By: Blonde Two

You Blondees and Blondettes must know a lot about me by now, in fact, I think that I am beginning to lose track of what I have and haven’t told you. I am pretty sure though, that you don’t know that one of the things that I really enjoy (and sometimes indulge in) is the loud singing of hymns.

I am not particularly religious but grew up going to church, have a Mum with a beautiful (and powerful) voice and went to a school that won prizes (lots of prizes) for its hymn singing. Blonde One will know that I tend to resort to hymn singing when I am scared – particularly when out in the dark. In my kayaking days, I used to paddle down the Lower Dart rapids giving loud renditions of “Oh God Our Help in Ages Past” – the advantage of a rapid, of course is that no-one can hear you over all of that splashy noisiness. When I went to do my (second attempt) night navigation assessment, I was thrilled when “Guide Me oh Thou Great Redeemer” came on the radio. It was a particularly appropriate choice and singing along very loudly helped to calm my nerves. That one is also a minibus favourite should I find myself in the right bus with the right Welshman – so far, the kids have been very patient with us!

As I sat on my bed last night and watched the light disappear (far too early) from the sky over Dartmoor, I remembered another of my old favourites. I like to clunk this one out on the piano but have never quite mastered singing and playing at the same time. “Abide With Me” is a sad one but also comforting and is especially good because it was written just around the water in Brixham.

The whole hymn thing got me to thinking that Dartmoor must have inspired a hymn or too. I know that “Morning Has Broken” has echoed around our 5 a.m. campsites a few times along with jokes about it being broken because it started far to early. So I did a bit of good old internet research and found the following information;

“Onward Christian Soldiers” (the words) was written by Sabine Baring-Gould (now that is a name to be proud of) in 1865. Baring-Gould spent a lifetime on Dartmoor and was party to the organisation of the first archeological excavations of the hut circles at Grimspound in 1893. He wrote a book called “A Book of Dartmoor” which I must get hold of.

A choir from Okehampton was called up to Meldon Pool in 1936 to sing. Someone had drowned in the pool and the body had not been found. This singing was part of a tradition that suggested that it was possible to sing a body and its soul to the surface with sacred words. This particular body did come up a few days later but this is the last recorded occurrence of this tradition on Dartmoor. I must remember to avoid hymn singing next time I am near Crazywell Pool – goodness only knows who is down there! Thanks to www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk for that one.