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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Magical woods and pony foals on Dartmoor

This weekend we decided to visit Dartmouth by way of Dartmoor National Park.

For anyone who hasn't visited, Dartmoor is a very large area of moorland in the centre of Devon. There's a very varied landscape, from wooded valleys to wild high moors like this one. The main purpose in visiting this weekend was to find Wistmans Wood, a small oak woodland in a valley not far from Dartmoor Prison. It's a really strange, rather magical place where oak trees grow amongst moss covered boulders, the trees themselves are quite small, and twisted by the prevailing winds into wierd shapes, covered in mosses and lichens.


This is a picture taken from just below the wood near the river. It's really difficult to negotiate your way through as the boulders are really packed in aganist each other and covered in slippery moss. It's a roughly 2 mile walk from a small car park at Two Bridges, just north of Princetown. As it's up on the high moor it's important to be prepared for rough ground and rapid weather changes; while we were there a family arrived with two children, a small girl in a summer skirt and t shirt and her brother in t shirt and jeans, the girl also wearing Crocs on bare feet. Even without the possibility of adders, there's the danger of clambering on wet moss in that sort of footwear. The adders of Wistman have the reputation of being more venomous than any others, probably untrue! It does seem a perfect lair for snakes though, especially under the rocks! Legend has it that the wood is haunted, first by the ghost of a dog and also by ghostly monk like figures, as the site is supposed to be connected with ancient burial rituals. For legends connected to the wood visit LegendaryDartmoor.co.uk/wistman.htm.


Here's a couple of dragons I spotted at the edge of the wood. There are all sorts of fantastical shapes, dryads and dancing demons, and figures absorbed into the mossy covering of the trees.

Here's a figure with an arm thrown over it's head, I'm not sure what happened to it's other leg, perhaps the Wisht Hounds got it!

We spent the night in Dartmouth, in a nice little hotel that had a view over the river, and watched the mist come in until you couldn't see anything past the hedge about 50 yards away.
Spent Monday mooching around Dartmouth in the drizzle, looking at galleries and admiring stuff we can't afford, went into both Simon Drew's gallery and shop, fell in love with several original artworks and settled for a magnetic notebook. Have to buy the T shirt with the Bayeux Tapestry on it and the caption: "I spy with my little eye something beginning with A". Genius, a lttle sick, but genius.

Having looked at the ridiculous queue for the car ferry to Kingswear, and the madly long road trip round, we opted for a passenger ferry over the river, Kingswear is a little boy's heaven, boats and steam trains!

Steam train with pretty pastel buildings behind
Steam engine puffing into the station
A view from the footbridge, where I relived a childhood memory, waiting for trains on a bridge in Portsmouth on our way to the beach, steam coming up through the boards all around you, aah that smell!

Went home back over Dartmoor stopping to photograph random tors, the clapper bridge at Postbridge and some very cute pony foals. We'd seen several mums with foal in tow but never where you could stop to take pics, until we found a whole herd with about four foals surrounding a parking area.

Jay imitating the angel of the north, in a very high wind!

 The granite stack he was standing on, about 20 feet high.

 Clapper bridge from below, there were swallows zipping in and out of the arches but far too fast for my little idiot proof camera to catch.

Aah too cute, the little fellow at the bottom was trotting back to mum after a brave foray away from her and a rapid return.



If you've never visited Dartmoor hopefully this gives a little flavour of it, I spent several childhood holidays here and my Dad used to climb the larger tors with my older sister scrambling after him, I'm a complete wimp, I used to get stuck three feet off the ground, embarrassing!

Here are some random images that I like from the two days.
Mist coming in over the West Dart river




Long may the national parks continue as they are.

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