Emma Cunis, Dartmoor's Daughter (www.dartmoorsdaughter.co.uk) introduces us to the Dragons of Dartmoor
Dragons are real, at least they are on Dartmoor! There are many tales of dragons on Dartmoor, they are usually friendly but sometimes they can be very fierce and breathe fire if you upset them.
The dragon at Becka Brook near Hound Tor enjoyed making lunch out of the local farmer’s sheep and cattle and lived in the nearby tin mines.
Tin-miners would report seeing ‘dragons breath’, ‘fiery dragons’ (or ‘will-o’-the-wisp’). These were likely a result of the combustion of the naturally produced gases phosphine and methane on marshy ground. Two of the lodes (veins of metal ore) at Eyelsbarrow tin mine near Sheepstor village are recorded on an early 19th century mine plan as ‘North Dragon Lode’ and ’South Dragon Lode’ along with a note that ’a fiery dragon was seen to fall near this place’. Perhaps these fiery vapours did indeed mark the hiding places of concealed treasure (tin, copper, gold) as legend would have us believe.
The dragon at Becka Brook near Hound Tor apparently enjoyed making lunch out of the local farmer’s sheep and cattle and lived in the nearby tin mines. And lone travellers feared to walk too near the dragon’s lair at the O’Brook near Combestone Tor in case they were eaten!
Following the Dragon Legends of Dartmoor
Between Dartmeet and Holne stands the majestic Combestone Tor. Park in the small carpark here (OS grid reference SX670718). It’s an easy stroll up to the tor from here and the surrounding views are stunning - including down to the Dart valley below.
Combestone Tor has several interesting rock basins as well as nooks and crannies to discover and is also a lovely sheltered spot for a picnic.
After your walk why not head to nearby Badger’s Holt at Dartmeet for a traditional Devon Cream Tea by the River Dart!
The walk is about 1.35 miles (2.18km). ‘The’ map of Dartmoor is the Ordnance Survey OL28 so if you are a keen explorer pick up a copy from the Ashburton Information Centre.
From the carpark, stroll South across the road and up the grassy path to Horn’s Cross which marks the intersection of two trans-moor tracks (SX669710). Along the way take the opportunity to explore ruined Bronze Age hut circles and a small prehistoric stone row - all marked on the OS map.
Those with younger families may wish to turn back here, for those with more adventure left in them, continue the walk up South East from the cross to explore the ruins of old tin-mine workings on the edge of Holne Ridge. Then turn North West and walk across the ridge down to Horse Ford on the O’Brook (SX664711).
There is a fairly obvious path along the river bank here which heads north back to the road, and a couple of lovely spots along the O’Brook to paddle and have a picnic. Keep an eye out for the tin workings and building on the opposite river bank.
On reaching the road, it’s a short uphill walk east back to the Combestone Tor car park. Don’t forget to visit the tor while you’re here!
The thick mist suddenly rolling in across the moor, or the ethereal tendrils of mist rising up through the woodland, are called ‘dragon’s breath’.