A pleasantly warm, dry day with just a light breeze keeping the walkers comfortable provided the perfect backdrop for this eight-mile walk.

 The terrain was a mix of lanes, fields and woodland tracks, part of the route being on the Dartmoor Way.   Lovely views with glimpses of Dartmoor could be enjoyed throughout the walk.  Today’s walk included an array of interesting experiences for the 12 members walking.  The route was peppered with numerous stiles (they lost count) some relatively easy and others more challenging but with this small group of friends, the number of stiles didn’t matter as their camaraderie was evident particularly with the proffered assistance to navigate some of the trickier crossings.

 Hidden in the long grass of one particular field they came across a small area of cropped grass where a unique opportunity presented itself – they had discovered a badminton court complete with racquets and shuttlecocks! Here was an irresistible invitation to play and for some to test their skills.

 The impromptu game made for a memorable and light-hearted interlude.

Setting out from Moretonhampstead, the group walked along Pound Street towards the Triangle where the sculptures of two Dartmoor ponies along with other Dartmoor related art forms part of a public arts project.   The walkers continued along the lane passing Brinning where they stopped to admire a splendid specimen of Gunnera near the entrance before joining woodland and tracks towards Fursdon.  

Before long, they reached the ford below North Bovey with its newly erected stone commemorating the silver jubilee of the late Queen Elizabeth II.   

They continued up the steep lane towards the beautiful unspoiled village of typically Dartmoor thatched cottages.   The group soon arrived at the hamlet of Old Yarde, where they stopped to admire the natural shape of an old tree trunk.   

This tree lost its branches many years ago and for those with an interest in pareidolia (the ability to find familiar faces, figures and forms in clouds, woodgrain, smoke etc) there were various ‘animals’ to be found in the shapes.

 An interesting tale about this  ‘Dancing Tree’ was recounted by one of the group as told to her by her mother.   The tree used to have dead branches emerging from the top which were cut horizontally.  A wooden platform was attached to the branches and young girls would dance on the platform. 

All myths have some root in fact.  According to   https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/wildlife-and-heritage/habitats2/woodland/veteran-trees   ‘Some veteran trees in the centre of villages on Dartmoor are ‘dancing trees’. Dancing trees were consid-ered to be sacred and revered by the local villagers, they were the focal points of fairs and dances were held around their base.

 In Moretonhampstead dancing was said to have taken place on the crown of the tree.  Sabine Baring Gould records a journal of a resident of Moretonhampstead in the 1880s who described the dancing tree as an elm with a clipped flat top, surrounded by poles with a platform built into the canopy. On the top chairs and tables were set and feasting took place. Unfortunately, the tree became dangerous and had to be felled.’ 

The group continued towards Bovey Castle crossing the grounds of the golf course and circling the hotel originally known as North Bovey Manor House.  This had been built by W H Smith in 1907 in the Jacobean style.  There have been several subsequent owners, one being Peter de Savary, who renamed it Bovey Castle.   In 2006 he sold the hotel which is now part of a hotel chain.

Shortly after leaving the grounds of the hotel the walkers came across a fallen tree completely blocking the lane, but they managed to duck down and squeeze themselves below the branches and lush canopy.    A final notable event on the return to Moretonhampstead was meeting a cart pulled by a team of two beautiful shire horses owned by the Devon Shire Carriages company. 

This most enjoyable and eventful day was completed with welcome refreshments in Moretonhampstead.

 As ever, new walkers are always welcome. Meet at the post office in George Street, Okehampton ready to leave at 9.30am.   Please be there in plenty of time so that the group can leave promptly.   

 Next week’s walk will begin at Hound Tor car park (OL28, SX769 790). Where possible, we try to share cars though this cannot be guaranteed.  You should be suitably attired for all weather conditions, including sturdy footwear and bring a packed lunch.