An essay on Dartmoor

An essay on Dartmoor and the beauty of this wild landscape.

An essay on Dartmoor

Dartmoor is a wonder of nature and weather. Today we resolved to take a stroll with the children to exercise our legs and release our souls. A good 10 minutes into our inefficient and laboured efforts at making ready, a man had the presumption to arrive at the car park, get out, and start walking. In less time than it took for me to fit a child’s arm through a coat sleeve.

Escaping from the steel cave of the car into the boundless moor. Here, the openness is all land and sky. The definition of a horizon didn’t matter since we felt the space, and somehow belonged to the land.

Starting up the tor we made good time; the ground quite dry and firm underfoot. The wind was up, so we covered our ears, and enjoyed the air. The same air we take in each and every breath, but out here now somehow more. Somehow fuller and more vital.

We witnessed the rain cloud coming closer, with the vantage of a wide vista to see our fate. On Dartmoor, where the land touches the sky, you feel part of the sky. The rain hit us, chilly and stinging in the wind. The timing of this coinciding with the summit of Rippon Tor, our high point of the planned walk. Such is fate.

Autumn on Dartmoor is a clash between the last stand of the sun, and the inexorable advance of the wind and rain. Evenly matched foes, and some days like today ending in a draw.

The reddened colours of the moor signifying the recent skirmishes.

We pulled our hoods tighter, hands in pockets where we could, and our horizon shank from what seemed the whole world moments before to the single step before us.

Of course all things pass. This shower obeyed this cosmic truth too, giving way to a wind that now sought to dry us, rather than rob us. The sun was still gone, yet the feeling in our fingers and cheeks began to return. We resolved not to cut short our walk.

The sky still boiled above us. No more rain, but the clouds crashing against unseen obstacles. After a time it began to brighten. It was hard to tell if the sky lifted or the ground fell. That brisk wind scrubbed the last of the black rain cloud from the sky, leaving just wisps and echoes.

The wind is a strange fellow, harder to fathom than the sun or the rain, as it was that we found ourselves upon a sheltered way. We skirted a low hill, a valley to our left the source of the Blackslade, that we shortly forded.

It is the same sun shining on all of us, yet time and place do alter the perspective. The theory of relativity holding that it depends on the observer. And the temporal dance, or at least random walk, providing richness and depth due to the contrast. The light needs the shadow, and sweeter is the sun that follows the rain.

We shared the rest of our walk with the sun and the wind. Puffing our sails on the final stretch, the wind at our backs, and realising that change is what it means to be alive. Change is the depth and the richness. The pattern to the cloth. The character.

Even a short time in the influence of Dartmoor is enough to rekindle the embers and relight the hearth. Sufficient to provide warmth for many nights until the next time. Clearly sufficient to set in motion my hand to write what my mind wishes to express. Dartmoor, for me, is the trinity of mind, body and spirit, and I will always be grateful to be able to pray in this roofless cathedral.