FL Country

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Forgotten Laughter is set right in true moorland. The longhouse known as ‘Foxhole’ with its attendant barns (two of which have been converted into holiday cottages) is tucked beside the River Dart near its confluence with the delightfully named O Brook and below the shadow of Combestone Tor.

Combestone Tor

Combestone Tor

Like many other tors which are near a road, there is a car park beside it which, in the height of summer, if often pretty full. This is a popular picnic spot and the tor (as do all tors) invites people to climb it. Although not perhaps the most popular of spots for walkers, quite a few leave their cars here and go off to explore Holne Moor on which Combestone is situated. You might be lucky and see this chap, Johnny Arden, with his horses and traps. He trades as Dartmoor Driving and his family business teaches carriage driving to all levels.

Combestone Tor

Combestone Tor

Mind you. life is not always terribly comfortable up here on the moors. Even after a relatively light scattering of snow it looks (and is) cold and forbidding.

Holne Moor

Holne Moor

As I remarked, Foxhole is set on Holne Moor. It may not be the most spectacular of the various moors and commons that make up Dartmoor but it is the one of which I am most fond. This could be because it is not far from the various places we have lived so we have visited it more often than any other (apart from anything else, we usually cross Holne Moor to get to all the other parts of the moor).

Holne Moor

Holne Moor

The light makes a huge difference to the way the moor looks . . .

Holne Moor

Holne Moor

. . . and it seems to change all the time . . .

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. . . as does the visibility. On a really clear day you can see the sea in Torbay away to the south east.

Venford Reservoir

Venford Reservoir

Meanwhile, just down the road from Foxhole is the reservoir known as Venford. Some rather important scenes in the book were played out here. The above is a fairly recent photograph and. looking at the trees, you might be forgiven for wondering ‘what was all the fuss about’.

Venford Reservoir

Venford Reservoir

Well, when Marcia wrote the book it looked more like this. In those days the belt of trees was wide enough and dark enough to have a very sobering effect.

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Enormous numbers of conifers were planted after the second world war and they really are rather out of place on the moor. In some places they have been cut down entirely but the present thinking is that they should be reduced leaving enough standing to act as cover for broad-leaf, deciduous trees to become established. This is excellent news for a wide range of species that thrive in such woodland. In any event, it has let a lot of light onto the reservoir which is good for us, too.

Forgotten Laughter Country

It is a delightful spot when the sun shines and many people park their cars in one of the two car parks here (one at each end of the dam) and follow the path that takes them around the reservoir.

Holne Moor

Holne Moor

Before we move on to other places visited by the characters which are off the moor, one more picture. Dartmoor (like all the moorland in the country) has to be managed or it would change its character quite drastically. In part this is achieved by ‘swayling’ – carefully controlled fires which get rid of the old growth and sets the scene for new to take its place.