Saturday, 6 September 2014

Mysteries of Dartmoor

No food in this post, unless you count our sandwiches, the Apples Hazelnuts and Walnuts will be ripe soon, but for now, two lovely walks... This Summer we were in Devon - and when in Devon - I always insist on visiting Dartmoor. I love to walk in the wildness of this place and I especially enjoy hunting for prehistoric Stone Circles. This year we managed to make two separate trips. Fortunately, the rings on Dartmoor have not been sanitised and fenced off, like Stonehenge. There is no visitor centre, you cannot arrive by coach, and you must scramble over rough terrain, in order to reach them.

First we marched over Whittenknowle Rocks and through the derelict Ditsworthy Warren House, before stopping to eat a picnic on a large rock. Then my intrepid son and I continued ahead, navigating our way through a bog and herd of huge cows in order to reach the ancient ritual area of Drizzlecombe.
At Drizzlecombe we explored the massive standing stones and mysterious stone rows that teem down the hillside from the remnants of a primitive settlementThe standing stones are impressive monuments and must have been very important. No one knows exactly why the rows were erected or what significance they held for the builders. Some, but by no means all, seem to be associated with burial mounds.
On our second outing, the objective was Scorhill Stone Circle, which turned out to be a popular destination. We met several other people hiking around carrying maps, and it wasn't too long before we located this fantastic ring.
Scorhill (pronounced Scorill) is a very evocative place; you could easily miss it as you dodge the ponies, cows and sheep down the rugged hillside path. However, once you arrive and spy the wonderfully jagged rocks sticking up like the fangs of some primordial monster, you know that you are in a very special place.
The sweeping panorama from this singular site is nothing short of majestic. From where we sat enjoying our sandwiches and coffee we could also see a smaller ring on a nearby hillside. The shades and tints of the landscape were stunning; the blue-grey sky against the dun horizon, purple heather mingled with the green and yellow of gorse and wild flowers.
The great granite-grey stones that form the ring stand like sentinels but what they guard, no one can know. It was very atmospheric, and I felt lucky to be there on such a stunning day. I sent the children scurrying off in opposite directions to count the stones and they predictably came back with different answers.
We spied several ancient stone clapper bridges down in the valley below us and we wandered down to explore these after eating our lunch.

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