By: Blonde Two
It would be easy to walk by the Heath Stone at Fernworthy Forest (SX671 837) without really noticing it. If it wasn’t marked on that wonderful document that is the 1:25000 OS map, I think it would fall quietly back into history. The Heath Stone is Dartmoor stone shaped, not particularly tall and surrounded by gorse and other Dartmoor stones. In addition to this, the writing on it has worn away to such an extent that it is tricky to read.
Some might argue that the disappearing writing is a good thing as it could be described as a work of relatively recent vandalism. The Heath Stone’s existence has been recorded since those perambulation chaps marked out the Dartmoor Forest boundary in1240 but the writing was added in 1979 – the message gives a christian message – “Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life.” Discussions about the stone’s original size and usage abound but it must have been relatively important to have been given and kept a name.
Finding the Heath Stone made me think about how much we would-be explorer types owe to map makers across the centuries. How many of these wonderful Dartmoor treasures would we still be able to find if they weren’t marked so accurately on our maps? How would we know to look after them? Did you know that bracken can cause damage to archeology? As well as obscuring it from view, the rhizomes (underground matted roots) can impact on the strata (posh word meaning layers of rock or soil). Volunteers from the Dartmoor Preservation Society spend some of their time clearing bracken away to protect some of our archeological sites.
There is no greater thrill for a Blonde than seeking out and finding a stone marked on a map. If that sounds weird to you then I recommend that you try it – the only thing better is finding an interesting stone that is not marked on the map – now that takes true Blondeness. Remind me to tell you about the Blonde Stone sometime.
Thanks as ever to Legendary Dartmoor for info – http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/heath_stone.htm