Saturday May 11th was our turn to host the Exmoor Society for a walk on Dartmoor. Each spring and autumn we take it in turns to have an “awayday” exploring the other society’s home patch. Exmoor and Dartmoor share many aspects in common, not least being south-west uplands, but each area has it’s own character, history and special attractions. Jenny Gibson of the Exmoor Society kindly let us have her report on our walk around the Dart Valley, led by Bob Bruce, and the visit to Higher Uppacott longhouse.
“After a few beautifully hot, sunny days earlier in the week, the weather reverted to normal for the annual spring DPA / Exmoor Society joint walk on Dartmoor, with a relentless gale and occasional bursts of horizontal rain. It was the same weekend as the Ten Tors and we were quite glad only to be doing three tors – and those in close proximity – Sharp Tor, Yar Tor and Corndon Tor.
We were accompanied on our walk by the landowner, Patrick Simpson, the Lord of the Manor of Spitchwick, which covers about 2,500 acres, with a 16½ mile boundary. Like us, Patrick was there to learn more about the archaeological treasures lurking on his land.
It was an extremely interesting walk, with Bob Bruce alternately mimicking an air-hostess and an aeroplane with circular arm movements for a bronze age round house and wings out for a reave, when his words were literally carried away on the wind.
We also saw the site of a mediaeval longhouse, the only spiral cairn on Dartmoor on Yar Tor, the Cave Penney memorial and, on the way back to our cars, a triple line stone row, long known about but previously almost disappeared under heather and bracken, now revealed again after swaling. At the head of the row was a cist and needless to say, Exmoor Society member Pete Moss had to do a repeat of his last year’s trick, of sacrilegiously trying to delve inside the burial hole – looking for a letterbox was his excuse this time!
After a hurried lunch in our cars, we went to nearby Higher Uppacott, a grade 1 listed longhouse, with the shippon unchanged since it was built.
We were all fascinated, having been inside converted longhouses before, but never one where so much remained original, including views up to the blackened thatch. Possibly because the previous tenant – a national park ranger – still lives next door, having occupied the longhouse itself for a few years after it was purchased by the DNPA in 1979, one had the sense of it being very much a living house, not a museum piece.
This feeling is amplified by the number of curiosities in every room, demonstrating not just a sense of history but also of humour.
Our enjoyable day was completed by an excellent cream tea at the Tavistock Inn in Poundsgate – with too much even for the boys, who gave away a piece of cake to our Exmoor Society friends from Bristol, who were at the next table.
Thank you, everyone at the DPA, for another memorable day.
Jenny Gibson (Exmoor Society)”