Moor than meets the eye

27/07/2014 - 01:03


In my explorations of Dartmoor I realise I have only seen a small amount of its diverse landform yet, it will hold a lifetime’s fascination and desire for me to learn more about it and make considered photographs of its geology, flora, fauna and history. It is, like many of the National Parks in the British Isles: a mixture of what one might classically consider to be wild; and within it are farms, unique hamlets and villages.



'Vale of The Aune' - transient light on Higher & Lower Downstow farms, with Brent Moor & Dockwell Ridge on Dartmoor,Devon




The immeasurable open spaces that create an illusion of the halcyon days of the picturesque and quaint, can be attributed to us. At the end of the last Ice Age, the moors were covered in oak and hazel reaching up to the open heath-land fringes of the granite tors of the summits. The peat and bogs are only there because of the removal of vast numbers of trees over a period of thousands of years. This allowed the plants of the boggy heathlands to expand and the creation of wider expanses of blanket bog, valley mire, wet woodlands and Rhôs pastures (species-rich, purple moor-grass and rush pastures), found on Dartmoor.



The intervention of humans over many centuries has had notable impact with some valley floors in part changed by tin-streaming (a process of removing waste-matter from tin extracted during mining) – though nature is slowly healing the scars. In addition, extensive deforestation has taken place to create open areas for: hunting deer, providing timber for smelting metals from the mined ores, for building & fuel as well as creating pasture land for cattle and sheep.



The wooded vales in addition to the isolated, high moor-land copses are probably the most accurate representation of what the true moor-land was, just after the last Ice Age.



Time spent in what we consider to be the wild woods, the blanket bogs and heathland can be a powerfully-immersive experience and comes highly recommended although with mindfulness, there are opportunities to experience smaller pockets of the wild.



For example, the Upper Aune Valley and the Longtimber Woods are two places where there are clearly-marked trackways beside the river and yet, if you clamber down the banks and dip your toes into the current you can soon forget the man-made gravel track nearby.  You can become ensconced in the sylvan fringed amphitheatre around and embrace the song of the river as it tumbles over the ancient granite bedrock, festooned with myriad mosses, lichens and ferns. Perhaps the connection with wild is more one of a state of mind, than a set of specifics about geology and remoteness from the modern world?




'Grace & Favour' - Longtimber Woods, Dartmoor





I leave you with some delightful prosaic words by an author who has a definite affinity for the woods and the wild:



"There is no mystery in this association of wood and other worlds, for as anyone who has walked in woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer.  Visual affinities of colour, relief and texture abound.  A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of the streambed into which it has come to rest.  Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their colour rhyme in the eye-ring of a blackbird.  Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories of forests, different times and wolds can be joined.”


(from Robert MacFarlane’s ‘The Wild Places’)





'Sideshow' - quartering sidelight on the granite rocks of The Erme, in the Longtimber Woods on Dartmoor







25/09/2015 - 10:39
Exquisite. I would love to visit someday.

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