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Travel & Holidays in later life

DARTMOOR, WARHORSE, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND LETTERBOXING

Warhorse, movie, Spielberg ,Michael Morpurgo

 

As the Stephen Spielberg Blockbuster, Warhorse, opens in the UK Travel Editor Hugh Taylor visits Dartmoor where most of the English location shooting took place.



Dartmoor is a dark and fascinating place. Steeped in history and pre-history, it is a favoured haunt for walkers who really do like to get away into remote places.

But it is its influence on and inspiration of the arts and literature that has proved its biggest attraction.

Take a walk on the moors on a sunny day and it’s a pleasurable experience but come again when the sky is dark and overcast, the mist swirling about and it’s almost a different planet. Then it's pure "Hound of the Baskerville" territory and you can imagine Holmes and Watson, trudging through the gloom with the blood-chilling baying of hounds in the background.

Near Hay Tor is Moorland House Hotel where the 26-year-old Agatha Christie retreated to write her first novel, in which Hercule Poirot solved "The Mysterious Affair at Styles". 

 

Needless to say the National Park authorities are ready for the increase in visitor numbers that War Horse will bring them and have organized a series of guided tours of the main locations in the film.

Booking is essential and there is a fee.


Details of guided walks can be obtained through any one of the Park’s Information Centre’s

Or you can do your own thing by using the Ordnance Survey map of the area and selecting the route from War Horse Locations.

War Horse locations - Walking Route - Dartmoor

 

Filming took place near Bonehill Rocks near Widecombe-in-the-Moor, at the villages of Widecombe and Meavy. With the addition of a thatched roof, shutters, lean to wood store and the construction of a cruck framed barn close by the abandoned Grade II listed building called Ditsworthy Warren, near Sheep’s Tor became the Narracott family’s farmhouse. After filming the house was restored to the condition it had been in before. You can’t drive there so it’s Shanks’s pony if you want to see it. Fortunately three bridle paths meet by the house. Bonehill Rocks, Widecombe

Bonehill Rocks © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed
for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

Needless to say the National Park authorities are ready for the increase in visitor numbers that War Horse will bring them and have organized a series of guided tours of the main locations in the film.

Booking is essential and there is a fee.


Details of guided walks can be obtained through any one of the Park’s Information Centre’s

Or you can do your own thing by using the Ordnance Survey map of the area and selecting the route from War Horse Locations.

War Horse locations - Walking Route - Dartmoor

 

Filming took place near Bonehill Rocks near Widecombe-in-the-Moor, at the villages of Widecombe and Meavy. With the addition of a thatched roof, shutters, lean to wood store and the construction of a cruck framed barn close by the abandoned Grade II listed building called Ditsworthy Warren, near Sheep’s Tor became the Narracott family’s farmhouse. After filming the house was restored to the condition it had been in before. You can’t drive there so it’s Shanks’s pony if you want to see it. Fortunately three bridle paths meet by the house. Bonehill Rocks, Widecombe

Bonehill Rocks © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed
for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Ditsworthy Warren Devon

Ditsworthy Warren Devon © Copyright Richard Johns
and licensed for reuse under this
Creative Commons Licence

The village next to the farm in the film is however a considerable distance away in the country of Wiltshire where the village of Castle Combe was pressed into service.

 

There are 600 miles of footpaths in Dartmoor National Park, and free access to 180 square miles of open moorland. 

Dartmoor is also where letterboxing started. Apparently a Dartmoor Guide called James Perrot left a bottle near Cranmere Pool in 1854 where visitors could leave cards addressed to friends or themselves. The next visitor would leave their own card and take away any already there for posting.

 

My first encounter with the hobby was in the late 1970’s when I first read about it on a visit and resolved to try and find the letterbox at Duck’s Pool. Having navigated to near where I thought it was I stopped to have lunch before continuing only to find that there was a plaque on the rock I was sitting on dedicated to the memory of William Crossing who first wrote about letterboxing in his Guide to Dartmoor. Under a rock was a tin box with a stamp and inkpad. I left my postcard in it and took a couple that were there to post. Months later my own card re-appeared.

 

Memorial to William Crossing at Ducks Pool in central southern Dartmoor

Memorial to William Crossing at Duck's Pool in central southern Dartmoor

licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

 

Up to the 1970s letterboxes tended to be well hidden and remote and only on Dartmoor. But interest in the hobby increased and now there are letterboxes in other locations including the United States. A  modern twist on letterboxing is the increasingly popular Geo-caching which uses GPS coordinates to find the location.

 

Check out these alternative West Country destinations

BATH - weekend in Jane Austen territory

CORNWALL - choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

EXETER/EXMOUTH - Tour base for South Devon

ILFRACOMBE & NORTH DEVON - The Heritage coast

LYNTON & LYNMOUTH - Devon's Siamese-twin resorts

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

SOMERSET - Choosing a farm cottage for a walking holiday

 


Books to read - click on the links below

The Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall  - Robert Andrews - Packed with accommodation recommendations, especially in the lower-cost sector.

South Devon and Dartmoor Walks  - Brian Conduit - Explores the hills and valleys of South Devon.

Dartmoor (Jarrold Short Walks Guides) - A rival guide for walkers, concentrating entirely on Dartmoor.

Dartmoor (Explorer Maps) - The ideal map to follow, especially for walkers, published by the Ordnance Survey.

 

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