06 October 2013

Dartmoor Delights (Part 2): Indeed, I will say more.

Hound Tor from afar.
Hound Tor
Guide books outlined walks and sights, but I found, when the guides ended up being a tad confusing to me, my own explorations and walks suited just as well.  I wandered about the rock forms, down to the remains of a medieval settlement and through the flora.
Medieval settlement remains with Hound Tor in the distance.
The formations at Hound Tor seemed to jut out from every direction.  The wind continued to blow and the occasional shower came down.  Yes, this is England.  In refuge from the wind and rain, I found shelter among the rocks and decide to read a bit from that famous story and am transported to the 19th Century.

Shelter from the wind and rain and a bit of reading.
"'It is a wonderful place, the moor', said he, looking round over the undulating downs, large green rollers with crests of jagged granite foaming up into fantastic surges.  'You never tire of the moor.  You cannot think the wonderful secrets which it contains.  It is so vast and so barren, and so mysterious'". --The Hound of the Baskervilles
Granite formations on Hound Tor.

"Large green rollers" on Dartmoor

Hayne Downs and Bowerman's Nose
Still the winds blows on day three, as it seems to always blow on my visit to the moor, but this time it was much gentler like a low voice saying hello rather than screaming by ones ears.  My rambles today took me through the tors and formations on Hayne Downs.
Fading morning midst on the formations near Hayne Downs.
 I arrived early enough to see the midst settling upon the highest points, fighting with the sun that eventually came out.  I sat, taking in the view.  I loved it.  Peaceful. Calm.  Beautiful.  Nothing but some moor sheep and an early-risen family out for their walk as well.

I spot Bowerman's Nose, a well-known moor landmark/formation.
Bowerman's Nose in the distance. 
 A legend behind the granite formation tells of a hunter that lived among the moors and came across a group of witches as he and his hounds were hunting a hare, interrupting the ceremony.  As punishment, the next time they hunted upon the moor one witch pretended to be a hare and led them into one of the deadly mires, swamp-like areas, on the moor finally turning them all into stone.
Bowerman's Nose--
see the lovely nose?
The hunter sits on Hayne Down, his large nose prominent; his hounds are among the granite formations on Hound Tor that can resemble dogs.

Midst and sun battle for the day.
As the sun came out in the afternoon, I travelled to a little hamlet in the moor, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, for the local cider and some wifi connection; I did want to get away from the technology, but couldn't do it.  Like Moretonhampton, the town church dates back many centuries and still seems to be the center of life in the small community.  The sun was now out and tourists, like myself, were abound scuttling through the little shops, lounging in the park, and eating in the pubs.  It was a warm and beautiful day after the midst lifted, but in England the weather is an ever-changing thing as evident by the clouds started to gather once again...
Church in Widecombe-in-the-Moor.
Walking around Hayne Downs, I was able to see the remains of another local moor-related story.  I visited Jay's Grave.  While it is only a small mound and headstone, the local story says it is the marking of  the remains of a local girl who committed suicide in the 19th century.  While no one is sure if the story is true, there are always fresh flowers on the grave and no one has ever claimed to know who keeps the grave adorned. There have also been reports of a dark shadow or figure near the grave during the dusk hours of the day...kind of spooky to think about it. More detail on this local story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay%27s_Grave.

Princetown and the attempt to reach Grimpen Mire (or FoxTor Mire):

A view of Princetown from the pathway.
One of the beauties of Dartmoor is its diversity.  One will find woodlands and streams, Tors, rolling hills, and vast expanses of barren, flat, grassy plains...that is the only way I can find to describe the bit of the moor that I explored on this day.  It began from the town of Princetown, an interesting place in itself for this Conan Doyle fan.
The hotel, now a tourist office and local museum, where
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have stayed during
his time in Princetown. 
  This town certainly had to inspire bits of his work as it is said that he stayed in this building, which is now a tourist centre and local museum.  The city has been the site of a prison since Conan Doyle's time and remains so today.  This fact could have inspired the addition of the wandering prisoner out on the moor who was, at one point, mistaken for Sir Henry Baskerville.

I began my walk from this town and the goal of finding the inspiration for the infamous Grimpen Mire, an area called Fox Tor Mire.  After walking for what seemed to be many, but likely was only a few, miles I sat down to take in the view, the expanse, the quiet.  My solitude was only occasionally interrupted by groups of hikers embarking on the same trail I did, but getting quite further.
The quiet was almost deafening.  I strained my ears for the slightest sound over the remote landscape of this part of Dartmoor.  It seemed like a great grassy desert where, I imagine, if the fog were a little less abundant, I could see for miles.  My plan of heading out to Fox Tor Mires, the inspiration for Grimpen Mires, did not come to fruition this time.  It will have to be for the next time.

Quite in contrast to the previous days, when I searched through the formations for a bit of solitude among the the tour groups and visiting families, this area gives one a feeling of such solitude that the occasional school group or hiker on the path was a welcome sight and chance to say 'hello'.  Not even the wind whistles past my head on this day, simply more of a gentle whisper. Once again some inspiration hits me:

From boulders, to hills and woodlands galore,
That is the beauty that fills Dartmoor.

Old granite quarries, tin-work and medieval stones,
That is the history that fills Dartmoor.

A Hound, a doctor and his friend Mr. Holmes,
Those and many more stories are full of  Dartmoor.

Sheep, cows, and ponies roam free as before,
Free from confinement out on Dartmoor.

The trip back takes me past moorland ponies grazing in the grass.  I notice a mare with its foal and a little further what seemed like an adolescent romping in the grass.  A time for fun and games.
A mare and its foal grazing on Dartmoor

I will return to one of the greatest delights that England has to offer: Dartmoor.  Though perhaps not on my own next time.  Five days

exploring such an amazing place was so delightful that it needs to be shared and continually rediscovered in good company.


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