Day five of my 50mm project saw me taking photos ‘on my doorstep’, day six could not be more in contrast, in what would be a ten mile hike around the Okehampton side of Dartmoor.
The north of Dartmoor is an area I have barely scratched the surface of, with autumnal trips to Black a tor copse or Meldon reservoir, today I have my own personal guide, a good friend and fellow photographer for whom Dartmoor is essentially his back garden.
(For those that enjoy seeing other photographer’s work, check out @GlavindStrachan on twitter, Paul likes to use and modify old vintage lenses, his work is unique and he captures the essence of Dartmoor beautifully )
Today is my first trip on the recently reopened Exeter to Okehampton railway route,a journey of about 40 minutes with just a single stop at Crediton, passing some lovely scenes of the rolling Devon countryside, where the route allows.
Close to the local army camp, today’s walk is often not accessible due to military training, however this week, no exercises will take place, we are free to roam.
As with most of Dartmoor, the landscape is strewn with granite as if cast from the hand of giants looking for amusement, climbing to the summit of the first steep hill of the day, threading through the rugged grass and rocky landscape.
Despite the greyness of the cloud above, the views are nonetheless breathtaking, this vast landscape can take your breath away at every turn, whatever the weather.
Wandering across the summit, a trio of resident sheep turn casually to peer at the intruder in their midst, as I walk away, they continue with whatever ovine business I had disturbed.
It is at about the half way mark that our patience is rewarded as the first rays of light escape their grey cocoon, casting light and warmth on the landscape, while moody clouds offer a beautiful contrast to the scene.
I have taken over 150 images on today’s hike, the images below are a small selection of those that will follow in subsequent blog entries.
It has been a grey and moody December and January to say the least, but these conditions are favourable for any photo walk on Dartmoor, the bleak,sultry days are fitting in this harsh yet beautiful landscape.
This recent snapshot is taken at Combestone Tor, one of Dartmoor’s more accessible and subsequently popular destinations but on arrival today, there are just a couple of other cars in the car park.
With a strong wind the cloud above scuttles along at a fair pace, mostly fifty shades of greyscale with just an occasional glimpse of escaping light penetrating the gloom.
The muted colours of winter browns add contrast to the cold grey of these granite sentinels, the solitary tree amidst its rocky haven, testament to the desire of nature to adapt and survive against the elements.
This for me, is Dartmoor at its very best, in its beauty and brutality, just one of the many reasons that keep me going back for more.
After a short two day week, I have three days off plus the weekend to enjoy some well earned time off.
What better way to enjoy the time, than to head out to Dartmoor for a little shutter therapy, a trip to Hound Tor, famously said to have inspired Conan Doyle’s The hound of the Baskervilles.
Dartmoor folklore has it that the tors were hounds turned to stone by a vengeful witch, while fact has Hound Tor recorded in the Domesday book as ‘Hundatora’.
It is a pleasant September morning, with a noticeably cool breeze, with sporadic sunshine peering from increasingly thickening clouds. I am barely out of the car park before the first shot of the day is in the bag, looking back towards the car park and the view beyond, a low layer of cloud hangs over the landscape.
Climbing higher towards the Tors, there are already a few climbers being shown the ropes (pun intended) with much encouragement from their instructors below, I watch for a while, take a couple of snaps and continue onwards.
The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, I take several shots in close proximity, each added to my treasure trove of Dartmoor memories.
No trip to the moor is complete without at least a couple of moody monochrome shots, there will be no exception to that rule today, as Dartmoor does what it does best in having a complete change of mind about the weather, from bright skies and some gorgeous light to grey skies and a poor attempt at rain in the matter of a few moments but for all that, in all her moods Dartmoor will always be beautiful.
I have only covered three miles today but it was always going to be more of a mooch and an explore rather than a full on hike, as usual, there are reasons to be back again as there are so many paths and trails to follow.
For all my trips here to the moor, I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface, what better excuse for continued exploration of this truly wonderful landscape.
For the first time in a few months, I have managed to have a sneaky Friday off, a chance to enjoy a quieter day on Dartmoor, now that the summer holidays are over.
Today’s outing will include a pleasant stroll around Venford reservoir, a quick trip to Coombestone Tor and another visit to a favourite of mine, the Powdermills ruins.
I will write more about Venford in another blog, today is more about my enjoyment of exploring the rocky outcrops of Coombestone Tor and fascinating landscape of the Powdermills.
Coombestone Tor is very popular, given the ease of access to its location, the car park being a stone’s throw away from the main attraction, which on an overcast day such as today, looks as dramatic as ever.
The bracken surrounding these outcrops are taking on an autumnal tinge, greens and rusty browns add contrast to the cold grey monoliths. The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, just a small reminder of how lucky I am to have this barely an hour from my home town.
From here, the destination is Princetown, home of Dartmoor prison and a handy village store where a welcome bite to eat is enjoyed, before the third part of today’s outing.
Powdermills ruins are the remnants of a gunpowder manufacturing facility, the explosives being used for the quarrying of the granite on Dartmoor, with several of the well separated buildings still standing, apart from their roofs, they serve as a poignant reminder of the areas industrial past within this unforgiving landscape.
I have visited this location on much brighter days but for me, the overcast conditions add a little more drama to this desolate moorland, a place that I will continue to visit time and time again.
It has been a while since my last blog entry, a busy August has left little spare time to write, however there are a few entries in the offing.
The first of these is a first time trip to Piles Copse, the third and less well known of the ancient oak woodlands of Dartmoor, situated on the banks of the River Erme, a few miles from Cornwood and Ivybridge.
I have visited Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse before, both of which are breathtakingly beautiful and popular, Piles copse has a less defined footpath so a map is pretty much essential.
Arriving at just before 7am, the sun is making its way into the sky, my first photo of the day is a copse of fir trees silhouetted by the morning light, a truly inspiring start to today’s outing.
With my need for some urgent shutter therapy and the outstanding natural beauty of the landscape, the hike towards Sharp tor takes a while, and upon reaching the tor, the view below is second only to the local equine population atop the hill.
From this vantage point, to the woods below is a steep zigzagging route weaving a path around the dense vegetation, it is clear that this is not a well used path.
The copse itself is owned and managed by the Howard family, who thankfully allow rights of access through the woodland but camping is not allowed with the area being designated site of scientific interest status.
Like Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse, one could be forgiven for thinking that you had come to middle earth, the lichen and moss coated trees and rocks, and twisted tree limbs looking so beautifully other worldly.
I find my usual photographic fodder of back lit leaves and dappled sunlight through the trees, a spiders web shimmering in the gentle breeze that whispers quietly as it passes by.
The route out of the copse is as hard as the one in, yet for this, I feel a sense of reward, nothing as beautiful as this should be easy to reach, the total distance of just under six miles feels more like ten but I feel privileged to have completed the Dartmoor triumvirate of ancient woodlands.
In this strangest of years, my trips to Dartmoor have been few and far between, after the enforced absence of lockdown , I feel that I am reacquainting myself with an old friend once again.
In the last three or four years, I have made regular visits, yet still, I have barely scratched the surface of all that Dartmoor has to offer. Yesterday’s outing was to a place I had been to just once before, Bonehill rocks, not far from the well known Haytor and Hound Tor.
Arriving just after 10:30 am after a hearty breakfast, the car parks are already beginning to fill with holiday makers looking to make the most of the long bank holiday weekend. The skies are a clear blue, the sun is bright but a strong breeze keeps the temperature ideal for walking.
Bonehill rocks are a random array of tors and granite outcrops of varying shapes and sizes, a favourite destination for climbers of all abilities, a good few of which have made the trip here today.
I love that the moor has so much to offer for so many, rock climbing, walking and cycling to name just a few, for me of course, it is to hopefully capture the moor in all its moods through my lens, indelible memories to look back upon on those days when I cannot visit.
As usual, I was spoiled for choice with photo opportunities, the heather and gorse creating a vibrant display either side of footpaths, the weathered nature of the rocks and tors, light and shadow emphasizing the cracks and fissures within the stone.
As usual, I took a good number of photos on yesterday’s amble, all the above are my pick of the bunch.