The South West of England: Pt 36 – Dartmoor National Park

Moving on from the village of Princetown in the heart of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, we started to explore the rest of the National Park, keeping an eye out for Arthur Conan Doyles Hound of the Baskervilles as we went…

Dartmoor National Park:

Status: National Park

Founded: 1951

Area: 954 square kilometres

Dartmoor 1

We had just arrived in the Park, so the terrain was still synonymous with the local Devon countryside, but slowly it was becoming the recognisably rugged terrain of Dartmoor.

Dartmoor 2

We pulled up at a viewing area, looking out across Devon, with the green countryside stretching as far as the eye could see. The sundial like contraption on top of the pedestal pointed out various local landmarks, amongst the surrounding hills.

Dartmoor has been a National Park since 1951, becoming England’s 3rd National Park after the Peak District and the Lake District. Supposedly 65% of the Park sits on top of Granite, and half of the whole park is rugged moorland, and judging by the areas we visited this would seem accurate.

Dartmoor 3

The view out from here is incredible, and if it weren’t for the hills we would probably have been able to see all the way to the coast. Dartmoor has some of the highest topography in the whole of Devon, affording stunning views across the county, including this view looking South.

Dartmoor 11

Quite often visitors can spot the famous Dartmoor Pony, which has roamed the moors for centuries. They are originally native to the UK but have since spread around the world, although here in Britain with numbers slowly declining they have Rare Breed Status. Only somewhere in the region of 800 can still be found on the moors, down from over 20,000 before World War II.

We managed to spot a few off in a field as we drove through, as well as regular horses, sheep and other types of wildlife. They are protected, and its illegal for any visitors to feed or harm the ponies. They are stunning creatures, and have adapted to the harsh conditions often experienced on the moors.

Dartmoor 4

The next animals we encountered on Dartmoor was a flock of sheep, happily grazing as we flew past. The terrain varies from hilly to flat, with peaks rising up and down on all sides of the road.

Dartmoor 5

Its incredible just how rugged Dartmoor is, and at first glance it looks like an inhospitable area, but it is really beautiful and full of life, with so many types of plant, animal and moss growing everywhere.

We soon came across a small hamlet called “Two Bridges”. Many visitors here assume that the two bridges which currently exist here lent their name to the area, however they are mistaken. The bridge in the 2nd picture is the newest bridge, and just north of it two rivers called the West Dart and the River Cowsic merge, continuing just as the West Dart.

Prior to 1891, the road ran over both rivers before they merged, and there was a separate bridge going over each body of water. This is what gave the area its name, but after at least 1891 these two bridges had been superseded by a new road crossing slightly further downstream after the rivers had merged, requiring only one bridge. That bridge was the one shown in the 2nd picture, which is the older of the 2 here. The other bridge was added much later as vehicles began to get heavier and more modern.

By the current layout, the newer bridge acts as the main road, whilst the other almost acts as the entrance to the inn called “The Two Bridges”. This was originally called the “Saracen’s Head”, and opened in 1794 as a coaching inn where travellers crossing Dartmoor could rest and recuperate. Travellers can still stay here, and it is ideal for exploring the national park.

Dartmoor 9

Leaving Two Bridges, we kept going through the countryside of the National Park and we could see the road twisting and turning far into the distance, as it stretched out in front of us. Dartmoor is a beautiful place, and there is plenty to see as you traverse its many paths.

Dartmoor 10

Aside from the various Dartmoor Ponies and sheep we had already encountered on the Moor, we also spotted a local horse, happily grazing in a nearby field. It seemed quite content to ignore us, so we kept going, out of Dartmoor and back to the Caravan for our final night in Devon. The next day our destination was home, however I insisted we stop in the ancient city of Exeter on the way…

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