Motorhome Travel: Dartmoor
Dartmoor isn’t all about moors and tors, but it offers a great destination
At the heart of Devon is the Dartmoor National Park, with its characteristic moorland and distinctive granite tors. These moors are wild, rugged places supporting a wide range of wildlife in some of the most beautiful environments in Britain. Around its fringes are a greater range of habitats.
We started our visit near Tavistock and a local nature reserve called Lopwell Dam. Some of the reserve’s highlights include otter, kingfisher and roe deer, all possible throughout the year. In summer there are many butterflies, including the silver-washed fritillary. Spring flowers include dog’s mercury, lesser celandine, dog violet, primrose, wood sorrel and wood anemone. In July, twayblade is a special flower found here.
Near Lopwell is the National Trust property of Buckland Abbey. Once a Cistercian monastery, it was transformed into a family home in the 1570s by Sir Richard Grenville, who passed it on to his cousin, Sir Francis Drake. Following woodland trails around the estate, we heard chiffchaffs, blackcaps and song thrushes.
The wet weather set in but I had an idea up my sleeve; rain at Lydford Gorge makes the river more dramatic and the low contrast light of a dull day is better for photography in a deep valley. The walk around the gorge is about three miles. The Devil’s Cauldron is a wonderful example of the shapes created when a river cuts through rock. The beautifully carved, spherical whirlpools are a feature of this dramatic gorge and viewing platforms allow for close inspection.
Since the skies were opening sufficiently to let some sun through, late in the afternoon I persuaded Sarah to let me drive to Brent Tor for an evening of landscape photography. I was greeted by a male kestrel hovering over the tor, but this visit was all about capturing the light on this amazing tor-top chapel. The view of Dartmoor from here is exceptional.
Our last full day was spent visiting a few popular haunts including Haytor and Bovey Tracey. Between the two is Yarner Wood National Nature Reserve. This is probably the best place in the southwest to see pied flycatchers during summer. But our highlight was a lesser spotted woodpecker.
Not far to the west of Okehampton, and on our way home to Cornwall, there is a great place for budding wildlife photographers. The Westcountry Wildlife Photography Centre is managed by Derek Gow. Derek breeds water voles for reintroduction and keeps a wide range of native British mammals and some other species at his farm. He’s created walk-in enclosures where you can photograph many animals such as the otter, wildcat, fox and muntjac deer at close quarters. Although this isn’t ‘wild’ life photography, it does provide photographers with a fairly unique opportunity to get fantastic photos of some quite difficult to see species of mammal.
This is an extract from a longer article in August 2014 MMM magazine. To order your copy, click here
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