It’s been a rough 3 months with Penny, our beautiful 11-and-a-half year old Cocker Spaniel. In November she began suffering from an (unexplained) infection in one of her paws; it was red-raw and began to swell significantly. She spent several weeks on antibiotics and had to wear a neck / head collar to stop her chewing at the paw. In January, soon after the infection had finally cleared, she started with a cough and then alarmed us by appearing to lose her balance as she walked, falling over onto her side and then struggling to get back up. We observed this for just a few days before taking her back to the vet. She had to undergo scans and blood tests, which confirmed that she was suffering from heart failure. Many hundreds of pounds and bucket loads of tablets later, she’s now improving, but at first her walks were limited to just 10 minutes, once or twice a day. This is a far cry from what we’ve routinely walked together on the moor.
She’s been my constant (and wonderful) companion, but at present it’s hard to see how she’ll ever again be able to achieve much height or distance. She’s now settled into her routine of 7 doses of various tablets per day, and we’re resigned to giving her these for the rest of her life, and slowly build up her stamina.
All of which explains why I haven’t been onto the moor much since November, or updated my blog since the Grimspound walk. When there was a forecast of light snow on the moor on a Sunday toward the end of January, I decided to get up early and head up there, and not feel too guilty because Penny could stay in with my wife and tootle around locally. My plan was to trace the Devonport Leat back to its source beyond Wistman’s Wood – where it’s siphoned from the West Dart. This would be close enough to the Princetown area to see some snow, and not that far to spend alone on the moor for the first time in years.
There was no snow visible on the road between Sharp Tor and Dartmeet, but there was plenty of mist, which was to drift around this part of the moor for rest of the morning, and was rather lovely in its own way in the pre-dawn light. It got me thinking.
Near Dunnabridge the snow suddenly became obvious, although the light was still low. I parked for a few moments to stretch my legs and was surprised how much cooler it was than the point where I’d taken the first photograph.
The mist had also crept into my mind and I decided to amend my walk plan. Instead of following the leat back from the west side of the West Dart I would take the much-used Wistman’s path to try to capture the woods wrapped in mist, something I’ve always wanted to achieve, but not so far managed. From the woods I could continue walking north and drop down to the river where the leat is siphoned off. I parked by the quarry at Two Bridges (icy, to to say the least) and set off.
There was a poorer class of snowman beyond the farm and the terrain was a gloopy mix of snow, ice and mud. I was spurred on by being able to see the mist directly over the woods ahead.
Naturally just as I reached the woods themselves a few minutes later every last trace of mist had disappeared! I’ve lost track of how many times this has happened, and I just accept it now, but one day I’ll get lucky! Wistman’s was looking as magical as it always does though, especially with traces of snow around, and I had the place to myself, so it would have been ungracious not to have taken a few photographs.
Perhaps someone had been manufacturing the mist in there?
I stepped out from the woods and walked a little way up toward Littaford Tors. From here there is a clear view of the Devonport Leat running along the hill contour opposite the woods.
At the end of the wood line (it extends quite a bit further than most people venture) there is an enlightening view of the the woods, the leat opposite and above, and the river in the valley below.
Before descending to the river I couldn’t resist continuing up to Longaford Tor to gain altitude and see what the snow had made of the land all around. I was so glad I did.
The mist was circling and descended again – some of it directly over the woods – it was playing with me!
I particularly enjoy this view of Beardown Tors, the undulating ‘W’ of the leat line and the (now clear again!) woods below. And lots of mist:
I scrambled to the top of a rather slippery Longaford Tor, realising that Penny would always have reached the top before me, and might even have helped me up! Ah well.
There was some rather lovely mist over Bellever Tor beyond Powder Mills:
Finally toward the south east:
I dragged myself away from this high point and walked back down toward the river valley. Below the height of Wistman’s and heading north it was very wet indeed, and getting wetter! I reached the river, scrambled over a stile to the point where the leat begins and tried to find a point to cross the river. I couldn’t. It won’t be obvious from the photographs, but there had been so much rain over the previous couple of months that the West Dart, normally rather feeble at this point, was rushing fast and deep. Most of the year, I’m sure it is very easy to cross at this point, but with all the camera gear I was carrying it would have been very foolish to risk it. I contented myself for now with recording these two images for those who haven’t seen this place – the first shows the West Dart rolling in from the hills at top right before descending rapidly at this point where the leat is siphoned off it.
The newly-formed leat is visible in the second image below just beyond the wall on the right and appearing to run uphill!
Having given up on the plan to complete a circuit and walk back alongside the leat, I walked back up the hillside toward the woods and was quite engrossed by the short distance in which the West Dart drops in relation to the leat. The leat appears to maintain a steady altitude across the whole valley, although I assume it must continually drop by some infinitesimal amount to maintain its momentum.
One day soon I’ll complete the circuit – I’m sure it’s very easy to cross the river in dryer conditions. Perhaps Penny will be up to a gentle walk along the leat one day.
I enjoyed reading this, Terry. Your long walks will be new experiences for you I guess without Penny. I love the photo of her… she looks as if she owns the place!
Your photos are remarkable… for me, the trees of Wistman’s Wood are magical. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such amazing lichen growths on tree branches (Wistman’s 2) … but then I’m not used to the clean air delights of Dartmoor.
Thanks Daphne, yes Penny always claims ownership of every tor she visits! Winter colours seem to bring out the best in Wistman’s – summer contrasts are too strong. Don’t delay your first visit too long!