Today was a day for getting right out there in the middle of Dartmoor. Out on foot, in the open space, Up and away from all surrounded by nothing but beautiful landscape. I absolutely loved it.
My starting point was a very little place called Postbridge. It may be small but the amount of visitors there soon became apparent. Located here just off the road on the river is one of dartmoors more famous clapper bridges. A simple but magnificent bride. It is thought to date all the way back to the 12th – 14th century. Surviving floods, use and weather all down the centuries and still standing.
Dartmoor National park is 368 square miles (954 square km,) It’s about 20 miles from North to South and 20 miles from East to West. Roughly about the same size as 20,000 football pitches. The moorland has a vast grazing area where you can see plenty of ponies running free, these are not wild ponies but are owned by local farmers who are allowed to graze their animals on the moors, the farmers use the land to graze their cattle and sheep too. Dartmoor is an upland area in southern Devon, England. The moorland and surrounding land have been protected by National Park status since 1951. Some parts of Dartmoor have been used by the military as a firing range and training area for up to 200 years. Some visitors to Dartmoor come specially to see birds that are rare in other parts of the UK. Some of the rare breeds include the ring ouzel and the cuckoo. Meadow pipits, stonechats, skylarks and snipes can also be found flying around Dartmoor. Some of the birds of prey that can be spotted overhead, include the incredible Buzzard. Adders are rare to see because of their reclusive nature but can be found on rare occasions on the moors along with weasels, and in recent years a return of the polecat. Common lizards might be seen basking in the sun on a rock if you’re quiet, rabbits, 16 recorded bat species, and if you’re lucky you might spot an otter along one of the rivers. A stunning and diverse array of wildlife to be discovered if you are observant and quiet.
Dartmoor is populated by many many Tors (what they call hills here). Everywhere you look you can see their tops inviting you in. I headed straight to the top of the nearest to where I was first, smack in the middle of the park. Bellever Tor.
The view I got from the top was incredible. All the way round, pure landscape, peaceful and scerene. I sat for a while to soak it up.
I then went wandering from Tor to Tor and apart from a couple of sets of hikers passing by it was me, the wilderness and a joy on the eyes. Everywhere I looked became inviting, trails leading in all directions.
What is a Tor?
A tor is high point rising from a more genteel slope. A rocky outcrop that is prominently situated on top of a more rounded hill summit or ridge crest. The term is commonly used in south west England for hills and high points. Dartmoor’s highest tor is High Willhays with the summit at 621 metres ( 2,039 feet) above sea level and the second highest tor being Yes Tor, with a summit of 619 meters above sea level, in the north west region of the national park above Oakhampton, both of these are located on the same ridge line and make for great walking to visit on the same trip, and promise stunning views over south west Dartmoor and across parts of Cornwall. In Dartmoor National Parks North side is one of the more remote tors, Fur Tor is one for a keen walker with miles upon miles of moorland all around, but gives some stunning views over the rugged and beautiful moors from the top of the tor. There are over 160 tors on Dartmoor. Tors are where the granite rock that is underneath Dartmoor shows through. Bellever Tor is one of the closest to Postbridge and overlooks Bellever forest, its highest elevation is much less than some at 443 meters but the views are still stunning. It is however much more popular and can get busier than the more remote or higher elevated tors in the national park. The first mention of a settlement at Bellever is in a Duchy of Cornwall record from 1355 on the river East Dart. There are also many cairn circles on the slopes of Bellever tor, a very interesting and beautiful location. If you were wondering what is a Cairn.
What is a Cairn or Barrow?
A simple way to explain what a Cairn or Barrow, is that we haven’t always had grave yards as we know them, so from Neolithic times through to Bronze age times they built burial monuments, but they were not confined enclosures. Instead they were widely spread throughout the landscape. The early Bronze period saw the beginning of cremation and single rather than collective burials in barrows (mounds of earth) and cairns (mounds of stone) Burial cairns date primarily from the Neolithic Period and the Early Bronze Age. Cairns are still used in some parts of the world as burial places, particularly where the soil is difficult to excavate or where wild animals might disturb the body. The term cairn is sometimes used interchangeably with barrow.
It is obvious I need/want to come back another time for even longer to fulfil what I now know and see. I would enjoy immensely exploring every mile here.