August approaches and there is a need to start thinking about a date for returning to Ireland.
In the meantime there are things to be done, promised calls to be made.
Among those to be visited is an old school friend not seen for a few years. He lives in Okehampton, on the edge of Dartmoor.
It would be difficult to travel so far and not to venture into the moor, to find the familiar places close to our school Manaton and Widecombe. It would be a delight to walk the familiar paths, Jay’s Grave, Hound Tor, Haytor.
If I ever had the opportunity to spend an unexpected fortune, a lease on a Dartmoor cottage would be a dream; like the character in Sally Vickers’ novel, Mr Golightly’s Holiday. Weeks and months could be spent in reflection and inactivity.
I have a second-hand copy of Vian Smith’s 1966 book Portrait of Dartmoor, and lines from the chapter “Rambling the Moor” evoke memories of Sunday afternoons at our boarding school when the strict evangelical regime allowed nothing much to do. Aimless walks were a way of passing the time.
“There is no “best time” for those who like to walk the moor. some prefer February when the swayling fires are burning and the hillsides are turning black. Or May, when the colours have come and moorland stallions nucker their cries to scattered mares. Or summer, when sheep scratch shelter in the earth, panting in the shade of overhanging banks. Or autumn, when the colours are rusting; or winter when rain has an iron sting and the wind is strong enough to lean on.
When you walk the moor matters less than how you walk it. There is a wrong way and I learned it in 1937; when my colleagues strode grimly, compass in one hand, watch in the other, making Cranmere Pool a destination as though to walk without destination is to wander without motive. The way to walk Dartmoor is to walk nowhere, without a watch or any regard for time; standing and staring and listening to the larks.
Smith conjures a vision of absolute contentment.
Dartmoor seems to offer so much that can simply be pondered. The tors, the flora that endure the harsh conditions. the ponies that run the hills, the industrial archaeology, the bronze age standing stones, tghe inexpressible beauty of the landscapes.
Walking nowhere without regard for time, the time to just stand and stare, would last forever.
I’d like to visit where Ted Hughes rests near Taw Head on the north side. Granted not of the wandering you write.
Ted Hughes would have been at home on Dartmoor. It has that gritty unrelenting harsh reality he so often embraces.