Saturday, 10 August 2013

Walking the Anorak Way

Son the Younger and Ted - there they are, in the biscuit tin by the sea - needed exercise, so we decided to do two short walks on Dartmoor instead of one long one. 


Our first walk started at Hexworthy, just around the hairpin bend from the Forest Inn pub.  

Embarrassingly, given that I set my novel, Dart, in this very village during mediaeval times, I initially set off in completely the wrong direction. My excuse is that the walking book was extremely vague about the starting point of our two mile foray. 


We were soon en route proper, however, heading towards Swincombe with views over the valley to Bellever Tor and Laughter Tor.  

Before long we encountered the ruins of Dolly's Cot.  The uprights you can see are the jambs of the fireplace, where we sat and shared a couple of sandwiches. 


The details of the life of Dolly Trebble are scant and contradictory.  She apparently lived here with her husband, William - or maybe Tom - who might or might not have been a local miner.   The story is further complicated by the fact that there is another Dolly's cot on the East Dart at Brimpts.  Anyhow, the tale has it that the beautiful Dolly attracted the attention of the Prince Regent, and her husband moved her to this remote spot 'to protect her'.  The fact that 'Prinny' never visited Dartmoor has led some to believe that it was Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, who built Princetown and the prison, who was in pursuit of lovely Dolly.  Or maybe poor Dolly was just married to a jealous and possessive man.  We just don't know. 

And look, here's the bridge we walked across only the other day, while on our trek around Foxtor Mires, with the ruins of Swincombe Farm on the opposite bank - which, funnily enough, passed into Tyrwhitt's ownership and became part of his Tor Royal estate. So maybe Dolly's Cot wasn't such a great hiding place after all.  


Having reached the bridge, we wandered back along the River Swincombe in the direction of Hexworthy.  This area is called Gobbett Plain and is the site of a former 19th century tin mining operation, with an abundance of ruined buildings, abandoned and dried out leats, etc.  Note the amber water  - a common sight on Dartmoor dye to the abundance of peat which stains the streams and rivers the colour of black tea.  

Poor Ted had to stay firmly on the lead on account of the Dartmoor ponies, belted Galloway cattle and sheep that roam this part of the moor. 


The last stretch took us up the hill back to our car, with more splendid views of Bellever Tor and Laughter Tor. 











A little walk, perhaps, but one which, on my OS map on which I mark all my Dartmoor jaunts, joins a huge swathe of felt-penned territory on the west with that on the east, from Ringmoor Down, near Burrator Reservoir, arcing up and over to Merrivale, and on up to the Beehive Hut on the East Dart, then over to Ponsworthy and Holne Bridge, and down to Ryder's Hill and Buckfastleigh.  Which makes me a very happy anorak indeed.  



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