After leaving Salisbury, we headed for the West Country. Our destination was Cornwall, but hubby had planned an overnight stop in the tiny village of Easton Cross and a hike in Dartmoor National Park on the way. Our Dartmoor hike ended up being his favorite day of the trip. The scenery was spectacular – even with England throwing heavy mist and gusting winds at us!
We parked at a little country inn (where we’d later return, chilled to the bone, to eat butternut squash soup, drink tea – me – or ale – hubby, and watch a pack of sheep attack the lawn furniture). From there we headed just across the road to pick up the trailhead. The tightly packed dirt path led up a slight incline through some scrubby bushes and out onto the moor itself.
Our first move was to take a wrong turn. There were two paths – one leading uphill and one leading downhill. The uphill path looked slightly more traveled, so we decided to take that route. Wrong! We ended up hiking far out of our way, up to a windy hilltop looking down at our final destination, to which we ended up bushwhacking across the moor. But it was worth it – the views were fantastic. Serendipity.
One thing that invariably amazes me about the British people is the way they enjoy their outdoor spaces no matter the weather. Hiking (or “walking,” as many call it there – but make no mistake; it’s strenuous) is a national pastime. I’ve remarked on this before, but I was astounded the first time I went out hiking on a rainy day in England. I saw more people out on the trails on a relatively icky morning in Keswick than I saw on the most beautiful days in the U.S. Many English people truly embrace the idea that “There is no bad weather – only bad clothing.” Mist, wind, even rain – they just bundle up and go. Don’t let these pictures fool you – Dartmoor was far from deserted, even on this chilly and relatively wet day. There were several people out with their dogs and a few photographers with tripods set up in Wistman’s Wood. I love it – I love seeing people outside, taking advantage of their natural surroundings no matter the weather. This “can-do” spirit when it comes to outdoor activity is one of my absolute favorite things about England.
Our destination: Wistman’s Wood, a grove of stunted oak trees growing from a carpet of moss-covered rocks. It was a unique ecosystem, but the proprietress of our B&B confessed she was disappointed to discover that the trees were about 10 feet tall. Sure, 10 feet is mighty short for an oak, but she was expecting them to be knee-height. A forest of Bonsai trees, if you will. Which is a pretty intriguing thought, but we loved Wistman’s Wood just the same.
I’m guessing that fairies live here. It just seems like that sort of place. Thoughts?
View through the trees, out onto the moor – spectacular. Well worth the gusts of wind and the driving mist! I’m not aware of anyplace like Wistman’s Wood, anywhere else in the world. It was truly a unique experience.
Stay tuned for next Friday’s post, when we head deeper into the West Country!