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Title: Dartmoor
Author: Salmon, Arthur L. (Arthur Leslie)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected
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been retained as printed.

Words printed in italics are marked with underlines: _italics_.



  [Illustration: LYDFORD GORGE
                 (_Page 24_)]



DARTMOOR

Described by Arthur L. Salmon


Pictured by E. W. Haslehust


BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY


_Blackie & Son's "Beautiful" Series_


Beautiful England

    Bath and Wells
    Bournemouth and Christchurch
    Cambridge
    Canterbury
    Chester and the Dee
    The Cornish Riviera
    Dartmoor
    Dickens-Land
    The Dukeries
    The English Lakes
    Exeter
    Folkestone and Dover
    Hampton Court
    Hastings and Neighbourhood
    Hereford and the Wye
    The Isle of Wight
    The New Forest
    Norwich and the Broads
    Oxford
    The Peak District
    Ripon and Harrogate
    Scarborough
    Shakespeare-Land
    Swanage and Neighbourhood
    The Thames
    Warwick and Leamington
    The Heart of Wessex
    Winchester
    Windsor Castle
    York


Beautiful Scotland

    Edinburgh
    The Shores of Fife
    Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, and the Trossachs
    The Scott Country


Beautiful Ireland

    Connaught
    Leinster
    Munster
    Ulster


Beautiful Switzerland

    Chamonix
    Lausanne and its Environs
    Lucerne
    Villars and Champery


_Printed and bound in Great Britain_



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                Facing Page

Lydford Gorge                                 _Frontispiece_

Wistman's Wood                                            8

Two Bridges                                              16

Ockery Bridge, near Princetown                           20

Clapper Bridge, Postbridge                               24

Brent Tor                                                29

Tavy Cleave                                              33

Widecombe on the Moor                                    40

Dartmeet                                                 48

A Moorland Track, the Devil's Bridge                     53

Stone Avenue, near Merrivale                             56

A Dartmoor Stream                                        60



  [Illustration: DARTMOOR]


Dartmoor is a fine-sounding name, and no one would wish to displace
it; yet in one sense it is a misleading and inappropriate designation
of the great central Devonshire moorland. The moorland is not
distinctively the moor of the Dart, any more than of the Teign, the
Tavy, or the Ockment; it is the cradle-land of rivers, and there is no
obvious reason why the Dart should have assumed such supremacy. But
there is historic fitness about the title. It is probable that the
Saxons first became acquainted with Dartmoor from the fertile district
known as the South Hams, watered by the beautiful reaches of the Dart
from Totnes to its mouth. The wide intermediate waste that lay between
the North and the South Hams was a region of mystery to them, and they
associated it with this swift, sparkling stream that issued from its
cleaves and bogs.

Whatever its actual population may have been, imagination would people
it with spirits and demons; while it needed no imagination to supply
the storms, the blinding fogs and rains, the baying wolves that
haunted its recesses. They were content to retain its old Celtic name
for the river, and they applied this name to the moor as well; it
became the moor of the Dart. The name Dart, supposed to be akin to
Darent and Derwent, is almost certainly a derivative from the Celtic
_dwr_, water. The moorland itself is a mass of granite upheaved in
pre-glacial days, weathered by countless centuries into undulating
surfaces, pierced by jagged tors, and interspersed with large patches
of bog and peat-mire. This is the biggest granitic area in England,
the granite extending for about 225 square miles; though that which is
known as Dartmoor Forest (never a forest in our accepted meaning of
the word) is considerably smaller, having been much encroached upon by
tillage and enclosure. There is a further protrusion of granite on the
Bodmin Moors, and again as far west as Scilly; while Lundy, in the
Bristol Channel, belongs almost entirely to the same formation.
Beneath the mire and peat, which are the decaying deposits of
vegetable matter, lies a stratum of china-clay, which is worked
productively to the south of the moors, and still more largely in
Cornwall. The average height of the moorland is about 1500 feet,
rising in places to a little over 2000. This elevation is exceeded in
Wales, in the Lake District, and in Scotland; and nowhere does
Dartmoor appear actually mountainous, one reason being that the
plateau from which we view its chief eminences is always well over
1000 feet above sea level, and thus a great portion of the height is
not realized. But we realize it to some extent when we notice the
speed of the moorland rivers; they do not linger and dally like
Midland streams, they run and dash and make a perpetual music of their
motion. In winter they are strong enough to make playthings of the
rough lichened boulders that confront their course; and in the hottest
summers they never run dry--the mother-breast of Dartmoor has always
ample nourishment. Though there is a lessening in the body of the
rivers, and perhaps a surface-drought of the bogs, the moors are never
really parched; drovers from the Eastern counties sometimes bring
their flocks hither in a summer of great heat, to feed on Dartmoor
turfs when their own home-pastures would be arid. Yet the central moor
is more like a desolate waste than a pasture. Its rugged turfy surface
is scattered with small and large fragments of granite, sometimes
"clitters" of weather-worn boulders, sometimes masses that look as
though prehistoric giants had been playing at bowls. Often strange and
fantastic in shape, as twilight steals on, or the weird gloom of
moorland fog, they seem to become animated; they are pixies, brownies,
the ghosts of old vanished peoples; wherever we gaze they start before
us; prying figures seem to be hiding behind them, ill-wishing us, or
eager to lure us into desolate solitudes. The wind sighs with solitary
tone through the rough grasses and tussocks; at this height its
evening breath is chill even in summer. Some of the stones are
shattered monuments of dead men; some perhaps had a religious
significance that the world has forgotten. The loneliness of the moor
is often a charm, but it can become oppressive and terrible if our
mood is not buoyant. In places like these the strongest mind might
yield to superstition. We seem to be in a region of the primal world,
where ploughshare has never passed nor kindly grain sprung forth for
the nourishment of man.

  [Illustration: WISTMAN'S WOOD
                 (_Page 13_)]

But we do not come to Dartmoor for traces of the earliest man in
England; for these we must go to Kent's Cavern, Torquay, or to
Brixham, not to the moors. Tokens of habitation on Dartmoor only begin
with Neolithic times, and are by no means continuous. At one time
there must have been a thick population; but Celt and Saxon have left
little trace on the moors, and the Romans none at all. Though the
Celts may have conquered the Iberian tribes here, they probably
neither exterminated nor entirely dispossessed them. They were content
with the fringes of the wilderness, leaving the rest to the mists, the
wolves, and the lingering older race. It was man of the New Stone Age
who first peopled this upland, leaving remains of his hut-dwellings,
his pounds, dolmens, and menhirs, his kistvaens and his cooking-holes.
Numerous as the remains are still, they were once far more so; they
have been broken up or carted away for road-mending, for gateposts and
threshold stones, for building, for "new-take" or other walls, and for
any other purpose to which granite can be applied. This central
highland may have become a refuge of the later Stone-men against
invaders of better equipment: all the traces of camps are on the
borders, defensive against an external enemy; within is no sign of
anything but peaceful pastoral occupation and tin-streaming.

Place names, of field or of farm, enable us to infer the former
existence of primitive relics: wherever there is a Shilstone (shelf
stone) or a Bradstone (broad stone) we may be sure there was once a
dolmen or cromlech; wherever there is a Langstone or Longstone we
guess at a menhir or standing-stone. These early inhabitants of the
moor had advanced far from the condition of the rude cave folk; they
built themselves low circular huts, generally clustered within pounds
(enclosures whose chief purpose here seems to have been the protection
of cattle; some of the pounds were clearly for cattle alone). At
Grimspound, near Hookner Tor, are traces of twenty-four huts, enclosed
in a double wall 1500 feet in circumference. The huts had low
doorways, and usually platforms for domestic purposes, with
hearthstones and cooking-holes. The food to be cooked was placed in
the hole, sometimes in a coarse clay pot, sometimes without, together
with red-hot stones from the hearth. Near Postbridge as many as
fifteen pounds can be traced, while at Whit Tor are other numerous
traces. Those at Grimspound evidently belong to the Bronze Age; like
different periods of architecture, the Stone and Metal Ages very much
overlapped.

At first the burial of these people was in dolmens, like the fine
specimen at Drewsteignton; later, cremation became the fashion, and
the smaller kistvaen, or stone chest, was used. The kistvaen was
covered by cairns or heaps of stones, probably placed there in tribute
to the dead: there are many relics of such on the moors, as in
Cornwall, but they have usually been scattered or mutilated, and the
contents rifled by seekers after buried treasure. The stone-circles on
the moor are, of course, entirely dwarfed by Stonehenge, but when the
problem of the greater is solved we shall know that of the lesser; at
present we can only conjecture. The Scaur Hill circle on Gidleigh
Common is a good specimen, being about ninety-two feet in diameter;
near it are several stone-rows or alignments. Dartmoor is famous for
these lines of standing-stones, which are generally connected with
places of burial; the longest, on Staldon, starting from a circle,
runs for over two miles. These, together with the single stones or
menhirs, were probably intended as memorials of persons or events, and
may also have been used as places of gathering; but their religious
significance, if any, can have been little more than a primitive
ancestor-worship. At a later period the menhirs were often converted
into crosses, and as such they are common in Devon and Cornwall.

Other tokens of the early inhabitants are to be found in the signs of
tin-working, but here we have to be careful in assigning dates; much
tin-mining was done in the Middle Ages, and it is not always easy to
distinguish between traces that date from many years before Christ and
those that belong only to the fourteenth or the fifteenth century. The
advance in methods of working and in mode of living was very slight,
and it is quite possible to confuse a rude hut of the medieval tinners
with one of prehistoric origin. We cannot positively state what period
of the Bronze Age saw the dawn of tin-working on Dartmoor, but their
place in the oldest folklore gives the "tinkards" a great antiquity.
The metal was streamed, or washed from the beds of the moorland
rivers, cast in rough ingots, and carried on pack horses to the
Stannary or mintage towns, where it was stamped and taxed. Parts of
the old trackways still remain, often paved; and it was for the use of
the pack-horses that the characteristic clapper-bridges were
constructed, like those of Dartmeet, Postbridge, and elsewhere. These
bridges are quite modern when we compare them with the stone-circles
and kistvaens. There was a kind of guild or early trade union between
the miners of Devon and Cornwall, reminiscent of the time when both
belonged to "West Wales"; and a relic of the old jurisdiction is the
Stannary Court still meeting at Truro.

After the Christian era we learn little or nothing of Dartmoor till
the time of the Plantagenets, though we can gather a good deal about
its border towns. The wild beasts that haunted its desolate recesses
brought it some repute as a hunting-ground, and it was not included in
King John's act of disafforestation. We must not be led by the term
Dartmoor Forest to suppose that the moors were ever covered with
woodland--certainly not within historic days; for long centuries they
can only have been an almost treeless waste, with patches of trees
like the surviving stunted oaks of Wistman's Wood. But the borders and
some of the river valleys are beautifully wooded.

It must be confessed that the rarest beauty of the moorland belongs to
its fringes, around what may be called the gateways of the moor; in
the interior there is the charm of broad expanse, the glorious colour
of heather, ling, and gorse, and occasionally a grand desolation of
mist and tempest that may almost strike dismay. A guidebook writer has
spoken of Dartmoor as "the quintessence of unlovely dreariness"; and
perhaps there is some justification for his words in the immediate
neighbourhood of Princetown, the solitary town of the moorland proper.
In size Princetown is only a village, with a population permanently
increased by the presence of about a thousand convicts and their
warders; and it may be feared that a majority of visitors to the
place, reaching it by train from Yelverton, are drawn by a curiosity
to see the prison. They are rewarded by little but a sight of the grim
bare walls. Lovers of the moor have never looked with favour either at
the prison or at the tortuous little railway line that climbs to it,
however much this line may be admired as a feat of engineering; but we
must accept the presence of the railway ungrudgingly, for it is a fine
convenience for all who wish to reach the central regions of Dartmoor.
The wise visitor comes to Princetown in order to get away from it as
soon as possible--to get to Two Bridges, and Crockern Tor, long the
open-air parliament-place of the tinners--and to find himself in a
tract of lonely country perhaps more thickly studded with immemorial
remains than any other in the kingdom. The prison itself is about 1500
feet above sea level; and Great Mis Tor, a mile or so to the north, is
1760 feet. It will be realized that if this and other tors rose sheer
from a low-lying plain, their height would be much more appreciable.
It was Tyrwhitt, Warden of the Stannaries, who suggested that a prison
should be built here, to receive the prisoners of war who were
crowding the seaports; and the work was begun in 1806. Tyrwhitt lived
at Tor Royal, where he entertained the Prince Regent; and tradition
suggests that the Prince brought his usual habits of gaiety and
dissipation when he thus visited the moorland. Americans as well as
Frenchmen suffered the dismal hospitality of the gaol here, as we are
reminded by one of Mr. Phillpotts's novels. Of course, the new
settlement was named in honour of the Regent. A few portions, such as
the granite gateway with its motto _Parcere Subjectis_, belong to
the original buildings; and the inn "The Plume of Feathers" was built
by Frenchmen. A writer has spoken of Dartmoor Prison as an example of
the power of moral force, as the convicts far outnumber the honest
men; but it may be supposed that bolts and bars, and the firearms of
the warders, have something to say in the matter. Even with these
there are occasional attempts at escape or mutiny.

When the war with France came to an end the young settlement was
likely to lapse into complete decay; but in 1855 it was converted into
the present convict station. The problem of dealing wisely with crime
has not yet been solved; and the best that can be said for Princetown
is that it is undoubtedly healthy, in spite of its bitter cold in
winter; and in some sort it may be regarded as a compulsory
sanatorium. Whether the moral effects are as good as the physical must
be left for students of punishment to decide. Whether characters are
reclaimed or no, there is an effort to reclaim the moor, which is the
typical stony ground of the parable; and the gradual enclosure of
parts that were formerly public is a result. But at a step we can pass
from present unlovely realities to the remote and traditional.

In Fox Tor Mire, which has been partially drained but has still some
ugly patches of bog, we come upon the supposed tomb of Childe the
Hunter, a kistvaen, while not far off is Childe's Cross. The familiar
legend tells how Childe of Plymstock was hunting on Dartmoor when he
was separated from his companions in a snowstorm. He killed his horse
and crept into its warm carcass to keep himself from freezing, but the
expedient proved of no avail, though it apparently gave him time to
scribble a kind of will on a stone, to the effect that--

    "Who finds and brings me to my grave
    My lands at Plymstock he shall have".

Laws regarding the witnessing of wills seem to have had no operation
in those days. Tidings of his death reaching Tavistock, the monks of
the abbey immediately set forth to recover the body and so inherit the
estate; but it seems that they were nearly forestalled by the
townsmen, and it was only by the craft of the monks, who threw a hasty
bridge across the Tavy, that they reached the abbey without having to
contest their capture. Some say that their competitors in the race for
Childe's body were the monks of Buckland, not the folk of Tavistock.
Whatever we may think of the legend, it is certain that the manor of
Plymstock was attached to Tavistock Abbey from the time of the
Conquest to the Dissolution.

  [Illustration: TWO BRIDGES
                 (_Page 19_)]

Another local tradition is that of Fitz's Well, by the Blackabrook. It
is stated that Fitz of Fitzford, with his good lady, was pixy-led
while crossing the moors, and could by no means find the right path.
At length they came to this well, and hastened to refresh themselves.
No sooner had they drunk of the water than a veil seemed removed from
their eyes; they recognized where they were, and reached home in
safety. Probably the well had long been esteemed holy, though no name
of a saint survives in connection with it. In gratitude Fitz enclosed
the spring and placed an inscribed stone above it.

Something strange is also told of the pool Classenwell, sometimes
called Clakeywell or Crazywell, which is a mile or two south of
Princetown. This pool is certainly more like a lake than the
better-known Cranmere, which is little better than a peat bog. Its
extent of water is about an acre, lying in a hollow where were
formerly mine-workings. The superstitious used to assert that this
dismal pond had a voice with which it announced the names of all moor
folk who were about to die. Those who passed dreaded to hear the
mysterious announcement, always fearing that their own names might be
cried. It cannot be doubted that winds intruding to the desolate
hollow might produce weird sounds from the water, especially at night;
there is a mystery and solemnity about night sounds at all times, and
such things have fostered many wild myths. Here, as at Cranmere, there
is a legend of a doomed spirit who howls in the darkness, like the
Tregeagle of Cornwall; and here also was a belief that the pool was
bottomless. There is also a touch of history here: Piers Gaveston,
hiding on Dartmoor during his exile from Court, is said to have
consulted the oracle of Classenwell, who foretold his fate in
ambiguous language which he misinterpreted. The cry of this pool
reminds us of the cry of the Dart itself--its call for the human life
that it demands each year--

    "River of Dart, O River Dart,
    Every year thou claimest a heart".

A story tells how a farm lad named Jan Coo was lured to his death by
this calling of the river. It is true that when the wind blows
strongly down the Dart valley a strange, strangled kind of cry comes
from the gorge, which at night-time is well calculated to strike a
chill to the soul of the lonely passer. But the wind on Dartmoor can
do more than this; it has given us a phantom-chase like that of the
Harz Mountains, and the Wish-hounds that hunt the spirits of
unchristened babes across the moors.

There is a story of a farmer riding home to Chagford from Widecombe.
He heard the demon huntsman pass with his yelling hounds. Perhaps the
man had indulged too freely at the village inn; certainly he dared to
hail the hunter and ask what sport. "Whatever the sport, you shall
have your share," came back the answer; and what he imagined to be a
haunch of venison was hurled into his arms. But when he reached home,
and his wife brought a light, they found that the supposed game was
the dead body of their own little child.

But the moor is not always desolate and haunted; its streams are not
always wild dashing torrents, nor do they always trickle through black
and treacherous bog. To know the moorland thoroughly we must know it
in all its moods. A passing cloud or a glorious sunset can work
marvellous transformations.

Two Bridges is a good spot to begin the acquaintance. A bare road runs
across the open down to a gentle hollow, where it dips, passes a
narrow stream, and ascends again. The slopes around are almost as
smooth as if their formation was of chalk, not granite; this might be
a corner of the Sussex Downs but for the jagged tors that dream in the
blue haze of the horizon. Stand for a few minutes on the bridge and
let the spirit of the place steal into your heart; listen to the
message of the Dart as it babbles beneath the arches. Brook and
nothing more it is at present. But a reverie on the roadway is liable
to be disturbed by a sudden dash of dust and savour of petrol. We may
be driven from the road by the invasive motor car, but there are still
the footpaths and the tameless moorland. Descending to the small
stretch of meadow that borders the stream above the bridge, in a few
moments we seem far removed from disconcerting evidences of a
civilization that is always in a hurry.

  [Illustration: OCKERY BRIDGE, NEAR PRINCETOWN
                 (_Page 22_)]

We are by the side of a free moorland water, gliding and gurgling and
whispering through a valley-bed of rugged and weeded crags, with trees
that make a chequered network of the sunlight. It is a paradise of
coolness and peace, where there are mossy boulders on which we can
rest, or couches of fern and turf on which we can lie. The constant
yet changeful music of the waters is in our ears; our eyes are soothed
by the sweet umbrage of the branches, conveying the light with an
alchemy that transmutes it into a green-tinged wine. Sometimes the
water takes an amber tint, coloured by the fragments of rock that in
almost any part form stepping-stones from side to side. In winter no
such passage would be easy; the brook becomes an angry torrent,
leaping with foam and impetuous fury down the rock-strewn gorge: but
that which at times can become a relentless giant, at other times is
like a playful nursling; the child prattles where sometimes the Titan
thunders. There are miniature cascades and tiny waterfalls; the stones
that are nothing to the swollen winter stream now cause its baby
current to swerve and deviate, seeking for fissures that permit its
flowing. It is delightful to lave one's feet in the clear tide, but
the weeded stones are slippery and the bed of the stream is rough;
this is no quiet sandy brooklet that children may wade in. It does not
dally, but flows with a swift current of life. Many of our typical
English streams are almost or quite voiceless in their course; we have
to bend our heads to catch the low monotone of their flowing. But here
is no pastoral brook meandering through meadowy lowlands; it runs with
a gush and a tinkle; even in hot days, when the current is slender,
there is always spirit and vigour about it. For an angler there is
something even better: trout lurk in some of the deeper holes. Truly
the desolation of the moor is not to be found by its riversides,
unless it be in their boggy cradles. Here by the young Dart is a
plentiful growth of trees and luxuriance of plant life; the boulders
are draped with weeds and water-mosses. There is variety also in the
colouring of the lichens; and in their due season who shall describe
the glory of the flaming ferns, the gold of the gorse, the purples of
ling and heather? This is the moor and the river in their gentler
aspects; there are times when both become a fierce passion, a wild
dream, almost a horror.

It is impossible as well as undesirable to mention all the prehistoric
remains that cluster so thickly on the central moorland. This is not a
guidebook, and there are excellent publications, such as the writings
of Mr. Crossing and the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in which all necessary
details are given.

For one of the most typical features, the clapper-bridges, we cannot
claim the greatest antiquity, as the surviving specimens are on the
pack-horse routes, and not on the moor's more ancient trackways. There
was one at Two Bridges, but it has gone; and, still nearer to
Princetown, there is one over the Ockery, a rugged structure of
unwrought boulders, to which later parapets have been added. The true
Dartmoor bridge has no parapet. One of the finest is at Postbridge, in
the very heart of the moor; there are others at Teign Head and
Dartmeet. In these bridges the huge "clappers" or blocks of granite
lie absolutely unmorticed. Two of the horizontal blocks at Postbridge
are about fifteen feet in length. At Scaur Hill there is a bridge of a
single massive boulder. Though essentially characteristic of Dartmoor,
there are similar bridges elsewhere, as at Torr Steps over the Exmoor
Barle, and in the Peak district.

Another special interest attaches to Postbridge: it is here that the
ghostly and indistinct Lych Way starts on its route to Lydford church.
By this track in old days burial parties carried their dead to
Lydford, which is still the parish church of a larger section of the
moorland. Before the year 1260 Lydford had to be resorted to for all
religious purposes; from that date permission was given to inhabitants
of the eastern moors to use the church of Widecombe. In days before
education had done something to kill picturesque imaginings, it is not
surprising that many a phantom cortege was supposed to wend its way
along this haunted track; and the moor folk were very careful not to
pass that way alone at night-time. But the ghosts have been laid now,
or men's eyes are sealed by their incredulity; the only night-haunters
of Dartmoor are mist, and rain, and storm.

In making a tour of the border villages it is natural to begin with
Lydford, the mother-parish, which, with an extent of 56,333 acres,
claims to be the largest parish in England. Lydford boasts of
importance even as far back as the Roman invasion, but this is very
dubious; there is no sign of anything Roman either at Lydford or on
the moorland. The town was burnt by the Danes in 997, when they also
destroyed Tavistock Abbey. It is certain that Lydford ranked high
among the Stannary towns, and was a place of consequence. Its castle,
dating from soon after the Conquest, is by no means imposing in its
present appearance, but as a Stannary prison it had a terrible
reputation. The summary justice executed by the mining and forest
authorities gave rise to the term "Lydford law", which was something
worse than what we now understand as lynch law. Browne, the Tavistock
poet, says:

    "I oft have heard of Lydford law,
    How in the morn they hang and draw,
    And sit in judgment after";

but it is said that even this swift treatment was
better than being cast into Lydford prison.

  [Illustration: CLAPPER BRIDGE, POSTBRIDGE
                 (_Page 22_)]

We have to come to Lydford to find a patron saint for Dartmoor. The
moor is scarce in saints, but here in the dedication of the church we
find a very suitable patron in the Celtic St. Petrock, who came to
Cornwall in the sixth century and founded churches at Padstow and
Bodmin. There are other dedications of his on the moor borders. The
present church is Perpendicular, but there are traces of a far
earlier, possibly Celtic, building. The epitaph to the watchmaker
Routleigh in the churchyard should be noticed. Lydford is very
beautifully situated, and its ravine, down which the Lyd tumbles
through steep wooded clefts, is a perpetual charm. There are two
cascades, but that of Kitt's Steps is not so fine as it was once,
owing to mining operations. Those who like to make comparisons may see
a resemblance between Lydford Gorge and the famous Devil's Bridge of
Wales, and they will probably have to admit that the Welsh scene is
the grander; but Lydford is very lovely for all that, and its stream
is a true child of the moorland. This ravine of the Lyd was once
infested by a gang of vicious savages known as the Gubbins. There have
been similar reversions to primitive barbarism even within the past
century, people inhabiting mud huts and living chiefly by robbing the
moormen of their cattle. It is probable that the Doones of Exmoor,
though glorified by Blackmore, were simply robbers of this rude type.

Lydford also has a story of a traveller whose horse once cleared the
gorge at a leap, the bridge having fallen; the rider, unconscious of
his peril, was thus borne to safety across the roaring torrent of the
chasm. But the summer visitor must not expect to find the Lyd a
roaring torrent.

There are some fine tors near Lydford, though not the highest of the
moorland. Brent Tor is singularly picturesque, and is a notable
landmark by reason of the Early England church on its summit. The hill
was fortified in early times, traces of stone and earthwork remaining;
and there is a legend, as so often with high-standing churches, that
the devil resented the church being built on what he considered his
special domain, but was discomfited by the erection being placed under
the patronage of St. Michael. The rock itself is volcanic, so that the
Prince of Darkness had a reason for deeming it his private property.
The church is said to have been built as a thankoffering for
deliverance from the sea. Those who reach it have to do so by a steep
and stony path, which we may take, if we will, as a symbol; and it is
often difficult to stand in the graveyard because of the fierce winds
that beat upon it. In times of storm it might be easy to imagine that
St. Michael and the spirits of darkness were waging their ancient
conflict. Not many worshippers in England can boast that they attend a
church 1130 feet above sea level; but the church at Princetown is
higher still. Perhaps it is not surprising that a more accessible
church has been built at North Brent Tor, yet after coming here it
would seem like a lapse in manhood to attend the other.

As we get northward of Lydford we approach the region of Dartmoor's
greatest heights. At Bairdown, near Hare Tor, there is a finely-placed
monolith or menhir; but the view from Great Lynx Tor is more
impressive than any prehistoric remains can be, and includes both the
English and the Bristol Channels. Mist and rain may often obscure the
outlook, but there are clear times when the waters beyond Plymouth
Sound can be seen to the south, while to the north glimmers the Severn
Sea where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. The two highest tors lie beyond
Lynx--Yes Tor and High Willhayes; both of these, though High Willhayes
has a slight advantage, are well over 2000 feet.

The grand Tavy Cleave, one of the famous beauty spots of the moor, is
just south of Amicombe Hill. The Tavy, one of the many rivers that
spring from the morasses around Cranmere, here tumbles--in summer a
cooling stream, in winter an impetuous torrent--among scattered
boulders and crags at the foot of the bare hills. Very different is
this scene from Lydford Gorge, but far more typically moorland. There
is no woodland here, but the gaunt flanks of granite upheavals, and a
restless stream gushing through stark lichened rocks. Grim summits cap
the ravine; below are bogs that in wet seasons may be formidable.

Of the peril of losing one's way on Dartmoor we learn something when
we come to Amicombe Hill. Here are the stones known as Bronescombe's
Loaf and Cheese, which call to memory an adventure of Bronescombe,
Bishop of Exeter in the thirteenth century, whose tomb is in the
Cathedral. He was much beloved of the people, and the part that he
plays in folklore proves how strongly he impressed his personality
upon them. It is said that the bishop and his chaplain lost their way
in crossing the moorland, and at last found themselves on Amicombe
Hill. Tired and hungry, the former said to his companion: "Our Master,
when tempted in the wilderness, was offered bread created from the
stones. If the same offer was made to me, I doubt if I could refuse."

"Bread with a hunch of cheese as well," suggested the equally hungry
chaplain.

"Ah," sighed the bishop, "I could not hold out against bread and
cheese!"

While he was still speaking, a limping moorman suddenly appeared, with
a wallet on his back, and the chaplain eagerly asked if he had any
food to give them.

"Aye," replied the man, "I have some bread and cheese--naught else."

"Give it to us, my son," exclaimed the bishop. "I will repay thee
well." But the stranger answered that he desired no payment; he only
asked that the bishop would alight from his pony and doff his cap,
saluting him as master. The bishop was about to comply, when his
comrade noticed that one of the stranger's feet had a curious
appearance. In great alarm he cried to the bishop, who hurriedly made
the sign of the cross. Immediately the stranger vanished, and the loaf
and cheese that he had produced were converted into the stones that we
see here.

  [Illustration: BRENT TOR
                 (_Page 26_)]

It is a fashion to go to Cranmere, and even to leave a card as proof
that the visit has been paid; but the bogs and mires that surround it
always make the approach difficult--in wet seasons dangerous; and
except as the source of so many Devon rivers the spot is really
unattractive. It is never more than a marshy pool, and sometimes
scarcely that. Dartmoor is one of the rainiest spots in England, its
height being swept by the moisture-laden winds from both seas; and the
rainfall is held in its high-lying hollows by peat bogs. Every hollow
is like a granite cup, and where there is not the immediate granite,
there is the equally impervious china-clay of its denudations; these
basins are perpetually fed by rain or mists, and the rivers thus born
never run dry. From the actual pool of Cranmere rises the West
Ockment, while the East Ockment, the Tavy, the Dart, the Taw, and the
Teign spring from morasses or quags in its neighbourhood. No other
spot in the kingdom gives birth to so many rivers of importance--important
for their great beauty though only slightly for their navigation. On
the moor itself they are rapid streams, sometimes peat-stained, yet
always limpid; and this rapidity, especially after rainfall, goes with
them to their estuaries, bringing sometimes sudden and dangerous
risings of tide. The general Dartmoor watershed is southward; all the
streams but the Ockments and the Taw flow to the English Channel.
Teignmouth, Dartmouth, Plymouth, are watered by Dartmoor rivers.

Though the mother and nurse of these rivers, Cranmere is disappointing;
yet it has loomed large in local folklore. Like Dosmare of the Bodmin
Moors, it has been supposed to be bottomless; and the fate of doomed
spirits has been to drain it with a leaky shell. One tale is of an old
farmer who, after death, here had to expiate his misdoings. His ghost
was so troublesome that it took seven parsons to secure it. Being
changed into a colt by their pious spells, a servant lad was told to
lead him to Cranmere pool, take off the halter, and leave the place
instantly, without glancing back. The boy obeyed all the instructions
but the last; and on looking back he received a parting kick from the
colt, which then plunged into the pool in the form of a ball of fire.

We are indebted to the Ockment Rivers for the name of Okehampton (in
Domesday the name is Ochementone), which is perhaps the best centre
from which to explore the northern moorland. But the peacefulness and
to some extent the security of the district have been affected by the
fact that ninety acres of land are leased for the use of the Royal
Horse and Field Artillery, whose practice has sometimes jeopardized
unwary tourists. Happily the character of Dartmoor saves it from
becoming a huge camp and review-ground, like Salisbury Plain; but it
needs some patriotism to forgive such military occupation as we find
at Okehampton and elsewhere.

The ruins of the castle, on the site of a Celtic settlement, are well
placed above the river, surrounded by trees whose foliage is a delight
after the barren uplands. Every lover of beauty appreciates the
difference between a wooded district and a treeless waste; and this is
usually the emphatic distinction between the central moor and its
borders. It was a real privilege that allowed some of the French
prisoners to reside at Okehampton instead of at Princetown, and a few
of their tombs will be found in the churchyard here, so long after it
has ceased to matter.

There is older tradition here also. Those who are abroad at night-time
will do well to avoid meeting the ghostly equipage of Lady Howard,
which drives nightly between the castle and Fitzford. Lady Howard was
a much-married woman, daughter of the unhappy Fitz of Fitzford, and
her last husband was the infamous Richard Grenville, who sullied a
name otherwise greatly ennobled. She chose to retain the title of her
third husband, and under this designation popular fancy has dealt very
unkindly with her. Her doom is to drive each night to Okehampton
Castle in her coach made of dead men's bones--the bones of her
murdered husbands, as slander tells; and her phantom hound plucks a
single blade of grass from the castle mound. When all the grass has
been plucked, her doom will cease. An old Devonshire ballad tells us
of her:

    "My ladye's coach hath nodding plumes,
      The driver hath no head;
    My ladye is an ashen white,
      As one that long is dead".

It is considered ill-omened to meet this lady, and those who would
avoid doing so, as well as evade the firing, may find a pleasant
refuge at Belstone, at Sticklepath, or at South Zeal. Belstone has a
tor of 1568 feet in height, and also some standing-stones named the
Nine Maidens, with their fallen piper. The girls were thus doomed and
changed into stone as a punishment for dancing on Sunday. Though their
piper is displaced and mutilated, they still dance each day at
noon--for those whose faith is equal to the demand. Belstone is one of
several "Bels" in the Dartmoor country, such as Bellever and Bel Tor,
but we have yet to learn that they have any connection with Baal, in
spite of all the nonsense that has been talked.

  [Illustration: TAVY CLEAVE
                 (_Page 27_)]

At Sticklepath, a charmingly pretty village with beautiful
flower-gardens, there is a holy well with a curiously inscribed stone;
while at South Zeal, near a quaint belfry, is an interesting wayside
cross. There are some delightful old houses in the neighbourhood,
usually manorial in their origin and now turned into farms, such as
North Wyke, West Wyke, and Wykington. It is from this side that the
ascent of Cosdon Beacon is often made--Cosdon, sometimes called
Cawsand, being noted for the fine stone-rows and other immemorial
relics to be found on its slopes. The Beacon has been introduced to
literature by novels of Mr. Baring-Gould and Mr. Phillpotts. We are
reminded also of fiction--the familiar pages of _Westward Ho!_--by the
name of the Oxenham Arms, preserving the memory of a famous old Devon
family, the Oxenhams, with their tradition of the white bird.

By whatever way we pass from Okehampton or South Tawton to Chagford,
we are delayed on all sides by numberless spots of beauty or interest.
The main road, which branches to Exeter, is served by a motor bus from
Moreton, but familiarity with the moorland can never be gained by
proceeding along a highroad, whether on foot or awheel. Many as are
the remaining standing-stones, circles, and pounds, those that have
been destroyed were far more numerous; but the finest monument of the
"old people" is rarely as attractive as the natural beauties that
surround many of them, and only the professed antiquarian will care to
examine them all with patient study. To most of us they are only bare
stones. They are so ancient that the human interest has died from
them. But we find this human touch at such places as Wonson manor
house, now a farm, where an ace of diamonds painted on the woodwork of
a bedroom reminds us of a former squire, who had it placed there in
order that he might curse it each night for the ruin it had brought
him in his gambling.

Gidleigh, which is near, stands high, and has a fine park of oak,
birch, and mountain-ash, with ferns and whortles in a rock-strewn
undergrowth. Its colouring is especially rich in the fall of the year,
with the lovely fading of ferns, the purple of heath, and the red of
berries. The North Teign dashes foamingly below, fretful and
rock-thwarted. This is really a more beautiful spot than ever was the
Holy Street Mill that Creswick and other artists painted; plenty of
picturesque mills may be found throughout the country, but scenes of
such loveliness are rare. The rhododendrons in bloom add much to the
beauty of Gidleigh, which also boasts a small castle with whose
ruinous walls the ash trees have incorporated themselves.

At Teign Head (not quite the head of the river) is one of the
moorland's clapper bridges; but Leigh Bridge, where the two Teigns
meet, though of the common single-arch type, is more charming because
its surroundings are wooded. The two rivers unite before reaching
Chagford, and beyond that modernized and popular little resort the
Teign passes out of the confines of the moor altogether. But at Fingle
Bridge, one of the most famous Devon beauty-spots, something of
moorland wildness still remains. Almost the whole course of the Teign
is of remarkable beauty. It here passes the fine trees of Whiddon Park
till it comes to a ravine every yard of which seems to be prehistoric
dust. There are earthworks and camps on both sides; while not far off
is the great dolmen or cromlech of Drewsteignton, near the small
Bradmere pool.

Ancient camps are not common on the actual moorland, but we find them
here at the fringe: those Bronze Age moormen appear to have been
peaceable among themselves, and only to have raised entrenchments
against external enemies. Possibly this lovely valley of the Teign saw
a desperate struggle between tribes of an early and a newer
civilization, one of the primitive race-strifes that shaped our
people. Now it is a haunt of the country-lover and the tourist, many
of whom deplore that the banks and hollows have been denuded of their
rarer ferns by the depredations of thoughtless visitors. But nothing
has killed the charm of the tumbling torrent, the stained massy
boulders, the pools and shallows. It is little wonder that Chagford
has become a popular holiday place; yet its miry condition in winter
was best expressed by the pithy comment of its sarcastic
neighbours--"Chaggy-vord--Good Lord!" The "Three Crowns", of which
Kingsley spoke as a "beautiful old mullioned and gabled Perpendicular
inn", was once a manor house.

From Chagford we reach the open moorland by climbing Tincombe
(Teigncombe) Hill, and we must follow the South Teign if we wish to
examine the Fernworthy circle or the Grey Wethers. But we shall
probably be more attracted by what was once a genuine moor town, as
its name implies. Moreton Hampstead, no longer properly on the moor,
though it once was, is the starting-place of the single true road that
leads across Dartmoor, passing Two Bridges on its way to Buckland,
Tavistock, and Plymouth. The ancient central trackway, which is far
older, being connected with the Fosseway, also ran from Moreton.
Though linked to great roads from the shires, there is nothing to show
that the Romans ever used this track, or that they ever entered
Dartmoor at all.

Perhaps Moreton is an even better centre for visiting the moor
than Chagford, and it is quite as attractive in itself, with its
interesting but despoiled church, and its fine arcaded almshouses,
dating from 1637. The inhabitants, however, deplore the loss of their
old "dancing-tree", an elm growing from the mutilated base of a
granite cross. This tree was supposed to be over 300 years old, and it
succumbed a few years since to age and many infirmities. Balls and
concerts were given on a platform built on the massive branches. The
tree has received literary honour in Blackmore's _Christowell_. It is
from Moreton that we can best reach Grimspound, with its twenty-four
hut-circles. The pound encloses about four acres, surrounded by a
double wall of granite blocks. Scattered in the neighbourhood are
other hut-circles, barrows, and stone alignments.

Bowerman's Nose (Celtic _veor-maen_, or great stone) is nearer to
Manaton; it is a natural freak of weathered granite, 40 feet in
height, standing at an elevation of about 1300 feet above sea level.
Many foolish conjectures have been magnified into supposed fact by
those who have taken this and other Dartmoor features to be the work
of man. Manaton itself, with its own tor rising behind the church, is
a beautiful little village, rendered more lovely by the River Bovey.

It is the fall of the Becka brook into the Bovey that provides the
popular Becky Falls; but in summer, as Mr. Baring-Gould says, this is
rather a water trickle than a waterfall; in autumn and winter, when
fewer visitors see it, the stream is a turbulent torrent. Not far
distant is the beautiful Lustleigh Cleave, which though not on the
moor is thoroughly moorland in its character and its antiquities. So
hugely piled are the boulders at its foot that the river is generally
quite out of sight, to be heard but not seen.

But to get to a typical moorland parish we must not linger at
Lustleigh; we must go out to Widecombe, and by whatever road we reach
it we shall understand the sad fate of Tom Pearce's old mare.
Widecombe is in a hollow surrounded by heights and tors (it must be
understood that the word tor is only used where the granite actually
protrudes from the soil). Bel, Rippon, and Hey Tors are on one side,
Hamildon Down on the other. The valley, which is only low in
comparison with the surrounding hills, was much worked in days out of
date by the tin-streamers, and there is a plentiful growth of pines
and sycamores above the traces they left.

The village is a small thing, but it looms large in moorland
traditions, not only because of its famous sheep fair, nor because its
church is the finest on Dartmoor, but because the Devil himself paid
the spot some very personal attentions at one time, and indeed was
once reported to have lived here. It was on an October Sunday in the
year 1638 that a stranger riding through Poundsgate enquired the way
to Widecombe, and, being given a drink, it was noticed that the liquor
actually hissed as it passed down his throat. The folk were gathered
at afternoon service when there came on a great darkness, followed, as
Prince tells us, by a "terrible and fearful thunder, like the noise of
many guns, accompanied with dreadful lightning, to the great amazement
of the people, the darkness still increasing that they could not see
each other". Ere long there came an extraordinary flame, filling the
church with a "loathsome smell like brimstone", and a ball of fire
fell through the roof. The folk all dropped terror-stricken to the
floor. A large beam hurled itself down between the parson and the
clerk, yet neither was hurt; others were less fortunate, four being
killed and sixty-two injured. At last a man ventured to propose:
"Shall we go out from the church?" but the parson answered: "Let us
make an end of prayer, for it is better to die here than in another
place".

There is little in the present building to recall this terrible
visitation, in which it is clear that a most violent thunderstorm has
assumed a permanent place in Devonshire folklore; but its story is
told in a versified narrative hanging on the tower wall. This tower,
though certainly struck by lightning on the occasion, was not
destroyed; and it remains, reaching the height of 120 feet, a model of
impressive Perpendicular. The woodwork of the roof is also excellent,
and the surviving pictured panels show how fine the screen was before
being cut down in 1827. So large a church seems to indicate a thicker
population in early days, perhaps when the tin working was at its
best; and it is stated that the tower itself was erected voluntarily
by successful tinners.

At the September fair there is still a lively gathering of moor sheep,
moor horses, and moormen, and the chatter has a rich Devonian
intonation, with a delightful smack of the soil. Widecombe is one of
the so-called Venville parishes, Venville being a word of doubtful
origin (sometimes written Wangfield), which probably signifies a kind
of feudal tenure. These parishes were freehold with certain attached
services, and their inhabitants had a prescriptive right to all uses
of the moorland except those of "vert and venison"--that is, of
gathering green wood or killing the deer. There was never much green
wood to gather on the moor itself, and the deer have long since
departed, unless when one occasionally wanders over from Exmoor. The
moorland proper, technically the Forest, is surrounded by commons,
outside which are the Venville parishes; and these commons were
formerly of far wider extent, having been sadly curtailed by
"newtakes" and enclosures, sometimes by the authorities of the Duchy,
sometimes by lords of the different manors, sometimes by moor-settlers
themselves. A small fee is demanded by the Duchy for all cattle
pastured on the moor by outsiders, the cattle of the moormen grazing
free; and there are periodical "drifts", when each Venville proprietor
claims his own, and "foreigners" have to pay the tax.

  [Illustration: WIDECOMBE ON THE MOOR
                 (_Page 38_)]

We are reminded of London by the dedication of Widecombe Church, which
is to St. Pancras; and thoughts of the metropolis again come to us at
Hey Tor, which provided granite for London and Waterloo Bridges. These
eastern heights, Rippon and Hey Tors, are not so lofty as those of the
north-west, but they both command very fine views. It is magnificent
to see sunset flame across the moors from this eastern borderland.
Patches of cultivation, open moorland dotted with sheep, lovely
river-valleys, and wide undulations of heather and gorse fade into
horizons of the westward summits. There is always the changeful charm
of atmosphere. The scene may be of vast, glorious peacefulness, but it
is great also when there is the confusion of cloud-strife, rain raking
the hillsides--when the spirit of the moor is abroad in storm and
darkness, when colour is quenched in wet and driving wrack. It is easy
then to picture the moor as the phantasmal haunt of lost races.
Dartmoor has many moods, variable as the soul of man--sometimes of
gentle pensiveness and dreaming, touched with sentiment, sometimes of
fierce striving passion or inconsolable woe, sometimes of desolation
deepened to despair. In all these there is a quality of the
unconventional and untamed, a sense of the nearness of mystery, the
brooding of the unseen, the force of powers that we sometimes feel to
be in profoundest sympathy with our own longings and imaginings,
sometimes in the most vexed antagonism. Here, as elsewhere, we find
very much what we bring, but we find it intensified, vivified; it may
lure us as a kindly home, or repel us as a desert. Even the repulsion
has its own manner of charm, because it braces us to self-assertion
and manhood.

It was from this Hey Tor side of the moorland that William Howitt once
looked forth upon Dartmoor. He tells us: "My road wound up and up, the
heather and the bilberry on either hand shewing me that cultivation
had never disturbed the soil they grew in; and one sole woodlark from
the far-ascending forest to the right filled the wild solitude with
his autumnal note. At that moment I reached an eminence, and at once
saw the dark crags of Dartmoor high aloft before me, and one large
solitary house in the valley beneath the woods. So fair, so silent,
save for the woodlark's note and the moaning river, so unearthly did
the whole scene seem, that my imagination delighted to look upon it as
an enchanted land, and to persuade itself that that house stood as it
would stand for ages, under the spell of silence but beyond the reach
of death and change." This was written three-quarters of a century
since, before nature had begun greatly to inspire our prose writers;
and for its period it is very creditable. In poetry we have made no
progress; but in the prose literature of nature--that is to say, of
natural scenes viewed under human emotion--it is an immense step from
the writings of William Gilpin and Richard Warner, and even of Howitt,
to those of George Borrow and Richard Jefferies. Even in prose it had
been the poets, Gray and Wordsworth, who had shown the way, very
slowly followed. Warner was an enterprising and intelligent traveller,
and visited many parts of the south and west from his Bath home, long
before the time of railways. It is interesting to notice how he was
daunted by Dartmoor. Overnight he had decided to walk from Lydford to
Two Bridges, though the idea of "travelling twelve miles over a
desolate moor, wild as the African Syrtes, without a single human
inhabitant or regular track, had something in it very deterring". Next
morning it actually deterred. "As the trial approximated, my
resolution, like Acres' courage, gradually oozed away, and before
breakfast was finished I had dropped the idea, and determined to take
a circuitous route by Oakhampton." His landlord had just told him how
the body of a dead sailor had been discovered in a lonely spot, where
it must have lain for weeks; and Warner's discretion proved greater
than his valour.

But we need not sneer at him. It is still easy to be lost on Dartmoor.

Those who are fond of logan-stones may find some in this district:
there is one at Lustleigh, a fine one on Rippon, and others elsewhere.
Some of them no longer "log" satisfactorily, and certainly none are
connected with Druidic or other ceremonial. They are natural
formations, like the rock-basins and the tors themselves.

It is more interesting to pass on to one of the loveliest portions of
the moorland border, that which is watered by the Rivers Dart after
their junction at Dartmeet. We have already seen the West Dart at Two
Bridges, and the East Dart should be explored at least to Postbridge.
It is especially beautiful where it is joined by the Walla, at the
foot of Yes Tor. Dartmeet is a small settlement of houses, and
deserves to be popular, for while quite on the moorland it has none of
the desolate aspect that some persons find depressing, and those who
love woods can get them to perfection around Holne and Buckland.
Tourists who have been up the river from Dartmouth to Totnes are
inclined to think that they know the Dart; they are as much mistaken
as those who think they know the Wye when they have been to Symond's
Yat. To know the Dart its moorland recesses must be explored, where
the stream is in its fresh impetuous youth; below Totnes, though its
banks are undoubtedly lovely, it has become chastened and sobered. At
the junction of the Wallabrook with the Dart is a very fine view of
Yar Tor, near which is the luxuriant Brimpts plantation.

The meeting of the two Darts is in a low rock-strewn gorge, to
appreciate which the roadway must be left. Near is the Coffin-stone,
with its inscribed crosses, used as a resting-place for the dead on
their way to burial. It is said that when a man of notorious
wickedness was being carried to his grave, his coffin as usual was
rested on this stone, and a flash of fire struck downward from a
passing cloud, consuming the body and splitting the solid rock. The
cleft remains as a proof. The rocks of this district are frequently of
metallic substance, and are often struck by lightning; perhaps this
kills the romance of the legend.

Buckland-in-the-Moor, so called to distinguish it from other
Bucklands, is not strictly on the moorland at all, and is cradled in
woodland; it is a very small, delightful village, close to the united
Webburns, which join the Dart below. The river here flows in most
tortuous fashion under the beautiful woods of Buckland Drive and Holne
Chase. Holne Cot has a place in literature as the birthplace of
Charles Kingsley, in 1819, but he left it when an infant. Another
literary remembrance is the birth of the dramatist Ford at Ilsington,
and Tavistock had a true poet in William Browne; but it must be
confessed that the literary glories of the moorland are not great, and
Carrington, its special poet, is quite a third-rate writer. There has
been no Wordsworth to interpret Dartmoor. We have to come to modern
fiction, in the books of Mr. Baring-Gould and Mr. Phillpotts, for
anything like an adequate literary treatment; and even in this
department there has been no _Lorna Doone_.

At Holne and Buckland may be found some of the most luxuriant woodland
of the moor-borders, yellow with dense primroses in the spring. On
both sides of the river there are rich woods of birch and oak and fir,
while in the valley through which the Dart runs are fertile succulent
marshes, beautified with bogbeans, asphodels, and sundews, and with
the exquisite _Osmunda regalis_ flourishing where, happily, it is very
difficult to reach. In parts the river flows through ivied crags,
above which hang clusters of mountain-ash. There are prehistoric
remains at Holne and at Hembury, but it is difficult to think of the
past where the present is of such insistent charm. Moor, woodland,
river, stone-strewn waste and fertile pasture here meet, with no
discord or violent contrast, but harmonized by a reconciling
atmosphere of beauty. The churches both at Buckland and Holne have
very interesting screens, and at Holne is a finely-carved wooden
pulpit.

Though it can scarcely be said to belong to the moors, Ashburton is a
good starting-point for the examination of the eastern moorlands. Here
and at Buckfastleigh are the only remains of the once extensive Devon
woollen manufactures; and Ashburton was also at one time a Stannary
town. It has a good church and many interesting associations, but we
cannot linger either here or at Buckfast, where a settlement of
Benedictines has restored the old abbey.

There is a great temptation to stay awhile at Dean Prior for the sake
of Robert Herrick, one of England's sweetest lyrists, who was twice
vicar here, being presented by Charles I in 1629, dispossessed at the
Commonwealth, and reinstated at the Restoration. He abused the
neighbourhood so heartily in his verse that it is surprising he should
have accepted the living a second time; but perhaps he said a little
more than he meant. The exact spot of his burial in the churchyard is
unknown. Some of Herrick's lyrics are so lovely that even Devonians
must forgive him, though he wrote:

    "O men, O manners; now and ever known
    To be a rocky generation,
    A people currish, churlish as the seas,
    And rude almost as rudest savages;
    With whom I did and may re-sojourn when
    Rocks turn to rivers, rivers turn to men".

As he returned voluntarily to this exile, we must imagine the miracle
to have taken place, or perhaps his own heart had been tamed by his
adversity.

The southern moor is watered by beautiful but less familiar rivers
than those of the west and east; the Avon, the Erme, the Yealm have
all their own charm, and are as genuinely children of Dartmoor as the
Teign, the Dart, or the Tavy. Probably the best centre for this
district is South Brent, where there is a church that has been badly
treated by restoration. Brent Hill, rising to about 1000 feet, must
not be confused with Brent Tor. Both are strikingly conspicuous hills,
but this southern height no longer boasts its chapel dedicated to St.
Michael. The hill is a fine landmark for a large extent of country.
The Avon, sometimes called the Aune, is a beautiful river, but its
source in the treacherous mire of Aune Head is very dismal.

  [Illustration: DARTMEET
                 (_Page 44_)]

It may be worth while to tell a story told of Aune Mire by Mr.
Baring-Gould, for the authenticity of which we must hold him
responsible. A man was making his way through the bog "when he came on
a top-hat reposing, brim downwards, on the sedge. He gave it a kick,
whereupon a voice called out from beneath, 'What be you a-doin' to my
'at?' The man replied, 'Be there now a chap under'n?' 'Ees, I reckon,'
was the reply, 'and a hoss under me likewise.'" This is a fair
representation of the swallowing capacity of Dartmoor mires, and they
should certainly be avoided by any strangers without an expert guide.

The Avon on its southward course passes the old Abbots' Way, the track
of the monks from Buckfast to Tavistock. A good deal of the path can
still be traced. Approaching Shipley Bridge, the river becomes very
lovely, shadowed by Shipley and Black Tors, and flowing beneath a
bridge of single span among rocks, trees, and ferns. Not many tourists
come hither, and the result is greater wealth of specimens--mountain
and lady ferns, false maidenhair, various hart's tongues.

The beautiful situation of Didworthy might make one in love with
farming; and there are numberless remains here for those who wish to
be in touch with the "old people". This is one aspect that is always
present, from end to end of Dartmoor--the silent tokens of vanished
peoples; they may be absolutely intrusive if we choose, or they may
blend, scarcely noticed, with the natural features of their
surroundings. Some persons will come and think of nothing else; but to
those who come with wider purpose the old stones and memorials give a
hint of far-off human interest, softening the harshness of the wilder
scenes, and enriching the gentler with a touch of pathos. The solitude
of places where man has been is always different from that of
untrodden wildernesses.

The Avon runs beneath another lovely bridge when it comes to South
Brent, which is locally noted for its fairs and pannier market, and is
a favourite resort with excursionists from Plymouth. The curious
winding streets of the little town are in perfect accord with their
setting. At Wrangaton, not far distant, are the links of the South
Devon Golf Club; but this is only one of the many opportunities that
golfers have of exercising their sport on Dartmoor or in its immediate
neighbourhood. It is fairly evident that a considerable section of the
public to-day will go nowhere unless accompanied by its golf clubs,
and certainly the game often introduces these people to much beautiful
scenery that they might otherwise miss. They must decide themselves as
to which is the real attraction.

There are several other river sources not far from that of Avon--Erme
Head, Yealm Head, Plym Head; this cluster of bogs almost rivals the
cradle of rivers at Cranmere. The Erme valley and plains are thickly
strewn with prehistoric relics and traces of old tin workings; but,
well populated as this district must once have been, it is now one of
the most lonely and desolate parts of the moorland. Dreary as the Erme
may be at its source, however, it develops to great beauty during its
brief course to the sea, issuing at Mothecombe, in a series of
windings and wooded reaches, with a swiftness of tide that tells its
moorland birth. The general public makes the river's acquaintance at
Ivybridge; otherwise it is by no means a familiar stream.

At Harford, which is practically a moorland parish, we have a church
dedicated to St. Petrock, like those of South Brent and Lydford,
emphasizing his claim to be the patron of Dartmoor. The chief heights
in this region are the Three Barrows, Staldon, and Sharp Tor. Perhaps
the most remarkable of the moor's stone avenues starts from a circle
on Stall Moor, and terminates with a kistvaen not far from Aune Head.
There are other stone rows near, all of which have been partially
despoiled, but less so than elsewhere; the mystery of their
significance remains unsolved. Ugborough Beacon and Butterton Hill,
both about 1200 feet in height, stand like southern sentinels of the
moorland to the east of Harford. On the slopes of Sharp Tor is a
stunted wood, very like Wistman's.

Westward, near Cornwood, is the ravine of the River Yealm, known as
Awns and Dendles, which it is best not to visit on Plymouth's
early-closing day or on Bank Holidays. It is a pity that popularity
should mean vulgarizing, for it is right that every lovely spot should
be accessible to the greatest possible number of those who can
appreciate it. The qualification is an important one; nothing is
gained by the thronging to such scenes of those whose tastes are best
met by entertainment pavilions and roundabouts. Besides which, the
conscienceless tripper is a terror to all who love ferns, and there
are still some rarities to be found in the Yealm valley.

Near Cornwood is Fardell, once a manor of the Raleighs; and though Sir
Walter was not born here he undoubtedly paid the spot many visits. The
place is also interesting because of a stone discovered here, bearing
Ogham inscriptions supposed to prove the extent of the Irish invasion
somewhere about the sixth century, when Devon and Cornwall were
overrun by saints and chieftains from the green island. There are a
number of attractive manor houses in this part of the moorland's
fringe, together with some fine heights, such as Pen Beacon and Shell
Tor, rising to about 1500 feet. But there is no particular charm in
the china-clay works of Lee Moor--an industry which may be studied on
a larger scale in the St. Austell district of Cornwall. China-clay, or
kaolin, is a detritus of granite, much used for pottery and in the
preparation of calicoes; partly also for the supposed white sugar of
confectionery and in cheap adulterated flours. The neighbourhoods of
its workings are as white as those of coal are black, and in this
respect china-clay must be given the preference; but neither tends to
beautify a district.

  [Illustration: A MOORLAND TRACK, THE DEVIL'S BRIDGE]

None of the lovely rivers already mentioned water a town of any great
importance; but when we come to the Plym it is different. The Plym is
not the most beautiful of Dartmoor streams, but it has given its name
to Plymouth, and Plymouth has imposed its own title on the three towns
which united form the supreme naval and industrial centre of the west
country. Other western seaports have decayed rather than advanced--they
have deteriorated at least in their relative importance; but Plymouth
has advanced and is still advancing. In no sense does it belong to
Dartmoor, but the Plym and the Tavy, whose waters go to swell Plymouth
Sound, are both genuine children of the moorland. The Plym, rising not
far from the Yealm, makes its way to its junction with the Meavy
through a grand ravine, overshadowed by the Dewerstone. Before
reaching the Dewerstone, however, the river passes under the Cadover
(or Cadaford) Bridge, and from this circumstance there has been some
dispute as to whether the true name of the stream should not be the
Cad. Carrington gave it this name, but he cannot be taken as an
authority; and it is probable that the _cad_ in Cadover is simply a
corruption of the Celtic word _coed_, or wood, and has nothing to do
with the river at all. From Cadover to Shaugh Bridge are some
wonderfully beautiful scenes, banks strewn with granite fragments
amidst tangled undergrowth. The Dewerstone towering above is
appropriately the haunt of a demon huntsman of the moors, who careers
abroad on stormy nights with his fierce-eyed baying wish-hounds.

Whether we pursue the Meavy upward from the bridge or follow the
united rivers through the exquisite Bickleigh vale, there is much
loveliness; but there are times when Bickleigh valley is too popular
to be pleasant, unless our chief study is human nature. We can best
study human nature in the towns; and we do not want to be pursued by
its noisier manifestations amid scenes that call for the sympathetic
presence of peace. Shaugh Prior, finely placed on the border of the
moorland, is entirely delightful, as also is Meavy, with its famous
oak, twenty-five feet in girth, and its village cross. Lovers of such
things will specially notice the old font-cover of the church at
Shaugh. There is also a notable cross on the slope of Ringmore Down,
over eight feet in height, the tallest on the moor.

One of the pleasantest spots of this corner of Dartmoor is the village
of Sheepstor, a familiar sight from the railway to all who are making
the journey to Princetown by train. It lies at a little distance from
the rail, but the Burrator reservoir here constructed for the supply
of Plymouth, in the bed of an ancient lake, probably draws more
curious visitors than do the beauty and interest of its surroundings.
Sheepstor Church has been unhappily restored, to the sad detriment of
its exquisite screen, enough of which has been preserved to tell of
its original glory. The tor itself rises finely above the clustering
cottages of the village, and a cavern called the Pixies' Cave is shown
as the refuge of one of the Elford family during the Civil War. It is
said that he lay concealed here, somewhat in the manner of the Baron
Bradwardine's concealment in Scott's _Waverley_, while the Roundhead
troopers were closely searching his house and grounds, at Langstone by
Burrator. Having won the affection of the peasantry, they kept his
secret and provided him with food. It is said that he occupied his
enforced leisure by painting the sides of the cave, but no traces of
painting can now be seen. The cave is difficult to find, and nothing
but treachery could have revealed the hiding-place. It is not stated
whether Elford's presence drove out the pixies to whom the cavern
really belonged; but in case they still remain it is well to remember
the usual etiquette of leaving a pin or some other small gift. Pixies
seem to be as easily pleased as are the patron saints of some holy
wells.

A remarkable story is told by Mrs. Bray as to the manner in which the
cholera reached Sheepstor during the terrible visitation of 1832. A
man of supposed poverty died, with his wife and children, at Plymouth,
where the plague was raging fiercely, and their home was visited by
two brothers, with small hope of picking up anything valuable. To
their surprise a large sum in cash was found, and the brothers fought
together over the dead bodies in order to possess it. While fighting,
they were disturbed by the police, and one of the two, having actually
assumed some of the clothes of the dead man, took refuge in a cottage
at Sheepstor. Strangely enough, he escaped the infection himself, but
it was taken by the two worthy cottagers, and they both died. Their
little boy, thus orphaned, carried word to Tavistock that his parents
had both died and that he had been left alone with the dead. It was
considered so remarkable that the cholera should have visited so
healthy a spot, and especially people of such known cleanliness, that
an enquiry was instituted and the story came out.

  [Illustration: STONE AVENUE, NEAR MERRIVALE]

Before leaving Sheepstor something should be said of the fine stone
rows and other remains at Drizzlecombe, but it is impossible here to
give full attention to these numerous relics. We find a reminder of
the Elford family in the name of Yelverton, a corruption of
Elford-town. Yelverton and Dousland have both become popular with
residents and visitors, having the convenience of rail and commanding
a district of great beauty. But, attractive as they are, neither can
claim to be on the moorland, nor can this claim be made by Tavistock
itself, though that town boasts of being the "western gate of
Dartmoor". There is a rich supply of beauty and of delightful
associations at Tavistock, but it was never a moor town. Here and at
Buckland Monachorum are many traces of the two rival abbeys, of which
Tavistock was far the more ancient and the more wealthy. Both spots
have memories of Francis Drake, and at Tavistock there is an admirable
statue. Buckland and Buckfast, being both Cistercian, had much
communication; and the influence of these three abbeys was great in
preserving the moorland trackways, setting up crosses for the guidance
of travellers, and keeping the moor open to a gradual course of
civilization. They were also centres of art and culture at a period
when such things were at a discount, and in this respect we can never
be too grateful to the old monastic settlements. Whether or not we
class them among those good things whose corruption is worst, they
were undoubtedly good in their day. We find around Dartmoor as
elsewhere that the monks chose their localities well, with a keen eye
for natural beauty and the advantages of water. We may infer also that
they ventured across Dartmoor when other men were chary of crossing
it, and their faith had certainly the courage of its convictions. If
we meet their ghosts along the Abbots' Way by night we need not fear
that they will be other than kindly. If they are ghosts now, there was
a time when they drove forth ghosts themselves, and when they
converted pagan monuments into symbols of the religion of love.

It would be very pleasant to linger about Tavistock, with its bright
river that we met in our rambles from Lydford; but the moorland calls
us. There is another lovely river, the Walla or Walkham (Walkham is
probably Walla-combe), which lures us to one of the most fascinating
regions of Dartmoor. The poet Browne, after the fashion of his time,
wrote a narrative of the "loves of the Walla and the Tavy" in his
_Britannia's Pastorals_; but in spite of much freshness of natural
description his verses are tedious if taken in large doses, and we can
leave this would-be classic legend out of the question. The stream has
a typically moorland character as it flows from its source at Lynch
Tor, to wind around the foot of the noble Great Mis Tor and pass
beneath Merrivale Bridge. The tors of this district are approaching
their greatest height, and Mis Tor, a true mother of storms, is one of
the most magnificent. Merrivale bridge is on the highroad from
Tavistock to Princetown, little frequented since the opening of the
railway, and surely there are few finer bits of road in the kingdom
than that which here crosses the valley of the Walla, at the base of
this grand tor. Whether lying in open sunshine or raked with fog and
cloud, Mis Tor is always impressive, apart altogether from the
rock-basins, pounds, and hut-circles that surround it. Northward of
the bridge is Staple Tor; southward, nearer to the small village of
Sampford Spiney, are the Vixen and Pu tors. The Vixen is a curious
mass of weathered granite, taking almost any shape that the view-point
and the imagination of the spectator may suggest. At Sampford there is
a good Perpendicular church, and a picturesque granite-mullioned
farmhouse that was once a manor. There is another good church at
Walkhampton, and a fourteenth-century church-house, now the inn.

Those who are attracted to Whitchurch Down by reason of its golf
links, belonging to the Tavistock Club, will see one of the most
impressive old crosses of the moorland; and their sport may be
combined not only with the bracing air of a high altitude but with
fine views of Dartmoor and of east Cornwall. The beauty of the Walkham
River is continued to its junction with the Tavy near the disused
copper mine of the Virtuous Lady. Whitchurch proves its antiquity by
being the _Wicerce_ of Domesday. Its church, thus clearly dating from
before the Conquest, has the lovely screen rescued by the Earl of
Devon from the ill-advised restoration at Moreton Hampstead. North of
Peter Tavy, a charming village in the beautiful Tavy vale, is Whit
Tor, with perhaps the best walled encampment of the moorland. There
are other old-world relics, such as the Langstone menhir. And so we
arrive once more at Lydford.

Surely there can be few spots of such comparatively small size that so
teem with interest and fascination as Dartmoor. In the number of its
prehistoric remains it is only equalled by parts of Cornwall, and
their preservation is owing to thinness of modern population. We may
imagine that most of England was once scattered with similar traces of
dead peoples, but in most places these have been eradicated by
successive waves of population. Dartmoor has been left in solitude,
and though its few inhabitants have done their best to remove or
mutilate the immemorial monuments, enough have been overlooked to
furnish us with a wide treasure ground. But where the antiquarian will
come to measure and dig and conjecture, the artist, the poet, the
lover of nature will find many other things to allure. The sportsman
will also come here, especially the angler, who finds excellent trout,
though the fish are not often large. Perhaps happily, only the few
main roads are available for motor traffic, but during the summer
these are much frequented; there are also many excursion cars and
chars-à-bancs to the more popular beauty-spots, starting from places
like Moreton, Chagford, Bovey Tracey, or coming from towns far beyond
the moor borders. The cyclist who does not mind dismounting at times
has a wider area, and cycling on Dartmoor is not so bad as its
reputation. There are some really fine stretches of road; what the
rider needs is discrimination and good brakes. But he who truly wins
the freedom of the moors is the pedestrian--a species not quite
extinct, though discredited and often discomforted. He should come
here on what we may call the divine adventure, the quest of beauty;
and even on lonely Dartmoor he will find the human touch not absent.

  [Illustration: A DARTMOOR STREAM]

Whoever comes, if his eyes be open, will see tracts of primitive
mother earth, untamed and unsophisticated. He will see what Devon was
before it was cultivated; he will be in a haunt of strange traditions,
lingering superstitions, wild fancies. Perhaps when cold clammy fogs
blot out the undulations and tors, a chill will strike to the heart;
Dartmoor is no kindly nurse to those who have lost their way or those
who are overtaken by snowfall. He who comes here must lean on his own
resources; he will not be pampered and guided; he must fend for
himself. Nature, as Jefferies was fond of saying, does not care for
man; he is an alien, exiled by the very civilization of which he is so
proud; he can do less for himself than the birds and beasts. Yet the
illusion that nature does care is at times very strong; we cannot
thrust it wholly from our hearts, and if we regard the earth as but
the outward symbol, a mood, a thought, of some inscrutable power, we
are not wrong in deeming that she responds to our deepest impulses and
cravings. It is glorious poetry and it need not be bad philosophy to
dream of a Being "whose dwelling is the light of setting suns"; and he
who has seen a sunset flaming across Dartmoor has seen the heavens
opened. He can learn also the insignificance of any single individual
or race, and yet the undying importance of each if all are a part of
the Godhead. Peoples have lived and died here long centuries since,
leaving no memorial but grey stones; but the heather and ling are
still wonderful, the gorse runs in patches of gold, the rivers sing
perpetually among their lichen-stained boulders, and the soul of
beauty that is ever mysterious is undying.

Such is Dartmoor, one of the few remaining tracts of uncultivated
England; a region not easy to tame, offering small reward to the
farmer, but rich repayment to the lovers of beauty, wildness,
antiquity. There is nothing quite like it elsewhere, unless it be the
Bodmin Moors of Cornwall, where the same granite asserts itself again.
There is loveliness of a different sort on the moors of Yorkshire and
around the Peak--on the Wiltshire, Dorset, and Sussex Downs, on the
high lands or in the New Forest of Hampshire, and at spots like
Hindhead in Surrey. There is still a different beauty in the fen
country and the land of the Broads. But Dartmoor has its own
character, which it does not surrender to a casual acquaintance; it
has a reserve and depth of individuality, to be won only by slow
confidence. There are strong characteristics also among the moor folk;
but here a change has been in progress. It is useless to come now
expecting to find a superstitious and credulous peasantry. When a
district is haunted by tourist and artist, when cars and brakes unload
crowds of chattering sightseers, something of the outside world comes
with them; and modernism has other more subtle avenues of approach.
The cheap daily paper penetrates to these solitudes, and brings with
it other things that are cheap. It may leave its readers still
credulous and still ignorant; but the nature of the ignorance and the
credulity have altered--and perhaps not wholly for the better. There
is loss as well as gain. The old traditions have passed from the minds
of the people to the guidebooks. Pixies and wish-hounds and spells are
now usually only mentioned in jest where they were formerly whispered
of in grim earnest. But the beauty of the moorland changes not, and it
is its beauty that is our real concern. We can spare the traditions
while the loveliness remains.





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