2019 Day 133 – Dartmoor National Park

Having crossed the bottom of England many times, I’m rather thrilled to have discovered an as yet unseen, rather stunning new part to explore. Our usual path is either via the M4 or the A303, both of which skirt Dartmoor National Park. Following our new DK travel guide recommendation, today we’re changing tack, driving through the moors. Deemed to be a scenic route, it will be a welcome relief from the monotony and traffic the other two bring.

The first section of the drive is typical English countryside perfection. Gently rolling hills reveal lushly green pastures intersected by trimmed hedgerows as far as the eye can see, stunning tree canopied roads and picturesque grey stone cottages, complete with a comforting plumes of smoke emerging from chimneys. Scenic drive? Check.

It’s not until we round a bend, that the moors reveal themselves. The lush greenery falls away, replaced by what seems at first, a harsh contrast.

You need to look closely to appreciate its full beauty. Heather, browned by Autumn’s touch, dominates. There’s an occasional pop of colour where grass hangs on determinedly, or wildflowers emerge.

Trees are gnarled and stunted, either bare or bursting with red berries, their bark covered with moss and lichens.

It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen. I take countless photos, but it’s difficult to capture the spectacle of it – each photograph offers a mere glimpse.

Black faced sheep dot the landscape, grazing in twos and threes, meandering across the road when the urge moves them.

But these aren’t ordinary sheep – they’re snowy white, often long haired, with black or speckled faces and best of all, speckled black and white legs.

They’re very pretty. We see Highland cows too, and later, Dartmoor ponies roaming wild.

We pass ancient bridges,

and this mediaeval clapper bridge,

built for horses to carry the tin that was mined here, across the river.

It soon becomes clear that the only way to fully appreciate the moors is on foot. There are hiking trails galore and luckily, for us, endless options for parking. Even better, there’s a pub nearby. That’s dinner sorted.

We settle, having decided to spend the night, and set off to explore on foot, wandering into the valley. On foot, there’s so much more to see: the last of the heather in flower, grimly hanging on despite autumn’s advance,

footprints of old settlements and

carved trenches, long grassed over, where peat was once cut.

And water. There’s water everywhere, trickling down hill, gurgling underground, forming streams and eventually the river Dart.

The air is full of birdsong. It’s the most peaceful setting imaginable.

Our plans for a circuit walk are thwarted by impenetrable mud at the valley’s base, necessitating a change of plan. It’s no great hardship – all paths lead to glorious scenery and very happy doggos, tails furiously wagging.

Back at the car, I spot falcons through the binoculars, gliding on the wind, fluttering to keep in place when they spot something of interest.

Later, we trek to The Warren for dinner. Built in 1835, it was a replacement for the 1700s original which once stood across the road. Originally a tin miners’ pub, its cozy interior boasts a wood fire that’s never been extinguished in its history.

Historical photos show terrific snow – over 23 feet high in 1963, when supplies had to be helicoptered in, higher falls in the 1920s. They stock Otter beer, much to my amusement.

Himself declares it excellent. Of course it is – it’s made by otters! The food is good, warming on a cold night. Himself has hadock and chips,

while I have a beef stroganoff.

Not very exciting to photograph, but delicious.

We spend a peaceful night on the moors – we’re both thrilled with our new discovery.