Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Active Dartmoor goes to the Dartmoor shows.

It's been a busy but fun filled couple of weeks, with Okehampton Show, Active Summer Day at the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre at Princetown, and Chagford Show. Very sadly we had to cancel our trip with the show trailer to the lovely Lustleigh Show, as the torrential rain would not have done our lovely magazines any good at all! 

Big thank you to Dartmoor Search and Rescue, Plymouth, for getting the trailer into position in front of the visitor centre in Princetown. We'd dropped it off the evening before so I was unable to shift it myself!

One of the Active Dartmoor team,  our intrepid David, drove up from Cornwall just for the 10K run at  Lustleigh, here he is setting off in the rain, far right of picture in blue. He did well, apparently managing to get past several other runners in the last 3K and is currently writing the whole experience up for us in the autumn issue of the magazine. 

                                                                              A great attraction at the Active Summer Day at Princetown was the Dart Rock climbing wall. A large number of very small children seemed to scoot up to the very top at alarming speed, they don't seem to have any fear at a young age! I literally had to cover my eyes several times, a morbid fear of heights combined with a natural aversion to seeing small people dangling in space made for uncomfortable viewing, but the young lads coaching them were brilliant, not one child had a second of trouble. Sadly I was talking to someone when the lovely Richard Drysdale of Dartmoor National Park Authority, who had overseen the whole day, took his turn up the wall, so I'm disappointed not to be able to show you any pictures of his endeavor. But a big thank you to him for taking such good care of us all, and regularly plying us with hot drinks to stave off the cold!

The Active Dartmoor dogs Daisy and Skye have been a great asset during the shows, so many children love to come and give them a bit of attention, which gives me the opportunity to chat to the parents about Active Dartmoor. It has to be said though, that after a few hours of this Skye starts to lie at the back of the trailer and refuses to speak to anyone, so at that stage I pop her into the van for a snooze!

It has been absolutely wonderful to catch up with lots of old friends, and meet lots of new people, many of whom have become friends or supporters through advertising, by email or telephone, or on Social Media but we'd not previously met up in person. Lots of plans for working together with various organisations and businesses have been hatched, and plenty of ideas for new articles in the autumn and spring issues came to light. Working together, joining up with as many different people across Dartmoor as possible, we are sure this is the right approach in these difficult times. 

The Active Dartmoor trailer is looking splendid, many thanks to the businesses who have supported us by sponsoring panels this year. National Trust Dartmoor, Malcolm Snelgrove Photography, Adventure Clydesdale at Brimpts Farm, Dartmeet, Spirit of Adventure and Young Spirit, Powdermills, Postbridge, Outdoor Trail in Ivybridge. Could not have done it without you, and this trailer is an absolute joy when the weather is not as kind as it could be! 

See you at Widecombe Fair!!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Active Dartmoor magazine. The excitement of publishing.

Active Dartmoor magazine, summer issue 2014. It's done! We await with much anticipation the delivery of the hard copies at the end of this week. This is what it's all about, the months of preparation, planning and discussions, the late nights, early mornings, writing copy, editing, editing again, endless chasing up of content and artwork and rising stress levels culminate in a moment of huge relief as the proofs are uploaded to the portal at the waiting printers, and they take over the process.

The most exhilarating moment of course, is still to come! This Friday Simon and I will take delivery of thousands of copies of the magazine in its printed form, and oh the nervous excitement! First of all, the heady smell, I can never resist burying my head in the first copy and breathing deep, then the slightly anxious scan through the pages. Do they look good, are the colours bright enough, do the headlines and titles stand out as we planned, so many things to look at in those first seconds! Then the rush of joy, the realization that it's okay, it looks fantastic, everyone will be happy! Then that look at each other...."Okay, brilliant, let's get on with the next one!" Addictive, exciting process..... publishing a magazine!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Dartmoor is magic for children of all ages :-)

My deep and abiding love for Dartmoor was born in me as a child and has only got stronger over the (many) years. I was blessed with parents who had enough patience and love of the outdoors to load up our old Bedford Van with my brothers and me, plus assorted friends and other family members and cart us all up to Dartmoor from our home in Paignton.
And oh what fun then ensued! My dad was never one for shortcuts to camping and eating al fresco, we had old fashioned canvas tents, washed in the river, and all food was cooked from scratch over a camp fire. For me, pony mad since I was a toddler, the highlight was always finding and watching the beautiful Dartmoor Ponies. Over fifty years later, nothing has changed, my favourite moments are still spent amongst the ponies, losing all track of time as that old enchantment washes through me.

So now, when my own grandson came to visit me on Dartmoor with his parents last weekend, from his home in Finland, it was with joy and excitement that I led him on walks to discover for himself the magic of Dartmoor.

 We started close to home, there's something about small boys, a pond, a stick, a dog or two and complete freedom! In his element he discovered goldfish, dragon flies, frogs and a band of Dartmoor Mares and foals, all around the perimeter of a gloriously muddy edged pond.

We graduated to walks up the steep side of Cosdon Beacon, collecting "Dinosaur bones" and running through ferns that have grown twice as high as him. Apparently grown ups, and especially granny who is recovering from a knee replacement, are a bit slow for an energetic five year old, so he took to following in the dogs footsteps instead. Oh to have that energy!

Sunday saw us exploring the base of Belstone Tor and the Nine Maidens stone circle on the far side of Watchet Hill. Sitting on a handy granite boulder watching him run with the dogs as fast as his legs could carry him down the hill to the brink of flying off his feet, it occurred to me yet again how immensely privileged those of us who either live on or visit Dartmoor are. This extraordinary wilderness over which we are able to roam at will, with its history, stories and legends to fascinate us. I hope we never, ever take it for granted, and that everyone enjoying their time here cares for it well.

As if the weather gods knew this was such a special and magical weekend for me and my family, the sun shone throughout the afternoon for the Belstone Fair. My son and I had the fun of introducing his Finnish wife and their now bi-lingual son to the somewhat eccentric and traditional customs of a Dartmoor village summer fair.
Maypole dancing, coconut shy, egg throwing, egg and spoon races, dog races, men running up and down Cosdon at speed, for fun, and not least of all tea and cakes.
This was indeed a perfect weekend, one I hope young Oli will remember for a long time, and that will have sown the seed in his heart of a life long love and enjoyment of Dartmoor. Just like it happened to his Granny.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Active Dartmoor gets an evening out :-)

 Wonderful evening last night at the High Moorland Visitor Centre to celebrate the refurbishments. Richard Drysdale doing a great job of hosting the event, lovely "Twitter Sam" chatting with Peter Harper (right), newly elected Chairman of the Dartmoor National Park Authority
 All sorts of lovely new merchandise now on sale in the centre, all promoting Dartmoor as a rich source of natural and locally produced goods.

 Alex Nail and Guy Richardson tell the story of the Time Lapse film they produced under such testing conditions.
 Even Sherlock Holmes is fascinated, he is one of the lovely new interactive displays in the gallery.
Not a sound from the audience as we were treated to a viewing of the magical film. If you've not seen it yet, do try to make it up to Princetown, it's beautiful and so worth the effort!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Alex Nail/Guy Richardson time lapse film. Active Dartmoor finds the story behind it.

Many people have made excited noises about the wonderful time lapse film that's showing in the gallery at the High Moorland Visitor Centre, Princetown. This 8 minute long, enchanting film was the brainchild of Alex Nail and Guy Richardson, both superb photographers who decided they wanted to try something on Dartmoor National Park that had hitherto only been done on this scale in the American National Parks.

When Active Dartmoor was invited up to High Moorland Visitor Centre to view the film and gallery I was so impressed I asked Alex and Guy some questions about the background, process and difficulties encountered in the making of the film. To my surprise I have received a wonderfully detailed account of what it took to produce this true work of art, born of dedication and a deep love of Dartmoor.

The whole process from start to finish took this intrepid pair 13 months, using all of their experience of Dartmoor locations, photographic expertise and technical skills, not to mention endless patience. There is a wealth of fascinating fact and figures in the background information they have given me about the project, so I am going to take the time to write a full feature and publish it on the website and hopefully in the magazine too. I plan to get it onto the website next week, along with the short trailer, and will keep everyone informed as to when they can read this inspiring, exciting account of when, how and where this wonderful film was created. For now, Alex and Guy, Active Dartmoor salutes you!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Active Dartmoor goes foal spotting

 It was brought home to me yesterday how lucky these glorious mares and foals are to have this part of the moor, and the village as well to call home. We were driving across the moor between Princetown and Ashburton to visit Adventure Clydesdale and passed several bands of very scrawny, rough coated thin ponies of all colours and sizes. Many of them had foals at foot, but quite a few looked as if they were struggling to cope with the demands of feeding them.

The mares and youngsters here seem to have an easier time of it, even though high up on the North Moor here the weather can be savage and hard to deal with. They seem to have discovered the joys of a fairly easy, quiet life in and around the village, and funnily enough the visitors do tend on the whole to be respectful of their space. There are some beauties here, these two are slightly different types but absolute crackers!

I wish something could be done to give the little ones we saw yesterday a bit more of a chance, they look as if they are having a tough time of it. So many visitors were stopping on the side of the road to take photographs, but I can't help but think they will go home with a slightly skewed idea of what a Dartmoor Pony really looks like, not much of a likeness to the emblem on the National Park signs of the iconic pony.

So far this year, we've got this little piebald colt, a really sweet skewbald filly and today a tiny bay filly who's pictures will appear soon!
These ponies are just as tough and hardy as any Dartmoor pony needs to be, they cope well with the extreme weather up here, but they're bright and smart enough to  take the easy life when it's available to them!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Active Dartmoor meets the SSIJ fundraisers.

 There was so much going on all over Dartmoor this weekend, Dartmoor Classic cyclosportive, Safety on Dartmoor Day at Lydford, to name but two. I happened to be out on Belstone Green just at the time that this merry band of fundraisers came pounding up the hill from the River Taw, so of course I asked them what they were doing and if they'd mind me taking a photo. They told me they were part of Something Silly in June, a fundraising group doing the Dartmoor Challenge, 300 miles in 4 days. Cycling 120 miles by road from Salisbury to Dartmoor, then two days running 60 miles, then a nice 120 mile road ride home on Sunday! A huge effort by the team, to raise funds for Melanoma UK. I'm in awe.

In fairly sharp contrast to all the frantic activity out on other parts of the moor, I was struck by the most gentle of scenes here, when I noticed a family with small children enjoying a quiet picnic surrounded by sheep with their lambs and a small group of wild ponies with one small foal.
All of which just goes to show that Dartmoor is big enough for everyone to enjoy in their own way, from endurance racing to a family picnic.

Talking of the wild ponies and foal, here he is, the little  beauty who is the subject of much  speculation in the village as to the identity of his sire! He is growing fast and gaining in confidence every day, but still young enough that he's not straying much further than a few yards from his very protective mum yet

Work has started in earnest on the summer issue this week with the return of Simon from his holiday. The hugely talented Equestrian Photographer Malcolm Snelgrove has  been busy with a photo shoot for Active Dartmoor, so look out for his images in various places over the next few weeks!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Active Dartmoor goes to Princetown Visitor Centre

What a wonderful afternoon. The very lovely Richard Drysdale, who happens to  be one of  my favourite people, very kindly invited us to go and have a look at the progress being made in the Dartmoor National Park High Moorland Visitor Centre.

What can I say? It's brilliant!

It's fabulous, light and airy with really great local produce and products available to buy, and extraordinarily imaginative displays. Walls have come down or been moved, making the reception hall so much bigger and user friendly. There are several great fun areas where visitors can dress up as Sherlock Holmes or Park Rangers, and have their photograph taken in front of very realistic backdrops. There are open rooms designed for the amusement of children, one where you can choose from hundreds of leaflets which will help you plan your trip, and even a superb little movie theatre down at the end featuring one of the Legends of Dartmoor, which really mustn't be missed. The  Tale of the Hairy Hands has a little twist at the end which is great fun!

The jewel in the crown for me personally is the outstanding gallery of Dartmoor photographs by the hugely gifted Alex Nail and Guy Richardson, the pinnacle of which is the 8 minute long time lapse film.
The musical score is haunting and extremely atmospheric, you can sit and immerse yourself in the glorious surround sound and breathtaking scenery of Dartmoor in comfort on the plush stools that are available.

I don't want to say too much more, there is so much more to see and experience but I have no intention of spoiling your visit by giving it all away, you need to go and see it for yourself. You will come away educated, amazed and enthused, and hopefully with a few "home produced on Dartmoor" souvenirs as a lasting memory of your time in this thoughtfully and skillfully improved High Moorland Visitor Centre.

Hats off to Richard and his team, they are achieving fantastic results. Get yourself to Princetown and enjoy it!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Active Dartmoor meets the new foal.

First Belstone foal of 2014

Its always so exciting when the first foal of the year enters the world in Belstone, pretty much the whole village will know about it and wander out to take a look. This little piebald beauty was born several days ago but his mum rushed him off to some secret location, only returning yesterday with the rest of the herd.

I'm really happy that the little bay filly who was born last August will soon have a playmate, this new baby is strong and playful already. The thing I am surprised about is his colouring, he's out of this lovely Alford mare, so I'm looking forward to finding out if they actually bred her to a black and white stallion or if there's a wild chap out on the moor creating havoc!
Herd member comes in close for a look and a sniff.

 The other mares always take a great interest in the new baby, two seconds after I took this picture the foal's mum came roaring in to chastize this light bay mare for getting just a little bit too close.

 It's sometimes hard to tell with these girls, but quite a lot of them look as if they are at various stages of pregnancy. I say hard to tell, because they always look healthy, happy and in really great condition. More than can be said for some of the poor wretches I've seen in photos over the last few days on other areas of the moor. It's worrying, because if a mare is skinny and struggling to feed her foal at this time of year when the grass is growing so well, there is definitely something amiss. A visitor told me yesterday that they had been over at Sheepstor and come across a small group of ponies in shocking condition, ribs and backbones clearly visible.

 Let's all hope that one day all the ponies on the moor are as well cared for, and as well catered for in terms of quality of grazing land in their areas, as these ponies. Those of us who live in Belstone and the hundreds of visitors who visit the village for walks each year find enormous pleasure in these beautiful, sweet tempered and gentle iconic Dartmoor Ponies.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Active Dartmoor goes al fresco for lunch

What an absolute joy it is to wander anywhere on Dartmoor at the moment, this is surely the loveliest time of year. I took my lunch break beside the River Taw in the sunshine today, absolute bliss.
The colours seem so vibrant when we have showers mixed with sunshine, everything is clean and bright. Small wonder then, that so many people are getting out and about and enjoying walking, cycling and riding over this incredible, breathtaking area of Dartmoor.
I don't think I can remember a year when the Foxgloves came so fast and in such numbers, they are breathtaking this year. I've not yet seen very many bumble bees but am keeping my ears and eyes open for more. So, after an hour I needed to return to base, rested and refreshed from the gifts that Dartmoor bestows on us!
We are working hard on the summer issue of Active Dartmoor, and we will be distributing it in July. Exciting times.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Beating the Bounds in Belstone.

Beating the Bounds is a traditional event that comes round once every seven years. It really does bring our title to mind...Active Dartmoor, and this time on a grand scale! This morning Belstone was blessed with warm sunshine as the parishioners and commoners old and very young gathered to listen to a short service from the Vicar before setting off for the twelve mile walk around the Belstone Parish Boundary.

There is a tradition in Belstone that the oldest parishioner gets to turn the youngest upside down and bounce his or her head on the Boundstone! There were several tiny babies in carriers present, so look out for the photos of that happening, I'll post them as soon as I can! My fairly recent knee surgery and two crutches have prevented me joining in on the walk itself this year, hopefully next time, even if it is seven years away.

Once the photocall and short service were over, a hunting horn blew and off everyone went, streaming out onto the Great Green and down to the Taw River.The Dartmoor ponies took one look at the approaching crowd and fled for the hills, they must have thought it was the drift all over again.

More images and stories from the day as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Adventures and activities on Dartmoor.

I'm really pleased with the way the Active Dartmoor website is starting to shape up now, Simon is doing a fantastic job with all the content I keep chucking at him so I am constantly delighted every time some new article or set of images finds it's home.

The Photogallery seems very popular, so many wonderful photographers now have a sample of their Dartmoor images on show, with links to their websites so you can see more. It's like a smorgasbord of talent! Have a look, it's really lovely to see so many different Dartmoor photography styles all in one place. If you and your Dartmoor images would like to be included, please do  just let me know.

You can read a report on the third and largest yet Heart of Dartmoor Cycle Ride, which was run by Devon Wildlife Trust on May 17th. Find out where they went, what they did, and who said what.

We've got a fabulous feature on Wild Running, exciting, inspiring and adventurous. If you fancy off track running on Dartmoor led by an experienced and enthusiastic guide, with wild camping, cook outs, story telling and stunning scenery, have a look at what your weekend could hold for you!

If you would like to improve some of your outdoor skills, such as canoeing, climbing, navigation or even wish to qualify as a walking or climbing guide, have a look at Spirit of Adventure's article, there's lots on offer.

So, plenty to look at and to read, there's a great deal more to come too :-) At the heart of it all, is a shared enthusiasm and love for getting out of the routine and humdrum of normal daily life and being Active on Dartmoor!

Friday, 30 May 2014

The VW Adventure and Gallery Opening!

What an exciting weekend this is going to be for us at Active Dartmoor. Our lovely editors John and Anna are heading off with their young daughter for an adventure on Dartmoor in a wonderful VW Camper Van. The rather regal Ordell has been generously loaned for a couple of days to the intrepid trio for their weekend jaunt by those lovely folk up at O'Connors Campers in Okehampton.

The idea behind this little jolly will be to bring you a feature article in the upcoming summer issue of Active Dartmoor magazine, about the ins and outs of camping, living and traveling in one of these really fun old vehicles while you discover the many delights of Dartmoor.... I'm really looking forward to the photographs.

The other project which is bringing me joy is our new Dartmoor Photographers Gallery on the website, which should be up and running live by the end of today. We have such an enormous wealth of photographers on and around the Dartmoor area, some of whom have been hugely supportive and generous with their images to us over the years. We want to say Thank You to all of them, for the joy they bring us with their gorgeous photographs, many of which means those Togs setting alarm clocks for the middle of the night in order to catch the mists and special light of the early dawn on Dartmoor.

Do have a look, there is information on our home page, or you can go straight to the Photo Gallery. Each of the photographers has two or three images, plus some of their personal information and a link to take you direct to the rest of their extraordinarily beautiful work. If you are reading this on Twitter or Facebook, go to   And enjoy!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Show season is upon us.

It's Devon County Show today. 
Part of me wishes I was there, but looking out of the Active Dartmoor office window at the rain lashing down, I think maybe I'm in the right place! 
Two years ago we took the show trailer and a wonderful old VW campervan courtesy of O'Connors Camper Vans in Okehampton and camped at the show for the duration. We were situated in the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association compound by kind permission of Charlotte Faulkner and had a marvelous time promoting all things Dartmoor. The DHPA performed their wonderful musical ride twice a day in the ring directly in front of us, designed to raise awareness of these lovely ponies and show what versatile animals they are. 

That was the year that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police attended the show, they were stabled a mere few yards away from the trailer so we had plenty of opportunity to chat to the riders and get to know their amazing horses a little. The sight of one of their 17.2 hands black horses gently touching noses with one of the Dartmoor Ponies was very moving. The Mounties were fascinated by the Dartmoor Hill Ponies, and the Dartmoor Heritage Ponies, and so impressed by the children's musical ride they invited the entire team into the ring for a photo call! Happy days :-)

But enough reminiscing! We're really looking forward to going to the Dartmoor shows this year with the Active Dartmoor magazine trailer. We will be at Okehampton, Chagford, Lustleigh, Widecombe Fair, and Belstone Village Fair. We love chatting to our readers, getting feedback about the magazine and catching up with the other Dartmoor based trade stands folk. We may well have some very interesting visitors to the trailer this year, all of them with feathers. Some have feathers all over, some have feathers just on their legs, as we are hoping to have birds of prey and the big friendly giants from Adventure Clydesdale spending some time with us on our stand.