- NEW YEAR IN DEVON -

Dartmoor

LINKS to other pages in the 'Devon' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Home from Home
2 : Dartmoor
3 : Widecombe
4 : South Coast
5 : Exeter Cathedral

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The following information is condensed from the Wikipedia and National Park websites:
Dartmoor is a protected area of moorland in the centre of Devon and covers 953 km² (368 square miles). The granite upland dates from the Carboniferous period of geological history. The moorland is capped with many exposed granite hilltops (known as tors), providing habitats for Dartmoor wildlife. The highest point is High Willhays, 621 m above sea level. The entire area is rich in antiquities.

Dartmoor is managed by the National Park Authority whose 26 members are drawn from Devon County Council, local District Councils and Government. Parts of Dartmoor have been used as a military firing range for over 200 years. The public enjoy extensive access rights to the rest of Dartmoor, and it is a popular tourist destination. The Park was featured on the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as the top natural wonder in South West England.

Dartmoor is known for its tors — large hills, topped with outcrops of bedrock, which in granite country such as this are usually rounded boulder-like formations. There are over 160 tors on Dartmoor and are the focus of an annual event known as the Ten Tors Challenge, when over a thousand people aged between 14 and 21 walk for distances up to 55 miles on many differing routes over 10 tors

The levels of rainfall on Dartmoor are considerably higher than in the surrounding lowlands. With much of the national park covered in thick layers of peat, the rain is usually absorbed quickly and distributed slowly, so that the moor is rarely dry. In some areas, where water accumulates, dangerous bogs or mires can result. Some of these, topped with bright green moss and known to locals as 'feather beds', will shift (or 'quake') beneath your feet — the result of pockets of air trapped beneath the surface. Another consequence of the high rainfall is that there are numerous rivers and streams on Dartmoor. As well as shaping the landscape, these have traditionally provided a source of power for moor industries such as tin mining and quarrying. The Moor takes its name from the River Dart, which starts as the East Dart and West Dart and then becomes a single river at Dartmeet.

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The majority of the prehistoric remains on Dartmoor date back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Indeed, Dartmoor contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom.

The climate at the time was warmer than today, and much of today's moorland was then covered with trees. The prehistoric settlers began clearing the forest and established the first farming communities.

Fire was the main method of clearing land, creating pasture and fallow farmland. Areas less suited for farming, tended to be burned for livestock grazing.

There are an estimated 5,000 hut circles, which are the remnants of Bronze Age houses,.still surviving today, despite the fact that many have been raided over the centuries by the builders of the traditional dry stone walls. The smallest are around 6 ft (1.8 m) in diameter, and the largest may be up to five times that size. It is believed that they would have had a conical roof, supported by timbers and covered in turf or thatch.and some have L-shaped porches to protect against wind and rain.

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The climate deteriorated over the course of a thousand years from around 1000 BC so that much of high Dartmoor was largely abandoned by its early inhabitants.

It was not until the early medieval period that the weather again became warmer, and settlers moved back onto the moors. Like their ancient forebears, they also used the natural granite to build their homes, preferring a style known as the longhouse. Some of these are still inhabited today, although they have been clearly adapted over the centuries. Many are now being used as farm buildings, while others were abandoned and fell into ruin.

The earliest surviving farms still operating today are known as the Ancient Tenements. Most of these date back to the 14th century or earlier. The Dartmoor landscape is scattered with the marks left by the many generations who have lived and worked there over the centuries — such as the remains of the once mighty Dartmoor tin-mining industry, and farmhouses long since abandoned.

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Some way into the moor stands the town of Princetown, the site of the notorious Dartmoor Prison, which was originally built both by, and for, prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars. The prison has a false reputation for being escape-proof, both due to the buildings themselves and its physical location.

Princetown is a town situated on Dartmoor in the county of Devon in England. Princetown is best known as the site of the notorious Dartmoor Prison. It is the highest town on the moor, and one of the highest in the United Kingdom. The branch railway to the town, closed in 1956, was also the highest railway line in England, its Princetown terminus being 435 metres above sea level

Conan Doyle stayed at the Royal Duchy Hotel in the town before writing 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. The hotel has long since closed and the building now houses the High Moorland Visitor Centre which provides a wealth of information and exhibits for those visiting the moor.

Other points of interest in the town include the prison museum and the town churchyard which contains the graves of French and American prisoners of war who were originally housed at the prison. The church has the distinction of being the only one in the UK constructed by POWs and is dedicated, as are many churches in high locations, to St. Michael. It was taken out of use due to structural problems but is now maintained by the Redundant Churches fund.

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