There’s a certain credibility that comes with being the first town in the country to elect an official from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. Alan “Howling Laud” Hope was elected to Ashburton council in 1987 and eventually became mayor of the town in 1998. Hope became co-leader of the party after the death of Screaming Lord Sutch and continues today. The Howling Laud is now as departed from Ashburton as his former co-leader of the party Cat Mandu (although not quite as terminally), as is the former party headquarters, Hope’s pub The Golden Lion.
There’s little trace of the town’s illustrious recent past in Ashburton these days, and much more is made of the historic stannary status (i.e. the town was a tin mining centre in this part of Devon) and for being the gateway to the scary wastes of Dartmoor. It’s been there since Domesday times, and was certainly there in the Civil War, being a hideaway from scared cavaliers running from Fairfax. Today, Ashburton is a small town just off the A38 Devon Expressway (the title reminds me of Billy Bragg’s A13 Trunk Road To The Sea) with about 3,500 residents, and 3 charity shops.
All three are local concerns. Brainwave is a little shop with no much that was worth buying in the end – but it’s well maintained with a good variety of stock. Animals In Distress is more of the same, but the best is the Mare & Foal Sanctuary store. As usual, my opinions are based on just the one visit, but nevertheless. I came out of here not only with a personal triumph (an etymological dictionary) but two Le Creuset saucepans – £100 odd new, £5 each to you, guvnor.
There’s not a great deal of Ashburton, and it won’t take you long to wander around and sample its sights. There’s cafes and inns and bookshops and giftshops, but the appeal of the town is less the shopping, more the magnificence of the moors on its doorstep. Therefore, it’s definitely a good stopping off point, if only for a pub lunch and a charity shop mooch.
Find: Ashburton @ Google Maps
Best buy: Definitely the Le Creuset. Mmm, saucepans.
Consume with: I went with the full English at Katie’s Kitchen, and it was not half bad.
Visit: There’s not really much to look at in Ashburton, but who needs it when the whole of Dartmoor is awaiting your walking shoe?
Overall rating: three hardback boxset