A trip down a Dartmoor memory lane
So here we are in lockdown 03, and encouraged to keep to our home patch once again. A neighbour here at Steward has been looking into what actually constitutes ‘local’, and has found the following advice from Devon & Cornwall Police: ‘Local means to stay within your village, town or part of your city. While it may not be stipulated in law, be responsible and play your part in keeping your community safe.’ I tend to go for long walks from home in these strange times, but am careful not to pass through any nearby villages so as to stay (I think) within the advice given. And in a repeat performance from spring 2020 lockdown, I’m enjoying revisiting old haunts. Between 1987 and 1995 we lived in Lustleigh, moving there when our eldest son was 11 months old. At the time I worked every morning as a commissioning editor at David & Charles Publishers in Newton Abbot, and spent every weekday afternoon exploring Hunter’s Tor, Lustleigh Cleave and beyond, with Nick carried on my back. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
So last weekend my other half and I set off from home with the intention of walking ‘the long way round’ to Lustleigh (via the Cleave) to pick up the spring issue review books from Peter Mason (thus combining exercise and work – we ended up doing just under 10 miles!). The header image shows Moretonhampstead from the lane opposite Wray Barton, just down the Wray valley from home. From there we headed in the Hunters Tor direction, then took the bridlepath towards Foxworthy. Some readers may recognise this same scene on page 88 of the winter issue, with a spot of snow on the ground.
We crossed the River Bovey then took the pretty path through Neadon Cleave (joining the route of the recently waymarked Dartmoor Way all the way to the edge of Water), which joins the Water–Horsham Steps path. I nipped down to take a look at the river at Horsham Steps. I’ll let you into a secret: the first walk I ever wrote for publication was in Lustleigh Cleave. A few years later I came across a group of six people gathered at a footpath post just up the valley on the east side of Horsham Steps. One of the group held a copy of my book – at least three others were pointing in different directions, clearly unsure as to which way to go! I kept my head down and scuttled past…
No such problems last weekend. We headed up towards Water – it’s a delightful path (the photo below was taken last spring) with lovely views across the valley to Hunter’s Tor.
Next stop was the old clam bridge across the Bovey (now overshadowed by a very large ‘health & safety regulated’ footbridge – I still feel that something more sympathetic to the surroundings could have been installed, while still meeting the necessary criteria.. but there you go). En route we came across this amazing little fungus – I know very little about fungi – which I am pleased to identify as the delightfully named ‘Scarlet Elfcap’! It’s edible, according to the Wild Food UK website, and was doing just what it ‘says on the tin’: ‘grows in clusters on dead wood, particularly hazel, and quite often found under leaf litter’.
Next stop Pethybridge Lane in Lustleigh (where I used to live) and down through the woods to cross the brook on the granite slab bridge above the orchard (this was my route to the village shop). I’ve just realised that I’ve never known the name of the brook (if I ever did I’ve forgotten now!). If anyone knows do tell me.
Books safely collected from Peter we headed for home. I’m very fond of the footpath that heads upvalley from Lustleigh via Middle and Higher Combe, and was delighted to see that the snowdrops which bless the track to Middle Combe are on their way.
We passed Higher Combe and walked through Sanduck Grove and the fabulous Sanduck Grove Tor which I know Tim Jenkinson identified in an issue of the magazine, but I can’t remember when (take a look at the Tors of Dartmoor website to find out more). The image below shows the lane to Sanduck in spring 2020. Hopefully by the time we get to spring 2021 and this sort of scene we’ll all be in a much better place and looking forward to a good rest of the year.
The spring issue of the magazine is coming along well, and at the moment we plan to publish on 1 March as usual. Keep well, keep safe and keep positive!