Notes From The Shed is what gets put together while we are waiting for news at our headquarters, back a bit and off to the right from the locator map below. And this is a selection of items which might be worth repeating if we haven’t even got any new Notes From The Shed …

Picture by Dartmoor artist Shirley Kirkcaldy, by permission arranged through Wildwood Arts of Horrabridge – best little gallery for many miles.


Nobody can resist this one once they’ve heard of it. The New York Times has been taking an interest in the range of Brit dialects – a matter of bafflement and wonder to American visitors here – and is working on a quiz which is supposed to identify where in Britain or Ireland a set of words and pronunciations is likely to come from.

Here in The Shed, we went through the first 25 questions in 5 minutes and got matched up with Devonshire, Wales and North West of England, which makes some sense except for Wales. The less you have moved house, the more accurate it is likely to be.

Try it at

and send us, if you would, so we can argue with the New York Times, one of three verdicts – SPOT-ON, NOT BAD or RUBBISH – to


In The Shed’s experience, the best way to organise travel is to go to a travel agent. But for those who enjoy beating the system, we pass on the tip that airlines have been trying to shut down a service called Skiplagged which halves the cost of some long-haul journeys by telling you where to get off at a stopover hub and pick up a flight which is crossing paths with you. For some reason, it is often much cheaper to pay two full fares for a dog-leg route than to pay the market rate for a direct route. The airlines say it is a con on them, leaving them with empty seats. But it’s hard to stop you, apparently.


Buckland Monachorum Snooker Club has refurbished its table in the village hall and is looking for customers, at £2 an hour. For details, go to:


Boffins are at war over a plan to send a radio transmitter out into the cosmos, broadcasting a coded list of the elements of the periodic table – the building blocks of matter – as so far discovered on Earth.

Martin Dominik, an astronomer at St Andrew’s University, is one of the opposition. He argues that any intelligence which could decipher the message and trace it back might just see Earth as “a good place to find lunch”.

But the American scientist behind the mission says if they are that clever, they could find us anyway. The point is to announce ourselves as something worth trying to talk to.

He told the Times: “If you go into the zoo and see a herd of zebra, they’re just zebra. If one turns and taps out a series of prime numbers with its foot, though, that becomes a radically different relationship.”

Possibly, of course, zebra are tapping out prime numbers all the time and none of us have noticed.


If anyone with mariner blood has noticed a chill in the air, it could be coming from the ghosts of Buckland Abbey, who have had to say goodbye to Drake’s Drum – far as anyone knows, the one which legend says will sound again and recall the old rogue from the other side if the nation is in peril.

Nobody can say for certain that it is but it is from the right period, it was kept in his house and it was sold to Plymouth Museums by the Drake family more than 50 years ago. It has remained at Buckland, on loan, almost ever since – but now Plymouth wants it for a new exhibition space, The Box, being built for the Mayflower anniversary shenanigans in 2020.

The drum was handed over during the winter closure at Buckland and is now being assessed and repaired in readiness for acclimatisation in its new home as soon as possible.


A blogger called sarahjgodley has spoken up for millions of horse-lovers who have been irritated for years by sound engineers apparently using the same neigh for almost every horse in almost every scene since films went talkie. It is the neigh of an excited stallion and usually makes no sense if you have any idea of horse talk, she says – especially when the horse in question has its mouth shut. Still looking for a link to the sound – send it to if you find it?


A while ago, we reported on new rules which look likely to put up the price of stoves and solid fuel –

The point is to stop people burning damp fuel and polluting the air with big particles. No arguing with the growing evidence of illness caused by air pollution. But we did wonder if there was any evidence that people were actually burning damp logs on any scale and if a few farmers were, did it really matter.

In short, what proof is there that smoke from the edge of Dartmoor is drifting to Plymouth or Exeter or anywhere else it is not blown away to nothing?

It is not an unreasonable question. Air quality and air movements are measured all the time. And unless there is significant drift from rural areas to urban, there is not much point in an elaborate bureaucratic exercise to control the quality of logs outside existing smoke control areas.

The Deparment for Food, Environment & Rural Affairs, spent some weeks referring us to leaflets and inspirational slogans which failed to answer the question. Eventually a ministerial aide wrote to say: “A key driver for our action to encourage householders to burn cleaner fuels whether, urban or rural, is for the benefit of their own health as well as that of their neighbours.

However, we do know that the harmful particulate matter produced by burning solid fuels can travel through the atmosphere, meaning that pollution in one area can have an effect far away.”

In other words, all this effort might achieve something but nobody is sure.


The truth often gets condemned from all sides and so it was when the chairman of Barclays, John McFarlane, pointed out that while condemning greed in his trade, the rest of us have spent the past 15 years conniving in a giant swindle in the form of compensation claims for payment protection insurance we forgot we had ever had.

Some of our nieces and nephews may have had jobs in the telesales pump houses which oversold the product. Since then, they have switched to selling compensation claims on behalf of any of us prepared to declare that our lives were ruined by the £5 a month we got conned out of back in 1990 or something.

McFarlane said: “The percentage of fraudulent claims is enormous. We have turned portions of Britain into fraudsters.”

He said the government had allowed the avalanche of PPI claims because it was in their interests …

Consumer spending rose and it weakened the banks. This is stimulation of the economy by buying flat-screen televisions.”


The Shed has appointed Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, as its favourite billionaire, on the basis of a story he told against himself in a talk to Princeton students.

Bezos spent a lot of his childhood with his grandparents, farming on a little ranch in Texas. He worshipped them but his grandma was a chain smoker and Bezos was a zealous teenager, absorbing anti-smoking adverts which said every puff took two minutes off your life.

On a road trip one day, he counted his granny’s intake, did some sums in his head, tapped her on the shoulder and announced she had taken nine years off her life so far.

He remembered: “While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather pulled over. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow. He had never said a harsh word to me. We stopped beside the trailer. My grandfather looked at me and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said: Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.


The Shed took a browse around the new Butchers Hall and stopped for a look at the exhibition of old timbers and stones and guttering and so on which had to be replicated in the restoration. The builders have done beautiful and Tavistock was right to go for all the grant aid it could get to do a proper job. But it struck us that in the good old days, somebody would just have patched up some of those bits of wear with mortar and old newspapers and it would have been interesting, this time round, to leave a corner to Bodge & Sons and compare performance for money over the next 20 years, say.

In the Shed, we felt a spiritual bond with those lads at the Egyptian Museum who dropped the mask of Tutankhamun and fixed it with Araldite. When somebody finally noticed, the authorities were too quick to call in the experts to put it right. We would have bought a ticket to see the bodge and so would Shed men around the world.


WHY are the Horrabridge Cavaliers called the Cavaliers? Some significant local historical reason, perhaps?

Chairman John Howells confessed all at a do last Saturday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the group’s foundation as a bunch of friends prepared to work together to help the village.

They started out digging a big hole, by hand, for a pre-fab swimming pool at the old village school – since built over. The party on Saturday celebrated many memorable projects since.

John admitted that a pint after the work was often an important element in a Cavaliers project and said it was in the pub that he came up with the brilliant idea of calling themselves The Musketeers.

But I got the word wrong,” he admitted. “And 40 years later, we are still named by drunken mistake.”

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Editor of The Horrabridge Times.