Thursday, 5 January 2017

A walk from Zoar Chapel, Horndon

A delightful walk with one of our Thursday groups. The weather was dry and bracing - definitely a day for the thermals - and the sky was clear. It was just on 6 miles and started and ended outside of the old chapel in the hamlet of Horndon, right on the western edge of Dartmoor. It was a mixture of footpaths, tracks, fields, woodland quiet lanes and a leat, nothing much in the way of open moorland but a little of everything else.
Our route (in blue) for the day, starting and ending at SX52203 80248.
Zoar Methodist Chapel and graveyard. Now sadly closed and due to be turned into a holiday let. I'm never quite sure of Dartmoor National Park Authority's stance on buildings like this. Isn't it more important to both preserve the building for historic reasons and give somewhere for someone to live and hopefully contribute to the community? Money isn't everything. One final point of interest on the chapel: apparently the graveyard hosts a very rare Slipper Orchid. Hooray, as this may limit what can be done there.
Just down the road from the chapel is St Raphael's Church, which is now used as a barn. The fact that there were two places of worship in this hamlet attests to the fact that the population was much larger when the mines (Wheal Jewell and Wheal Friendship, for example) were in operation. All gone now, of course. I can't find any information on this church and I'm assuming that it was C & E to counteract the influence of the Methodists.
The lane down to the leat that we followed for about a mile. It's called Blind Man's Lane. The story goes that it was built by a blind man who could wall by touch. Due to the span of his arms being all he could cope with, the walls used to have 6 ft sections visible - literally all he could touch in one span and all he built at one time, before moving on to the next section. I don't care if it's true or not: I believe it.
Just a piece of the mechanism controlling the rise and fall of the water in the leat. It looked rather lonely and unloved.
The salmon leap and weir at Hill Bridge. To the right is the take-off for the leat which runs a few miles to the mines at Peter Tavy. dating from circa 1830 it really is an impressive feat of engineering.
Lots of evidence of tree bark being nibbled off by deers. The teeth marks are quite visible, which is more than can be said about their owners. There are obviously lots of deer around but we rarely see them.
When we dropped off the small segment of moor we walked on, we entered Coffin Wood and then went up an old by-way called Corpse Lane. Why the names? At one time, the parish church for mid and north Dartmoor was at Lydford, about 4 miles north of this point. As the dead had to be buried in the parish church, it meant that some bodies had to be carried many miles across the moor for burial. The route taken was the 'Way of the Dead' or the Lych Way and we had walked part of it. But why was the wood so called? Was this where the wood to make coffins was taken from? Up until Coffin Wood the majority of the journey to Lydford would have involved crossing exposed, open moorland and therefore it would have been difficult to carry a corpse in a wooden coffin. So, it is thought that the body would have been carried, possibly on a pack horse, wrapped in a shroud and when the funeral party reached Coffin Wood they would transfer the deceased into a coffin, hence the name. The remainder of the route to Lydford was across ground that was a lot easier to negotiate with a heavy load such as a body in a coffin.
In the distance on our way back we could see the church on top of Brentor. By the looks of it, the roof repairs have been completed as it is no longer encased in the builder's equivalent of a plastic bag.
I'm always intrigued by lichen: all aspects of it, really. Its shape, its habitat, its colour.
Looking closer than it really is, Kit Hill can be seen to the west with its characteristic column on the top. It was about 15 miles away from this spot. We live just the other side of the lump.
Maidenhair spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes subspecies trichomanes, the subspecies is named according to the rounded, not oblong, pinnae. Other wise it would be plain old Asplenium trichomanes. It's a lime-loving plant and is found in the mortar of old walls, as this one was. 

And by sheer coincidence, my Poem of the Day e-mail today contained on by Jane Hirshfield and the subject was lichens. I think the poet gets lichens in the way I do. I like it and here it is.

For the Lobaria, Usnea, Witches Hair, Map Lichen, Beard Lichen, Ground Lichen, Shield Lichen.

Back then, what did I know?
The names of subway lines, busses.
How long it took to walk 20 blocks.

Uptown and downtown.

Not north, not south, not you.

When I saw you, later, seaweed reefed in the air,
you were grey-green, incomprehensible, old.
What you clung to, hung from: old.

Trees looking half-dead, stones.

Marriage of fungi and algae,
chemists of air,
changers of nitrogen-unusable into nitrogen-usable.

Like those nameless ones
who kept painting, shaping, engraving,
unseen, unread, unremembered.
Not caring if they were no good, if they were past it.

Rock wools, water fans, earth scale, mouse ears, dust,
Transformers unvalued, uncounted.
Cell by cell, word by word, making a world they could live in

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