By: Blonde Two

“Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe …”

How true if you are lucky enough live in Devon and how noticeable after a couple of days in London’s traffic and cigarette haze.  Here in South Devon, our air either drives straight in from the sea or falls onto us from Dartmoor.  Either way, it is sweeter than a sweet thing in sweet land after a trip away.  As my train pulled into Newton Abbot yesterday evening, the door window was slightly open and I could smell it – soft, damp Devon air.

Yesterday the Devon air smelt of raindrops but it is not always the same, you can occasionally get a whiff of Dartmoor if you concentrate but more often, you can smell the ozone and the sea.  Sometimes, if it is misty, it feels and smells as though the sea has risen into the air and is all around you.  Having grown up just about as far from the coast as is possible in the UK, I will never tire of this.

Devon air must have a monetary value because I have just found out that there was, for a short while, a bag of it available to buy on ebay.  Branscombe air to be precise (I must take you there sometime, there are some lovely cliff walks).  What is more, someone must have bought it because it is “no longer available”.

On pondering why Devon air is so particularly satisfying, I found out a bit about pollutants.  Did you know for example that the main emitted pollutants are sulphur dioxide (power stations), nitrogen dioxide (minibuses) and ammonia (cows).  Devon has lots of cows and not very many power stations so maybe our mix is different to everyone else’s.  This starter’s guide will probably give you a more accurate summary of the situation http://www.apis.ac.uk/starters-guide-air-pollution.

There is an outdoor laboratory at Yarner Woods on East Dartmoor (lovely spot but easy to get lost in if you are me).  One of the things that they measure is woodland and heathland air quality.  I tried very hard to interpret the Natural England data for you but all I know is that there were lots of numbers and that Yarner Woods always smells really nice and “woody”.  They are looking for volunteers to help them to develop the data and make it more useable so if you love fresh air and you love data (someone has to) then take a look http://bit.ly/Z464Xy.

The best smell in the whole world is not a puppy’s ears, fresh coffee or even bacon after a cold night in a tent.  The best smell in the world is Dartmoor.  It is peaty, boggy and completely unique.  It smells most fragrant in the moment of sunshine that comes after a rain shower and is a cure for a host of ills.  The smell that is Dartmoor can linger in your rucksack, sleeping bag and tent and I have been known to go and secretly sniff these when I have been away from the moors for too long.  If you have never tried it then you must … once you have, you will soon be back for more (moor).