Editor's Blog

A new marker stone for the Two Moors Way on the South Moor

I had a real treat yesterday: a trip by DNPA Land Rover onto the South Moor to look at the site of a new marker stone destined for the route of the Two Moors Way at Crossways, near the point where the route leaves the trackbed of the Red Lake Railway. It’s a spot on the route where people have a tendency to go wrong, and so the Two Moors Way Association have been working with Dartmoor National Park on the idea of adding a little extra signage. No one wants to see the moor covered with signposts, but it is felt that an extra marker stone here will be a positive and helpful step. Everything obviously has to be done in consultation with the landowner (in this case the Duchy of Cornwall), and it’s an understandably lengthy process.

We met at DNPA’s works yard in Bovey Tracey, where stonemason Andy Cribbett showed me the stone selected for the job. Aspects such as size of lettering (MW) and which way the stone should face have to be thought about (quite apart from how to actually get it to the site – see below!)

We then piled into the Land Rover with DNPA Ranger Ella Brien and Access and Recreation Officer Ian Durrant, and made our way along the A38 towards Ivybridge. We reached the moor via Cantrel Lane, picking up the southern end of the former Red Lake Railway, opened in 1911 to transport china clay from remote deposits at Red Lake and Left Lake mires to the Cantrel works at Bittaford. By the early 1930s supplies were exhausted, and the track removed. We bumped along the old trackbed for round six miles to reach the Two Moors Way marker stone directing the route off the trackbed (you can see the stone to the right of the photo).

The next photo shows the problem here: two worn paths lead off the trackbed at this point, and some walkers intending to follow the Two Moors Way head for the low mounds of spoil rather than sticking to the route, which is the path on the left. The plan is to set the new marker stone at a point where it can be seen from the trackbed, giving walkers a clear indication of which way they should go.

Having worked out where the new stone should be sited, we decided to go and have a look at the new clapper bridge over the Western Wella Brook (installed last month), so we followed the route of the Two Moors Way down into the valley of the Avon, which is crossed via a 19th-century clapper bridge below Huntingdon Warren.

The new clapper over the Western Wella Brook (just by Huntingdon Cross – see below – also on the route of the Abbot’s Way) will be a huge help to anyone walking in this part of the South Moor. Thanks are due to Dartmoor National Park, Totnes Ramblers and South Devon Ramblers for making it possible (there’s a plaque on the bridge).

I felt I had to cross the new bridge (just to check that it works!). We also spotted that some other improvements to the route in this particularly wet area have been carried out too – many thanks!

We headed back along the Two Moors Way towards Crossways and the Land Rover, just as the clouds parted – the light was incredible – we were so lucky to be there! Once back at the Red Lake Railway and DNPA team spent a while thinking about how to transport the new marker stone the last 100 yards or so, across very difficult ground. The trackbed immediately north of the existing marker stone is pretty much impassable.

What a fantastic day to be out on the moor! Thank you to Ian, Ella and Andy for letting me tag along.

 

 

Happy Christmas – and thanks!

A very happy Christmas from our small (but perfectly formed, naturally) DM team to all subscribers, advertisers, contributors, photographers and sales outlets… and anyone else I’ve forgotten! These two opening photos were clearly not taken recently, but are a reminder of brighter and more seasonal weather on Dartmoor. Above is Lambs Down on a very cold day in February; below is the moor near Fernworthy in January three or four years ago. I’m hoping that this winter I’ll be able to add to my ‘snow images’ library… I have a feeling I may have used these two before!

As another year draws to a close I am delighted to be able to report that sales of the autumn issue (with Dianne Jayne Giles’ wonderful photo of a Dartmoor Greyface sheep on the cover) were our best ever by a long way. So thanks are due to everyone who bought a copy… and also to all those who have resubscribed with the winter issue, or bought a gift subscription for Christmas. With ‘good sales’ in mind I thought I’d end this year with a blog about our valued sales outlets and those hotels who support us by taking the magazine for their guests (all listed on the DM website). We’ve got about 75 now, all around the moor and its environs, and we visit them all four times a year to deliver the new magazines and scoop up any unsold copies of the previous issue (and collect the money). An old work colleague from my time at David & Charles Publishers – Rhoda – with her husband Bill, along with my brother David (and sometimes me) – carry out the deliveries, which take three days.

This winter David and I took on the northern and central runs (from Dunsford to Okehampton to Roadford Reservoir, then down to Tavistock and home across the moor via Princetown and Postbridge). The magazines – 1500 at least (loads go to WH Smith and to the subscribers direct from the printers) – get delivered to Animal Crackers (feed merchants) just up the road from home (the lorry can’t get to my cottage!), and we gather there to offload them into our cars. David and I sorted out Moretonhampstead’s outlets then headed for Dunsford, then Drewsteignton’s Post Office Stores, before heading for Chagford and Gidleigh Park.

Delivery day coincided with torrential rain and strong winds, on top of several days’ heavy rain previously – in my panic I forgot to take a photo of the raging torrent encountered at a ford on a back lane towards Spreyton. We couldn’t get through, and almost got stuck trying to turn around… but then it was onto South Zeal and the excellent store in the heart of the village, before heading for Okehampton and Country Lanes Garden Centre, decked out with Christmas merchandise.

Okehampton done (Mole Avon and the Museum of Dartmoor Life) we shot down the A30 to sort out Roadford and Lifton Farm Shop, then dropped in to Riverside Stores in Bridestowe: the village shop is a relatively new outlet for us to supply, and it was good to find out that the magazine had sold really well there. We’ve managed to persuade some shops to switch from WH Smith to letting us supply the magazines: financially it’s better for all of us, and the advantage is that we can do top-ups during the shelf life of an issue.

Where next… oh yes… down the A386 to Lydford Farm Shop and Mary Tavy PO and General Stores (always a good one for us!) and onto Tavistock. Here we supply Lawsons, the wonderful BookStop (exactly how a bookshop should be!) and the newly reopened TIC in Court Gate on Bedford Square (you can see from the photo that the weather was starting to close in again).

 

On reaching Horrabridge the state of the River Walkham showed just how much rain had fallen recently.

 

We sorted out Yelverton and the Moorland Garden Hotel, then threaded our way through the lanes to spectacular and historic Boringdon Hall Hotel (see photo below) on the outskirts of Plymouth. By that time a) it was getting dark b) we needed a break – so we headed back onto the moor for tea at the Two Bridges Hotel (where I nearly fell asleep!).

It was a very long day in the end – we then paid a visit to the Dartmoor Brewery in Princetown (holding an open evening – we had a fascinating tour), then went back to Yelverton where I was giving a talk to Yelverton Ladies.

David and I reached my home at about 10pm, a little the worse for wear (we were very tired!). I don’t have many days like that – a bit of bad planning on my part, to be honest – but delivery days are fun. They’re hard work, but it’s always good to meet those people getting the magazine out to the public – and we are really grateful to all those shops and cafes who help us out.

And by the way: the spring 2019 issue sees the start of a new series of articles about Dartmoor’s contemporary village shops, kicking off with a look back through the archives to a time when emporiums such as Bolts in Princetown and Necks in Moretonhampstead were the ‘norm’. The spring issue contributors should all be working away at their words and photos right now (!), and I’ve got lots of great articles in the pipeline for next year…

Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year, and see you on the other side!