A Thousand Miles of History V: Into the mists …

I have always loved Dartmoor. It a place so rich in ancient remains that you could spend a lifetime exploring and never reach the end of it. There is a higher concentration of Bronze Age remains here than anywhere else… with over five thousand hut circles, and that’s just for starters! There are so many legends, ghosts and strange tales that the area has inspired writers from Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling. There are peat bogs and weirdly shaped rocky tors, standing stones and haunted tombs. It is a truly mysterious place and you feel as if you have passed into another time and place as your wheels touch its narrow roads. There are a profusion of wildflowers, birds and animals… and it is incredibly beautiful. Every branch of science, from archaeology to zoology must have an interest in the area… no wonder it is protected by National Park status. So, I was as excited as a child as we climbed up to the hills and saw the open road snaking away before us.

“I can see this is going to take a while.” My companion sounded resigned to his fate as we pulled into the third stopping place in a mile. Low clouds were rolling in over the distant hills, enclosing the moor, horizon to horizon, in its own bubble of space and time. The ‘real’ world was receding, and it felt as if we were entering another world of magic and mystery.

“What’s that?” I swung the car into yet another stopping place, and passing between a pair of  guardian watchers, we were out on the moor in a moment. A crudely-carved cross, around five and a half feet tall, as gnarled and twisted as an ancient oak, stood guard beside the road. Bennetts’s Cross is one of a hundred and thirty-two crosses on Dartmoor, some erected only a hundred years or so ago, but many of them a thousand years old. They were boundary markers, guiding waymarkers for travellers or, according to one legend, memorials for murderous monks.

The story goes that there were once four monks, so dissatisfied with the austerity of monastic life, that they were overjoyed when their abbot left to visit Rome. They wanted to celebrate… but celebrations require money and they were vowed to poverty. To line their pockets, they murdered a wealthy traveller, but before they could begin their carousing, they were called out onto the moor. And winter is harsh on the high moors; snow and ice lay on the ground and the wind howled as it froze everything in its path.

The monks were horrified to discover that it was the ghost of the murdered man who had called them out… his presence mesmerised them, and they followed him out onto the moor. The ghost led them to a mire where the ice beneath their feet cracked and they were sucked down into the bog. When the abbot returned, knowing nothing of the murder and mourning the loss of his brothers, he raised crosses to mark safe paths through the moors, so that no other travellers might be lost to the mire.

But Bennett’s Cross may not have been one of them… it is thought to have been carved from a standing stone that would predate Christianity by perhaps thousands of years and, to add fuel to the theory, it stands on a ley, as do so many of the ancient sites. But the age-old relic has a very modern bit of technology at its heart. Like many other ancient monuments in the area, it has a hidden microchip to help prevent its theft.

We returned to the car… there was still a fair drive ahead and the afternoon was drawing to a close. We had barely seen anything of Dartmoor yet… but we were not destined to do so. Just a mile or so later, the mists came down, swallowing first the horizon, and then the road ahead, leaving us crawling at walking pace for miles as we made our way through the heavy veil that was to be our gateway to another world…

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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26 Responses to A Thousand Miles of History V: Into the mists …

  1. jenanita01 says:

    They say you learn something new every day, and I now know this to be true. I have heard of micro chipping your pets, but a stone monument?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: A Thousand Miles of History V: Into the mists … — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo | tabletkitabesi

  3. I enjoyed your travel and description on the moor, Sue. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  4. janmalique says:

    Lovely post. There is something definitely unworldly about Dartmoor.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have become haunted by Dartmoor, and a little obsessed 😉 Wish I had seen more of it and hope to someday. I was actually thinking this morning of blogging about my visit there. Perhaps I shall 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lyn Horner says:

    Fascinating journey through time and place! Thanks for sharing, Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    This is so atmospheric 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: A Reclaimed Forest At the Edge of Dartmoor | Not Tomatoes

  9. Widdershins says:

    Brilliant idea about the microchip … bugger that it needed to be used,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anne Copeland says:

    I so can relate to this area. There have been stories I loved that talked about people going out in the moors, but I don’t know if they were in England or not, It seems like a very atmospheric place. I think I remember reading about Dartmoor before too, but I can’t remember where or when. It just seems like it is rooted in my consciousness. I love the stone crosses and the wonderful beauty of the other stones too. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful adventure.


  11. Reblogged this on silverapplequeen and commented:
    A ancient cross is microchipped! Really! Take a read!


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