Hey guys, sorry I have been slacking on this lately. In this post I’d like to journal a bit about my excursion to Dartmoor.
The trip was on February 1st, which struck me as funny. I’ve never had a desire to go anywhere outdoors in the winter! In Michigan it would be a no-no to go anywhere except to scoot closer to the fire (unless you are one of those crazy people who go skiing and snowboarding). But here I was, getting suited up to hike the moors in February.
If you are not from the UK, you may be familiar with the word “moor” from The Hound of the Baskervilles. In this particular Sherlock Holmes installation, the demon hounds inhabit the bleak and mysterious moors. Well after visiting them, I can say that they definitely gave off the vibe that Doyle tried to capture in writing.
This trip was with the Archaeology Society, so the focus was on the archaeology of the area. There are tons of Bronze Age stone huts and larger settlements like Grimspound distributed over the moors, strewn in between beautiful natural tors (rock outcroppings). The ground is like a giant sponge, so it takes massive effort to walk even a short distance as there is a hardly any force acting against the weight of each footstep (thanks, high school physics class). Add heavy rain boots to the mix, wind so strong it kept knocking me over, and my tendency to stop to take pictures, and I quickly fell behind the rest of the group. I think everyone else was trying to get through it quickly because it was cold, lightly raining, and some had seen it before. Not me! I was loving being up there, taking in the beautifully stark surroundings and breathing the fresh air.
We got to the top of Hameldown Tor and suddenly it sounded like bullets were hitting my hood–hail. Normally I would be grumpy in such poor weather, but the cold and wind had rendered me utterly numb 🙂 At this point, I was the only person still smiling brightly as the storm swirled around us. It was amazing! Like being a storm-chaser, only there was no armored car protecting me from the elements. If you turned your head just slightly to the side, hail pellets would assail your face. My jeans were quickly soaked through.
We clumped back the way we had come to leave the moor and the poor weather behind, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who lived here in those Bronze Age huts. What would possess someone to live in the most hostile of environments? The ground certainly couldn’t be good for farming. I saw some sheep grazing on the hillsides, so perhaps they were pastoralists. Still, imagine stepping out of your stone hut to see weather like that every day. To expend so much energy just to walk anywhere on that spongy ground. It doesn’t seem very hospitable to me!
At the same time, the remoteness of these settlements made them seem more real. Many archaeological sites have been surrounded by modern civilization, reducing them to nothing more than a cool artifact to see but not fully grasp. Here on the moors, you could almost see those people walking among the remains of their huts. They were there in the howling wind and biting hail, telling their story to those willing to brave the environment they had made their home. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t get the overwhelming feeling of awe out of my chest as I stumbled upon two parallel stone lines stretching ominously into the distance. The feeling that someone lived here, that these lines meant something to them that I’ll never know…and maybe they never really left.
You know, I tell people all the time that I’m not an outdoorsy person in the least. I’m starting to think I’m more of a nature girl than I give myself credit for.