because we had a spare day, the Mongrel being fired a day early, we went off to Grimspound on Dartmoor on the Friday. luckily the weather was fine and the moor showed us her best face.


Grimspound is the site of one of the bronze age villages on Dartmoor. the name Grim comes from one of the anglo-saxon names for their god of war, Wodin.


it has a huge circular wall running round it


which in some places is 4.5 metres thick and would have been 1.7 high.


with this large gateway facing up hill


and at least 24 circular stone houses within the walls. archaeologists have found that the floors would have been lined with planks, and in the central fireplaces peat was burnt not logs, so the original woodland would already have gone and peat started to form. presumably the presence of so much human habitation indicates that the woodland would have been removed some time before to open up the land for grazing.


the site is spectacular, in the dip between two hills, one with a granite tor and a man-made cairn around the summit


a stream running down the northern edge of the village.


then the climate was milder and although Grimspound looks exposed to us, and it is 450 m above sealevel, it would not have been as tough to live up there as we might think.


the thick walls of these huts indicates a reasonable level of comfort.


from the tor above, what a view. recent finds have given us new insights into bronze age life in the region. quoting from ;

“Around 1700BC there was a major influx of settlers into Dartmoor. There are around 500014 ‘hut circles’ on Dartmoor and it is estimated that the population on the moor would have been around 10,000 at its peak. There was a rapid decrease in woodland cover at this time. The stone circles and many, if not most, of the stone rows would have been constructed long before this period of settlement. These settlers were responsible for the remarkable construction of the widespread and systematic field boundaries known as reaves. Reaves cover vast expanses and were very carefully planned and constructed. In contrast to medieval boundaries, which tend to be higgledy-piggledy patchworks, reaves follow the contours, sometimes for miles, which must have involved a high degree of sophistication and technical skill in surveying and central planning….The mild hospitable climate of the Bronze Age then deteriorated leaving these areas uninhabited and consequently relatively undisturbed to the present day. ”


we climbed up to the tor and had coffee and biscuits!


I couldn’t get a photo of the ubiquitous ponies, but Nic and Sabine’s two dogs will stand in for them, they are nearly as big.


but the ponies were everywhere.


the tor itself is a natural geological landmark, weathered granite, but to the people of the neolithic and the bronze age it may well have seemed that some supernatural agency put them there. they added their own stones, and there are many stone circles and other monuments.


then we proceeded in convoy to Powdermills, the old gunpowder factory where Nic had his first workshop and built his most experimental kilns.


I found  a wonderful dvd in the shop there, How Many People See the Stars As I Do – it’s about Exmoor – but I did feel very inspired by Dartmoor and wanted to take something of that home.

lesser water-parsnip

a new flower to me, lesser water-parsnip, in the ditch at Powdermills.

Now I am thinking that a walking holiday on Dartmoor would be a very good thing