Dartmoor is beautiful, wild, and full of wonderful places to travel and explore. Dartmoor is an upland area in Southern Devon, England. National Park status protects the moorland and surrounding land since 1951. The granite that forms it was produced, in the depths of the earth, over 300 million years ago, and humankind has shaped it over the last 10,000 years. A lot has happened on Dartmoor since million years back: dinosaurs once roamed its vast expanses, and giant redwoods grew majestically where Dartmoor Prison in Princetown now stands. Then, there were the years of turbulence of volcanoes, earthquakes and ice-ages, and Dartmoor has been beneath the sea not once but twice, and possibly on even more occasions.
After the chaos of earthquakes and volcanoes, Dartmoor became almost entirely covered by trees following the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. Together, they have made Dartmoor into a wonderful landscape, full of varied habitats, from wooded valleys and haymeadows to magnificent mires and the wild open moor. And there is no more iconic sight on Dartmoor than a herd of ponies grazing together, with stunning, majestic Dartmoor as their backdrop. They have been here a long time, hoof prints found on Dartmoor during an archaeological dig were found to be 3,500 yrs old! Written records of ponies on the moor go back as far as AD1012, and in the mid 1800s ponies were used to transport granite from the moorland quarries.
Thankfully, much evidence of early habitation on Dartmoor remains and is watch after by the Dartmoor National Park Authority. There are over 1,200 schedule sites on Dartmoor, with evidence of life on the moor in past times. These include cairns (burial sites), ceremonial sites and over 75 stone rows – in fact, 60 per cent of all the stone rows in England can be root in Dartmoor. One of the most dramatic is the stone row at Grey Wethers. The entire area is rich in antiquities and archaeology. A trip to Dartmoor will always leave you feeling revitalised.
Wistmans Wood on Dartmoor is Devon’s oldest woodland and one of three remote high-altitude oakwoods. It has been mentioning in writing for hundreds of years. The wood has been the inspiration for numerous artists, poets, and photographers. It is likely to be a left-over from the ancient forest that covered much of Dartmoor c. 7000 BCE, before Mesolithic hunter/gatherers cleared it around 5000 BCE. Photographic and other records show that Wistman’s Wood has changed considerably since the mid-19th century; at the same time climatic conditions have also generally become warmer.
The oldest oaks appear to be 400–500 years old, and originated within a degenerating oakwood. That survived in scrub form during two centuries of cold climate. Quite apart from its importance as an outstanding natural environment, Wistman’s Wood is famous for its bizarrely shape, twisted, gnarled trees. The trees within the wood are mainly pedunculate oak, with occasional rowan, and a very few holly, hawthorn, hazel, and eared-willow. The oaks are distinguish by their dwarf habit, and rarely reach more than 4.5 metres (15 ft) in overall vertical height. The trees also developed highly contorted forms with procumbent trunks, and their main branches tend to lie on or between the rocks on the forest floor. A few trees reach from 6 to 7.6 metres (20 to 25 ft) in height. These also tend to have more vertical trunks and spread crowns.
Tree branches are characteristically festoon with a variety of epiphytic mosses and lichens. Sometimes by grazing-sensitive species such as bilberry and polypody. The horizontal habit of the trunks and limbs allows organic debris and humus to accumulate on them. Favoring extensive growth of epiphytic vascular plants. The wood is home to a large population of adders.
This upland oak wood is precious and vulnerable. Therefore
- Don’t walk through the wood or scramble across the rocky boulders, this will destroy the lichens and mosses. Every footstep makes a difference.
- Don’t remove branches or pick lichens and mosses.
- Don’t light fires or barbeques
- Wild camping is not allowed in this area
- Cycling is not allowed on the footpath or moorland. Check where you can cycle.
- Leave no trace, give nature space
Today number of hikers all year round travel the wood. Be amaze by foaming waterfalls and deep gorges. Spend a quiet afternoon exploring a sculpture exhibition in an arboretum, walk around one of the stunning reservoirs. Following the visit to farm that provided the inspiration behind War Horse. There are forests and woodlands, parks with stunning waterfalls and challenging trails. All part of the beautiful places you can enjoy nature on Dartmoor. Some of the reservoirs have facilities where you can go sailing or kayaking. Lastly enjoy the beauty as you gaze across the stretch of water.