Dartmoor, England: Wild Horses and Stone Circles
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Dartmoor, England: Wild Horses and Stone Circles

August 12, 2019

A short drive further
north takes us out of Cornwall and into the neighboring
county of Devon, where we venture into remote
and windswept Dartmoor. Perched on the edge of the moor,
the tiny town of Chagford is an easy home base
for exploring Dartmoor. The small-town atmosphere
here makes you feel like you’ve stepped
into a time warp. It has a classic
English-village feel with a picturesque church
and cemetery and cozy pubs that double as inns for hikers
to spend the night. One of England’s most
popular national parks, Dartmoor is one
of the few truly wild places left in this densely
populated country. A moor is characterized by open
land with scrubby vegetation. England’s moors are
vast medieval commons, rare places where all can pass, anyone can graze
their livestock, and, in the case of Dartmoor,
ponies run wild. Dartmoor sits on
a granite plateau, and occasionally
bare granite peaks called “tors” break
through the heather. Rising like lonesome
watch towers, these distinctive landmarks are the goal of popular hikes. Haytor is the most famous
of these rocks. For the tenderfoot,
the climb to its summit can be a challenge. It’s not El Capitan,
but it’s hard to beat that king-of-the-mountain
feeling and the rewarding views
that come with it. A well-planned walk through
the moors rewards day hikers with vivid memories. Stone-slab clapper bridges,
some medieval, and some even ancient, remind hikers that
for thousands of years, humans have trod
these same paths and forded these same streams. Tall stones guided
early travelers. This one, erected by pagans long before
Christianity arrived, was later carved
into a cross. The iconic ponies
of Dartmoor run wild. Their ancestors
were the working horses of the local miners. Living in the harsh
conditions of the moor, these ponies are a hardy
breed known for their stamina. Today they’re beloved
among hikers for the romance they bring to
the otherwise stark terrain. Of the hundreds of neolithic ruins that dot
the Dartmoor landscape, the Scorhill Stone Circle
is my favorite. Tranquil and nearly forgotten, erected some 4,000 years ago by mysterious people
for mysterious reasons, it’s yours alone, the way a stone
circle should be. It’s just you
and your imagination. Enjoy the quiet. Ponder the 40 centuries
of people who’ve made this enchanting landscape their home and the wisdom of today’s
English to protect it and keep it pristine.

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  1. Hi Rick Steves and Co. Has Rick got over to the Yorkshire Dales Yet. "Malham" In the south if the National Park is as nice as a Cotswold village but surrounded by Lime stone Geological features…:)

  2. Very beautiful Landscape! I'd like to travel there at one day, even if it might be a little bit dangerous. I've heard about a big hound living there, even if you are no Baskerville it could be dangerous! ­čÖé

  3. Hey, Chagford is the setting for the BBC television show 'Jam and Jerusalem.' The first episode is ok, but then it got better.

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