July 2, 2007

Last night we had watched the local weather forecast on television. The general idea had been that there would be showers, but more in the morning than in the afternoon. So we had our breakfast of cereal, juice, toast, and tea, then packed our lunches and set off for a walk in Dartmoor.

The weather appeared okay, mostly cloudy with patches of blue sky. We drove through Exeter and then down the highway to the lovely little village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, where we arrived about 10 am. The village is roughly in the middle of Dartmoor, but it is easily reached by the network of narrow roads that criss-cross the moor.

We had planned a roughly circular walk of about four hours, so we put on our packs and started up the lane leading to the path across the moor. Within minutes it started to pour with rain, but fortunately we were under a tree so we just waited the shower out. At the top of the lane we turned on to the track across the moor. Dartmoor stands several hundred metres above sea level, and scattered about it are many tors, which are high points normally marked by a pile of granite boulders. The tracks on Dartmoor generally follow ridge lines, and they date back to the ancient times when the surrounding valleys were covered by forests.

Below one of the tors we passed Grimspound, an Iron Age settlement with a large stone wall surrounding several hut rings, very like the fort we had seen at Tre’r Ceiri. Up on the ridges we did get some nice views despite the clouds and rain. As we walked it would shower and make us wet, then the wind would blow and start drying us off. Luckily we ate our lunch during one of the dry spells. As we were just finishing off, we noticed some of the wild Dartmoor ponies not far away. One of the young ones was bounding around in short dashes, while not straying far from its mother.

Once back in Widecombe, we stopped in for tea, hot chocolate, and toasted cream cakes, then went to look at the old church and some of the shops. Chris and Ruth had suggested we go down to Torquay for a look-around and some dinner. Torquay is a resort town that likes to call itself the “English Riviera”, but today was not at all like July and the beach was deserted. We took a short walk through the town, then went for fish and chips at the Tudor Rose restaurant. After that we walked down the beach front, where Matthew was checking out the headlands and was quite excited to see the geological differences which suggested the early formation of Pangaea. The stone wall between the main road and the beach was made of sandstone and limestone, and Matthew was pointing out various fossils in the limestone blocks. We could identify some blocks as having come from Dartmoor because of the particular fossils they contained.

When we got back to Exeter, there was a Peugeot with French licence plates parked outside Chris and Ruth’s house. Clearly this was Caroline and Jason’s vehicle, but they were not sitting on the doorstep. However they showed up before long, and we spent some time catching up with their European adventures. They had started out with fine weather in Germany, but on arriving in Britain had run into the same rainy weather we were having. So instead of camping in a muddy field, they had decided to arrive in Exeter a day early. But they didn’t have the address, so they had slept in the car last night.

Ruth had prepared crepes for dessert, so we ate them at 10 pm. Finally at midnight we all went to bed, with Caroline and Jason on the living room floor.

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