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.

Click Images for Fabulous Fullscreen Effect

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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  1. Wow, it looks great and haunting at the same time!

  2. So enchanting and magical. The beauty and mystery of the Woods is definitely worth the hike. How come you didn't sing in your video? Were you afraid to awaken the sleeping forces there? May the force be with you.

  3. looks like a scene from a fairy tale....lovely.

  4. Stunningly gorgeous and enchanting Paul! You get the feeling it's been there forever. I can't believe all the moss on the rocks! The trees look like they might have faces and grab you if you walked too close...No way would I be there at night! Yikeys. Call the Star Wars guy. I think you have a future as a location scout. All your secret spots are made for the movies!
    xo Kim
    p.s. Is that your Defender? I'm jealous, but tell Hercules they need those cat scratches to keep their image up...and preferably a snorkel too! :D

  5. Fantastic pictures and such great description! I get lost into your story every time x

  6. Pictures of wistmans wood and dartmoor are stunning Paul. What a find and so well written.

  7. Looks like another adventure.
    Great photos and great story too.
    I agree, 'you're never alone on Dartmoor' - maybe the title of a movie?- or perhaps the latest tourist office slogan!
    Hope you have a lovely week,
    Liz x

  8. VELVETEEN BOULDERS.............what a description!Loved the eyes peeking at YOU!
    Thrilled about the e-mail SUBSCRIPTION.Will sign up NOW!

  9. What a spectacular and photogenic place Dartmoor is! You are really 'into the wild' over there! At least, it feels like that to me when I look at your photo's :-)

    Have a great evening!


  10. Very ethereal and spooky at the same time. I just love moss growing on rocks and trees.

  11. Dear Paul,
    what an expedition! The woods look haunted and bizzar - I didn't need the translation, your beautiful pictures show it. So good that there are always the attentive eyes of the sheep to follow the stranger in the woods - without them the landscape might seem a bit lost and wild, though very impressive.

  12. Paul
    This sounds like the perfect adventure. What a find and so worthwhile. This is the type of place we dream about. I love your expeditions and exploring.


  13. Your photos are beautiful. thank you for sharing so much beauty on your blog

  14. Hi Paul, We have been travelling and I have very out of touch, but have enjoyed catching up on your adventures. Beautiful photos as always and more to add to the wishlist.

  15. Gorgeous photos! Thank you so much for sharing.