Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
We always seem to end up going on our expeditions in the Autumn, which on a motorbike, in Britain, is always going to be a major gamble. That doesn't seem to put us off though as we're (stupid) of a hardy breed and going off-season means less people, cars and dogs everywhere. It also means we don't have to queue up for anything and we can do what we want near enough when we want. In the end it's details like that that allow you to really unwind.
Our rapidly rustled together plan was to take a slow putt down to Dartmoor in Devon on the heavily-laden Sportster, take up residence at a small isolated house called Boldventure (very fitting) for 5 nights and get right out on the moors for a good long walk in solitude and silence. Other things on our holiday wish list (remember, we're very easily pleased) were to find Ring Ouzels and Dartford Warblers, have a good Devonshire cream tea and explore at least a small part of the Dartmoor National Park to our hearts' content.
The next day and the
fog was even thicker, definitely not a day for exploring a strange moor with a
reputation for getting people lost and up to their waist in mud in one of the
many mires. Instead of doing that we got on the bike and explored via the single-lane roads covered in muck, rain and poo!
Maybe we would have been safer on the moor!
On Thursday the visibility was much better so we decided to do a 15 mile circular walk directly from the cottage. This would take in bogs, mires, stone circles, standing stones and tors, as well as passing through some beautiful Devonshire countryside, villages and woods. The visibility was just right, clear enough for great views but misty enough to keep the spooky, autumnal, 'hound of the Baskervilles' feel going. The only sounds were from the cattle and the cronking of Ravens.
... over the great Grimpen Mire there hung
a dense, white fog. It was drifting slowly in our direction and banked itself up
like a wall on that side of us, low, but thick and well defined. The moon shone
on it, and it looked like a great shimmering icefield, with the heads of distant
tors and rocks borne upon its surface. Holmes's face was turned towards it, and
he muttered impatiently as he watched its sluggish drift... We left her standing
upon the thin peninsula of firm, peaty soil which tapered out into the
widespread bog. From the end of it a small wand planted here and there showed
where the path zig-zagged from tuft to tuft of rushes among those green scummed
pits and foul quagmires which barred the way to the stranger. Rank reeds and
lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay and a heavy miasmatic vapour
into our faces, while a false step plunged us more thigh-deep into the dark,
quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet. Its
tenacious grip plucked at our heels as we walked, and when we sank into it it
was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths, so
grim and purposeful was the clutch in which it held us. Once only we saw a trace
that someone had passed that perilous way before us,"
"The hunter homeward speeds in haste,
Ere fogs o'ertake him on the waste;
And if to Foxtor mires he roam,
He'll bid a long adieu to home;
A dreary shroud is o'er his head,
A yawning swamp around him spread;
Spell-bound and lost he ventures on
One fatal step - and all is done;
Hopeless he struggles, vain his throes,
Deeper and deeper down he goes !
The raven claps her ebony wing,
His dirge the howling winds may sing,
And mists will spread the last sad pall
O'er that dark grave unknown to all".
Dartmoor Days - Edward William Lewis Davies - 1863
Although treacherous and considered a
wasteland (whatever that is) by some, the moor is a naturalist's idea of heaven.
We had Stonechat, Kestrel, Buzzard, Snipe, Redstart, Wheatear, Wren, and yes,
On our last day we were feeling a bit tired (I wonder why) so we took off for another ride. We visited one of the most touristy parts of the moors, Hay Tor, which today was virtually deserted except for us, ponies, sheep and ravens. Perfect!