Teign Spirits – an exhibition of large scale contemporary photographs in the landscape at Castle Drogo


As the huge 5-year building conservation project to save Castle Drogo continues, artists have been invited to create new contemporary artworks to respond to and interpret the project and the fascinating history of the site.

Visitors to the castle over the next two years will find that ‘nothing is normal’.  The building work which will make the Lutyens’ designed building watertight for the first time in its history, has presented a rare opportunity for people to get up close to the conservation work and view the interior of the house as never before!

One of the creative partners working at Castle Drogo is the established photographer Mike Smallcombe. For the past year Mike has been gathering stories and images to create a series of ten large-scale photographs to display around the site.

Mike’s work aims to represent the human story of Castle Drogo and the surrounding landscape to create intriguing and rich images. The inspiration of these photographs will bring a wider understanding of the castle, inspired by the people who lived there, the history of the estate and the landscape of Dartmoor.

The photographs add another fascinating layer to the new 2015 visitor experience at Castle Drogo.  The ten high resolution images each measuring approximately 3m x 2m and printed on waterproof canvas, are suspended between trees in the formal garden and around the wider estate near Hunter’s Path, Fingle Bridge and along the River Teign for visitors to discover.

The images reference such stories and places as Julius Drewe’s passion for salmon fishing in the River Teign, the Waifs and Strays Society, the charcoal burning that used to take place in the valley, and Blackenstone Quarry where much of the granite used to build the castle was sourced. 


The exhibition aims to connect more people to this special place, highlighting links between the house, garden and estate, as well as some of the lesser known stories of the surrounding landscape.    A map of locations will help visitors to discover the photographs.  A number are in the immediate grounds and others displayed further afield, encouraging walks out onto the estate.

Creative Programme Manager Louise Donovan says, ‘This is an exciting and ambitious project for Castle Drogo and we expect that the stunning images will intrigue and delight our current audience as well as introducing the stunning garden and estate to new visitors.’

Mike Smallcombe is a photographer/artist living and working from his Devon studio for the past 21 years, and on projects in London.  In 2007 he won the photography award at the Exeter Contemporary Open, and in 2008 Mike was awarded Arts Council funding for his touring exhibition Ghosts in the Wood shown at Haldon Forest, Exeter, Kielder Forest, Northumberland and Grizedale Forest in the Lake District.

The south end is now watertight

The south end is now watertight

The south end of Castle Drogo is now watertight. A month ago the scaffolding came off to show the castle is all its glory. All of the windows have been cleaned and we’d forgotten how good the views of Dartmoor are.


Currently the central section of building work will be finished by September, and then the scaffolding dismantled. There is a great view of the south end from Hunter’s path and from the front door.Because every stone has been cleaned it is looking brand new! It’s also much more obvious that Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect, chose specific granite blocks, as there are very subtle colours on the south end ranging from orange to black (the black colour is because the mineral tourmaline is present in granite and was cut in such a way that the tourmaline is on the outer face of the stone).

Thank you to everyone who has supported the project the south end wouldn’t be watertight without your help.

Teign Spirits exhibition

mike smallcombe 1

Nothing is normal at Castle Drogo and coming this summer is an exciting photographic exhibition around the garden and grounds.

These photographs will focus on untold stories of Castle Drogo, one photograph references the charcoal burning that took place in the Teign Valley and another depicts a chandelier from the Drawing Room in the garden, telling the story of how Julius and Frances bought 2 chandeliers on honeymoon to Venice.

You can find out more from an article written by manor magazine http://www.manormagazine.co.uk/ or keep updated on when the photos will be on display on our social media pages.

Unsung volunteers


Our last story is from Hazel who is a plant centre volunteer and garden tour guide;

I have always loved gardening. When I worked as an NHSmanger, it proved to be a great stress-buster. Upon my retirement, as a carer for my parents, I could let off steam by tending their lovely garden, full of Rhododendrons, just like Castle Drogo.

Last year, finding myself with time to spare, following their sad demise, I paid a visit to Castle Drogo. I was immediately drawn to the garden feeling there was something special here. I approached Laurence (volunteer co-ordinator), to ask if there was a vacancy for a volunteer in the plant centre, I was struck be the friendliness of everybody I met.

I started volunteering in April last year; initially my duties were to tend the plants in the plant centre. Laurence asked me if I would be willing to undertake conducting a garden tour to add to our visitor’s enjoyment. As I can talk for England, I was keen to give it a try!

Within 2 weeks, I had boned up on the history of the Castle and the Gardens and nervously conducted my first tour. I need not have worried, the people I took around the garden were lovely and their positive comments gave me confidence.

Now I work on a Monday, there is a team of 4 of us, Mary, Helen, Julie and myself. Collectively we are responsible for looking after the plant centre plants, weeding watering & merchandising, making the plants look as good as possible, so that hopefully, people are tempted to buy. In addition we conduct up to 2 garden tours a day. We tell people all about the gardens, giving a brief history of how it all came to be here.

I love my day each week at Castle Drogo, from the start I have felt well supported by both the staff and volunteers. I hope to continue in this role for many years to come.

If you’d like to get involved at Castle Drogo please contact our volunteer coordinator, Laurence Harvey on 01647 434114 or email laurence.harvey@nationaltrust.org.uk

Unsung volunteers

Here is a story from Linda who is an admin volunteer;

I retired to the South West in the autumn of 2005 and was looking for something to do with my spare time when I saw an advert in the local press for volunteers at Castle Drogo.  I was not sure in what area I wanted to volunteer.  Thought maybe the gardens, but when I came to Castle Drogo and had a chat with Julie and Michael they asked me if I would like to help out in the office and that is what I have been doing for the past few years.  My role has evolved over this time with changes of staff and different ideas about what is required of me.  I started out helping out with admin work relating to volunteers, doing a lot of photo copying and sending out letters.  I then became involved in keeping the various handouts and documents up to date and answering the phone as I was the one in the office on a Saturday. I have always been involved with logging the visitor comment cards onto the computer and keeping the staff rotas up to date.  These days I work with Ros and she leaves me little notes of things that need doing on the Saturdays I come in, things that take time and are easy to do in an office when it quiet on a weekend. I enjoy coming to Castle Drogo on a Saturday, and helping out when I can with the various events that take place over the year.

Unsung volunteers

Today’s volunteer story is from Hannah who is an evulation intern here at Drogo;

‘Interning at Castle Drogo’

After studying Ancient History and Archaeology at University I wanted to continue learning and using my degree whilst gaining experience in the heritage sector. I knew of the National Trust’s brilliant reputation for valuable and rewarding internships, and was delighted when I saw one advertised at Castle Drogo. Being an intern with the National Trust has exceeded all my expectations, and I feel particularly privileged to have joined the Drogo team during this period of unique conservation and restoration.

As the Evaluation Intern my role has been to provide detailed analysis and on-going evaluation to help measure the success of the building project at Castle Drogo. This has involved the evaluation of the project management, conservation management, local community engagement, interpretation, on site visitor experience, training and skills, and volunteer involvement. As such I have been lucky enough to work with all departments at Drogo, not only learning about the important work that goes on but also meeting the wonderful people that keep it all running.

For example I have enjoyed spending days with the Rangers, the House Team and at Visitor Reception where I have been able to talk to staff, volunteers and visitors about their experiences at Drogo. This has also given me a good understanding of the history and care of the castle, garden and estate. I have also really enjoyed getting involved with community projects (such as the Spring Fling) and attending and evaluating training sessions.

I feel like the National Trust is actively invested in supporting and developing their interns, at whatever age or whatever previous experience they might have had. I have received so much amazing support from the team here at Drogo, and the experiences and skills I have gained will be invaluable and instrumental in shaping my career path ahead. I would recommend it to anyone!

Unsung volunteers

Collection Move 015

To continue celebrating our unsung volunteers here is a story from Erica who is a research volunteer;

“The Castle was trying to sort out some of the paper archive the property has accumulated over the years, much of it research by previous volunteers, little of it original documents. I was looking for something to do apart from room guiding and was asked if I would like to help with this. I said ‘Yes’ and have been involved for about 5 years now. The Archive still needs loads of work on it and other volunteers will, when they have room, be taking this over. When the Castle started to decide what it wanted to do for the commemoration of the start of WW1 I was asked to research what had happened to the workers on the building who had gone off to war. How had they fared in the war and had they come back? I found one who didn’t and his sad story was attached to the figures walking through the wall in the service corridor and now in the chapel.

I have also done research into Fingle Mill, the ruin near Fingle Bridge. It has answered some questions but raised others, as research often does.

Both of the above pieces of work could be on going and I hope to be able to do more but am now involved with The Plans, and can often been found making folders in a little room at the end of the nursery corridor, along with a little team of plan protectors.

Who knows what next?”