Soon I want to follow David’s example and look at some of the minutiae to be found on Dartmoor but first I thought we would take a glimpse of the countryside through which George and Thea drove on their way from The Old Station House to Thea’s Great Aunt’s granite house near Moretonhampstead.
After passing the Two Bridges Hotel they would turn left towards Moreton . . .
. . . and shortly afterwards to their left would be Crockern Tor. This is not a particularly spectacular tor but it has an interesting history. Tin mining was an important industry on Dartmoor and wherever you find an important industry you find a tax man intent on having his cut. Thus it was decreed that all tin mined had to leave the moor by way of one of four towns – known as Stannary Towns (the Latin for tin being ‘stannum’ – Ashburton, Chagford, Plympton and Tavistock. In effect this divided the moor into four areas and each was controlled by the tin miners themselves. There were some matters which called for consultation between the four areas and then a Stannary Parliament was called. This sat at the point where the four areas met which is on the top of this tor. You can be reasonably sure that in this environment, speeches were kept as short as possible and decisions taken as quickly as possible. It could be that there is a lesson there for present day politicians.
After passing through the pretty little hamlet (where there is an excellent Visitors’ Centre) of Postbridge with its old clapper bridge . . .
. . . and rather grim looking church (typical of small moorland churches) where there are some incredible rhododendrons the road rises up to the open moor.
As the moor opens out there sits the isolated Warren House Inn which has been catering for the needs of locals and travellers for many, many years. It is said that the fire in what is now the main bar has remained alight for over three hundred years.
Although most people now arrive by car, some still rely on four legs, hence the hitching rails for ponies and horses opposite the inn. In front of you there were a large number of rabbit warrens, another important source of income for those living on the moor in times gone by.
There are large numbers of crosses. such as this one just down the road from the inn, most of which were probably put up to help people find their way during misty weather. Mists and low cloud are frequent visitors to the moor and it is surprisingly easy to lose yourself in those conditions.
Now we have climbed up and we can see right over the moor towards Exeter . . .
. . . but what you see depends on the light at the time.
Finally, as George drives home again after saying good night to Thea the view to the west can be quite spectacular.
Three more photographs before we try to look at the moor through David’s eyes. This is Dartmoor Prison. Bleak and depressing even now despite being reclassified so that the really dangerous criminals are no longer housed here.
Here is the track that led from the point where the prisoner skidded off the road and across the flank of Cox Tor to Lower Barton.
Finally the ford at Meavy where Tom lost his footing and sprained his ankle.
David Porteus, RA is not really interested in the grand views we see above but he was fascinated by the reflections here at Hill Bridge on the River Tavy . . .
. . . and by quirky and unexpected ‘still life’ here created by the local farmer.
And then there are endless walls, all host to lichens and mosses . . .
. . . and, in this case, a solitary foxglove. We are now getting close to David’s passion: botanical paintings.
A small group of snowdrops . . .
. . . or primroses. Those of you who have read The Sea Garden will know that David, shorlty before he died, endowed an annual award under the title “The David Porteous’ Botanical Painting Award for Young Artists”.
. . . and here sunshine playing on mosses growing on some ash.
Now for some colour: bell heather and gorse . . .
. . . and Rowan berries . Of course, a botanical painter can produce something far more vital than a photograph. We have a group of five such paintings in or bedroom and these create a sense delicacy and fragility that is very hard to reproduce using a camera.