When driving West towards Tavistock, along the A386 – on the open stretch above Mary Tavy, there is a portal to another world. An expansive gateway to a place that is wild and unforgiving in nature, yet dreamy and otherworldly. A wayfarer’s Eden called, DARTMOOR.
From this vantage point – I can sometimes see all the way to Bodmin Moor – my birthplace coincidentally – and in the foreground, Brentor hill with the little church of Saint Michael de Rupe atop. Behind – and to my left, Dartmoor is laid out in all its greatness – my favourite tors stand like huge granite sentinels, silhouetted against an ever-shifting sky; Great Links, Great Staple and Fur –
Although I don’t always know precisely where I’m going from here – I know I’ve crossed a line. Most of my start points for walks are roughly an hour away by car from where I live – and the North Moor closer – so Dartmoor is naturally the place I head out to when I want a walk on the wild side.
On my day off, conveniently a Tuesday, I’ll most likely set a bearing directly to Tavistock – the magnetism of the market is too powerful to resist; Tuesday is antiques and collectables day! After a couple fruitful hours spent in the town, I go up to the moor to eat a bought pasty – and then I set about walking it off! If the weather is set fair to middling – I revisit familiar ground – perhaps the Staple Tors and across to Roos – or if time is short, a quick stroll along the burbling leat to Windy Post.
However, if it’s tipping it down – I’m happy to sit it out from the comfort of my car. Simply drinking in the rain-sodden Dartmoor landscape, coupled with a pasty, can be very sustaining until my next visit – which might be heading out for a proper walk over open moorland. On these more testing occasions, I wisely don’t go it alone.
Dartmoor automatically demands that my heart beats faster when faced with walking up one of its steep, clitter strewn slopes to the top of a chosen tor – but it is Dartmoor’s visual impact, its elemental beauty, that makes my soul soar effortlessly to boundless heights. It’s easy to lose oneself here – and find eternity in an hour; in real time probably six or seven or eight!
However, Dartmoor is not just a portal for metaphysical escapism – there is the very real presence of its infamous bogs and mires to keep one earthed. When crossing wet, spongy ground it is easy to give way to dark thoughts. I envisage glossy brown, sinewy bodies that sleep contortedly beneath my feet – lost souls from an ancient tribe – and the idea of joining them in an eternal sleepover is terrifying but life-affirming; onwards, upwards but not necessarily straight forwards! Vigilance and a good dose of healthy respect, are prerequisites for a day out on Dartmoor’s open moorland – plus a good prodding stick!
My other essential kit item is my Samsung L83T digital camera. I concede that it is getting on a bit compared to more fancy, up-to-the-minute models – however over a period of years, it has proven robust enough to withstand the rigours of Dartmoor and its penetrative, damp conditions – and simply it does the job. Consequently, I have built up an archive of images; snapshots of Dartmoor caught in the click of a button. No planning, no waiting and no enhancements – just the ephemerality of a thousand or more, magic moments – as they flashed upon my inward eye.
Whether you love to head out over the open moorland, like I sometimes do –
or you prefer to sit in the comfort of your warm car on the edge, like I sometimes do –
– I think you’ll agree; there’s definitely something about Dartmoor.