Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National Park


Location: Devon   Map

Area: 368 sq mi (953 sq km)
Highest point: 2,038 ft (621 m)
Visitor Centre, Princetn (01822- 890414)
Museum of Dartmoor Life
West St., Okehampton
Tel. 01837 52295
Open: 10:15am- 4:15pm Tue & Fri
Closed: 24 Dec- 1 Jan
Castle Drogo
Tel. 01647 433306
Open: Apr- Nov: Wed- Mon

Dartmoor is a hilly region in the English county of Devon. The mostly moor and heath-bearing leveled areas of the granite massif are towered over by a large number of so-called tors, flat meadow hills with granite rock formations up to 10 meters high. The highest point on Dartmoor is High Willhays or High Willes at 621m. 954 km² of the landscape is designated as Dartmoor National Park. Numerous remains of Bronze Age dwellings, field systems and stone circles can be found on Dartmoor. The so-called clapper bridges made of thin granite slabs are also characteristic.

prehistory and the Middle Ages
The oldest traces of human habitation in Britain were found in the limestone caves near Torquay alongside Cheddar Gorge or Kents Cavern. Many of the archaeological find complexes on Dartmoor date from the Neolithic (Spinster's Rock) and Bronze Age (2000 to 500 BC). In addition to stone circles, over 2000 round hut floor plans are registered. Examples can be found at Grimspound. There are also a large number of stone rows and menhirs to be found. Iron Age fortifications can also be found at higher altitudes. The largest such facility is Hembury Fort.

Devon, a county since the 8th century, was the target of Viking and Danish raids in 851 and 1003 respectively. Most of the forts built in Anglo-Saxon times and after the Norman conquest, such as Exeter, Barnstaple, Totnes and Lydford, as well as Okehampton and Plympton, were the nucleus of the later cities.


Economic development

Tourism has long been an important economic factor in the region. In addition, agriculture, which is primarily based on sheep and cattle breeding, is the main source of income. You can ride Dartmoor ponies in numerous places. This wild moorland pony is Britain's oldest pony breed. The animals are sold at special markets and make excellent riding horses for children. HMP Dartmoor Prison is located in the middle of the moor near Princetown. It became known in the early 1980s through a revolt that was triggered, among other things, by the poor hygienic conditions prevailing there.


Mining since the Middle Ages

Remains of old smelting furnaces and deserted mining settlements are reminiscent of the former importance of tin and copper ore mining for the region. This era, during which the miners formed their own communes with their own jurisdiction, lasted from the 12th to the 17th century. Lead, silver and iron ore as well as copper and manganese were mined on a smaller scale up until the 19th century. The surrounding port cities of Exeter, Plymouth, Barnstaple and Dartmouth also benefited from tin and textile exports from the Middle Ages until the final decline began in the 19th century. Only the exploitation of the kaolin deposits discovered in the 18th century could be continued. The emigration of the rural population associated with this development was mitigated by the increase in tourism that accompanied the expansion of the railway network.

water for the region
The peat layer that covers Dartmoor is able to store large amounts of water and then release it as leachate. This ability to regulate the water balance of the plateaux and prevent flooding brought the use of Dartmoor for the water supply of towns and communities to the fore from the 16th century onwards.

The first city to implement regular water supply from outside its borders on this basis was Plymouth. Sir Francis Drake directed the construction of the required waterway, which was completed in 1591. Two hundred years later, Devonport took up this approach again and became the second city to draw its water from Dartmoor. The first dam was built in 1898 and later extended again, again by Plymouth. In 1907 the town of Paignton built its causeway, followed by many others. Since then, a number of other towns and cities have built dams and laid mains, and today virtually all of the surrounding region gets its water from Dartmoor.


Dartmoor National Park

Established in 1951, Dartmoor National Park aims to help preserve the area's originality, protect its archaeological remains such as the stone circles on Dartmoor and the megalithic complexes of Merrivale, The Graveyard and Grimspound, its flora and fauna. 17,000 hectares or 16 percent of the park is designated as either a protected area or a site of "special scientific interest". Added to this is the protection of 1,000 hectares of wooded areas. Unlike other national parks, Dartmoor National Park is not governed by the Rights of Way Act. This means that the entire park is accessible to pedestrians, they don't have to stick to the existing paths and roads.

Commercial pressure and the resulting rapid pace of change on Dartmoor led to the formation of the Dartmoor Preservation Association in 1883. Today, this organization still plays a leading role in protecting natural habitats and maintaining free public access. In this context, efforts are made to establish good relations with private landowners. The country is largely owned by the Duke of Cornwall, currently Prince William. 41 per cent of the park is common land, the use of which has been regulated by the Dartmoor Commons Act since 1985. Another important concern is the conservation of animal and plant species.

In February 2021, a fire broke out in a remote moorland area near Tavistock, spreading five kilometers wide.

landscape picture
Thirty percent of the common land is treeless bog at elevations over 1,200 feet (366 meters) whose thick layer of peat is capable of storing large amounts of water. In some areas, the heathland is preserved through regular burning. Nature lovers appreciate the damp but mild climate for hiking. Attractive forest areas offer variety, for example the Yarner Wood National Nature Reserve or the Becky Falls area with a waterfall. Three of these forests probably date from the time when the whole area belonged to the royal hunting grounds hundreds of years ago. One of them could be Wistman's Wood. Located north of Two Bridges, it has been a tourist attraction for more than a century because of its oddly stunted vegetation. The rich flora with ferns and lichens is also remarkable.

In the park area there is a large selection of picturesque river courses, along with impressive waterfalls. The waters of the National Trust's Lydford Gorge, for example, squeeze through a narrow crevice and whirl down from there into The Devil's Cauldron. Also of note is The White Lady waterfall, located on the western edge of the park, so named because a 30 meter high curtain of white water foam forms. In the Dartmoor area there are few meadows and pastures with spring flowering flora. Yellow gorse and purple heather color the landscape in August and September.

For hikers, especially those who know how to read maps, the possibilities are immense. The paths managed by the park ranger service alone add up to a total length of 740 kilometers. The moorland itself is also open to the public.

Hamlets, Villages, Sights
As well as the better known and lesser known sights of Dartmoor, attractions include the scattered pretty hamlets and villages; some of them have been awarded the status of "Conservation Areas" by the park administration. On the south-east edge of the park, the small town of Buckfastleigh is worth a visit; from there the South Devon Railway, a restored standard gauge railway line, travels along the River Dart to Totnes. Close to the town is the Benedictine abbey of Buckfast Abbey, one of the few still active monasteries in Britain.

To the north-east of the park is Castle Drogo, overlooking the Teign River Valley; it is the last country castle to be built in Britain. Further downstream is Fingle Bridge, a massive structure with three arches. Further northwest is Lynford. There is the church of St Michal's de Rupe on Brentor. Lydford was the first gaol on Dartmoor to be built in 1195, known for its rude treatment of prisoners.

From the southwest you drive through the center of the park on old but renovated roads. Via Bennet's Cross and Warren House, the most remote inn, one arrives at the village of Postbridge, where the largest surviving 'clapper bridge' built over the East Dart can be seen. Dating from the 13th century, it was built to transport tin from the mines to the smelting furnaces of Tavistock and Chagford by packhorses. The next town is Princetown, known for HMP Dartmoor Penitentiary, originally built in 1806 for prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars. The site is also home to the administrative center of the Duchy of Cornwall. Still in the centre, but in the east half, is probably Dartmoor's most visited village, Widecombe-in-the-Moor. The 36 m high tower of the parish church can be seen from afar. It was built after 1638; That year, during a church service, a violent lightning struck the building, claiming four lives.

Dartmoor National Park


Conservation issue

All of Dartmoor, both the landscape and the historical and archaeological sites, are threatened by the industrial complexes of Imrey and Watts Blake Bearne. To this day, they have permission from the British government to exploit the kaolin mines near the moor. However, there are now efforts to close these mines for conservation reasons.

The North West part of the moor has been used by the British Army and Royal Marines for maneuver and target practice since the Napoleonic Wars. Recently, however, the Open Space Society and the Dartmoor Preservation Association have opposed this use and the damage it has caused to the sensitive moorland, with some success.

There are also problems with using the water from Dartmoor. The reservoir for the town of Paignton alone covered 33 hectares and since then the number of dams and reservoirs has steadily increased. The damage this is causing to Dartmoor National Park has also become a topic of debate.


Dartmoor in literature

The barren moorland of Dartmoor has always fired the imagination of writers in a special way. The Plymouth poet N. T. Carrington wrote the poem Dartmoor in 1826. King George IV was so impressed by the work that he had the poet paid 50 guineas.

A description of the region was given by Richard Doddridge Blackmore in one of his lesser-known novellas, Christowell, a Dartmoor Tale in 1881.

The cycle of novels by Eden Philpotts, which began in 1898 and covers the entire region, has become popular.

Arthur Conan Doyle captured the bleakness and often mystical mood of the Dartmoor landscape in his detective thriller The Hound of the Baskervilles. Dartmoor is also the setting for Silver Blaze, a short story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson spins.

As a young woman, Sabine Baring-Gould roamed the barren landscape of Dartmoor alone, following his pronounced penchant for the supernatural.

In the course of the Edgar Wallace films of the 1960s, the German crime film Das Wirtshaus von Dartmoor was made in 1964 based on the novel by Victor Gunn (actually Edwy Searles Brooks; 1889-1965). However, the “Dartmoor shots” of the film were made in West Berlin.

The Mystery of Sittaford by Agatha Christie (originally The Murder at Hazelmoor, 1931) is set in a fictional town of Sittaford on the edge of Dartmoor.

The book Five Friends in the Mist by popular children's book author Enid Blyton is also set on Dartmoor. The abandoned railway and the still existing railway lines play a major role in this. Five Friends and the Monster on the Moor is also set on Dartmoor; This episode deals with letterboxing, which is popular on Dartmoor.

Gilbert Adair's novel Murder at ffolkes Manor is also set in a mansion on the outskirts of Dartmoor.

The fourth novel in Simon Beckett's David Hunter series, Decay is partly set on Dartmoor.

This area is also the setting for Jenny-Aline Veitinger's novel Im Schatten des Dartmoor.

Dartmoor continues to be largely the setting for Teri Terry's Book of Lies. Here, too, the myths and legends surrounding demonic dogs from hell, so-called hounds, are an important element of the plot.

The psychological thriller The Girl from the Moor is also set on Dartmoor and makes extensive use of landscape descriptions to underscore the plot.

Letter boxing
The hobby of letterboxing comes from Dartmoor: You walk through the moor and look for hidden containers (plastic boxes, bags, chests) in which a stamp, a letter and references to other letterboxes (mailboxes) can be found. You collect the imprints of these sometimes very artistically designed stamps in your own stamp book. The coordinates, or at least clues to the location of most letterboxes on Dartmoor are not published on the internet but only in a commercially available letterboxing guide which is updated annually. Some letterboxes are not published at all, but are intended to be found randomly.

Dartmoor National Park