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M is for Moors

Hay Tor, Dartmoor © higherhopworthy

Stretching from Okehampton at the top all the way to Plymouth on the South Coast, Dartmoor is the largest open space in Southern England and is over 4 times the size of its Cornish neighbour, Bodmin Moor. Both are well known for their beautiful & rugged landscapes of granite tors but there is so much more to the moors!

Hidden History

Inhabited and farmed since neolithic times, the moors are dotted with stone circles and remains of bronze age sites, in fact Dartmoor contains the largest concentration of bronze age remains in the UK. After the prehistoric settlers left, it wasn’t until the early mediaeval period when the moors began to be inhabited again, and now mining as well as farming was an important part of the landscape. Traditional granite and cob longhouses dating from these times are still commonly seen across the moors (our farmhouse is a longhouse) and the remains of old mining buildings are a common site, especially on Bodmin moor.

The Hurlers, Bodmin Moor. Image credit: Jim Champion

Myths & Legends

Cross the moors on a foggy day (or night!) and you will soon understand why there are so many myths and legends associated with the moors – the most famous being The Hound of the Baskervilles. Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have been inspired by the legend of the evil Squire Cabell, on whose death, legend has it, a pack of black hounds ran howling across the moor. Not to be left out, The Beast of Bodmin, a large black panther type animal, has been regularly sighted since the 1980’s, although no proof of its existence has been conclusively found. As well as beasts; ghosts, pixies, and even King Arthur feature amongst the many legends of the moors. Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor is reputed to be the most haunted place in Cornwall and nearby Dozmary Pool is said to be the home of Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake.

Woodland & Water

If you are looking for more tranquil scenery, then why not explore the lakes, woodlands and waterfalls. Between them, Dartmoor & Bodmin Moor have around a dozen lakes and reservoirs which are popular for walking, cycling, bird watching and fishing. There is also an abundance of beautiful waterfalls including Lydford Gorge near Okehampton & Golitha Falls on Bodmin Moor. You can explore many areas of ancient woodland including the mysterious Wistmans Wood, with its gnarled old oaks the setting for many faerie stories.

Explore the Moor

Image credit: Kathy Nettles

You don't just have to explore on foot. There are many cycle trails to enjoy (with bike hire), including The Granite Way at Okehampton or The Camel Trail at Bodmin. Horse riding is also popular way to explore the moors and there are several riding stables that can provide this. If you would like to make your walks more interesting (especially with kids), how about a llama walk or maybe try geocaching? There are literally thousands of geocaches out there to find, all you have to do is download the app and pick an area to search. This year you can also try otter spotting! The Moor Otters Art trail will be running again from May 28th. In total, 81 Otter statues painted by local artists, will be dotted throughout the Dartmoor and Plymouth area. There will be four trails to follow - how many can you spot whilst you are out and about? Look out for the one painted by our talented neighbour Kathy Nettles which will be somewhere in Plymouth!

Useful Links:

Additional Image credits:

Dozmary Pool- Steve G

Dartmoor Woodland - Louis Tripp


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