This is the last of my holidays posts, which makes me super sad. They’ve been really fun to write and allowed me to think back on what a wonderful time we had, although it went by in a flash within a very busy few weeks! We had a lot of fun on every day trip and at every place we visited, but I think I’ve saved the best til last, although it was a close fought thing! On our anniversary, which was whilst we were in Devon, we spent the day up on Dartmoor and I can’t describe how truly happy I am when I’m there.
There’s something about the Moor that calms me, makes me feel like I belong nowhere else and brings a sense of peace over me that I don’t really find anywhere else. It brings back a wealth of childhood memories and makes me marvel at the natural world. Dartmoor will forever be where I long to go back to time and again. From driving around the narrow roads along the banks of the Dart, to the wide-open views from the tops of the tors, there’s something beautiful to see at every turn. I love the feel of walking across the soft, springy grass near the banks of the rivers and streams just as much as I love scrambling up the rocks and stomping through the pine forests.
Our day on the moor started at Haytor. This is one of the most famous spots on the moor and the tor emerges from the top of the hill as you approach. The walk up is fairly steady. Steep-ish but the terrain itself is flat and the slope is a steady incline rather than a mix of flat sections and steep inclines. Once up at the top, the views are spectacular and we were grateful to be up there in such glorious sunshine, although it was rather windy!
After scrambling up the tor itself and walking around the top, we headed back down towards Haytor Quarry. This incredible little spot is where the world stops and serenity takes over. The pretty pool is home to more dragon and damselflies than you can imagine and as nature takes back over the bare rock faces left by man, it just gets more and more beautiful. It’s one of my very favourite places in the world and I dream of days spent sat there with a book in the quiet, enjoying the slower pace of life. We had made a fairly lazy start that morning so decided this beautiful spot was the perfect place for an early lunch as we watched two families dip in the pond as their spaniel careered around the outside, it was wonderful.
As we left the quarry, we took a path down on our left that I’d never been down before, it opened out into another part of the quarry that I’d not been into before. It was much more of a scramble over and under tree branches and roots as we made our way down and eventually it was too boggy to go any further but we had a great time clambering around and on the way back up we filled our water bottles back up from the spring coming out of the rock side which was wonderful.
We then headed back to the car park and it was here that we saw the first herd of Dartmoor’s famous residents, Dartmoor Ponies. These small, hardy ponies are all owned, but live out on the moors, being brought in once a year in ‘the drift’ which happens to round them all up, check their health, see the new foals that have been born that spring and decide if any of them are going to come off the moor to be sold or taken into a more domestic life.
The beautiful ponies are known for their laid-back temperament and make excellent children’s ponies. Unfortunately, the numbers of purebred ponies are in decline, partially due to Shetland ponies being introduced to the moor some years ago and causing mixed-breeding. The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust do excellent work to promote the breed and ensure that this rare breed is sustained well into the future.
From Haytor, we drove further onto the moor, through the pretty village of Widdecombe-In-The-Moor and on towards Postbridge. This pretty spot is the location of an old stone clapper bridge, that was then replaced with a stone arch bridge some time later. The clapper bridge is still intact and you can walk across it. The two bridges together are very picturesque and the river below is beautifully crystal clear. We enjoyed pottering around and taking in the views before heading further on to Two Bridges.
It’s not just me who has childhood memories of Dartmoor, my husband’s Uncle lives and works in Princetown, in the heart of the moor, and therefore he also had many childhood holidays down here, so we headed next to Two Bridges. We made our way round to the stream at the back of the pub and hotel located here, to the spot where Aidan and his family used to come down to, to play in the stream. Again, it was lovely to be back in a place that felt so familiar to both of us (my family and I used to park here when we visited to walk up to the wonderful Wistman’s Wood).
Our final stop was another bridge, this time, the one over the Dart at one of the entrances to Bellever Forest, one of the pine forests up on the moorland that surrounds Bellever tor.
This particular place holds a very special memory for me, as this is where we used to ford the East Dart river on horseback when riding from the wonderful Babeny stables (which no longer does trekking, sob!), across the side of the hill down towards the forest. After picking our way through the gorse across the moorland, we would cross the river here by entering on one bank, riding under the bridge and getting out the other side to go into the forest. I’ll always remember being splashed as I was usually on little ponies! It’s such a treasured memory for me and to go back there was really, really special.
From here, we then made our back off the moor, past Dartmeet (lovely place for paddling in the river) through the familiar hamlet of Poudsgate and down towards Buckland in the Moor, where we briefly stopped at Buckland Abbey before heading back to our campsite for a lovely meal at the village pub.
All in all, it was the most wonderful day and way to celebrate our anniversary and I write this with a longing to go back to this beautiful, wild place.