Last time in the Journal, I spent a few moments talking about the story behind one of my photographs – one of the daily photos I’m taking as part of my Something Wild challenge on instagram. And that got me thinking, there are stories to be told about all sorts of pictures, not least the Dartmoor artwork I produce. So settle down, grab a glass of something, and join me as we discover a little more about The Bridge.
You may have heard of Widecombe in the Moor, holder of an annual fair and the cause of an ill-fated journey for one particular grey mare. If you take the moorland road out of Widecombe, heading further west and up on to the open moorland, you are soon presented with a choice of roads. I say “roads” – because they are – but we are not talking about two-lane highways here; these are Dartmoor roads, with twists and turns and, if you travel far enough, ghostly hands ready to rip your steering wheel from your grasp, to send you hurtling from the road. That last selling point is not part of the official Visit Dartmoor promotional pack, by the way.
Let’s take one of these small, winding, Dartmoor roads and follow it as it leaves the fields behind. For this is one of the great things about Dartmoor: it is a lived-in landscape, a working landscape, and yet you can soon leave the farms and fields behind and find yourself surrounded by open countryside. And this countryside is truly open, with no barriers to stop you from leaving the road and stomping off across the boggy moor, hopping from tussock to tussock, or dipping your toes into a moorland stream.
But we won’t leave the road just yet, we will continue onward, dropping down as the flanks of a tussocky, bracken-covered hill loom to one side. Away in the distance we will see more hills, with their tors – great piles of rock that add punctuation to the rolling prose of this landscape – and, beyond, the clouds that roll relentlessly in from the west. There are no tors immediately beside us. We have found a part of the moor that is unblemished, undulating and smooth.
As the road dips yet again, we find ourselves in a small valley, an impression in the hill really. And along the bottom runs a small stream; a tributary of the East Dart River that literally springs into life a few miles to the north. To get across the river we must take The Bridge, nothing special really in its own right, but still a strong stone statement in the middle of this landscape of green and yellow and blue.
We can get out of the car, stretch out our arms and legs, and walk a way along the river. Trees pepper the hillside behind the bridge and yet, to the south, the landscape is open and devoid of anything much taller than your waist.
We wander downstream a little way and then turn, looking back, to spot the bridge, framed by trees and backed by a sprawling plantation of dark and sombre conifers. This is a little view, a small piece ripped from the much larger canvas of Dartmoor. And yet it has its own story, whether it be the water that streams down to flow beneath its arches, or the tales of the trees that grow beside the bridge.
Everywhere – and anywhere – you go on Dartmoor there are little vignettes such as this, each with a story to tell.
You can buy The Bridge from my shop on Etsy. Click here to get your copy.