02 October 2013

Dartmoor Delights (Part 1): Need I say more?

My first long-ish holiday since my arrival in the UK was a stop I had dreamed to do for a long time.  I had read descriptions of it, seen pictures of it, and dreamed of walking about its varied landscape.  For five days in August Iwas finally introduced to one of the most beautiful places in the world...in my humble opinion...Dartmoor National Park.

Leaving London an early, dreary Saturday morning I kept an open mind that the clouds would stay centered where they were and as I traveled southwest they might dissipate.  My hopes turned to reality; as I neared Exeter the clouds had cleared and the sun was making its way through. With the sun still shining, I made my way to my first round driving on what I know as the passenger side of a car
My transport in Dartmoor
and driving on the left side of the road.  Needless to say I was apprehensive, but not put off; I'd set my mind to it and me and my little automatic Vauxhall car were off to Dartmoor!

One lesson learned:  GPSs (or Sat Navs in England) suck for getting around in the country.  I should have known better, I'd seen them not work away from urban areas before.  But, an extra £20 got me a SatNav that got me to my destination--the lovely little Devon village of Moretonhampton--via the little back windy country roads...there was surely a more direct way.

The local church in Moretonhampton
Moretonhampton is how one might picture a typical English village.  A medieval church with its cemetery and headstones dating back to the 19th century (as least on those I could read).  Narrow streets wide enough for one.  Several small local pubs where one can grab some food and a pint after a day walking the Moor.  Interactions with locals who know each other and deal with the influx of visitors to their village from the UK and beyond.  I stopped at the tourist information center everyday before beginning to get the weather (and always changing feature on the moor).  They were always helpful, kind and curious as to where I was from--the state of Oregon via London was my response and I was surprised (and not so surprised) to learn that other Oregonians had made their way through Dartmoor as well.  Must be that pioneering spirit.  The five days spent in this quaint small village were as equally captiving and delightful than the Moor itself.
High Street, Moretonhampton

Upon arrival and settling I immediately set out to see what I had traveled all this way too see...the vast beauty I was sure the Dartmoor contained.  I arrived at the first Tor, undoubtedly the most well known, Hay Tor.  Needless to say I was a bit inspired:

I sit by the rocks, out of the moor
With the rushing of the wind
And many grazing sheep.
Blue sky, gray and white, the ceiling
Green grasses, purple and yellow, the floor

I hear the sheep, the birds, never a Hound.
But the jutting rocks and rounded mounds,
Easily tell a different story.

As far as I see, the scene amazes me,
Days of discovery are ahead.
A scene that inspired
Nothing prepares someone for the scene they behold upon arrival into the Hay Tor portion of the Dartmoor. Guide books talked about it and tried to describe it, but nothing can compare to actually rounding the bend and coming upon the sight of the largest rock formation on the Tor.  It is so well recognized that one book likened it to Australia's Ayer's Rock;  I could see why.  I walked among my surroundings and took it all in.

A windy day on Dartmoor.
Rock formations around Hay Tor

"The road in front of us grew bleaker and wilder over huge russet  and olive slopes, sprinkled with granite boulders."-description of Dartmoor by Dr. John Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The major formation on Hay Tor.  A rock climbers delight.

The moor continued to be an experience the following days.  At Hound Tor the rocks seemed to jut out of the ground from every direction.  The wind continued to blow making me wonder why I bothered to brush my hair that morning.  I wonder if it ever calms down.  I look around and decide to pull out one of the main reasons I came--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes--and read passages from the great Dartmoor adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles, over 100 years ago.  It was then sitting in the place about which he wrote and seeing what he was describing.  Every word still describes the moor and it gives Dartmoor a sense of timelessness.

Part 2 to follow...

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