Thursday, December 02, 2010

skaigh three

Well here we are again and apologies for leaving you all by a river on Dartmoor for the last two weeks. Much has changed since we started this walk: Autumn has come and gone in this time and it is most definitely Winter here now. We've even had snow here and what a pleasure it was to watch the swirling snow being blown about by the strong wind here last night.

Up on Dartmoor we follow the river Taw towards its source high on the moor, passing by some interesting gates, one of which is made from an old bedstead and has as its post a lovely piece of Dartmoor granite. We move around Belstone with its tempting pub and get to have a look at a tor from a distance with a darkening raincloud blowing in and we also see the wall known as Irishman's Wall which crosses Belstone Common at this point.

As you may see when we finally get out onto the open moor there are hardly any trees out here as most of them will not grow in these conditions and the ones that do remain very small and windbent. Oddly, even though it has hardly any trees this whole area is known as Dartmoor Forest, the reason being that the areas known as forests were actually hunting grounds for the king and these areas would cover much land including woods and also moorland without trees but they were called forests anyway. This also applies to The New Forest in Dorset/Hampsire which is mostly heathland with small amounts of woodland but is called a forest anyway, so for anyone thinking of buying one of our forests, best to check first that it actually has trees in it. Alternatively I can sell you a London Bridge for a good price.

One of the other odd things about Dartmoor is how hard it is to gauge the distance or size of anything out here, largely because there is nothing to compare anything to. A pile of rocks can be any size and likewise a hill. Without trees or buildings of any sort the eye cannot grasp the scale of anything and because the weather changes so fast things can look very far away or nearby, depending upon the current aerial perspective.

If you have keen eyes you may be able to see one of the wild Dartmoor ponies, there were quite a lot of them around and quite frisky they can be. This is as far out on the moor as we get today with our walk and we have to turn back now as the weather changes suddenly and we are caught in a very strong sideways shower of rain. There are not many places to shelter out here so I head for the river bank to hunker down and get out of the worst of it. The sheep have made themselves lots of tiny burrows under rocks and trees to get out of the weather and tempting though they look I think we better move on back to Belstone, with just a quick wave to the squaddies who are loudly shouting at each other, running up and down the hill and generally hogging the skyline.


P2P said...

amazing pictures, i love the colors and the feel of space. reminds me on finnish lapland in the summertime, though there's a lot more undergrowth there than in lapland. i know that in lapland the trees stay very small due to lack of light, but that can't be the reason in dartmoor?

couldn't spot the pony though usually my eyes are for small details :(

john said...

Hello and thanks very much P2P. I think the trees are so small possibly because of the amount of wind and cold up here, the winds do blast across Dartmoor and a lot of it is quite high above sea level, so maybe treeline has something to do with it.

It could even be that the sheep and ponies eat them all but I'm not sure how likely this is or it could be a combination of all of these factors.

The ponies are in the last photo, though small and dark and in some of the others sheep can be seen; little white things with blue spray paint on them.

Finnish Lapland sounds like quite a place, I like the sound of the space but a lot of dark too I expect. would it be rude to ask if people are still yoiking in Finland?

Cheers for now and thanks again.

nobody said...

I dig a pony!

That was breath taking John. The fourth picture was nuts - too gorgeous to be true.

Weirdly enough, I just finished Hound of the Baskervilles the other day so in each of these pix I kept a sharp eye out for people in plus-fours and deer stalkers but no such luck. You were appropriately dressed I'm sure.

Otherwise tell those squaddies to fuck off. And I'll give you five quid for that bridge. It's in okay nick yeah? Handy things, bridges.

john said...

Cheers and thanks nobody, 'tis a lovely river for sure and actually we did meet a man dressed pretty much as you described there walking his dogs. Tweeds and bugger grips are still very much the thing round here.

The bridge is yours nobody, I'll just pop it in the post. If anyone else wants a bridge send me the money first and then await instructions, if you don't get your bridge in about 18 months write back to me and I'll refund part of the money, I can't say fairer than that.

Better dash, it's Friday and there's a beer with my name on it. Becks tonight and a little Czech number which reminds me; why is Peroni such a nice beer? Who would have thought that Italy would produce such a lovely drop of lager? Cheers!

Oh I forgot to say, that photo of Marilyn at the haiku blog was superb nobody, I'm stuck with it forever now.

nobody said...

Do you ever get Birra Morretti there? When I was in Milan we used to drink great quantities of it. Not only was it cheap and drinkable but its label made all the others look pretentious. And whilst I admit that I am pretentious that doesn't mean I want to be obviously so.

And it was a great phote wasn't it? In spite of Marilyn as the most done to death celebrity ever... oh wait, let's start again: in spite of Marilyn's image having become so utterly cliche and trite, right there in that crop is a humanity that puts paid to all of it.

And like I said over there, I don't think Avedon fully appreciated what he had. He couldn't let go of the titties. And he should have, it's a much more powerful picture without them.

P2P said...

as far as I know, the yoiking is part of the saami culture, which is fairly different from what we have in southern finland. if I'm not completely mistaken, the saami people are a language group that spreads from finnish lapland to at least norwegian lapland, maybe also to swedish lapland.

I know many people who have migrated to helsinki from all over europe, africa and middle east. only one of these people, as far as I know, has ever visit lapland. it's a different world in comparison to the rest of finland.

it would be great if lapland gained independence. it's impossible considering the political atmosphere here, no conversation about the subject in the mainstream media as far as I've observed in the last decade or so.

I recommend lapland in the summer (the sun doesn't set, nightless nights... now, at this time of the year even in Helsinki the sun sets around 3:30 pm). rent a car and drive up norway. the fjords are the most amazing scenery you'll find up here - especially the lofoten islands are like a paradise on earth, never been to a more beautiful place. at the finnish lapland the ground is more flat, and thus great for spotting reindeers and such, also with moist enough areas for cloudberries :)

sorry for my poor english, sunday is a resting day for the brain... here's a documentary I found on the situation of saami ppl:

john said...

Hi nobody. No I don't know that particular beer but I'll keep an eye out for it now. The local shop seems to get beers from all over and I have attempted to drink my way round the world a number of times, even Japanese beer lager, which wasn't too bad at all.

john said...

Thanks very much P2P that is very interesting. I heard about the yoiking from a friend who traveled up the coast of Norway with a puppet show a few years back. They ended up in northern Finland i think which is where he encountered the yoik.

It would be very nice to travel to the north and see some of these landscapes, maybe one day. The Lofoton Islands sound very interesting.

It gets completely dark here at about half past four now and I am in the far south of the UK. This morning we had the thickest frost I've seen for a long while.

Many thanks for the information and the link. I have to go away for a few days but I will check that out when I get back. Your brain seems to work fine, even with it being a sunday there.

the Silverfish said...

Love the first pic John, used to have a bed with head and foot boards just like that one and it sure did squeak when I was having fun.

As for the small stature of the trees, it ain't the wind and it ain't the cold John. Here in Manitoba it gets about as windy and as cold as it gets anywhere and yet we have massive forests with truly massive trees of all colors and stripes. Perhaps it's the salt air or perhaps a lack of nutrients in the soil.

Some years ago I made a trip up north, some 700 miles, there the trees are mostly tamarack, these
trees can for the most part be easily grasped using thumb and fore finger and are pushed over with little effort, we call them pecker sticks. Out of curiosity I took one of these home , well a piece of it and cut off a slide using a Micro tome put it under the microscope and counted the annular rings, there were 256 of them John. This tree no thicker around than the inner roll found in a kitchen towel dispenser and yet had plugged along for some 256 years fighting the very worst the elements could throw at it. Thats
tenacity and worthy of respect. I know it was just a tree but still.

john said...

Cheers Silverfish. Yes, lack of nutrients sounds absolutely right to me.

There are a few small oak woods on dartmoor, so trees can grow here by the look of it but the woods are not as big as they used to be so they may have been chopped down a bit. Another time I would like to go up there and take some photos of some of the solo trees that are found scattered about, it would be good to have a closer look at a few.

Very interesting about the Tamarack Silverfish, that really is one hardy tree. Cheers for now.