I have a theory that everyone on earth has a place that they love above all others, a special place where they can relax and let down their guard and take some time to reflect.
Picking a place where it rains enough for even the rest of England to regard it as wet and where a single misstep can see you tumbling waist deep into a stinking black peat bog might not seem like the smartest idea but Dartmoor National Park is that place for me. It was the first place I went to after recovering from my overnight flight back to England.
Dartmoor is just different. In a region of gentle hills lined with hedges, slow flowing rivers and busy towns and villages it is wild and open and free. Even the hardy Dartmoor ponies that keep the moor from turning into 900² km of waist high heather by grazing it are wild. The moor is capped with majestic granite crowns known locally as tors that you can sit and relax on to reward yourself for the effort of climbing them. In between these majestic tors there are are valleys and peat bogs that will soak you up to your waist if you are unfortunate enough to fall in. What’s more, you won’t get the stain of a peat bog out of your clothes in a hurry.
If you avoid the minefield of cattle, pony and sheep droppings and make it up to the top of a tor without twisting your ankle on the rocks that lie concealed in the grass you can look out over half of Devon. If its not raining or foggy that is, and there is at least a 50% chance that it will be. It’s easy to predict the weather on Dartmoor; if its not raining then it will be soon. I wouldn’t have it any other way. In winter it is often snowy and you can sled down the hills with the knowledge that there aren’t any trees to crash into, just angry livestock.
As you walk over the high moorland you will find evidence of times where humans tried to live in the most uninviting of locations in the past. Before Bronze Age humans cleared much of the forest and made the landscape we see today the moor was largely wooded, now trees are rare. Bronze Age stone rows and circles, Neolithic houses and even a deserted medieval village can be found on the moor. There are also tin mines scattered across the moor so watch out for those mine shafts! You might even see Celtic crosses and centuries old stone mileposts in the most desolate of places. If people could live there when the only technology they had was fire and bronze working then maybe we should give them more admiration than we do.
Dartmoor attracts all sorts, from locals walking their dogs to the annoying people who think that they look like hikers because they have invested in trekking poles and a North Face jacket. You know the type right? But no matter how busy it gets there will always be a place that you can go to get away from everyone, mostly because people don’t like walking more than a mile from their cars. This is the place that I like most, and the place I will always head first when I return to England.
What’s your special place?