First day in Plymouth, I rose bright and early to run. I ran for about a half an hour…so probably an easy three miles. Running at sea level is wonderful. My blood was super oxygenated. I felt like I was flying. The runner’s high hit me nice and hard as I went up the long hill that Gary and Isa live atop. Plymouth is kind of like Duluth…several long, steep hills topped by a long steep hill. Gary and Isa are almost at the top of one of these hills. I had a choice of turning right and going down the hill on one side, and back up…or turning left and going to the top of the hill and down the other side to the ocean.
I went right, as I didn’t want to run a long distance that day. I just went to the bottom of the hill and back. I met a lot of people on my first run in the West Country. They all smiled and greeted me with variations of “Morning Love” or “Morning me Love” or (more disconcerting) “Morning me lover” (although “lover” came out sounding more like “liver” so you can imagine what that did in my brain). For my part, I stuck to “Morning” or “Good Morning”. Some of them gave me looks that said they thought it was sort of cute I was so stuffy.
I got back in time to make a quick breakfast, and then we piled into the car and drove to Dartmoor. Fortunately, Isa had talked Rocky into buying rain ponchos, because we saw Dartmoor in the rain. Dartmoor is a rugged wilderness where wild ponies roam freely along with herds of sheep which share common forage on the moor. Also, the roads are single lane roads. It's sort of cool, and requires the development of the most polite driving habits I've seen anywhere.
All through Dartmoor, you can find the ruins of ancient hut circles, ancient tin mines, cairns and burial mounds, and other ancient stone structures of ambiguous origin and usefulness.
There is a prison here, called Dartmoor prison. It was originally used as a maximum security facitily to house French prisoners of the Napoleonic wars. It was a maximum security facility because at the time, it was so remote and difficult to access that escape was almost always fatal.
Now, with villages and roads and such, it is not so unlikely that an escaped prisoner could survive…and the facilities are so old that it is only really appropriate for those who are not huge flight risks.
What we saw was fog, and rain flying sideways across the rolling hills. Occasionally, we would see one or another of the famous “Tors” or hills whose tops have been eroded to expose outcroppings of granite.
It is a rugged and beautiful country, no matter what weather you see it in, but it is definitely quite beautiful and striking in the rain and fog.
We also saw and stood upon the banks of the Burrator Reservoir. The reservoir replaced an ancient “leat” (stone-cobbled channels that brought water from the moor into Plymouth. Many of these were built by forced-labor provided by the French prisoners from Dartmoor prison.) as a surce of water for Plymouth.
We were able to cross one of the hand-hewn stone clabber bridges over the river Dart as well. That was quite cool.
If you ever get a chance to spend some time in Dartmoor, there are numerous trail guides and hiking guides that can show you how to cross the moor on foot with relative safety. From what I can see, I would at the minimum recommend very good hiking boots, a thermal blanket and a full rain kit even if you are only going to spend a day there. The elements seem to have a real supernatural flair on Dartmoor.
After Dartmoor, we saw the town of Exeter and the Exeter Cathedral. There were lots of cool and interesting things about it. One remarkable fact was that though Exeter was heavily bombed, the Cathedral remained untouched except for some collateral damage to one outer wall and chapel. The Nazis were careful to leave the cathedral, as it served as a very useful landmark for finding the town.