The ghosts of Dartmoor

Beware disembodied hands, a blind highwayman and bloodthirsty hounds of hell on the wilds Dartmoor in this dark and dastardly week. Mark Blackmore is your guide...

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freeimages.com

Dartmoor is a national park in south Devon, 954 square km of moorland studded with granite tors. It’s an ancient place, long inhabited by hardy souls, and you can still find stone circles, the remains of Bronze Age settlements, among its hills and valleys. Little surprise then that a land with such a rich history, of such isolated splendour, should be absolutely seething with ghosts. Totally infested, it is. One time the Blair Witch visited for a holiday but left early because the place was freaking her out.

Let’s take a tour. It’s safe as long as you take Ernest’s hand, but whatever you do, don’t let go.

We’ll start with one of Ernest’s favourites, over at Postbridge on the B3212. Here, drivers of carriages, cars and motorcycles report their vehicles being forced off the road by the ‘Hairy Hands’, disembodied hands that grab the wheel (or handlebars or reins). The Hairy Hands often remain invisible, a sign of their supreme cunning.

Now let’s stop by the picturesque village of Chagford. The Three Crowns Hotel offers polite hospitality, a great restaurant and the ghost of Sydney Godolphin, a Cornish Member of Parliament who died on the front porch after being shot in the thigh with a musket during the Civil War. Most of the rooms at the Three Crowns have had a visitation or two, but then it is a very nice place.

Over to Beetor Cross, and there’s the highwayman who stands watching the road. Give him a wave and pretend you haven’t noticed the empty eye sockets. We won’t dally at Bradford Pool, because that soft voice calling your name won’t stop until you have drowned. And we’ll keep going past Cadover Bridge, because those sounds are from a battle between the forces of Cromwell and Charles I. Yes, those are the screams of the dying. It’s not very nice, to be honest.

Now, here we are at Chaw Gully. There’s treasure in the pit here, but see that raven? He’ll call to the guardian, should you try to reach it. No, you don’t want to meet the guardian. We’ll head over to Clasiwell, where at night a disembodied voice can be heard giving the name of the next local to die.

Watch your step

Slightly less depressing, though more dangerous, is Dewerstone Woods. Here, should you be caught alone at night, a huntsman will chase you to the highest peak, and when you fall, the hellhounds will be waiting for you. It’s not the nicest way to go, no.

Let’s zip by New Bridge – see the fairies who still live there? You can also catch them at Sheeps Tor – and go straight on to Dartmoor Prison. The jackdaws here contain the souls of dead staff, which I’d wager wasn’t in their original employment contracts.

Widecombe-in-the-Moor is one of the prettiest villages on the moor, though it wasn’t really the place to be the day the Devil visited. A man named Jan Reynolds had sold his soul for seven years of good luck, but when it came time to pay he took shelter in the village church. The Devil struck the church with lightning, and Jan and three others died in the fire.

Ignore Gibbet Hill – that’s the ghost of a murderer, ineptly hung, who eventually died of thirst. He’s begging for someone to kill him. More interesting is the stone circle at Lustleigh Cleave, where you can sometimes see the ancient inhabitants still going about their daily lives.

Pretty much anywhere on Dartmoor, of course, you could run into the black hound. This legend is the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and the most likely way you’ll see the hound nowadays is under the control of one Richard Cabell, who likes to hunt children with his devil dog. Perhaps best then to keep a child handy, just in case the situation should arise.

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Mark Blackmore has written for many diverse publications including Men’s HealthBBC HistoryCountryfileFocus, The World of Cross Stitching and Sabotage Times. He recently published The Wager, a novel about a bet between God and Lucifer.

You can read more of Mark's dark tales in iPad issue 4, on sale now.

The Crossing of Antarctica

One hundred years after Sir Ernest Shackleton set out on his ill-fated attempt to cross Antarctica, this book celebrates the expedition that succeeded where he failed. Thom Hunt of 7th Rise and Channel 4's Three Hungry Boys shares his thoughts on The Crossing of Antarctica

Fierce winter winds carved a gully behind the hut at Shackleton © The George Lowe Collection

Fierce winter winds carved a gully behind the hut at Shackleton © The George Lowe Collection

In a world saturated by health and safety regulations, hedging your bets and insurance for every possible scenario, this book smashes through wary modern thinking like a freight train on its way to unexplored corners of the world.

The Cross of Antarctica tells the story of the 1957-58 expedition led by Vivian ‘Bunny’ Fuchs – an epic journey that fulfilled Shackleton’s dream and became one of the 20th century’s triumphs of exploration, a powerful expression of human willpower. 

The book comes from a time when men were men, with beards and dexterity; men who could fix almost anything and would laugh in the face of a blizzard. The photography – sourced from the private archives of Everest veteran George Lowe as well as items from the Fuchs' family collection – is mind blowing and the words and interviews a mixture of poetry, philosophy and downright bluntness. And why wouldn't they be? These chaps had been there, done that and gone back for more. 

I, for one, am thankful that these stories and photos have been discovered and published but I guess the last real test is this: if we read such tales of courage and determination then we close the pages only to remain stagnant, I believe we are doing a disservice not only to ourselves but also to these great men of adventure. Greatness is not reserved for the few enlightened ones, it is available for each and any of us who commit to advancing towards the unknown. This book taught me, just when I needed it, that the extraordinary is but a decision away.

If life is as adventurous as you want it to be then it ain't broke, so don't fix it. But if thoughts lurk in your mind of a life less ordinary, buy this book, read it,  then see how far the rabbit hole goes.

Star rating: 5/5

Reconnaissance foray on the Skelton Glacier, 1957 © The George Lowe Collection

Reconnaissance foray on the Skelton Glacier, 1957 © The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

George Lowe taking a portrait of a penguin  © Jon Stephenson

George Lowe taking a portrait of a penguin  © Jon Stephenson

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

Vivian ‘Bunny’ Fuchs’ Sno-Cat Rock’n’Roll becomes jammed nose first in the far wall of a deep crevasse © The George Lowe Collection

Vivian ‘Bunny’ Fuchs’ Sno-Cat Rock’n’Roll becomes jammed nose first in the far wall of a deep crevasse © The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

© The George Lowe Collection

The Crossing of Antarctica: Original Photographs from the Epic Journey that Fulfilled Shackleton's Dream by George Lowe and Huw Lewis-Jones is published by Thames & Hudson at £24.95.

Reviewer and adventurer Thom Hunt runs bushcraft and wild cookery courses with 7th Rise and is one of the Three Hungry Boys on Channel 4.

Stoney Bay Chowder

What does one eat in the Antarctic? In our fourth digital issue Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine their share culinary experiences, provisions lists and Victorian explorer menus from their fascinating book The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, including this recipe for a warming seafood chowder

Photo: Sandy Nicholson, Recipe: Wendy Trusler

Photo: Sandy Nicholson, Recipe: Wendy Trusler

In 1996, Carol Devine and Wendy Trusler led volunteer groups for The Joint Russian-Canadian Ecological Project at Bellinghausen station on the Antarctic peninsula. People from five countries paid to pick up 28 years of rubbish during their holiday on a continent uniquely devoted to peace and science. The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning is a journey through that austral summer. It is also a look at the challenges of cooking in a makeshift kitchen.

The book unfolds in the style of Antarctic publications such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s handmade Aurora Australis, through provision lists, menu plans, journals and letters. 

Whenever the volunteers' Russian neighbours’ catch was particularly bountiful Wendy, the site cook, made this chowder. 

Ingredients

225g/8oz slab bacon 
2 onions
1 celery stalk
6 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 ears of corn (about 3 cups corn kernels)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf 900g/310oz cod fillet, (or some other white fish)
1.5 litres water    
350ml whipping cream    
freshly ground pepper

Method

Finely chop the onions, dice the celery and potatoes and remove corn kernels from the cob. Dice the bacon then cook it in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over a medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned at the edges.This should take about two minutes.Add the onions and celery to the pot and cook over a low heat until soft, for about five minutes.

Melt the butter and stir in the thyme and salt.When the herbs have warmed thoroughly, mix in the potatoes and cook until they are slightly softened. Stir in the corn and let it cook for a minute or two then bring up the heat, add the bay leaf and pour in the water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Cut the fish into good-sized chunks and add to the pot once the potatoes are tender. Gently cook the fish until it pulls apart easily, which should take five minutes. Stir in the cream and cook just long enough to bring everything up to heat.Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Note: We strongly encourage using sustainable seafood for this recipe. The Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection, signed in 1991 and entered into force in 1998, prohibits disrupting wildlife. While the kind of small-scale fishing some of us partook in was not yet a breach in 1996, we are aware it was a grey zone and in hindsight are uncomfortable with this.

You can discover more of Carol and Wendy's recipes and experiences on the Antarctic peninsula in iPad issue four, available to download now. Or buy a copy of the book for more recipes.

Inspire a two-wheeled adventure

Are you currently moulded to your sofa as one entity, iPhone in hand, Sugar Puffs welded to your backside? One of these awesome cycle prints on your wall will have you leaping about in your padded lycra shorts in seconds

'Chop 'til you drop' print, £25

For the Chopper geek in your life, this fun silk screen print is illustrated by Harriet Seed on white A3 paper. This is a limited edition of 35 and each one is signed and numbered by the artist.

 

Bike Sis print, £12

Bike Sis is the coolest bike chick we know, illustrated by Ruby Taylor. Print is A4 size - it will be available in A3 soon. Godspeed also sell matching greeting cards.

 

Mountain Climb print, £20

Ain't no mountain high enough. This inspiring print by Sam Brewster is perfect for the ambitious cyclist and will get even the most cushion-enveloped sofa dweller in the mood for a two-wheeled adventure. Printed in the UK.

 

Velo print, £20

We love the tiny heads in Joe Waldron's illustrations. This A3 VELO print is produced exclusively for Godspeed.

 

We chose this selection of prints from our Directory member Godspeed, an online store that aims to cater for the style conscious bicycle lover.  

A woodcutter's cabin

In our fourth digital issue, we asked printmaker Robin Mackenzie to create a map of a travelling craftsperson's journey building a boat along the River Ouse in East Sussex. Robin tells us more about his unique method of illustrating, his grandmother's old cabin and his inspirational banjo...

Illustration: Robin Mackenzie

Illustration: Robin Mackenzie

Tell us about your unique method of illustrating. What's your process?

The process always begins with the story. I read through the piece, whether it be a song, poem, editorial piece, and sketch out little thumbnails while I'm reading. Certain parts of a narrative have greater visual potential than others so I focus on these and develop the thumbnails further into a series of rough sketches.  

Then I choose my favourite and draw it out in pencil on to a wooden block. Some printmakers trace their drawing onto the block but I prefer to draw it on freehand from my sketch – I think tracing can look a bit laboured and lose the freshness of the original sketch. I then go over the pencil with a permanent marker so I can then darken the block with a thin layer of writing ink. I do this so that when I am engraving I can see the balance of contrast more clearly as any cuts I make will show the white wood under the dark surface.

Once the block is darkened, I begin engraving.  This is my favourite part of the process as I love the sound of the tools cutting through the wood and seeing my design take shape on the block. 

When I think I have finished the design I take a proof print (sometimes I then need to make minor adjustments to the contrast and forms) and then when I'm totally happy I print the edition.

Why do you love illustrating with wood engravings?

I love that it allows me to work with my hands and forces me to commit to design decisions. There is no undo button and if I make a mistake I have to start again. 

Tell us about your workshop. 

It's a beautiful garden cabin that my grandmother used to work in – she was a stencil artist and lino cutter so it is wonderful to work in the same space she did. The walls are covered with mementos and objects she collected so I am surrounded by inspiration for my work. It is a lovely space to sit and ponder ideas for prints – quite often I'm tinkling on the banjo while doing so!  

What's your favourite snack to fuel an afternoon's illustrating?

Definitely a flat white coffee and a piece of fruit cake.  I really need to cut down on the coffee – don't buy an espresso machine.

What's on your bedside table?

My alarm clock, which endeavours to get me up on time everyday and my current favourite read The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

Robin is a printmaker and illustrator specialising in linocuts and wood engraving. His work is inspired by all things folk, in particular the traditional music of the Appalachian mountains.

You can see his beautiful illustrations in our Journeywoman feature in iPad issue 4, available to download now.