Sunday, 21 March 2010

A Spring walk at Berry Pomeroy.


We went out early this morning, as it was a lovely spring day, and tomorrow promises to be wet, so they say, so we wanted to make the most of it. It was lovely bowling along the deep Devon lanes, the banks quilted with Primroses, and the old gold catkins dancing in the breeze. We drove to Berry Pomeroy, and parked up in the car park to have a hot coffee from the flask, and a delicious lemon curd muffin, with the castle hiding behind the bare trees, and the birds singing all around.

Much refreshed, we donned walking boots, as it was very muddy underfoot, having had two days of heavy rain and walked round to the castle which looked mysterious and brooding in the early morning light, it was lovely and peaceful, nobody about, just the sound of the Jackdaws calling as they flapped around the ramparts looking for places to nest.

The Wishing tree was standing very stately by the tower, with gay ribbons tied to her branches.
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and in the mossy hollows beneath, Navelwort had taken up residence

We walked down to Margarets tower, where the bank was bright with golden daffodils.

and at the foot of the wall primroses and Lords and Ladies

We peered through the slit in the tower wall, into the dark gloom of the chamber, wondering what sad echoes still haunt it from its sad past...

We took the steep winding path away from the Castle, down to the Mill pond, the sharp green pines piercing the lovely blue sky

I was pleased to see some Canada geese dibbling about on the edge of the pond, probably the adults that had young here last year.

Meanwhile the castle dominated the hill, keeping a watchful eye on us.

As we walked round the pond, where reeds had started to show through in vivid green, Pete spotted a toad in the water, then another and another, till we came across this mass of breeding toads, like a living football, we were amazed we`ve never seen the like before..he plucked a stick from the ground and gently twiddled them round, and they all clung on and waved their legs in a most bizarre fashion...

On a more normal note, I was thrilled to see this lovely clump of Kingcups or Marsh Marigolds just coming out

they were a lovely splash of gold against the rather muted colours of the pond

We decided to follow the little winding road they led away from the pond, we`d never investigated it before, and it was very picturesque.

The Hazel catkins have darkened now, to old gold and were lit by the morning sunshine

and there was a lovely little stream that rushed and gurgled across the meadow

and on the other side of the road, Celandines starred the bank

and Red Dead Nettles were a splash of colour against the new green leaves

it was a lovely little wood that ran beside us, and clumps of Snowdrops lit ground beneath the bare trees

Evenually we came across this lovely old house, nestled beside the road with stunning views across the meadows up to the dun coloured woods, there was a light shining in the kitchen window, where nuts had been hung for the birds, and blue tits were flitting backwards and forwards, and a squirrel darted off across the lawn when it saw us coming

There was a little wild garden planted ontop of the wall beside the road, and the pretty pink and purple flowers of Lungwort were tangled up with the ivy streamers..I certainly envied them their lovely house and tranquil spot

We walked on, the sun warm on our faces and birdsong all around, glancing back it was so pretty with the woods hemming in the green meadows and up on the hill a pony grazing on the dewy grass

the path evenually ran past this old disused building, which appeared to have been a Sawmill, we could see the wheelpit which would have driven the saw inside, it had been carefully boarded up, but for what purpose I dont know

as the path was becoming increasingly muddy, and was winding into the woods, we decided to turn back, on the way we stopped at the pond again, to see how the toad situation was coming along, Pete managed to scoop up this rather handsome chap who sat very morosely on his hand, with his warty old back, then he popped him back to go awooing...

Instead of heading straight back to the carpark, we took another little road past the kissing gate,
where there were nice mossy walls.

and trees with ferny coats danced in the Spring sunshine

and dainty snowdrops nodded on the banks


and chocolate box pretty cottages under beetling thatch were waking to a lovely morning..the road is part of the John Musgrave trial which runs all the way on to Totnes, or back to Torquay, I said to Pete it would be nice to walk the length of it in the summer, theres lots of pubs and tearooms on the way, so plenty of places to rest.

We walked back up the steep hill to the castle, there was a lovely smell of woodsmoke in the air

it was coming from the chimney of the little tea room there, which was opening for the day, although the castle doesnt open till April, a lovely spot for tea and cake, and it was time for our lunch, so we headed home having had an enchanting walk.

video

Friday, 5 March 2010

Houndtor.

We took a trip out to Houndtor on Dartmoor today, it was a lovely morning with the promise of Spring round the corner, the sky was clear and forget me not blue, and the air was chill with frost

Houndtor is a lovely tor, with interesting stacks, it was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyles `The Hound of the Baskervilles` and is steeped in ghost lore and evil doings, but today it was a lovely peaceful place to be, with the sun warming the granite, and the air filled with birdsong

From the top of the tor we could see for miles, across the wooded valleys, and the farmhouses dotted across the moor, to the far shoulder of the moor purple in the distance.

We followed the winding path down the other side, the ground hard as iron, between the crispy ginger bracken, till we arrived at the Medieval village at the foot of the tor.

Its quite a large settlement, with clear outlines of the houses, and perhaps places they kept their animals, I was intrigued to see their little fireplaces..

a great necessity in a cold Dartmoor winter...I pondered on what life would have been like for these people living in such a remote place, and what hardships they must have endured.

We walked on to Greator Rocks, the sun warm on our faces...

on the far side, facing over the valley, high above is a Ravens nest, Pete noticed it a couple of years ago, and every year they come back and nest there, the female was sitting on the eggs, we could just see her black glossy head, keeping watch for any danger.

We walked back round the tor, noting the birch in the valley had a lovely haze of purple buds, set against the stately row of green conifers.

I love the muted colours of the moor in winter, greys, gingers and browns, set against the livid sky.

Looking back at Houndtor in the distance, it resembled some prehistoric beast, strung out across the horizon.

The moor isnt heavily populated with trees, apart from the valleys, which are filled with mixed woods, but every so often you come across a lovely shiny holly, or as in this case a magical hawthorn, holding her branches up to the windy blue heavens.

Pete noticed beside the path, this Dartmoor letterbox, the stone was completely obscuring the box, but Ive moved it to take the photo, it had a lovely stamp in of Greator Rocks, so much better than the childrens boxes of Disney figures.

Some of the rock stacks on Houndtor resemble famous people too, well you can see this is Elvis cant you?....

After a nice hot coffee from the flask, in the car park, we drove down the road to this sad little grave...it sits beside the road at crossroads, and belongs to Kitty Jay who was a servant girl in the 18th century, and worked at a local farm. Unfortunately she caught the eye of the farmers son, and fell pregnant, whereupon she was thrown out, and because she had no hopes of finding more work, hung herself in one of the barns. In those days suicides werent allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, so were buried at a crossroads, to ensure that the restless souls of the departed couldnt return to haunt the the living. Theres some mystery about the grave in that theres always flowers placed on it, no one knows who does it, but Ive never been when there hasnt been any.

As we drove home across the moor, we noticed a huge plume of smoke rising some way away, so we decided to investigate..its quite common in a hot summer, for the gorse to catch alight, but not often at this time of the year.

As we got closer we realised they were swaling, burning the gorse and scrub, in order to thin out old vegetation to allow new grass shoots to grow and provide grazing for the livestock, its something thats regulated, and can only be done at certains times of the year.

We still havent seen any lambkins on the moor, but saw lots of ponies today, some in foal

and this lovely white one was rolling on its back waving its legs in the air as we drove up, but quickly got to its hooves when it saw us watching.