27 February 2013


Another avenue Tor, where the elements have eroded an area between two main granite outcrops, Haytor is one of the main tourist attractions on Dartmoor. In the nineteenth century, steps were cut in to the stone to allow people easy access to the top. Stunning and impressive though it is, it just doesn't set my pulse racing like many of the other tors. I can't possibly explain why. Perhaps the inability to ever be alone there plays a part but Hound Tor is similar in that respect and I still love it. Anyway, on Sunday, we decided to go, as a friend had said a new cafe had opened near the car park at the base of the hill. We don't get out much in the cappuccino sense, so the idea of cake and hot drinks combined with the walk was very appealing. No Snippets allowed though.

We started by walking around the side of the hill to the main quarry on the site. It was minus three degrees centigrade out of the bitter wind and we were glad to drop down into the little wildlife haven this particular abandoned quarry has become. The last time we were here five years ago, the entire stretch of water was alive with tadpoles and newts. It was Easter time and blisteringly hot. We saw a young Adder and two lizards that year. No spawn yet this time I noticed….the frogs have more sense over here.

I found some really interesting facts about quarrying around Haytor so I'm going to lazily cut and paste them. To punish me for that laziness, Blogger has kindly done that irritating highlighting thing again:

The granite below the tor has fewer large feldspar crystals than at the tor itself, and this was preferred for building. There are several quarries on the northern slopes of Haytor down which were worked intermittently between 1820 and 1919. Between 1820 and 1858 the rock from these quarries was transported by the Haytor Granite Tramway to the Stover Canal. The tramway itself was built out of the granite it would carry, and due to its durable nature much of it remains visible today.
Haytor granite was used in the reconstruction of London Bridge which opened in 1831 and was moved in 1970 to Lake Havasu City in Arizona. The last rock was quarried here in 1919; it was used for the Exeter war memorial
Haytorite, a variety of quartz found in an iron mine adjacent to the Hay Tor granite quarries, was named “in honour of its birth-place

Now Blogger is continuing to punish me by increasing the font size when I preview it whilst it looks exactly the same size here. I give up....I'm sure you'll forgive me! 

Out of the quarry and into the biting wind. The views over to my preferred Hound Tor are wonderful. We climbed the side of the hill, avoiding the surprising number of people up here, and make our way all the way round.

Hound Tor and Greator Rocks in the distance

There were amazing icicles hanging up high and this big thick patch at the base:

The place is a Lichenologist's dream. What a great job to have. I wonder how many of you would make the same career decisions now as you did when you were young? Mine would be very different with the relative wisdom of age.

Pertusaria Corallina I think and back to normal text size....

I just can't find this one; not with these tiny cushion structures in this colour. I won't be passing those Lichenology exams any time soon!

Down the main drag to get our reward which was excellent, if mind-blowingly calorific. All the benefits of the walk wiped out at one very comfy sofa sitting. Then home and wondering if it will be another five years before we return. 

Today there is a thick mist covering our part of the moor and people are cutting down gorse on the lower slopes in preparation for swailing, or burning, of this invasive shrub. My neighbours tell me that twenty years ago there was none at all up here; now it is everywhere. As Snippet and I walked this afternoon, all I could hear was the strange sound of many chainsaws coming out of the gloom. I took the camera but, frankly, the mist was so thick it was pointless. Until next time, here's Snip on Sunday, almost show-worthy if there were a Mutt section at Crufts.

24 February 2013


Yesterday we went to Shilley Pool, part of Blackaton Brook near Throwleigh. As the crow flies it's not that far from us but, in the absence of roads over the moor (thank goodness), it takes about half an hour to drive the long way round. The place is a wonderful natural swimming pool, with a huge granite water slide above it. I can't say I've ever swum in it but have observed those hardy enough to brave it. 

Once we had picked our way down into the steep valley and exclaimed, as we always do, at its geological magnificence, we noticed some amazing ice formations dotted all downstream of the pool. Mostly attached to overhanging vegetation or rocks making up the banks, I have never seen anything quite like them. Utterly beautiful. There are quite a lot....just warning you!


On the way home, I spotted this Buzzard on top of a telegraph pole. Not brilliant - sorry. In my defense, it was a long way off, as was the lovely Stonechat I caught that morning - the first of the year so far. 

Last year I didn't stand a chance with the old camera as they are very shy and flutter off as soon as they see you. However, this year I'm determined to get a good one. This clearly isn't it....

Better luck with the Sparrows at the bird feeding station of course. Our flock are about fifty strong I would say, talking of which, a few days ago, a flock of Fieldfare were up in the field adjacent to Trigger's. I counted thirty in a block and then assessed the number of those blocks in the flock. There were AT LEAST four and therefore at least 120 birds. Amazing. are those Sparrows:

It's been a great weekend where we've actually got out twice rather than spending most of the time processing wood and doing household chores. Haytor today which I will post about later in the week. Until then, here's Snippet, who had a great time by the river tearing chunks of ice off the bank and crunching them up....hope you all had a lovely weekend.

20 February 2013


On Saturday, we all went to Hound Tor. Snippet had never been as it's usually busy with tourists or, in the last case, I was on my own in the fog on my way back from Brixham. You may remember the spooky pictures. It is spectacular. I was looking up the origin of the name and found this little passage about it:

The tor is an example of one of Dartmoor's 'avenue tors' as it consists of two separate rock masses which lie on a north-westerly alignment. The highest point of the tor is on the south-westerly pile which stands at 1,358ft (414m). The name was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Hundatora' and is thought to have taken its name from the animal name 'hound'. Some Dartmoor writers refer to Great Hound tor which distinguishes it from the other Hound tor on the north moor.

I don't know why it's doing that stupid highlighting thing. Very annoying and I can't get rid of it - sorry!

Rather than run the gauntlet with the crowds, we approached through a nearby piece of ancient woodland, of which there are a few pockets on Dartmoor. I found this very interesting article about the Restoring Ancient Woodland project on the BBC website:

We saw nobody in this little haven; it was a joy.

Black Witches' Butter fungus. I found this fascinating little piece about it on Flickr:

According to Celtic legend, witches were notorious milk and butter thieves. The sudden appearance of this jelly fungi marked where she had dropped or stashed some of her creamy loot. Finding this mushroom near one’s home meant the house was hexed. The only way to remove the curse was to pinprick the mushroom and drain its gel. This caused the thieving witch such pain, she was forced to appear and remove the spell. In Scandinavia, witches butter was believed to be vomit from a witch’s cat sent to a house to gorge itself on milk and food.

Out the other side and a view of Greator Rocks with Haytor Rocks beyond

And again

Here you can see climbers on the top of Hound Tor....rather them than me!

We had some tea at the 'Hound of the Basket Meals' van and then, as we were leaving, I spotted this crow who was unusually bold. I find all the crow family very shy and difficult to approach. Very sensible of them really. As I photographed it, I was mobbed by some sheep who seemed to think I had something for them!

On Sunday, we struck out in pursuit of the spawn to be rescued. I managed to find the very remote blob which had expended to two blobs, and Origami Boy and his friend scooped it up and relocated it in the marsh which never dries out and has good areas of water and food. I'll be checking on it periodically from now on. Some of the collection may have been a bit over-zealous, but in the face of certain death, any chance of survival was preferable and I don't wish to quash their youthful enthusiasm for nature!

Last Thursday, I had my shoulder operation at last. A rather painful injection of saline into the joint which is supposed to free up the stickiness of the frozen shoulder. It has certainly helped a bit; I can get my arm above shoulder level now, which I couldn't before. It was never going to be a cure but it has certainly been beneficial and didn't involve the general anesthetic that the one I cancelled last year necessitated.  All done in twenty minutes! I'll leave you with Snippet at Hound Tor....I've taken the scissors to his head so he can see. However, he does look a bit poodle-like as a result. It will have grown back in a few weeks. Until next time....