Dartmoor walks this way | News

A Dog's Eye Account...

March 16

A dog called Nina came on our recent walk and was enthusiastic enough about the experience to write an account of it, which she has graciously given me permission to publish here:

Now, That’s What I Call a Good Walk!

Life has its ups and downs, even for a laid back dog like me. Most of the time I just hang out in my basket dreaming of nothing in particular, while I wait for exciting things to happen, and don’t even get too upset  when I am left alone. However, when it is a nice sunny day and everyone else goes off enjoying themselves, I can get a bit down if I am not included. Saturday was one of those down days. The winter storms had finally blown themselves out and I could feel the heat of the sun coming through the conservatory roof. Jo had arranged to go out with J., so I thought they would include me as well, but when he came around after lunch Jo told me they were going to a place called Castle Drogo near Chagford and that dogs were not allowed there. I was really cross with them. When they came back, J. tried to take me for a walk up the road, but I knew he wouldn’t go far, so I just doubled back and curled up in my basket to show how disgruntled I was.

Saturday was definitely a low point in my calendar, so I was really pleased when on Sunday morning Jo said we were off to join J. for a walk and a picnic up on Dartmoor near Grimspound. Things were looking up for me at long last! J. was supposed to be supplying the picnic, so I was a bit surprised when he turned up with only a small rucksack and also in shorts. I know the sun was shining but it is still early March after all! It soon became obvious that this was to be a very different walk from normal. First of all we drove to Peartree Garage, on the outskirts of Ashburton, where we met nine other people, including Inga, who J. and I built a porch for last year. She is now leading groups of people across Dartmoor on foot and electric bikes. Fortunately, today was the walking day and we set off in three cars for the start of the walk at Challacombe Cross. As we left the cars behind and set off over the moor, I soon began to forget about yesterdays troubles.  The sun was still shining and it looked like we were off on a serious walk. Everyone seemed to enjoy having a dog like me with them and I got lots of strokes and compliments. Apparently a dog who had come the previous week was so badly behaved that he had to be put back on the lead. I knew this couldn’t happen to me as Jo had left my lead hanging on the hook at home. Anyway, apart from straying off occasionally to round up stragglers in the group, I intended to stay close to Jo., and possibly even J. if I could forgive him for excluding me yesterday. The two of them were regardless fairly close together most of the time as they were playing one of their silly games which involved dropping the phrase ‘ .....who can say?’ into as many situations as possible. They were actually quite funny at first, but when the score got up to 9-9, I began to get a bit bored. We continued gently climbing for about thirty minutes, stopping occasionally to listen to Inga talk about the old boundary walls and the stone hut circles, which are all over this part of Dartmoor, and eventually reached the top at Hookney Tor. The view was amazing, down below was the Bronze Age village of Grimspound and in the distance you could see Castle Drogo, where Jo and J. had been yesterday, all wrapped up in a large white plastic tent to protect it from the weather.

After a quick group photo we clambered down the other side of the hill and entered in to the circular enclosure surrounding  the Grimspound hut circles. They have been there for three and half thousand years but ‘who can say’ - Ha! Three can play that game. - who originally lived there. Inga decided it was a good place for lunch and we all sat around on the outer stonewall. Everyone opened up their back packs and took out sandwiches from neat tupperware boxes. Everyone that is apart from J., who from his bag amazingly  managed to produce a whole loaf of Ella’s sourdough bread, a cheeseboard with three cheeses, ready dressed avocados, green salad, nuts, and a fruit salad, along with a bottle of homemade lemonade. Jo was suitably impressed and I have to admit I was as well, although I couldn’t help think he was showing off just a little bit. Also, I still don’t know how he managed to get all that food in to such a small bag. This little problem soon disappeared from mind, however, as I had to launch myself into clear up mode and remove every last crumb that had been dropped by the picnickers. Leave only footprints is my motto when out in the country.

Leaving the Bronze Age village spotlessly clean, I herded everyone together once again and steered them out of the enclosure and up onto Hookney Down. This was quite a feat because they were all very relaxed after lunch and, just like sheep, all seemed to want to go in different directions at the same time. However with a little help from Inga, I soon got them bunched up and heading vaguely in the right direction. On top of the Down was a series of rotten wooden poles sticking out of the ground and Inga explained that they had been put there in WWII to prevent German planes landing on the moor. I couldn’t understand why they would want to land in such a remote spot and J. thought it was such a daft idea that he started, in a very bad accent, pretending to be a German pilot puzzled by all these posts stuck on top of a hill. Jo looked a bit embarrassed by J’s playacting and later explained that the woman standing next to him was in fact German and probably didn’t find his joking very funny. Oh well! You can’t win them all. Not even the war. .Ha! . . now I am being just as silly.

We continued along Hookney Down to King Tor which is an old burial spot, supposedly for a king, but.... ‘ who can say’....I must stop this! From there we headed down into the valley passing old mine shafts and a lake, which was also left over from the mineworking. Jo  thought it would be a good spot for a swim but when we got closer, we could see that although the water was clear, the whole lake was full of long, flapping weeds. Also it was surrounded by a vast bog, as I discovered when I tried to go to the shore for a drink and sank up to my knees - do dogs have knees? - in mud. The lake was in fact the start of a small river, which we followed as it flowed rapidly and steeply down to the old stone farm at Heathercombe, where we turned North to start our return to the car. I was feeling quite relaxed at this point as it had been a great day out. We had done lots of walking and I had made sure that no one had got lost or left behind. But on these adventures you always have to be on your guard or things can quickly go wrong. And they did! We came to a steep bank with a rough step ladder and barbed wire on either side. I knew the steps were too large for me to scramble up, so I thought if I could get up enough speed, like Steve McQueen in the Great Escape, I could make a sideways leap over the barbed wire. I was just about to try this when Jo realised it would be too dangerous and shouted at me to STOP!!! Fortunately I heard her just in time, as the barbed wire was not only sharp and rusty, but also far too high for me to jump over. J. meanwhile arrived at the scene. Ever since the lake he had been ambling along talking to a young woman called Roxy, and totally ignoring me, but now he leapt into action and tried to lift me over the steps. There was no way I could let him do this. I hate being picked up and thought he also probably going to drop me, so I snapped at him and he rapidly put me down. Jo went up the steps and tried to coax me up from the top, but it was far too high for me to climb even with J. shoving me from behind. I was beginning to worry that they might even leave me there, when luckily someone else in the group found an old plank, which was long enough to make a ramp, and I finally managed to shuffle slowly up in to the next field. I was just getting my equilibrium and sense of dignity back when I was leapt on by a large male border collie. He was actually quite handsome and his white parts so white that I don’t think he was a real working sheepdog. I was too tired and shaky,however, to take any interest in him but he wouldn’t leave me alone and followed me with his nose close to my bottom for some way until someone finally chased him off.

Well I could go on but I think I have told you all the best bits and by this point in the walk I was concentrating more on putting one paw in front of the other rather than looking at the scenery. Back in the car park, I hardly had the energy to jump up into the boot but just made it and then slept all the way home. Now, that’s what I call a Good Walk!

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