Driving across Dartmoor the other day I squinted, not quite believing what I saw. I’ve often seen a solitary highland cow but never a whole bunch of them together and right by the side of the road. I slowed down onto the verge, expecting them to get up and walk away but they didn’t. I opened the car window and started snapping but couldn’t get a clear view so I got out. Again, I thought they would disappear or more likely, make me disappear!
Instead they let me get to within six feet of them and I could probably have got even closer but didn’t want to push my luck.
So here they are, hope they make you smile.
It is believed that Dartmoor was almost completely covered in forest thousands of years ago, but it was gradually chopped down and used by the people living there at that time. Nowadays there are evergreen plantations and just a few natural woods remain, Wistmans Wood for one. It is a small, remote wood, just eight acres at a height of 1300 feet above sea leve,l with mostly oak trees, stunted by the poor soil and altitude. The surrounding area is open moorland, grazed by sheep, cattle and ponies. Without the clitter, fallen from the tors further up the hillside, the grazing animals would have put paid to Wistmans long ago. As it is, the clitter makes it impossible for them to gain foothold there.
Wistmans is one of many Dartmoor sites that is shrouded in myth and legend. Its name derives from Saxon wissen, to know, so Wissman’s or Wistman’s Wood, means wisemans wood and refers to the Druids and their sacred grove. You may indeed encounter the ghosts of druids past, if you dare to visit in the dark of the night. Far worse might be an encounter with the devil and his pack of fearful wisht hounds, Wistmans may be where he keeps them.
Rumour has it that adders lurk between every boulder, ready to strike if you dare clamber over, to find a path through the wood. What’s more likely to happen is that you will slip on damp moss and break an ankle, or worse, between these ancient granite rocks.
So brave traveller is you visit, listen for baying hounds, keep your eyes out for serpents, be careful what you turn your back on, and most of all if there’s a red flag flying stay away – the military have a firing area nearby and you don’t want to get shot!
Watch out for adders
The wood on a bright day
Ferns, moss and lichen
Beware the Serpent
Gnarled and twisted
Wizened and moss covered oak
Scarce hoarier seems the ancient Wood
Whose shivered trunks of age declare
What scath of tempests they have stood
In the rock’s crevice rooted there;
Yet still young foliage, fresh and fair,
Springs forth each mossy bough to dress,
And bid e’en Dartmoor’s valleys share
Sophie Dixon -1829.
In the 19th century, granite was quarried at Haytor on Dartmoor and was taken along a tramway to the Stover Canal. From there it went by barge to Teignmouth, then by sea around Great Britain and further. The tramway was opened on 1820, by George Templar of Stover, a long distance footpath , the Templar Way is named after him.
Granite from Haytor was used in the building of London Bridge, the British Museum and the National Gallery.
Trains of up to twelve trucks descended from Haytor, with a horse behind to slow them down. Remains of the tramway can still be seen on Haytor Down. The ‘Relic’ of a truck below is similar to the ones used on the tramway. This post is for the Weekly Photo Challenge of Relic.
to join in.
close up they glisten
inspiring circle of stones
imbued with magic
Today I’ve had the most lovely day out with my very dear blogging sister Christine, of Dadirri Dreaming, as well as her husband S, who coped well with a crazy Devon Gypsy driving them up the narrow lanes. If you have been following Christine you’ll know that she has been travelling around southern Spain for a few days, quite a bit warmer than here but it stayed dry for us and I’m thrilled to bits that she came all this way!
I took them to one of my favourite places on Dartmoor, Scorhill. We went inside the shelter of the stone circle, plenty of room there and with a view.
Next we went on over the hill and far away where these ladies had plenty of room to roam.
This post is for the Weekly Photo Challenge . . . Room! As always , click for a bigger view.
Distant stands of trees
breaking the barren landscape
where a dry-stone wall
weathered but still eternal
frames the timeless common land