June 1st 2015

Have you ever come across a piskie? Moorland folk in the west of England still sometimes refer to the 'little folk' and gift shops abound with lucky souvenirs of these mischievous, mythical people. Our Dartmoor to Exmoor Walk is prime piskie territory. These two tracts of ancient land form some of England’s last true wilderness areas. Dartmoor is almost 400 square miles of brooding, gorse-clad moors, bogs and hills capped by weird granite 'tors'. Just this month one of the moor’s stone circles, or henges, has been discovered to be even older than Stonehenge and formed part of a "sacred arc" of stone circles around Dartmoor's north-eastern edge. There are remains of mines and quarries, ruined castles, medieval abbeys, ancient churches and bridges. Dartmouth castle No wonder Sir Arthur Conan Doyle placed The Hound of the Baskervilles here, where the untamed landscape itself is like a character in a gothic novel. On Dartmoor the bog cotton plant was once known as Piskie Grass. It was to these bogs and mires that the piskies would lure unsuspecting travellers by engulfing them in a thick mist. Hence getting lost is known in these parts as being 'piskie led'. To avoid this, locals say, wear your coat inside out, your hat back to front, or turn your pockets inside out – or, of course, hike with The Wayfarers! Exmoor is a diverse area of forested glens and open moorland, opening out to wide, breathtaking views along the Bristol Channel with steep cliffs and hidden coves. To protect the moors, both were designated national parks in the 1950s. The wildlife of Exmoor includes red deer ranging the moorland, rare butterflies, seabirds and kingfishers. Dartmoor, in its isolation, provides a home to species little seen elsewhere, from skylarks, plovers, dunlins and dragonflies, to barbastelle bats and bog orchids. And both moors are home to their particular, tough little native wild horses. Exmoor ponies (Equus caballus) on Porlock Common, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England Such is the isolation of Exmoor that its rugged ponies, now on the 'endangered' list have developed very little from their Stone Age ancestors. The Dartmoors, now semi-feral, were used as pack animals in the tin mines and quarries of the area. The legendary Devon cream tea now has its own trail – The Dartmoor Cream Tea Challenge. It’s a 68-mile trek stopping off at 16 cafes where traditional scones, jam and thick, 'clotted' cream await, to be washed down with a cuppa – at a mere 10,000 calories! Our Dartmoor to Exmoor Walk heads across country from Dartmouth to Exford, stopping off at England’s newest castle, Drogo, following the course of rivers and taking in the pretty towns and villages of the moors. Head to our website to see all the details.

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