Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tors at Belstone, Dartmoor

It is sunny when I set off on the bus for Sticklepath but the weather can change suddenly on Dartmoor so it is best to take waterproof clothing, whatever the weather looks like. Surprisingly it is still sunny when I get off the second bus and remains so for the whole day. Usually Dartmoor is covered in mists, fogs and rain and generally appears as Devons answer to Mordor, lurking darkly in the distance with its spectacular views hidden, but they won't be today.

First we must walk about half an hour to Belstone, a small village next to the moor and then we will walk around the hill on the north and west side and observe the tors from a distance so as to get the measure of them a bit. Then we shall ascend the hill at Winter Tor and then on up to about 479 Meters (1,572 feet) and back over the top of Belstone Common, stopping to look at some of the tors. That's the plan anyway.

Tor is a Celtic word meaning hill. Dartmoor is a large area of exposed granite, so all the tors are granite and we get a little bit of radon and become a little bit more radioactive for our pleasures. Tors are the result of millions of years of weathering; rain, ice, wind and water all thrown at a nice old prehistoric forest, resulting in this empty and rocky landscape. As the weathering of the tors continues, the rock is broken down into ever smaller sizes and many hillsides are covered with loose rocks, known as clitter, which has been used as a building material here for thousands of years. Eventually the granite is weathered down to a sandy gravel, known as growan, which consists of individual crystals. If you stand here long enough you can hear it happening. At least it feels that way.

Each tor has its own distinct character and presence, some are very castle like whilst others encourage an anthropomorphic response. It is sometimes difficult to believe that the shapes and balances are accidental.

On a day like today and with the right set of eyes you can see as far as the horizon, if not a bit further, and almost all the way back again. The air takes on a chill now and the wind becomes a November taste of colder winds coming. It does feel like you are flying up here, probably something to do with the Psilocybe Semilanceata that's all over the place, (not for me though) and there is the sensation of somehow being in the sky. Well, on we go, the shadows are lengthening and there are plenty more interesting and stranger looking stones to see before we get off the hill.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


We adapt to changes in a surprisingly fast manner and new habits can be learned quickly, an example being that when coming in from the snow we now bang our boots on the wall on both sides of the door to knock the excess snow off of them. Because the pavements are frozen and as slippery as ice-rinks we walk in the road, as they have been cleared of snow and ice and are actually safer to walk on, even with the close proximity of the traffic. Our false economy says that it is better to have pedestrians in the road or slipping over and ending up in hospital than it is to spread some sand, grit or salt on the pavements.

Our chancellor George "We're all in this together" Gideon Oliver Osborne, is taking a luxury break at Prince Charles’s favourite ski resort, Klosters in Switzerland where chalets can cost as much as £10,000 per night. Osborne is part of the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, known in Ireland as the Ascendancy. He is the heir to the Osborne baronetcy, so has been born into a family that has been lording it over us since at least 1620.

Tory MP Frank Zacharias Robin "Zac" Goldsmith is on holiday at an £8,000-a-week villa in the Caribbean over the New Year but then he does have about 300 million quid of his fathers to fritter away.

I'm not exactly sure what George means when he says "We're all in this together" but then maybe my invitation to go to Klosters with him has just not turned up here yet for some reason. Goldsmith speaks and writes about environmental causes in Britain but can see nothing strange or contradictory about flying himself all the way round the world for a short holiday. It's funny how the rich are happy to spout all sorts of twaddle about how other people must cut back on their already meagre existences just as long as their own extravagant and opulent lifestyles remain unquestioned and unchallenged.

A good game that I play is that whenever a politician starts talking I imagine that the opposite of what they are saying is actually the truth. This works surprisingly well for a lot of their pronouncements and at least gives me some small amount of entertainment as well.