Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Stormy drive on the Moor.

Today we woke to a day that looked promising weather wise to drive up the moor.  We`ve had dreadful grey wet days that held no hope of a burst of sunshine, so with clearer skies we headed out.  Unfortunately the closer to the moor we got, the darker the sky became, till the heavens opened and it poured....undaunted as always we carried on till we reached a car park over looking Hameldown Beacon and stopped for cake and coffee to assess the situation.  Rain lashed the windscreen and the wind buffeted the car, the views of the tors and hills were obscured with great drifts of rain like net curtains draped across them and the sky the colour of a bruise.  Much to our surprise by the time we`d finished our coffee the skies had started to clear and there was enough blue in them to `make a sailors collar` so we headed down the long steep winding hill to Widecombe.

The village had that lovely early morning feel about it, the green was bathed in sunshine, the trees beautiful and sleek with rain casting long shadows over the grass.  One or two local folk were pottering around the shops or chatting to one and other, and everything had an unhurried feel...

Looking about I was thrilled to see on the church bank the first signs of Snowdrops..

`Fair Maids of February` as theyre known, but in this case January..their tiny snowy heads still tightly closed, nodding gently in the wind...so early, but we`ve had an unseasonably warm winter so far, so I shouldn't be surprised.  I know a lot of people hate January because of its long grey dark days, but I don`t, I always feel that it`s the gateway to the new year and holds lots of promise of new things to do and see, and I always feel that in every day there`s something good to be had from it, and today proved it with this lovely surprise.

I decided to look round the churchyard and walking round noticed that someone had woven this shrub into a fabulous shape above the old stone wall, Im sure in the spring it will look lovely with the new leaves.

The church looked beautiful in the morning sun, the tower soaring into the blue sky, the churchyard was peaceful apart from some Jackdaws that flew about the trees squabbling and calling to each other.  The grass was lush and rain spangled, and on one or two graves Christmas wreaths still lay,  the flowers in them in faded rose, and pink and yellow.

Walking down to the bottom of the graveyard I looked back across the moorland where the tors crouched on the horizon great piles of grey granite, the slopes covered in ginger bracken and the sky behind blue with great billowing white clouds sailing across like galleons in full sail.  There were a few more patches of snowdrops scattered amongst the tombstones, as yet still closed.

We decided to drive onto Grimspound where we were hoping to have a walk.  The moor looked lovely, rain washed and sparkly, the tiny windy roads were very wet, huge puddles ran from side to side, and tiny streams ran off the moorland turf and down the hilly roads.  Grimspound was very peaceful but extremely windy, the wind tugging at my clothes as I got out to take a photo, so we decided against walking, just enjoying the lovely views across the hills with the tinners gerts where tiny white sheep grazed and a buzzard flew above the bracken landing in a tree on the side of the hill.

We drove back homeward across the moor where the rain came and went, and a rainbow brightened the blackened sky.  The rivers ran high and swift roaring over the huge granite boulders no longer visible in the foaming icy cold waters.  Raindrops sparkled in the hedgerows like a thousand diamonds, and hung on the branches of trees like crystal drops.
We stopped at Combestone Tor for our picnic lunch, where the sun was shining, warming the lumpy granite of the tor, but in the distance the black clouds were gathering, moving closer and closer, till they blotted out the sunshine and hail thick and heavy fell all around covering the windows of the car in an icy blanket.  It was certainly a day of contrasts and dramatic in the extreme, but as always the moor is beautiful in all her moods and a place I will always love to be.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A New Years trip to the moor.


We woke this morning on the first day of the year to grey skies, wind and light rain, hardly an auspicious start to the new year, but undaunted we headed up the moor for some fresh air and lovely views.  We stopped at Combestone Tor first where we had coffee and cake, and watched the clouds sailing over the tors and the rain like a fine veil hanging in the valleys and combes.  The wind buffeted the car and shook the hawthorn trees, the puddles were ruffled by the wind and crows were blown about the skies like scraps of black paper.


Much refreshed we drove on, the moor was wild and beautiful, wind danced and shook the gorse bushes golden with flowers, grey clouds rolled across  the shoulders of the moor and rain stung the windscreen...we eventually reached the turning to Manaton, where we turned off, at the junction is Beetor Cross an ancient old granite cross mounted on the wall.  Its also called the Watching place one of the notions being that in Medieval times it was the site of a gallows erected by the Lord of the Manor.

We followed the narrow winding road down between high banks of hedging now laid bare in their winter finery, thick twiggy bushes in shades of pale brown, orange and a pale blackcurrant.  Ginger ferns sprouted from the hedge banks, and tiny birds flitted from side to side.  We passed Manaton and drove on till we came to Jays Grave, where we stopped and I got out to take some pictures.  Kitty Jay was a servant who worked on a local farm in the nineteenth century, the son of the farmer paid her some attention and she became pregnant, after which the farmer and his wife threw her out.  Kitty knew that she would never be allowed to work again because of the shame of her pregnancy, so she hung herself in the barn...In those days suicides weren't allowed to be buried in hallowed ground but were buried at crossroads to confuse the spirits so they wouldn't return..

Kitty Jays grave is beside a narrow little road, and behind is a pretty wooded track that leads over the moor with lovely views across the tors.

Her grave is never without flowers although no one ever sees anyone placing them on there, and it has become something of a shrine nowadays...today there were the usual gifts of flowers, money and lucky stones, and also because of Christmas there was a spray of holly and a shiny red bauble and a lovely little poem to say she wasn't forgotten, its a very sad little story, but Im glad that she is always remembered and people do leave gifts for her...today was also special for me because if you look at the first photo I have posted there is a strange `orb` to the left of the photo which I only saw when I took the photos off my camera, I really have no idea what it is....

Having paid our respects we drove on and at the bottom of the road is this lovely Dartmoor long house, with lovely granite walls and mossy thatched roof.

I loved that they had decorated the sweet little thatched porch with a garland of greenery and red and gold baubles.

Across the road the folk from the cottage had hung baubles in the tree and they were dancing in the wind.

Behind the tree Hound Tor loomed a lovely avenue tor with wildly stacked tors looking very moody in the low cloud, it was the inspiration for Conan Doyles `The Hound of the Baskervilles`

The signpost had also been decorated with a garland of greenery and coloured baubles, I Iove the fact that people bother to do such things and made it all so magical.

It was a lovely magical first trip on the moor for new year and I`m looking forward to many more..