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!