By: Blonde Two
Dartmoor can be a confusing place to find your way around. Some claim that it is harder to navigate here than in more mountainous regions. I haven’t made enough comparisons yet to form an opinion on that but I do know that it takes practice to stay good at it.
One of the issues that the Two Blondes come across time and time again is Dartmoor walls. Walls should and can be, an excellent navigation tool but novice Dartmoor navigator beware!
On my rather worn (hole over South Hessary Tor) map, a wall/boundary is marked as a simple black line. You can probably imagine a Dartmoor wall in your head; grey granite, dry stone, wet moss etc. and many of them do look exactly like this. Some run long distances taking in several hills and others are round enclosures fencing in areas of common land or “newtakes” for individual farmers; these are recorded as far back as 1608. Some walls are of course, even older than that and date back 3500 years or more; these “reaves” enclosed rectangular field systems.
So, as you can imagine, not one of the little darlings looks the same. Some are high, some are see-through, some are hidden, a few are actually fences, some just don’t exist any more and a few (South Hessary Tor again) are in the wrong place. This makes for some tricky navigation situations, especially when you are teaching youngsters or out at night.
Tricky navigation, however, builds competent navigators and the answer is not to rely too much on the man made features around you (said by a Blonde who has made that mistake many times). Use our Dartmoor walls by all means but open your eyes wider and look at the hills, tors and water courses – they have probably been there even longer than the walls.