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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Walking the Last of the Light on Southernmost Dartmoor

With the biscuit tin by the sea fallen victim to the forces of capitalism, I'd vowed I'd have at least one annual walk on Dartmoor. But though I'd been there twice this year, the physical effort - and consequent euphoria - of climbing a tor or two had eluded me.  And time was running out, because once the clocks have turned back ... well, this is how I feel, only in reverse. 

So with the forecast of fine weather yesterday, the dog and I drove off through thick murk which only got thicker. By the time we reached Exeter, I thought we were probably both completely mad, but once past Telegraph Hill, we rounded a bend and there was glorious blue sky, with fog chiefly in the valleys. The ensuing astoundment must have been what stout Cortez and all his men felt when they clapped eyes on the Pacific.  

And by the time we reached our destination - the car park at Harford Moor Gate, to the north of Ivybridge - we had perfect Dartmoor walking conditions.  

With no particular route to follow but a few things I wanted to see, we struck off in a northeasterly direction, up the side of the Erme valley. The stillness was broken only by birds - a flock of redwings whirring past, crows and a couple of ravens overhead, even the occasional snatch of larksong ...

... and my shortness of breath. I'm clearly not as fit as I was before I broke my leg. 

Before long we had great views opening up all around. This looking back the way we'd come, with Plymouth Sound in the distance ... 

... and here the gleamy bit to the far right is the Erme estuary.

Up ahead, the play of shadow and light was striking.

Ted and I were heading for the Satanic looking promontery on the right, Sharp Tor ...

... but first the sharing of an egg and cress sandwich ...
... on a cairn on Piles Hill ... 

... and a photo opportunity. (Choose the right profile, Ted.) 

Looking over to Three Barrows

Up the Erme again 

We pressed on. It was still pretty squelchy underfoot ... 

... but then we reached the old Redlake tramway and the going became much easier.  

A sharpish turn to the left ...  
... and we gained rocky Sharp Tor.

Ted and I walked to the furthermost outcrop. All was still until the final step up onto the rocks and suddenly the sound of the River Erme far below was loud in our ears. (Dru Marland once explained this phenomenon to me - how one moment you can not hear something and then one step later you can, very clearly because it's loud, but I can't remember exactly what she said.)

Directly below us was Piles Copse, and I remembered the walk Ted and I did up the valley on the opposite bank some years back, when the Erme had been too high for us to ford and we'd had to turn back. You could see the track we'd followed quite distinctly. 

Rather than descend to the wood - though I shall get there one day - Ted and I made for a nearby cairn ... 

... from which there were amazing views of the heart of the southern moor.  My own heart filled up with the beauty of it. 

Heading south now and looking over to Corrington Ball and Brent Hill

As well as cairns, there are lots of other Bronze age relics in the area. This menhir is marked as longstone recumbent on the OS map. As you can see, it's been re-erected and is now also known as the Lazarus Stone. 

There are many boundary stones too, marking the border between the parishes of Harford and Ugborough.   This one is known as Hobajohn's Cross, though it isn't really a cross at all but an incised stone, which probably started out as the terminal stone of Butterdon Stone Row.  

Talking of which ... 

Oh but I'd wanted to see Spurrell's Cross! I must have walked past it.  I retraced my steps and started to cast about. 

I saw Dartmoor ponies ... 

... and this fairly typical bog, which is probably the one in which Martin Sheen is having a dip in Apocalypse Now ... 
... but no cross. I went further eastwards looking for a conjunction of tracks, because that's what it would originally have marked. Then I climbed a few cairns. Still nothing ... though I had a clear view of one of my favourite spots on south Dartmoor, Owley Corner. 

I love it not just because of its name, but because it reminds me a bit of 'Trees on a Hill' by John Nash.

But I was damned if I could find Spurrell's Cross. I even wondered if it had fallen - not for the first time - or been stolen. (It is microchipped because of past attempts.) Next time I'd have to bring my long-distance glasses with me as well as my reading specs. 

'Silly moo,' said the cows.

But it was time to head home. One last longing look up to Ugborough Beacon ...

... a glance back up the valley ... 

... and we were gone. 

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