Give me a light…

Midnight Madness is an annual, fundraising night-walk on Dartmoor – organised and manned by Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team – Plymouth.  A circular walk starting and finishing in Princetown.

Half-way up my staircase – hangs a framed poem by Minnie Louise Haskins – called, ‘God Knows’.  It is more popularly known as ‘The Gate of the Year’.

Poem by Minnie Louise Haskins

Opening lines.

A few years ago now – I took part in my first night walk on Dartmoor – and I really didn’t know the way – or know what to expect.   So I remembered Minnie’s inspiring words and carried them with me – along with an overloaded rucksack packed with all sorts of unnecessary emergency kit – and a map and compass that I didn’t know how to use effectively; still don’t really!

With hindsight – Dartmoor on a clear, summer’s night – is neither scary nor dangerous – in fact, it is a truly magical place to be…

Going, going...last vestiges of daylight.

Going, going – last vestiges of daylight.

My first night walk was life-changing and it is something that I shall never forget; Dartmoor became my spiritual home – my sanctuary.  A week ago today – or tonight – I completed another ‘Midnight Madness’ walk and loved every minute…

Checkpoint.  Doing a great job.

Checkpoint.  Dartmoor’s own angels in red jackets – doing a great job.  All voluntary.

This year – the Bean Walking Club’s great leader – Old Bean…


Artistic licence.  There be pixies on the Moor!

was otherwise engaged, so Beans were thin on the ground at this year’s event…

Moonlit Bean-Feast!  2013 Midnight Madness.

Last year’s moonlit Bean-Feast – eclipsed by giant orbs! 2013 Midnight Madness.

and Tom dropped out at the last-minute – so this year I was a team of ‘one’.

Got the badge!

Got the badge.

With a rainbow of badges under my belt – I confidently strode out into the warm night with a considerably lighter rucksack…

Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness.  Newleycombe Cross.

equipped only with a bottle of mineral water, two very powerful (and worryingly expensive) bike lights that I had borrowed from my brother – and to keep me going; a bag of my favourite black ‘Jakeman’ sweets!    By hanging back from the crowd early on – I was able to find solitude – and experience the Moor in silence – and in ‘darkness’ – at an unhurried pace.  I saw one female glow-worm beetle – two shooting stars –

Green light.

Pixie-led not.   A bioluminescent Glow-Worm giving me the green-light near Raddick Hill.

Note the difference! DSRT waymarker.

Note the difference – or it could be confusing! This is an official DSRT waymarker – not a glow-worm.

– and lots of eyes…

Dartmoor Cattle

Night senses. I could smell their warm sweet breath in the cooling night air.

As I sit here writing this blog-post – I find myself looking around my room – which takes me back to where I started; the framed poem by Minnie Louise Haskins…

My home is a ‘treasure’ trove of meaningful things that I have collected – or made – even earned – over the course of my life.  It is an unusual mix – interspersed by feathers everywhere – mostly black feathers gathered one by one on Dartmoor – over a long period of time. When I have gathered enough – my intention is to use them – to make a realistic life-size model of a raven; sort of like death-free taxidermy!

Sheep – Dartmoor – and ‘The Good Shepherd’ himself – are my other most visible passions!

Gathered feathers.

Dartmoor’s simple pleasures.  Walking, finding, gathering.


Set in a familiar landscape?   I don’t know the name of this painting but it is by Sybil Parker – a British artist active between 1872 and 1893.  (This is an old print that I lovingly re-framed.)

There is a stained glass panel in the window of ‘Saint Wendelin’ – where light streams through…

Sanct Wendelin

Saint Wendelin.

Wendelin means wanderer or pilgrim in old German; he is patron saint of country people and herdsmen – and Dartmoor wayfarers!  There is a little black sheep made from Welsh slate – and larger pottery ones…

counting sheep; one two three...

Counting sheep.  1 2 3 – and counting!

and a luminous, white sheep’s skull that I found on Dartmoor – that glows above my mantelpiece…

There is nothing creepy or sinister about it being in my home. The life force that once thought within it – lived and died naturally out on the wild Moor – and because of that I see beauty within its sun-bleached form; it is art by nature’s design.  Time – the elements and the Dermestidae beetles – did a fantastic job cleaning it and preparing it for show – all that was left for me to do,  was to stain, wax and polish the horns.

Although nature I concede is cruel – I’m comfortable in its presence – knowing that its soul was spared the fate of most sheep;  noisy livestock markets – long, grueling journeys in towering, three-tier transporters – to a stark – and increasingly probable – ritual slaughter to end life.

Peaceful presence.  (Beardown Man on Slate by Irene Veal)

Rests in peace. (Beardown Man on Slate by Irene Veal – bought at Tavistock Market)

Are you wondering where I’m going with this blog-post?   Well, it is here.  I wanted to share one glorious instant; snapped earlier this year – on Dartmoor.

While in reverie in the openness of the Staple Tors – I became aware that I had visible company. From the breezy height of a granite outcrop – an adventurous lamb had appeared from ‘nowhere’ and was peering over the edge; suddenly ‘everything’ came together in an epiphanic moment…


I  saw heaven opened – and behold a lamb.

For me – it was another reinforcing Dartmoor experience – and for the lamb?  The ‘Good  Shepherd’ was close at hand…


As for this year’s night walk – how did I do?

Homeward bound - on the A386.

Hairy Hands? Taking no chances at that time of the morning. Homeward bound on the A386 rather than going via Moretonhampstead on the legendary B3212!

I made it home to bed before the Sun had risen in the Eastern sky – with another certificate to proudly add to my meaningful things.

Plus two more feathers!

My certificate and a couple of ‘midnight’ finds.

Emanating light into my room. Detail from The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt

Detail from ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt.


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