It’s Easter 2019 and we’re presently having the hottest weekend of the year so far. It’s been fabulous. Yesterday (Good Friday) we went up to Dartmoor – always a favourite place of mine – and I took my DSLR. This was not only the first time I’d taken my “new” camera, I also went up armed with a polarising filter. For a landscape photographer, this piece of kit is an absolute must especially on a bright and sunny day. They reduce glare and reflection, maintaining greens and blues in an image while eliminating that nasty white hue from bright light. But anyway, this isn’t a photography technical piece, I’m here to share my love of Dartmoor.
When I started university in 2004, I was conscious of having two national parks within about 30 minutes drive. To the north, a place I already knew well, is Exmoor. Home to Lorna Doone and Valley of the Rocks and some of the most striking coastline in the United Kingdom. To the west, Dartmoor – larger and more rugged, home to grand sweeping vistas of high tors and grassy valleys interspersed with copses, and lush river valleys crossed by Clapper Bridges – particularly in the south along the River Dart and the River Lyd.
More than Exmoor, Dartmoor has the capacity to take the breath away. Also unlike Exmoor, it’s home to ruins representing an industrial past. The image above shows an engine house from when Cornwall and West Devon was the centre of the tin mining world. It’s a striking monument against a rural landscape.
At this point, we were still to the west, still within the Dartmoor National Park but not yet seeing the granite uplands that illustrate Dartmoor’s true beauty. As you drive closer to the centre of the moor, open farmland gives way to granite torrs and strategically placed car parks in view of some grand vistas. Still though, you’re not quite reaching the “wow” scenes but views like this are always worth stopping to admire.
Let’s get a closer look at that gorse, shall we?
Gorse is one of the most overlooked shrubs of spring. Not a particularly attractive plant, its bright yellow flowers are striking. I understand severe frost can kill it quickly, but down in the south that’s quite a rare occurrence anyway. You probably won’t find it in the national parks of the north such as The Lake District. Gorse lines major roads such as motorways and major link ‘A’ roads. In sufficient quantities such as on a heath or moorland, they smell – believe it or not – of coconut.
Below is a typical Dartmoor view but still we’re just a few miles out of Tavistock which is western Dartmoor. I love this stretch as it’s so wide and open and great for stopping for picnics.
As we’d set off late in the afternoon (around 2pm), time was pushing on as we headed towards Princetown. By this time, it was obvious we weren’t going to drive all the way to the eastern side. We stopped a few times for photos but the one below is a fairly typical image of Dartmoor Sadly, that was when we decided to turn back. I was getting tired and with 90 more minutes (at least) in the car ahead of us, I felt the time was right. Perhaps if we hadn’t spent so much time playing with these guys we might have made it. One of them decided my jeans looked tasty. Dartmoor ponies are actually far more prevalent than cattle or sheep. Although signs warn that they will bite, they’re actually rather friendly and like having their noses stroked.
This is just one small area of Dartmoor though. I haven’t written about the High Moor where you’ll find the most striking landscapes. Sadly, I don’t yet have any photos that would do it justice. I’ve not taken any images of that area with my DSLR. What photos I do have are ten years old or more, taken on early smartphones. But I’ll leave you with a couple of images from Lydford Gorge last year.