The Twisted Oaks of Dartmoor
Last weekend, I finally managed a trip to Dartmoor. It had been on my ‘wish-list’ for sometime. Actually for more like seventeen-years; ever since I first read Eddie Ephraum’s book, ‘Creatiive Elements’. There was a picture of a wonderfully twisted Oak tree and a huge, gnarly granite boulder. I knew that one day I had to go and see the magic for myself, so off I went, driving the long 400 or so miles to Devon from my home in Driffield. I arrived at the ‘Two Bridges Hotel’ at around 9:00 pm, just in time for a few beers and a sandwich in front of a large and welcoming open fire.
I awoke early the next morning, rushed breakfast and headed up the valley for a mile to the edge of the Wistman’s Wood. Conditions were almost perfect, with very little wind and an overcast sky. I didn’t want sunshine; and then it started raining. I was dressed for the cold rather than the rain and the freezing water soon found it’s way through the seams of my down jacket, soaking my t-shirt underneath. I sheltered under a granite boulder for ten minutes, before just getting on with job. The rain eventually stopped and I spent an enjoyable few hours slipping and shuffling around the fantastic trees and the moss covered boulders.
Quoting from Wikipedia, Wistman’s Wood is a rare relict example of the ancient high-level woodlands of Dartmoor, and because of this it has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1964. The wood consists mainly of stunted pedunculate oak trees that grow from between moss-covered boulders and are festooned with epiphytic mosses, lichens and ferns. There are also some rowan, holly and willow trees. It also supposed to be haunted but I didn’t see any ‘Hell hounds’ during my short trip.
After a quick warming drink at the hotel, I drove a few short miles to Princetown for views of the infamous Dartmoor prison. Actually, HM Prison Dartmoor is now a Category C prison and houses mainly non-violent offenders and white-collar criminals. Still, it looks a foreboding place with its granite walls and barbed wire. Here’s a couple of photographs I took that afternoon:
The following day dawned sunny and bright but I was disappointed. I knew that the strong contrasty light would cause horrendous problems up at Wistman’s Wood, so I chose the soft option to explore the River Dart. I drove east through Dartmoor, re-tracing the route that I had travelled in the dark on Friday evening. I stopped to take a few photographs at Dartmeet where the granite boulders are warn smooth by the tea coloured waters of the River Dart.
A few miles further, I stopped at a lay-by at the top of a steep wooded hill. The autumn colours were absolutely stunning, so I grabbed my camera and tripod made a quick exposure and hopped over the fence to reach the bank of the river. I spent a couple of hours exploring the slippy river bank and taking the odd picture or two. I found that judicious use of my warm polariser on my 24-70 Nikon zoom, cut through the reflective glare and revealed those lush green tones of the vegetation and the quiet pools of the river. Here’s a couple of example photographs:
It certainly was a worthwhile trip. The weather was perfect and the autumn colours were stunning. One day, I hope to return and stay a while longer. This time, I didn’t even scratch the surface.