Christmas tree

View from there top of Haytor in December. Photo by Richard Foley. All right reserved (www.owlingabout.co.uk).At the weekend we headed off to the moors. The distinctive characteristics of each of the national parks in the UK is always a matter of fascination to me. From the rugged austerity of the Cairngorms to the rolling greenery of the Peaks, they are all so different. Dartmoor’s character seems to me to be one of impish quirkiness and it can be no accident that the landscape is littered with associated fairytales and folktales. Just out of sight there will be a pixie troupe dancing about a fire and mysterious elvish laughter echoes around every rock. For any of you who have never been, one of the topographical features that shapes Dartmoor’s quirkiness is the tors. ‘Tor’ is an old celtic word meaning ‘hill’ and they consist of bizarre outcrops of rock balanced precariously at the summit of many of the high points on Dartmoor. They look as if a resident giant is about to have a game of skittles. On Saturday we climbed to the top of one of the most accessible, Haytor.

As well as its fairytales Dartmoor is also renown for its weather, which is hugely changeable and prone to mysterious fogs that take travellers unawares. Saturday was no exception and as we stepped out of the car we had to hold onto our hats because the wind was wild. Nevertheless, as you can see from Big Dreamer’s photo, it was well worth the climb. Later on the wind died away and the fog began to descend. We followed signs to a nearby village where twinkling Christmas lights shone out from the village hall. Outside they were roasting chestnuts and inside there was a fabulously festive Christmas market, packed to the rafters with local foods and crafts. For the first time this year I felt really Christmassy. On our way home we bought a Christmas tree from one of the national park vans. Fuelled by mince pies and Christmas tunes we soon had the tree up and so far Finch seems to be paying it little attention. Just how long can that last?!

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