Welcome to Zeal Monachorum
Set amid the rolling agricultural heartland of Devon, Zeal Monachorum is the epitome of a tranquil Devon village. Situated about 18 miles north-west of Exeter on the River Yeo, it lies at the centre of Devon, between Crediton and Okehampton, looking towards Dartmoor.
There is a local Saxon reference dated AD967 to land at Lesmanoac, and early maps refer to the settlement as Monkenfield, Munkton and Monks Nymet. The present name, written earlier as Sele and Zele, is said to derive from the fact that the manor of Zeal Monachorum had been given to the Abbey of Buckfast in 1018 by King Cnut (along with the manor of Down St Mary), hence a “cell of the monks”. The manor remained the property of Buckfast Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. The link with the Cistercian abbey is seen on the village sign at the top of Town Hill outside the church.
- To the south-west of the village is Reeve Castle; a large turreted house dated 1900. The Castle was designed with acoustics to house a full-sized church organ. The home also features a water turret, Japanese gardens with tunnels, ponds and a bear pit. A private residence, the Castle’s elaborate exterior can be viewed from surrounding fields whilst walking in the area.
- The Devon Association of Bellringers was founded at Zeal Monachorum in 1924.
- Zeal Monachorum features in children’s book ‘Perkin the Pedlar’ written by Eleanor Farjeon. The story is about twenty-six children of Zeal Monachorum who did not know their ABC, until one day Perkin visited. He told them a story and a verse for each letter of the alphabet, starting with Appledore and ending with Zeal Monachorum.
- The haunting story of the omen of the ‘White Breasted Bird’ is attributed to the Oxenhan family of Zeal Monachorum in the 1600s. The appearance of the bird foretold the death of four family members. The tradition of the bird has been recorded by Prince, in his ‘Worthies of Devon’ written in 1701, and used by Charles Kingsley in his book ‘Westward Ho!’.
- There is a local story of a gentleman who bequeathed a grain-sack filled with gold sovereigns to his friend. In his letter, the man wrote how the sovereigns were stored in a hollow tree between Monks Croft Cottage and Waie Farm. However, searching failed to locate the treasure and to this day, the coins have never been found.
- Neighbouring village North Tawton, was the home of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, William Budd (who discovered that typhoid was spread in contaminated water) and the setting for the TV sitcom ‘Jam & Jerusalem’.
Places to Visit
- Monks Croft Cottage opens its gardens as part of the National Garden Scheme each year. Reputedly the oldest cottage in Zeal Monachorum (built by the parish monks), the cottage retains many original features. Its pretty, medium-sized garden is picturesque, packed with spring colours and views to far hills. The garden also features a tranquil fishing lake with daffodils and wild flowers in a beautiful setting, home to a resident kingfisher.
- Ashridge Court is a wedding venue in nearby North Tawton that holds regular events including a Murder Mystery dinner and a Christmas Fayre.
- Enjoy locally produced drinks from nearby Taw Valley Brewery (in North Tawton) and at nearby Down St Mary Vineyard. Visitors are welcome at both (you need to contact Taw Valley first before arriving) and Down St Mary Vineyard offer tastings from their shop.
- St Peters Church – The parish church dates from 1235 with a late-Saxon font and a yew tree reputed to be at least 1,000 years old in the churchyard.
Places to Eat
- The Waie Inn offers a pleasant place to relax for lunch or a delicious evening meal. In the summer months, you can eat in the gardens and soak up the countryside view. The inn also offers indoor soft-play facilities for children, plus a five-a-side football pitch, pond and swimming pool.
- The Devonshire Dumpling in neighbouring Down St Mary offers hearty meals and local ales in a 17th-century pub with a beer garden.
- The White Hart in Bow is a traditional public house providing tasty meals and Sunday lunches.
- Nearby in North Tawton, The Railway is a traditional country pub on the edge of Dartmoor.
Things to Do
- Waie 2 Play is The Waie Inn’s amazing soft-play barn. Relax in the coffee bar whilst the children let off steam in the indoor purpose-built play area. Looking for an activity for the whole family to enjoy? The Waie Inn also has a swimming pool!
- There are plenty of scenic countryside, riverside and woodland walks for visitors to enjoy and spot local wildlife. Local sites to enjoy on walks include Gissage Lake (a tributary of the River Yeo west of the village) and Doe’s Wood (a Woodland Welcome Wood to the east of the village). Zeal Monachorum also features as a destination along the Devonshire Heartland Way.
- Viveka Gardens is a yoga retreat in nearby West Leigh, where visitors can ground themselves through yoga practices, good food and meditation. Booking essential.
Places to Stay
- There is bed and breakfast accommodation at The Waie Inn and a self-catering holiday-let cottage within the village.
- Down St Mary
Image courtesy of Philip Halling / Thatched cottage, Zeal Monachorum /
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