Dartmoor and the Quantocks 22nd of November till 6th of December 2015, a soul-journey.
Finally here I was, a place I have wanted to go to for so long. Dartmoor. And it was magical. This is my story of two weeks of living the country-life.
We arrived in the early evening and it was already dark. Very dark. The moors, a clear and cold night, nothing but the lights of a few cottages here and there and the stars and moon. Magical. Very so not what we were used to in the place we live. Where they stole the night. Driving was a challenge, a strange place, so dark, narrow roads, we just didn’t know what to expect. But we got to our cottage in the end, situated near the lovely village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. A very cosy place. And we settled in real quick. Feeling at home in an instant.
The next day was a very clear and sunny day and after a tip from our host we went for our first walk. The scenes were stunning. The colours amazing and so vivid. The countryside was rough and nature at the end of November just added to this. Pure raw beauty. I fell in love, right there and then. I knew my heart would be lost forever. Clean air, real silence, real darkness. How could I ever go back to my everyday life? I immediately knew why so many stories were written on and about these lands, why so many fall in love.
The amazing browns of dead ferns and leafs contrasting with the greens of the grass and the greys of the rocks everywhere. The Tors proudly standing against the amazing skies. Today blue with some clouds, but ever-changing. Suddenly disappearing in the rain clouds, or taken by the fog. The winds that made an amazing roaring sound in these hills. Lovely little streams running everywhere, with the ability to become wild rivers….. Around the corner of each rock you could run in to cheeky cows, fierce ponies, curious sheep. All kinds of birds accompanied us on the moors, from very small tits and finches to larger birds of prey. The first day we enjoyed the guidance of a pair of ravens, hanging about at the Tors near Widecombe where we stayed. And I was very much guided by robins. The amazing site of red kites in the skies, or buzzards, hawks and falcons. Playing on the winds, not to be seen on the rainy days. In the evenings the owls were present and even the wild ponies visited our cottage, looking for something to eat.
The trees that grew here had such amazing shapes, I could see dragons, and places for faeries and gnomes to hide. The ancient Oak woodlands were really a fairy tale setting, the ancient gnarly oaks overgrown by mosses, ferns and standing between rocks of all shapes and sizes. The walking guides can’t prepare you for the terrain. Paths are not always so obvious and sometimes even demolished by the forces of nature that reign here. A smooth walk back is not comparable to a smooth walk where we live. No asphalt here, or nicely shaped footpaths with clear signs and colours to follow. Here you are thrown back to rely on your sense of direction and instincts. And in this time of year it gets dark early, and with dark I mean really dark. You don’t want to get stuck on the moors then…… Who knows, maybe the demon hounds will track you down…..
And then the lovely little villages, amazing cottages and longhouses, friendly people. And so very dog friendly. Especially Scotty was very gorgeous. And they were welcome everywhere. Never mind their muddy paws, or our muddy shoes for that matter. Always room near the fireplace or wood burner for a pair of walkers with their dogs. Lovely meals, yummy cream teas, lovely talks. And an ale every now and then 🙂 Even the nicest hotels had signs outside that dogs were very welcome. Water bowls and biscuits at the ready, and even sometimes towels to wipe their paws!
My solo walk and climb with Cheyenne to one of the Tors on our last day of the week was a life-changing experience. It was very windy and rain was pouring down as we climbed the Tor. But it was so worth it, the views, the feeling of being completely alive. I cried. Not of sadness, but for this feeling. Alive. Experiencing all the elements. The ravens had called me to this place and reminded me again the morning before the walk. This was what it was all about. Nothing I did in life up till now compared to this feeling. Feeling one with the earth, wind, water, the land. Being here with Cheyenne, who is so special to me. Who guided me on the best path to take, as she seemed to know exactly where to walk safely. There we stood together up on the Tor, wet and wind beaten, but we didn’t care. This was it. This is what I had visions about. This is where we belonged. Right here, right now.
But I had to return. To the village at first, meet up with husband and dog Scotty. I could see in his eyes when I told him about my experience he could not imagine feeling like that. But the first part of my journey was done. This was something I would never ever forget. A piece of my heart and soul would remain up there on that Tor, waiting for me to come collect them sometime in the future, this life or the next.
It was time to leave this amazing place. Feeling I had only seen and felt so little, that a lifetime would not be enough to fully experience this area. But already enough to feel inspired and alive again.
The next part of our journey was to West-Somerset, the small parish of Holford on the Edge of the Quantock Hills. On our journey I already saw this countryside was very different from the rough honesty of Dartmoor. These were the rolling hills, softer, flowing. Land of poets and romanticists. With beautiful woodlands all around. We had rented a small cottage in the middle of the parish. What a lovely place. And surroundings. A little church across the road, people even friendlier then on Dartmoor. With a greeting every part of the day, of course followed by a comment on the weather 🙂
Our first walk was to the nearby woodlands, so different from Dartmoor, but non the less amazing. In contrast we went to visit a piece of Jurassic coastline in the neighbouring parish of Kilve. Looking for fossils we lost track of time and almost didn’t make it back to our cottage before darkness took the day if it weren’t for the amazing help of an employee of the Hood Arms where we had lunch earlier. He just hopped in his car and gave us a lift. Wow…. just like that, no strings attached. Asking for help here is quite something else from asking for help where we live.
The walks here were somewhat friendlier, more flat, the paths were clearer and signs pointing where we should go where more present than on Dartmoor. We also visited Porlock, in Exmoor, and walked through Marshes there to Porlock Weir, a little harbour town on the Bristol Channel. Exmoor is asking for more 🙂 That will be on our list for next time. But the variety in landscapes was really amazing and inspiring.
I did a solo walk the last day of our stay through the woodlands and even climbed a hill. This time I did it all alone, without husband or dogs. It felt amazing and when I reached the top the scenery was amazing. It did not have the same depth as Dartmoor for me, but I could feel the poets and romanticists emerging, the woodlands were very fairy tale like, and I was really expecting Goblins around every big gnarly oak. The trees here were very weird shaped and your imagination could go all the way here.
And here again, many sheep, curious little things, so much more open to “contact” then our sheep. And we even encountered Red deer on our first long walk. Amazing. How this place must be, feel, look, smell like in the middle of autumn. The colours of the trees, the bellowing of the stags. It must really be an even more magical place then. So we know when to come back 🙂 Here also all kinds of birds were guiding us, with the coast nearby more gulls, and in the marshes we could see herons and all kinds of coastal birds. And what I thought were large groups of crows appeared to be rooks. They mixed up with jackdaws all the time. Somerset was also horse country. Everyone seemed to own one or more horses! I had some amazing contacts with them, and also with a few donkeys 🙂
We also visited some so-called spiritual places, like Glastonbury and Avebury, but as it was with Stonehenge, it didn’t do anything for me. Not at all like the experiences I described before. Maybe all the energy has been drained from those places already with all those visitors… Who knows. I know a lot of people who feel all kinds of things visiting those places, but I had those feelings upon the Tors and hills. I did have a place where I had a real déjà feeling, but that was somewhere on the way to Glastonbury. Not even a particular spot, more the area we were driving through. Maybe I lived there once…. I did not get visions of myself being a druid or a high-priestess or witch or anything like that. More ancient, more common, working class. I could see myself in Victorian clothing walking in the woodlands at the Quantocks. I could see myself as a sheep herder. As a farmer. As a medicine woman in ancient times.
West Somerset and the Quantocks were definitely a place to come back to sometime, but….. I had lost my heart to Dartmoor. If it weren’t for some circumstances I would seriously consider moving there. But I am not alone, I am married, have my friends and family here, especially my mother. Still, if I didn’t have to think about them…… The dogs sure wouldn’t mind either 🙂
And maybe I have romanticized things myself now, and is living there a hard thing to do. The modern conveniences are not so obvious in places like that. But to me that is also part of the attraction. Where there is no or bad reception, and you are more or less forced to live in a more conscious way and therefore environmental friendlier. Here people are scarce with using electricity and water, divide waste, clean up dog poop, are more self-sufficient, with having their own livestock and veggie plots. I don’t know if I could live here, I feel I could, but I just don’t know. The solitude, the silence, the darkness, the clean air, opportunities to step into nature from your home….. So much pro’s for me personally.
Maybe it is my challenge to find these things also in my everyday life (although clean air, true darkness and silence is an issue where we live now). I did have some lovely insights and inspiration on how to move on in my business and relationships for instance. Realizations about how I handle things. That I should start to love myself and accept every aspect without criticizing myself. Exercise more, because I have been walking and climbing so much and it felt so good! And I didn’t mind the harsh weather at all! Only on the last day my legs were like, okay, enough now, but it surprised me how I held up physically. Food would be a challenge, especially eating out, but that is no different from here. But with so many local produce like veggies, eggs, cheese, I could really live the country life 🙂
I need this solitude and nature, they are part of my being. I am not the type that will start screaming on the top of a mountain to let emotions go, I will not start dancing wildly to exciting music. I thrive better on my own, or in small groups than in large crowds. I am a calm a gentle person. And I love, deeply love animals and nature, that is where my heart lies. I have been trying time and time again to do the screaming and dancing, because others said it would do me good. I realize now that is their way, not mine. I should do things the way I like them and feel comfortable with. Go with the flow of nature, of natural time. Not worry about agenda’s, marketing, planning, just trust on the process. Not push things the way I would like them to go. Be more flexible, and be myself completely. Be honest and open about my feelings. That is my way, telling stories, my stories, my personal experiences and my way of adventures. I do face my fears, I grow with doing that. I do go beyond boundaries every now and then, but not for the thrill of the adventure. For the sake of growing. So I will have even more life stories to share.
Amazing what these two weeks did for me. Giving my senses space, other ways of input then in everyday life, has really opened up my eyes. It felt like this dark blanket was lifted and I felt so clear and radiant. Now I am back I feel the blanket closing in again, it is just the way of life here that does that. Literally with the pollution in every kind of way. And not to underestimate the density of population here. All the energies to deal with, not always positively. And I will definitely miss the dog-friendliness. But above all I will miss the land. I did cry upon our journey back, I always feel like I leave a part of myself behind when visiting this country.
I would say to everyone who feels attracted to places like this: do it, go visit, let the country bewitch and bewilder you, get inspired. I can’t guarantee not loosing your heart and soul though 🙂
Diana, december 2015