Dartmoor Rambles: Enchanting Forests, Magical Waterfalls, & A Tale Of Two Halves.
‘It never rains but it pours’
Or something like that. This old adage certainly rings true for my time in Dartmoor National Park. Whilst often used to imply negativity, interestingly the phrase originally represented advancement. Whilst the gloomy weather in Dartmoor was at times draining, it set the scene for me to explore its famously bleak landscapes and fully absorb them in their atmospheric glory.
Dotted all over the moors and hardy to the most extreme of weather conditions, I had nothing but admiration for the sheer stamina of these ponies.
A long-known inspiration for artists, poets, and photographers throughout the centuries. It really does look like something out of a fairytale. More recently, in 1964 Wistman’s Wood gained recognition as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, and very difficult to find in the fog - I’d definitely recommend a GPS tracker and someone who knows how to use it.
The mystical landscapes of Dartmoor have fired imaginations throughout time, and having now witnessed this for myself, I can understand why.
For centuries the Dartmoor folklore and legends have encompassed tales of weird happenings and challenged a host of deep-seated beliefs. Needless to say that in between the sight-seeing there was plenty of down time in the local pubs learning all about the famous myths and legends of Dartmoor.
Word has it one local legend involves the story of the Devil coming to Widecombe in search of a gambler who had sold their soul and was more interested in gambling than in going to church on a Sunday. Finding themselves short of money a deal was made with the Devil - that in return for money to fund the gambling, the Devil could have their soul if they were caught napping in church.
They ignored the pact and one Sunday some twenty months later they fell asleep while playing cards in church. There was a sound of horses’ hooves outside, and a flash of lightning so fierce that it tore off the top of the church tower. The Devil strode into the church and snatched up the gambler, carrying them up into the sky and across the moor.
The four aces in hand were dropped in what is now known as the Aces Field - four field enclosures with stone walls in the shape of playing cards. These serve as a stark warning to anyone who is tempted to play cards in church - (unfortunately I ran out of time to visit this particular site on this occasion).
I leave Dartmoor with fond memories and a deep appreciation of how fact and folklore can be found to be connected.