By: Blonde Two

Today I am taking a group of Dartmoor newbies out for a little bit of exploration and map work.  They are a nice bunch with next to no Dartmoor awareness.  From previous experience, I can tell you that they will all walk at completely different paces, want to eat their lunch about ten minutes after leaving the minibus and bring mostly unsuitable clothing.  I hope that they will enjoy their day out and that it will inspire them to join in with some more challenging Dartmoor based activities.

I have made a unilateral decision yesterday evening (I am a Blonde down whilst Blonde One is in Africa) to stop worrying about the likelihood of thunderstorms.  I have spent the last few days planning out so many thunder based scenarios in my head that I have started to confuse myself.  Besides which, worrying is usually Blonde One’s job not mine!  Having made this anti-worrying decision, I felt much happier and started to look forward to today’s outing again.

Just out of curiosity and to prove to myself that I was no longer worried, I looked up a few well known Dartmoor thunderstorm related incidents;

A thunderstorm in 1638 saw the villagers of Widecombe huddled in the church for safety.  As bits of masonry were falling from the church at the time, this may have not been the best idea but I am sure that they took comfort from the parson’s words as they huddled there.  Legend has it (and we Blondes have no evidence to the contrary) that the Devil himself had tethered his black horse to one of the church pinnacles, seized a boy who had dared to fall asleep in the church and carelessly ridden away without untethering the horse thus pulling the pinnacle over.  I think that I found an explanation for this carelessness when I found out that the Devil had drunk a flagon of cider at the pub at Poundsgate just before.  Flagons seems to vary in size but can be up to three gallons – I only have to sip cider for my knees to go wobbly so goodness only knows what impact this amount had on the Devil.

July 1983 bought about another thunderstorm that left a story in its wake.  Poor old Cyril Sinclair was going about his job of leat clearing (this would have kept the prison supplied with water) along the Princetown prison leat when he was struck by lightning and fell injured.  A rescue party was sent out when his absence was realised but they were too late, poor Cyril had died.  A flat slab of granite with a cross cut into it was laid in exactly the place that he had fallen.  Sadly, you can’t visit this cross today as it is on private land – this fact, of course, makes me want to see it even more!

It would appear from both of these stories that lightning strikes can happen in the most unpredictable of places.  I will add churches and leats to the long list of things that I might need to avoid today and go and have a nice time with the youngsters!

Thanks to Legendary Dartmoor and the Dartmoor NPA website for information.