Dartmoor is famed for its quintessentially English villages, cut off from the trappings of the country’s urban centres, where life is enjoyed at a more sedate pace.
Perhaps the jewel in the crown is the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor which is home to around 500 people, according to the 2021 census.
One of the charms of the village is that, despite its tiny number of inhabitants, the parish boundaries stretch for miles across Dartmoor’s picturesque landscape to include isolated country cottages and moorland farms. In that sense, the village is both very big and very small.
The centrepiece of the historic settlement is the church of St Pancras, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Moors’ thanks to its 120-foot tower. The absence of buildings enables the tower to be seen for miles throughout Widecombe Valley.
Tourism is the only major trade in this quiet corner of Devon. Visitors would be well-advised to visit the two gorgeous pubs the village boasts – The Rugglestone Inn and The Old Inn, which is every bit as old as its name suggests having been built in the 15th century.
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Despite being seemingly detached from the outside world, Widecombe-in-the-Moor has attracted some unlikely attention from across the pond over the years.
Although scarcely believable, the village was the centre of a transatlantic supernatural row between a US actor and local people.
In 1980, Home Alone star Daniel Stern claimed to have had a ghostly experience during a brief stay in the village while on his honeymoon.
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He said that villagers had told him that the Great Thunderstorm of 1638 was to blame for the haunting. However the official Widecombe-in-the-Moor website hit back at the claims and said the rumours were nothing more than that, rumours.
Legendary US director Steven Spielberg chose the village as one of the sites he would use to film his 2011 epic War Horse.
Adrian Bishop, a member of the Castle Combe parish council, told The Guardian in 2012 that the film crew were welcomed into the village with open arms: “They were here for three weeks. The first week they set up, then they did a five-day shoot –they had scheduled seven, but got it done in five – and spent a week clearing up. They converted the village back to 1914 and did it very accurately.
“They spared no pains in getting that right. They took down all the modern lamp fittings and signs, they covered up postboxes and notice boards. They had quite a lot of animals in this one. But we’ve had Dr Dolittle, so we were quite used to that.”
Living in such a beautiful village does come at a price, however. According to Rightmove, the average price of property in the quaint rural spot comes in £710,000.
According to the estate agents: “Overall, sold prices in Widecombe-In-The-Moor over the last year were 35 per cent up on the previous year and 2 per cent up on the 2019 peak of £698,000.”
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