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.

4 comments:

Piecefulafternoon said...

What a fabulous land you live in - I feel privileged to come along on your walks.

Pussycats and Angels said...

What a lovely post, I really enjoyed reading it. Lots of wonderful photo's and very informative. I just love Dartmoor, it's a place I love to visit anytime of the year and of course seeing the ponies is always a added bonus.
What fantastic weather you had.
Have a good weekend.
Blessings
Julie

Ramblings From Spain said...

I enjoyed taking this walk with you and Pete.. and Elvis, lol! Beautiful pictures and what a lovely day x

pwl said...

Thank you for your blog and your lovely pictures. It's giving me ideas for places to visit when we're in England in August.