Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Moors 'n' Doones - the River Dart

Due to the acute onset of country-love..........

What HAS gotten in to me?  Maybe three straight weeks of malingering around the house with a not-quite-the-swine-flu-cough-cough-cough?!  More like quickly becoming a horrendous case of cabin fever and craving-wooly-jumpers-and-muddy-boots, wet-dogs-with-hot-breath, a cutting-wind-that-takes-your-own-breath-away and -------------

Have you ever read Lorna Doone?  Or eaten any of the cookies named after her?  I think Lorna Doone was the first real book I read at about 8 (Otherwise it was all and only Hardy Boys mysteries).   L.D. was a great (to an 8-year-old) romantic novel about a humble farm boy John Ridd who falls in love with beautiful, virtuous and pure Lorna a young lady of mysterious foreign origins who was kidnapped by a band of robbers called the Doones.  And so memorably thrown crossways over a saddle with her purply silks and silky locks and probably a gold medallion on a thick gold chain dangling off the horses haunches!  (I did say romantic!)  But what does this have to do with the River Dart?

Our friend Mary who has only lived  in the most romantic and magical places in her life - Lindisfarne, Shepton Mallet, Wookie-Hole (Yes! I did say that!) but mostly in the South West of England has recently decamped to a place called Poundsgate at Zellions on the River Dart.  I got a little excited when I heard about the move because I remembered Lorna Doone and descriptions of the countryside as being dramatic and violent and dark, congruent with the character of our erstwhile Ridd's struggle to win Lorna's love and see off those very scary Doone boys whose evil malefactions were blighting the Exmoor landscape and slowly but surely doing away with one or the other of John Ridd's family and close associates - - (hmmm sounds familiar, think Mario Puzo read this book - or Dick Cheney?)

AHHHH but you notice I said EXMOOR.  In fact it is the NEXT moor over from DARTMOOR.  And Zellions is situated overlooking the River DART.  So not quite the same moor, but NONETHELESS.  In my mind, and ever the optimist: MOOR = MOOR.  I had to see one.  So last summer we hopped on the train at Paddington Station and wound our way through the chalk hillsides with giant white horses cut into them by ancient cults.  And landed in a green place with dark lowering clouds always threatening to rain (which it did non-stop for two months as soon as we left again) and off we went straight for a wander over the moors.

It started out sunny and bucolic like any sunny day in a country neighborhood.

The fields were tranquil, the sheep were feeding

The wild foxgloves and Queen Anne's Lace were proliferating.

The Brits call it cow parsley, maybe Queen Anne wasn't actually so keen on it.

We reached the summit of this particular moor and it was an empty landscape all around.

There were no cloaked men lurking behind craggy trees, trying to keep their riding gear from rattling in the night.

And no black turbulent bogs with desperate clutching hands reaching out of them at you.

The wild ponies were wandering and clumping. In fact the landscape was quite benign.

The sky was another story.

So we turned right and entered a wood, and once inside, I was reminded of an entirely different book.

Which I'd read at about 14 or 15.  Any guesses?  It involved long ramblings.

And quests. Many obstacles. And a ring. I'm sure you've read it too.

p.s. :  A geographical feature anywhere BUT Southwest England or Yorkshire might just as well be known as a "rather large hill" as opposed to a "MOOR" so maybe I HAD seen one already.  I guess I had to find that out.  And the photos were taken by Mr. Paradis on his I-phone (marvelous contraption) with some tweaking and touching-up by yours truly.

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