Saturday, 3 September 2016

Moores on moors

This year's summer family holiday was spent on Dartmoor - in an idyllic holiday cottage with no phone signal or wifi, a million miles from the heaving metropolis of Wareham. OK it's nearer 80 miles and we have precious little in the way of a phone signal or wifi in Wareham either, but you get my drift.
Spotted Flycatcher, Dartmoor
One of two or three birds present in a short stretch of hedgerow
Always an entertaining bird to watch
Wildlife photography was not a top priority on this trip, taking a poor fifth place to sleeping, dozing, loafing, and pigging out - not things I do readily or easily, and it took me the best part of a week to get the hang of it. Fortunately I have a patient family who taught me well in the ways of relaxation, sloth and gluttony.
Female Redstart in the same hedgerow
A male Redstart - there were three in total
Another male Redstart in conifers near Bellever Tor
When we did hit the great outdoors, riverside walks and scrambling up tors were the order of the day, but a good selection of wildlife was encountered on the way, most memorably along a hedgerow of a high moorland road which seemed to be dripping with migrant birds, even though we weren't really looking for them. Love it when that happens.
Coal Tit, Yarner Woods
Marsh Tit, Yarner Woods
Nuthatch, Yarner Woods
It wasn't really the best time of year to be visiting nearby Yarner Woods, but as we had never been before, we went anyway, and found that well-stocked feeders were attracting a fine selection of woodland birds to entertain the children and their parents alike.

We disturbed this Jersey Tiger moth from roadside vegetation
It took a shine to Geroge's shirt
A view of the colourful underside
Claire now works in the tourist trade so we were almost professionally obliged to review all sorts of attractions on our travels from that perspective, rather than just visit them like normal punters. The verdict on highly touted Becky Falls wasn't kind: a bit over-priced and over-sold, I felt, with an inexplicably random selection of petting zoo creatures littered around the place.

The Golden-ringed Dragonfly was on the wing in Dartmoor - an impressive green-eyed monster
Male Wheatear near Haytor
Photographed from the car window
If you must shell out your hard-earned dollars visiting a waterfall, better value can be obtained, IMHO, at Canonteign Falls - a man made folly of a cascade, but still impressive, with classier catering and a slightly less random, though still inexplicable, selection of petting zoo creatures.
Beautiful Demoiselle at Dartmeet, Dartmoor
Female Goosander on the river at Dartmeet
This is one of three offspring in a family party - note the stripy face compared to mum above
Better still, save your money and go to the ethereal Devon Wildlife Trust reserve at Dartmeet instead: more tranquil, beautiful and blessed with an entirely appropriate and not remotely random selection of creatures including Dippers, Goosanders, Silver-washed Fritillaries and Beautiful Demoiselles. All looking much more at home than the giant rabbits and miniature ponies at the pay-per-view waterfall freak-shows. For the price of a family ticket to the other two watery attractions, you could get yourself membership of your local Wildlife Trust for a year. And a much warmer feeling in your stomach.
This bat - Pipistrelle, we think - took up temporary residence in the bedroom of our holiday cottage
Spotted Flycather
Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, Yarner Woods
The verdict on southern Dartmoor overall then: a great destination which met our needs perfectly - not too busy, not too far to travel, rich in wildlife, plenty to do, all set in a stunning landscape. Also, if you are in the area, superb food and ale at the Cridmoor Inn in Trusham, dating back to 852AD.
George at Dartmeet
The whole gang on the clapper bridge at Postbridge
The Moores on the moors at Bellever

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