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Discovering Dartmoor, UK

21 Jan

During our recent trip to the UK, we were eager to see the English moors, the setting of many a fine novel, including Wuthering Heights and The Secret Garden in the Yorkshire moors, Lorna Doone in Exmoor, Jamaica Inn in Bodmin Moor, and The Hound of the Baskervilles in Dartmoor. On our way south to Cornwall, we drove through Bodmin Moor at night and passed by Jamaica Inn, which actually exists. But there wasn’t much to see in the thick, dark, fog. Not much to see, but a lot to think about–namely, that the moors are not a place one wants to be wandering about in at night (driving through them in the dark being only marginally better). Had Daphne du Maurier’s heroine Mary Yellan been real, I would have shuddered in empathy as we passed the Inn.

On our way north from Cornwall a few days later, we drove through Dartmoor National Park–during the day. Dartmoor rose up before us, a vast, damp, hilly area of spongy, sodden ground, complete with bogs, streams, rocks, holes, exposed granite hilltops (crossword puzzle lovers will know these craggy formations as tors), and the shaggy but ever-persevering Dartmoor ponies. We stopped here and there to soak in the atmosphere (soak being a good adjective in this particular case, as a light rain was falling, gently lashing us in the face).

It was other worldly: overcast grey skies against a striking green, reddish-brown, rocky landscape–and total solitude and total silence, except for the sound of the rain and of the water in the streams gurgling its way downward. It was also breathtakingly beautiful.