the Middle Ages, but the great castle never saw a shot fired in anger. Strangely, this remained the case even during the Civil War, where Okehampton was careful not to take sides. The forces of both the Royalists and Roundheads used the town as a garrison at some stage.

Visitors today can step back into the past with a visit to the substantial ruins of Okehampton Castle, which dramatically stand just a short distance from the Town Centre and is administered by English Heritage.

If ever there was an industrial "revolution", it was on Dartmoor during the Middle Ages! The technology; scale and political organisation of the tin industry was truly amazing. Trade in tin and wool created wealth, which led to the rebuilding of many local churches. Much of this history can be explored at the Museum of Dartmoor Life, where you'll find a variety of relics tracing the history of the moor and its people down the years.

The extraordinary tale of the 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion hails from these parts. Over 800 local villagers and Cornishmen were killed in the civil unrest. The final battle took place near Sampford Courtenay, a village just a few minutes drive from Okehampton.

Okehampton was a so-called "rotten borough", returning two members of parliament from the 1300's right up to 1832. Many well known names represented the town, such as Clive of India and William Pitt the Elder, despite having no connection with it, only a qualifying land holding.

Other famous visitors included John and Charles Wesley, who received a warm welcome from the Quakers at nearby Sticklepath. The famous white rock where John Wesley preached can still be seen.

Finally the 19th Century saw great improvements in communications, with better roads and in 1871 the coming of the railway, which resulted in many more visitors coming to see the town’s greatest heritage asset Dartmoor.





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