Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Walking Dartmoor

By Claire
I walked over to the shower block and decided to do what a number of other people have done--use the "elderly and disabled" shower. It's a separate room complete with toilet and sink. The door wouldn't close properly or lock, probably for cases of emergency, but I carried on. It was 6:20 am, no one was around and I figured I wasn't really bumping anyone out.

I stripped down, found places to put my shampoo and soap and started the shower going. It was a rather complicated device with numbers and two dials. The water was frigid and I waited and waited and waited for it to warm up. I was looking forward to the big shower head with no push button. There was a string pull next to the shower that I thought might turn on the water heater. Denise had one at her house and so did Bart and Marion. So I pulled it. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! The alarm rang through the campground. You've never seen anyone yank on their clothes so fast. I dumped the shampoo and soap into one of my bags, grabbed everything and raced out, slipping into the main bathroom as fast as I could (I did try frantically to stop the alarm, to no avail). I quickly jumped into another shower and tried to pretend it had nothing to do with me. Soon I heard a man's voice saying "Hello? Hello?" The alarm stopped. I finished my shower, got dressed and as I walked past the "elderly" shower room, I noticed a pair of my underpants sitting on the closed toilet lid. Snatching them up, I stuffed them in my bag and scurried away. Can you even begin to understand my mortification?

I guess I'll never try that again.

With that start to the day, it was nice to see that it wasn't raining—we spent all day yesterday on our butts reading while it misted, rained, drizzled and finally became sunny at 6:30 pm. We wanted to hike the moors and that's what we did.

We drove towards Princetown with it's Visitors Center full of information about all the walking paths available. I'd done some research online, but frankly, it's just too overwhelming. There are so many to choose from!

We drove along the roller coaster road, with fair warning to look out for sheep sleeping on the road and wild ponies. There were sheep everywhere!

We drove past a pullout parking area with a number of cars and considered just stopping there and following a footpath but there was no room for Homer. The next one we came to looked good and there was plenty of room so we blew off the Visitors Center idea and decided to just go for it. It was a great decision. I asked a guy gearing up for some birding if this was a good area to walk. He told us it would be well marked and that it would loop back and it would take about 2-1/2 hours. He was right on all points.

It was beautiful, covered in heather, with lots of old stone walls and ruins from the days when this was a mining area for copper, tin and silver. Most of the mine workers lived around here and were fed a steady diet of rabbit, hence the name of the inn down the road, The Warren Inn. There are ruins of the rabbit warrens here.

Birch Tor—naturally piled granite stones. We saw many tors all over Dartmoor.

Using the steps to climb over the fence.

We were walking along when Chuck said he'd heard a horse whinny. Within seconds, a magnificent horse crested the top of a hill then galloped down right past us. It was thrilling. All I could think of was the TV show from the fifties, Fury, The Story of a Boy and the Horse Who Loved Him—or was it the other way around? The horses here are allowed to run wild and we saw a number of them.

We also saw plenty more sheep.

How many piercings do you need?

The horse we had seen coming down the hill, galloped past us again farther along the trail.

We came to a lovely farm with a pond and a stone bench (a mini-mini Stonehenge). It won the Duke of Cornwall's Habitat Award Scheme for 2005.

We went through several gates and past this barn that turned out to be Dad's Fix-it Shop.

Everything was going so well until we took a wrong turn, following a sign that indicated a way to go around a farm. We thought we were being polite but ended up in a bog and had to bushwack our way up a fern, gorse and heather covered hillside to a road before we found the trail again. We watched several people below sauntering through the farm.

On the trail again.

Back at the parking area in just about 2-1/2 hours, as predicted, we decided to carry on to Princetown to see about getting some fuel and groceries. The Visitors Center was nice and a guy showed us our walk on a huge wall map of Dartmoor and figured out that we had walked 5 miles. Add another 1/2 mile for our side trip through the bog. The Center used to be a hotel and it is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, which takes place in Dartmoor.

The bathroom had a unique hand washer. Put your hands inside and out comes soap, then water, then a dryer.

Did you know that a Cream Tea makes a perfect lunch? Now that we were in Devon, known for it's clotted cream, we just had to have one. We tried one restaurant; but I couldn't stand the smell of meat and beans cooking. I wanted only the pristine smell of tea and scones. We found just what we wanted at the Fox Tor Café. They advertised homemade everything and I must say, they were the best scones (warm), jam and clotted cream we've ever had. What a treat!

We left Princetown, a fairly bleak spot, with its infamous Dartmoor Prison.

Our goal was Tavistock, a pretty town crowded with tourists and lots of traffic. We searched for the supermarket the guy at the Visitors Center told us we couldn't miss. We missed it. We looked for the service station we couldn't miss. Missed that too. We skipped town and finally came to Okehampton where we found 3 supermarkets right next to each other (on Market Lane) and a service station. Just a few miles on, and Homer was home again.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
~ Rupert Brooke, The Soldier


Karin said...

There is nothing (in my opinion) that represents freedom more than a horse who is free to run in and over landscape (like what was shown in your pictures!) Fantastic!

And ..... what humor in your underpanties being left in the handicaped shower area! Perhaps you should have stood your ground and just apologized for not understanding that you were not disabled OR elderly! Ha,ha. I sometimes wonder if and when those things happen to me, if I would be clever enough to spout off in Spanish or Greek? But then, with my luck they would understand!

Seems your day had a very happy ending with the Cream Tea.....they are indeed wonderful (and never taste as good except in Devon)! Where is the picture for proof? :-)

I think you had a pretty nice day.

Karin on Paros

Elle said...

I have only three (3) words for you:


Forget the travel novel, let Chuck recapture the culinary highlights of your trip. Claire now knows how she shud spend her weekend evenings back in Sac/Bay Area.
Don't forget the panties & other realia as props!

Hey, you can't miss it.

Pat in Santa Cruz said...

I hope it was okay to laugh when reading your shower story! I'm sure there was nothing funny about it while it was happening. I think the good news is that it did make a sound - vs. just lighting up at a desk somewhere in which case your "audience" would have arrived and you would not have been "prepared!" Thanks for sharing. The photos of the horse are incredible. I loved the Tea that you had a few days back. So glad you continue to have such wonderful experiences.