Monday, 18 August 2014

Wistman's Wood

"Drive towards Bovey Castle and do a right at the B3212. Continue for ten miles until you reach The Two Bridges where you'll have to hike the final hour of the journey to reach Wistman's Wood".

These were the precise instructions we received from our hosts as we left Easton Court B&B in Chagford early one morning. It all seemed simple enough. We headed South, pootling across Dartmoor whilst listening to the haunting Hawaiian soundtrack from The Descendants; a strange combination but it worked.

Our SatNav sent us on a rather adventurous route, down narrow bucolic lanes with barely enough room for our car, as prickly hedgerows scoured its sides like nails down a blackboard, Hercules began swearing like a trooper, saying something about his "Bloody paintwork", I wasn't really listening, I was already having a whale of a time.

We dumped the cat-scratched car at the remote Two Bridges Hotel and hopped over a turnstile following the signs to the wood.

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Following the steep moorland of Longaford Newtake that rises up from the West Dart River, we reached the outskirts of the wood at a leisurely pace in about forty-five minutes, not so hardcore a trek after all.

You are never alone in the wilds of Dartmoor. 
There is always a set of beady eyes fixed on your every move.

On the last part of the walk you can just make out the woods, hugging the hillside on the left as you pass through the remains of Bronze Age settlements.

Wistman's Wood is one of only three remaining high altitude Oak woodland copses on Dartmoor. Growing on granite bedrock has stunted the 400 year old tree's growth, sculpting them into gnarly, fairy-tale shapes that point and beckon in every direction.

With no particular path, the only way through is to clamber and climb wildcat style.
Come on, lets go. Last one in is a raspberry.

There are many stories surrounding the origin of the woods name. In local dialect, the word 'Wisht' means haunted and legend has it, that the Devil's Wisht Hounds walk the woods at night in search of unwary travellers.
Who fancies staying up late to see the hounds?

A multitude of moss and lichen species clothe every available surface, which adds an air of magic and fantasy. From sinewy outstretched limbs right down to the carpet of velveteen boulders. 

(With Audio)

As I bounced and jumped from rock to rock, I wondered if Director JJ Abrams was still filming Episode VII of Star Wars in the Forest of Dean. I think he should down tools and get his camera crew to Wistman's Wood pronto. 

The enchanted force is strong in this one.


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Friday, 8 August 2014

Ground Control to Major Tom

Its going to be a quick pit stop today, as it has been a crazy week. I've been wearing more hats than, than.....someone who wears lots of hats!

But fear not my little Elflings for I bring you offerings of edible sunshine on this eve of weekends.

I came home yesterday after a hard days toil to find nothing but tumbleweed in the cupboards and a rather emaciated pantry. My tummy was rumbling and I began to fear the worst. I'd probably be found in the morning lying on the kitchen floor clasping a crispbread to my chest. In the middle of my drama I had an epiphany and remembered that there was actually food in the garden.

I rushed barefoot out across the crispy fried lawn and fell to my knees in front of rows of tomato plants festooned with clusters of delicious rubescent baubles. Raising my arms aloft to the skies, I gave thanks to Gaia (and to Hercules for watering and weeding) for I would be but a withering waif if I had not been granted such gracious gifts. Oh what a tomatoey (!) feast we had.

In fact the tomatoes are pretty much all that is left this year. The blessed slugs and snails have been having a field day this summer, storming through the garden, decimating every luscious edible leaf I had planted. Rows of Courgettes, pumpkins, marrows and lettuces disappeared overnight, even radish tops were chomped and scalped.

So I rolled up my sleeves and stepped up my game. I bought beer by the barrel load and set up booze traps all over the garden. I even sent Hercules out in his Batman pyjamas to do night sentry duties, checking under each and every leaf.

We seem to have reduced the mollusc populous to a minimal and with my Buddhist neighbour Katie, also on duty (who eradicates all her snails betwixt two bricks, whilst chanting that they return to the earth in the form of something less gooey), we seem to have it under control.

Look at that a whole post from nothing more than a bowl of toms.

As you were Elflings.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Dancing Across Dartmoor

I love playing at being town mouse one minute and country mouse the next. Our recent sojourn in the south west was filled with opportunities for me to get out of my wingtips and into my hiking boots, in order to go stomping across this beautiful country of ours.

The trip was planned with a route that crossed both Bodmin and Dartmoor, enabling us to jump out of the car at a moment's notice, to scramble up hillsides and tors, to view the lay of the land and to breathe in the calm and serenity that surrounded us.

Please Click Images to Enlarge

Farmers have rights to graze their animals on the open moors that surround their farmland.
Rough grasses and heathers are top of the menu for todays lunch, ladies. Nom, Nom, Nom.

These three herberts called dibs on this magnificent view. As I approached with my camera, the mean looking gang leader in front told me to either 'hoppit' or get my ass kicked and I wasn't taking any chances. 

Dartmoor Ponies can be seen roaming at will on the moor, although much like their woolly neighbours, they are not wild and are owned by farmers. In the 1930s there were estimated to be 25,000 compared today to only 5000.

Constant nibbling of the grassland gives certain areas of the moor a velvety green carpet effect.

Here you can see one of the many Tors or granite outcrops that characterise Dartmoor. They become a major attraction every May, when several thousand young people, descend upon them, to take part in the ten Tors challenge.

The main objective of the event is to test endurance, navigation and survival skills, requiring participants to visit ten Tors, whilst battling harsh elements over a 34 hour period.

Make yourselves comfortable, why not.

The moor gets its name from the two rivers, East Dart and West Dart which converge to become a single river at the tranquil oasis that is known as Dartmeet. I traversed the meeting point back and forth in true monkey fashion by leaping across the huge boulders strewn the length of its crystal waters.


Who's up for a swim? Last one in is a ninny.