End of Summer/Rain Hammering

Sometimes you don’t need a weather forecast or idle piece of conversation to know that the weather is taking a turn for the worst.

After years of living here in Dartmoor, I can sense when a storm is brewing, I can feel the rain clouds forming before they appear and I swear I could predict the change in direction of the wind. I’m not trying to claim that I’m some kind of soothsayer or a particularly canny meteorologist – it’s just a skill that I’ve built up over the years. 

I felt one of these changes last weekend. In the morning the moor was shining and I was considering how best to go about my daily chores. The skies were a clear blue, but there was a charge in the air, some kind of static vibration that made me instinctively reach for my rain coat, even though I could literally see the night’s dew evaporating in the morning sun. I don’t look at weather forecasts out here anymore, I just feel my way through each day in this manner, it works out well for the most part.

Of course, if I had looked at the forecast, I would have seen that several states of America were struggling to cope with one of the biggest weather events that the country has had to deal with for decades. If I’d tuned into the news, I would have seen reporters slipping around in the adverse conditions, people evacuating their homes and a warning that this weather system would have ramifications for us here in the UK.

The first spots of rain dashed against my cheek as I was bringing firewood back to the Mine House. I quickened my pace to a jog and pulled my raincoat over the stack of wood in my arms. By the time I reached home, the spots had turned into large fat drops which were being whipped up into a frenzy by the quickening wind. With a struggle, I managed to close the door behind me and was greeted by utter chaos in the Mine House.

A window had been left open in the kitchen, giving the strong gusts of wind free reign to wreak havoc throughout the House. Papers were scattered everywhere, a mug had smashed on the floor along with a vase that I’d picked up at a car boot last weekend. The destruction was minimal, admittedly; the real shock was the drop in temperature. Whilst the morning had been hot and balmy, the air filled with smells of Summer, now a cold wind had blown in with the rain making the Mine House feel like a desolate wreck.

I set about sorting out the place; closing the window and checking around the House for any further damage. Satisfied with my work, I lit a fire in the hearth and nursed a cup of tea. The dulcet tones of a well-spoken woman informed me of the devastation that had been left in Florida and I felt silly for overreacting to my minor incident.

That night I fell asleep to the sounds of gale force winds and more rain battering the Old Mine House, Summer had well and truly ended. Thank God I saw it coming.

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The Sky’s Dark And I Think Of The Ponies

On nights like these, I think of the Ponies.

dramaticInside my glass prism here in Dartmoor, I am safe, dry and protected from the elements that batter and berate the thick double-glazing surrounding me.

Usually the summer evening are fine down here. The western sun glides smoothly behind the distant tors and the night sky is coloured with myriad pastels that irradiate the night sky, like slow motion fireworks drifting through time.

But not tonight. Tonight heavy thunderclouds hang over us here, threatening to unload their heaving loads of moisture upon the land, turning the peaceful, idyllic moorland into a roiling panic of mud and wind.

sleeping-carThanks to my grand conservatory here, I can witness what appears to be the end-times occur from the comfort of my armchair. This is the feeling that I had dreamt of before commissioning the conservatory.

My house here is of a modest size, but the old school design of it means that its been built with heat conversation in mind, not window space. As a result, the 18th Century cottage does a great job of retaining the heat created by the Wood Burner – but I have no way to appreciate the ferocity of the outside conditions. What I desired was a place where I could experience that feeling of being protected from within a storm – like I was the very eye of the needle itself.

That feeling of complete serenity is something that I have been chasing for a long time. My earliest memory of it is from when I wasa child. 8 years old, I remember visiting the Zoo, the thrill of seeing such exotic animals in the flesh had all but exhausted my little frame. On the long car journey back, I remember resting my cheek against the warm black seatbelt and allowing the pitter patter of warm rain drops hitting the car window to send me off to sleep. The murmur of my parents’ conversation and the background hubbub of the radio provided the landscape for my dreams – sending me off to the most peaceful sleep that I can remember.

I’m sure I’d be just as exhausted by a trip to the Zoo today, as I was all those years ago. In recent years, I’ve been searching for that familiar feeling of absolute sleep and ease – although it’s relatively easy to set up the physical parameters of the situations – it’s the psychological conditions that are harder to emulate. At that age, I was completely at ease in my parents’ presence (unaware of their imminent divorce in 6 months time) and comfortable with being cared for, content in that strange subservient relationship that exists between child and parent.

Deep thought, meditation and the hammering of a storm against the transparent walls of my glass fortress here is what I need.

Still, as I sink into my armchair, focusing on the light streaming through the window, the warmth of the nylon seat belt against my cheek, the soft murmuring of my parents’ talking – one thought interrupts my concentration.dartmoor-painting

Ponies. On nights like these, I think of the ponies.

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Viewing The Moors

One of the main reasons we moved to the moors in the first place was because of the views. These views you wouldn’t believe. These views are some of the best in the world. It’s just such a beautiful place and we are surrounded by that beauty every day. To the North? Beautiful, stunning, breath taking views. To the east? Magical, life changing, mind boggling views. To the south? Nothing. Naaaaaaaa just kidding: We have some world changing awe-inspiring views down there to the south it’s really wonderful. And the west? Well, don’t even get me started on the west. I think I’d like to die looking out westward facing from our house, as it is the single most incredible site any human has ever witnessed. Heaven will be underwhelming after a death like that.


People often ask me: ‘Hey there! Sir! You there in the hat! Yes you I’m talking to you! What’s the best type of house to live in on the moors’. Well surprising loud person, some people would say that it is a caravan as you could pick yourself up and move around any time you want and you’re never limited only to one part of the place. And that is a pretty great idea. Other people say the best kind of house to live in on the moors would be a huge luxurious mansion, as the best type of house to live in anywhere would be a huge luxurious mansion and if you didn’t like it you could just sell it and be rich. Which is also true, though perhaps not in the spirit of the question.


Well I don’t know, but I can tell you this: My favourite part of my house is the conservatory. We recently got our conservatory roof replaced which means that we can now see even more of the great outdoors and I’ve been spending a lot of time in there because of it. Getting the planning approved was a little tricky though!When your main asset is your views you want to be seeing those views as often as you possibly can. That’s the mission. So the best type of house to live in on the moors? I guess just a bloody big conservatory! A bloody glass house! A cave of windows! What do you think?!

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So off I go!

It’s time to head to the international Moor’s conference!

There are moors all over the world of various different types, sizes and shapes and once every few years various people interested in preserving these important and fascinating areas of the world get together to discuss how that can be achieved.

I’ve got it all sorted! I’ve sorted parking for Heathrow Airport and my tickets to a far, far away land (the location of which I have been asked not to disclose for a reason I don’t quite understand if I’m quite honest, but there we go) and I’ve packed my bags. So it’s all about to go off!

See, here is the thing: I’m not particularly madly keen about flying, When I get on a plane and the whole thing starts vibrating around you and you know that shortly you’re going to be thrown up into that sky and then once you are up there, you are so very much up there. You will be in a box in the sky that holds you inside it and stops you from plummeting to the ground in a ball of fire. Yes. ‘Plummeting to the ground in a ball of fire’ that’s basically the thing about flying that scares me if I’m honest yeah, yeah that sounds about right. Yeah I’m pretty sure it’s the whole ‘plummeting to the ground in a ball of fire’ thing. It’s a scary thought I would say. A very, really, rather, very, pretty scary thought.

Yeah, that doesn’t seem irrational to me at all…


It actually really seems quite rational to be scared of flying, because flying can kill you. I mean yeah, there are other things that could kill you more that we don’t fear. But I would say that that doesn’t make my fear irrational, it makes your lack of fear of other things irrational!

Fear people! Fear flying! Fear driving! Fear parking! There is a lot to fear!

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Relighting Old Flames

When you first enter an old building that has lay ruined and broken for a long time you get a wonderful if eerie sense of adventure and discovery.


You feel like you’re stepping where no one has stepped before.

No one but ghosts. You feel both close to humanity and far away. An old abandoned building holds very recognisable traces of human activity, you can see where and how people moved and operated in this space and as you do you start seeing them and feeling them. You start conjuring them up around you, hearing them and seeing them as you do, when I’m in moments like this I feel very special, like I have a privileged view on something, like I’m the only living person with tickets to the most wonderful show on earth.

When we first got into the Old Mine House the first thing that struck us was the ovens. It had these huge ovens, just mind blowingly big ovens, it turned out the place had been temporarily used as a bakery in the late 70s. There was still flour stains on the floor and everything. So one of the first things we decided we would do, when we moved into the place, was to get those ovens going again! We got in touch with Ovenu (‘The UK’s favourite oven cleaning service‘ according to their website) and asked if they fancied branching out a little into Oven renovation. They sent some of their best oven experts round to have a look and boy, I can tell you, these guys know their ovens.


They got their tool kit out and set about the damn thing. They felt it out and just let the thing fall apart (in a good way) until they had all the little bits and pieces. They cleaned every little bit, added some stuff and took some stuff away, and built some incredible stuff. Eventually the whole thing had been put back together. We all gathered around it and a hushed silence took over the room. He held down the gas and clicked the ignition spark. Nothing. He clicked it again. Still nothing. And then… then… then it happened. A click, a spark, a flame.


A house reborn.

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Dartmoor: A Mystery That Feels Like Home


What is it? What does it mean? What does it do? Why does it have such a consistently magical effect on all who pass through it?

The wind that passes over these chilled flattened hills seem to breeze through the minds and souls of all those who live near or on this Moor. Those who pass through this Moor, over this Moor, in this Moor and outside this Moor, are left with a ghostly cloud over them and within them. Surrounding them, filling them, maybe sometimes scaring them.

Because there is something distinctly disquieting about Dartmoor for those who are not born here, who have not lived here, who do not understand the whole thing, who do not see what we see sea, who do not find comfort where we find comfort, who do not find peace where we find peace, who do not find in Dartmoor what so many others find in Dartmoor: a mystery, but a mystery that feels like home.

Brentor church, late evening light, nr Tavistock, Dartmoor National Park, Devon, UK. October 2010.

“Wistfully, I wonder through the moor, it takes my mind into its own temperament and time scale and forces me to slow down. The inside of humanity is a mystery, it’s so difficult to really figure oneself out. It is, in fact, impossible, you cannot solve the mystery of life you have to embrace it and learn how to live within it. Yet so often we attempt not to, we try to organise the world and formalise it and make it straight and structured and simple. But this only makes the chaos inside feel more dangerous and more problematic. But the Moor, the mysterious, uncontrollable, unstructured endless Moor, throws all our internal mysteries back at us and tell us that they’re ok. That you can live in them and you can live with them. And it’s true”

From ‘Letters and Darts’ By Thomas Paquin

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