Dartmoor is such a stunning landscape that once you’ve experienced it, the memories are instilled into the memory banks. There’s rolling rugged moorland, stone clapper bridges, babbling streams and rivers, but my favourite part, the wild ponies!
Therefore, I’ve decided to write about a wonderful experience of camping in a farmer’s field with the kids, when they were young. The farm was a beautiful location to camp, with a stream running through the grounds and a coppice of woodland alongside it. Dartmoor in Devon is full of rugged beauty and history with plenty of inspiring places to visit including the areas that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’
Our trip was a short one, so we had to pack lots into the weekend, we drove down early in the day with just the essentials for camping, in a tiny Fiat car that was amazingly economic. We had discovered a lovely farm that was perfect for us, we booked in at the farmhouse and paid for our tent and for some kindling and logs for a campfire. The farmhouse had an adjoining bunkhouse, although on our visit was already fully booked with a group, it looked like a lovely option.
It was autumn time when visited and the evenings were beginning to get cold and misty, that is why we had planned for a cosy campfire later. On our drive through the little lanes in Dartmoor, it was so sweet to see the wild ponies with their foals, they would just stop any place along the roadside to feed their young ones, seemingly oblivious to the cars or to us as we took photos.
Once we had set up our tent and settled into the campsite, we took a drive into the nearby Postbridge, village. The village only consists of a shop, a hotel, pub and a handful of houses. The East Dart river runs through the village, and the best-known feature is the stone clapper bridge, thought to be 13th Century and would have been used to cross the river with pack horses carrying tin to Tavistock.
The clapper bridge is a Grade ll listed structure and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Beside the clapper bridge is a later addition, a bridge built in the 1780’s also Grade ll listed. We were very lucky on our weekend visit to get such gorgeous weather, I took the kids to the shop, which I believe at the time was also a post office. We picked out some ice-creams to enjoy beside the river while chilling out at the clapper bridge, what a lovely experience. The field beside the river on the opposite bank had a friendly domestic pony and a donkey who were happy for fuss.
Later we drove to Princetown where the Dartmoor prison museum is located and is one the locations Sir Arthur Conon Doyle used in his ‘Hound of the Baskervilles.’ We stopped at the local Princetown shop for a few extra provisions for our camp, including matches for our campfire and some tasty treats. Princetown has a fully functioning prison still in use today, but the Dartmoor prison museum where you can find out more about the local history of this fascinating area. Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, Secretary to the Prince of Wales, leased a sizeable area of moorland from the Duchy of Cornwall estate with ideas to turn it into farmland. He called it Princetown, after the Prince of Wales and decided that a prison should be built there, Dartmoor prison is to date the highest prison in the UK at an elevation of 1,430 feet (435 m) the prison first opened in 1809.
The road, now called the B3212 that runs between Postbridge and Two Bridges is also known for a legend, the legend of the hairy hands. The supposed happenings are reported to involve a pair of hands taking hold of a car steering wheel or motorcycle handlebars and forcing the car or motorcycle off the road. The first reports started around 1910 and are usually described as phantom hands that wrestle to take control of the vehicle. The story is more recently linked to a play ‘The Hairy Hand of Dartmoor’ by Michael McStay, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 8 February 1999.
During the afternoon on our first day we took a drive along the B3212 to The Warren House Inn. The drive on this route is absolutely stunning the natural rugged scenery is a real pleasure, and to walk here would be such a delight I’m sure. Our visit at the time didn’t allow for much exploration, although we did pack in an awful lot in the time available to us. At 1425ft (434m) above sea level, The Warren House Inn is the highest Inn in Southern England and said to be the loneliest. The pub was originally built to provide for the tin mining community locally and was originally called ‘New House.’ The last of the tin mines closed in 1930. Now I love a crackling open fire, and at the Warren House Inn the fire has been burning continuously since 1845 non-stop. Due to the remote location, electricity is from generators, gas is bottled, and water is gravity fed from a spring. The pub can get cut off in heavy winter snow and in 1966 was so cut off by winter snow drifts that it had to have supplies air lifted in by helicopter. A wonderful experience and the scenery all around this bleak location, just stunning!
The Dartmoor visitor centre was another place I would recommend popping into, we had a fun time there and the kids took part in a competition and did some interactive learning, so many ideas for places to go and activities to do. Our Dartmoor adventure was such a lot of fun, a campfire beside the stream and lots fun stories to tell in the dark as the mist descended that evening. It may have been a short break, but oh so many memories created.