Auto Adventures – Vol. 1 – Dartmoor National Park

Let’s start a new series with an easy one. Dartmoor is somewhere I’ve spent a great deal of time during my three years at university, sometimes socially, or collecting data for my dissertation, or on numerous field trips (no I will not be doing a section on the Plaxton Beaver fieldtrip buses, I really do have to draw the line there!).

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Spot yours truly – dressed fairly inappropriately for the typical Dartmoor weather – in this typical Geography field trip scene.

Dartmoor is an ancient place, steeped in culture and history, including its fair share of folklore and ghost stories. The landscape is characterised by Tor-topped, sweeping moors, with forests and small villages throughout.  The weather is notoriously awful, although I was usually lucky in this regard and often found the sun shining, even in the depths of Winter.

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Usually…

 

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This is more like it

The east side of the moor has the historic route between Plymouth to the south and Okehampton to the north. The road is dotted with old coaching Inns and in days gone by would have been a busy route,  said to have been plagued by highwaymen such as Captain Jack and Dick Rawley; the last highwayman hanged on Gibbet Hill.

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Gibbet Hill is in the background on the right

It was fairly common for a gallows or gibbets to be erected at a prominent points, such as crossroads, where criminals would be left to rot to serve as a warning. Gibbet Hill, just north of Mary Tavy village, was one such place, where the gallows could present a grizzly spectre to travellers on the road below. One of my main sampling sites was across the valley, so I spent a few foggy evenings alone up there save for the Dartmoor Ponies; surprisingly tranquil!

 

 

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Dartmoor Ponies – extremely friendly, extremely hungry…
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Colly Brook typifies the hidden gems of Dartmoor – I lifted a horrendous amount of sediment out of this peaceful little stream.

 

I could go through every little place I’ve come across on Dartmoor but it’d be spoiling it I think. My advice is to grab a couple of friends, an OS Explorer map and jump in the car; you never know what you might find! We found frogspawn, took a jar home and raised about 40 frogs fairly successfully!

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Dartmoor Froglets! 
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Tavistock by night
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Two Joes at Peter Tavy
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Geography students in their natural habitat…

 

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Tiny hamlets dot the landscape and usually have a few stories to tell…
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Within a few miles the countryside can change from forests and brooks…
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…to sweeping moorland. 

 

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