I visited Buckfast Abbey the day before yesterday. It is a living monastery located inside the Dartmoor National Park, just a 5 minute drive from the South Devon Railway. After its founding, nearly a thousand years ago, it closed for a while then reopened in 1882 and was rebuilt. Besides being generally monk-like, the resident Benedictines make stained glass, keep bees, tend herb and meditation gardens, and produce tonic wine.

The gardens, well tended and buzzing with bees, showed off a profusion of colorful blossoms, neat ponds and statues.

I enjoyed exploring the church and the gardens, but my favorite part of the afternoon was my time down by the river. The abbey sits right next to the River Dart. I skirted the perimeter of the abbey grounds, passed the bee keeping yard and down a path to the river. I can’t say there’s anything outwardly spectacular about this river, except for it’s general beauty, but I felt such a strong presence of life here, both vibrant and peaceful.

Not long after I arrived, so did a woman with her three grandsons. Gay was there on holiday with her husband, her son and his family. Her and the three boys were out exploring the river that afternoon and the boys were busy skipping stones. The eldest was very good and counted 11 skips with one toss. Gay and I talked about the beautiful weather. I know it seems mundane, but this is a big deal here. Gay said that of the many years she’d been coming to Devon for the same stretch of time, this is the best weather they’ve had. I told her that I might have brought a little California weather with me.

Stretching down river to our right was monastery property, closed to the public. To our left was private property, personally owned. Gay suggested I take a stroll up river and explained that she knew the owners. If someone appeared, asking who I was, she said I could mention her name. Her and the boys went on their way and I did as she suggested. As simple a place as it was, just a couple small fields and some trees along the river, it was magical and I got some wonderful photos. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s an abundance of life here and this spot was no exception. Among other things, I saw dozens of tadpoles, tiny fish and damselflies.