Monday, 6 February 2012
Wistman's Wood is a prehistoric copse of stunted penduculate oak trees in the centre of Dartmoor. It's an isolated throwback from a past landscape, the ancient trees are distortions, creeping out between a terrain of mossy granite boulders resembling miniature barrows, perhaps the resting places for the hellhounds of the Wild Hunt who legend has it reside here. Rotting leaves, curtains of lichen and gnarly branches make for a completely intriguing ambience. Wistman's Wood either derives its name from the druids (or wise men) who may have originally planted its acorns or from the Devon dialect term for haunted and uncanny, "wisht", and in fact its pack of eerie canine persuers are also known as wish-hounds.
If you'd like to visit Wistman's Wood, set off from the layby of the disused quarry opposite the hotel at Two Bridges, follow the footpath past the farm, then take to the crumbling stone steps until they degrade into moorland. Follow the West Dart river along the valley for 20 minutes and you'll soon see the other-worldly dwarfed woodland cowering on the slopes of the east bank.