Dartmoor NP, England

On August 3rd, 2016; I had the opportunity to explore Dartmoor National Park in south-west England. Swept by the most extreme elements of England’s weather, Dartmoor’s granite tors provide a marked contrast to the rich and gentle contours of Devon which surround them. Born in the primeval melting pot beneath the earth, they are the remnant core of an ancient range of mountains, their weird and wonderful stacks shaped over the millennia by heat and cold, wind and rain.

Dartmoor National Park area map

For several thousand years, man has inhabited the moor and granite from the tumbled stacks which litter the hillsides has been used in the construction of homes. Remnants of hut circles from 2000 to 3000 BC are numerous. However, the most striking aspect of the Dartmoor lanscape is the tors themselves. It is a land full of legend and mystery but a land made accessible to all in the last decades through the creation of the Dartmoor National Park.

East Dartmoor Road-Map identifying the available Tors; (Image provided by the Dartmoor Tors “Pocket Guide”, Palmer)

     This park has inspired many artists and writers, perhaps most famously Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes adventure “The Hound of the Baskervilles” was set on the moor. For instance and pictured below, I’m standing near the “Great-Hound Tor”. Viewed from a distance its shape is said to resemble a pack of hounds chasing over the hill.

The “Great-Hound Tor” in Dartmoor National Park, England

     Pictured below; the Dartmoor Pony is a breed of ponies that live in here. The breed has been in Dartmoor for centuries and is used in a variety of roles. Because of the extreme weather conditions experienced on the moors, the Dartmoor Pony is a particularly hardy breed with excellent stamina.

Semi-wild ponies found at Dartmoor National Park

     The geology of the Dartmoor national park consists of a 625 km2  core of granite intruded during the early Permian period into a sequence of sedimentary rocks originating in the Devonian  and Carboniferous periods. These rocks were faulted and folded, sometimes, intensely, during the Variscan Mountain Building Episode, (collision between the Gondwanaland & Laurasia).

Soussons-Common Cairn-Circle found east of Postbridge in Dartmoor National Park, England

     There are numerous prehistoric standing stone circles found within the park.  Pictured above, on Soussons (Southsands) Common, near Postbridge, is a spherical circle 10 m in diameter. The stones are 22 in number, – not large stones, – the tallest is about 75 cm above ground-level. On digging in the centre a fine kistvaen was uncovered. The cover stone was gone, but side stones of thin, shapely slabs remain. The north end of the kist was built up of small stones, and the south end was formed of a stone which did not reach the floor of the kist by some 6 cm. It, however, acted as a blocking stone and “spreader” to the side stones.

Becky Falls within the Ancient Woodland Park of Dartmoor, England

   Between Soussons Stone Circle and “The Hound Tor”  I found a little nature park called the “Ancient Woodland Park”.  It’s main attraction is Becky Falls.  Since my wife’s name is Becky, I had no choice but take the path and check-it-out. 

Becky Falls first opened to the public in 1903 and has been attracting and inspiring poets, writers and painters ever since, including Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf. But it’s history goes much further than that. Becky Falls have been sought out for centuries. Firstly, by the inhabitants of the local Bronze and Iron Age settlements and medieval villages who came in search of water, wood and shelter. The arrival of the railways and horse-drawn carriages in the mid 1800s heralded the advent of tourists to Dartmoor. Presently, visitors come here to sit on a carpet of bluebells and ponder a magical, mystical, spiritual place of whispered fables and pixie tales of old to inspire the senses and imagination.

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