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Huccaby Courting

Huccaby Courting

Just above the left bank of the West Dart river stands the old Huccaby farmhouse. It was here in the days long past lived a comely buxom lass who was employed a the dairy maid. It was obvious that such a young woman would be the attention of the moor lads who with varying degrees of success vied for her attentions. In the end it soon became apparent that one above the rest had won the contest for her favours. The lucky lad was a farm worker called Tom White and he came from nearby Postbridge. In those days the lot of a labourer was a hard one, he would work from sun up to dimpsey, day in day out. This meant the only time he could see his girlfriend was after the days chores were finished. So every evening he would eat his dinner and then set off the five miles to Huccaby where he would spend a few hours in the arms of his new found, hard won love. This truly was no mean feat for having done a full days hard toil his evening route would take him over Lakehead Hill and past Bellaford tor (now Bellever Tor) onto Dunnabridge and then down the river Dart to Huccaby, he then had to return home the same way. But youth and love were on his side and he soon became well versed with his ‘evening stroll’. As days passed to weeks and weeks passed to months the relationship blossomed and there was even mention of a wedding.

To this end Tom had finally found a prospective home for them to live in and it was with excited anticipation that one summer’s evening he set off for Huccaby to share his good news. His bride to be was elated and that night they spent many hours planning their future, in fact they spent so long that it was nearly midnight by the time Tom left. Knowing he had to be up for work in five hours the young lad strode out across the moor.

It did not take him long to reach the newtakes of Bellaford and as he crossed these near to the tor thought he heard the sound of people laughing. At first he dismissed it as being the wind sighing through the craggy rocks of Bellaford but then he fancied the sounds were getting nearer and louder. Slowly in the half-light he picked his way around the scattered rocks trying to find a path that would take him around the tor. A huge granite pile stood  in his path and as Tom rounded it he was met with the sight of a crowd of little people, some were holding hands and dancing merrily in a circle and others were perched on the surrounding boulders clapping and laughing. The sight of the piskie throng made Tom shudder, he knew only too well the penalties for barging in on such an occasion. Luckily the little people were to engrossed in their merry making and had not spotted the stationary human figure. His mind was racing in search of a course of action. Tom decided that as the piskies had not spotted him he would slowly retrace his steps until he was out of site and then go around the tor in the other direction putting as much distance between him and them. Carefully he tip toed backwards and was just about to disappear around the huge boulder when he must have stepped on some green bracken which caused him to slip. He went crashing to the ground and the noise of his fall caused the piskies to look over in his direction. In an instant the dancing throng had rushed over to Tom and formed a whirling, jigging circle around him. Slowly he stood up and as he did the piskies danced faster and faster and uncontrollably he found himself joining in the mazy gallop. As the ring spun faster and faster the little people started to sing and the noise became deafening. Round and round he span, his head was whirling and began to spin, he felt a wave of nausea coming over him. He implored the piskies to stop but they just laughed and danced even faster which again made Tom spin even quicker. What ever the lad tried he could not stop jigging and prancing, his legs felt as if they could hold him no more but some unseen forced kept him upright, every muscle in his body was screaming with pain. Just as Tom began to think he could go on no longer he noticed the first shimmering rays of sunlight appearing over the mighty ridge of Hameldon. As the bright orange sun peeked further over the horizon the piskies suddenly stopped their dance, looked in the direction of the dawning day and without a sound simply vanished amongst the many caves and crevices of the tor. Once they had gone Tom just crumpled into a shaking heap, his head was whirling like the sails of a windmill and his legs were as wobbly as a bowl of junket. Gradually enough strength returned to his body to enable him to stand up, having done so he feebly began to stagger home.

From that night onward Tom vowed never to venture onto the moor after dark. This meant that his nightly trips to Huccaby stopped and the intended marriage never took place. Some say as Tom was using his encounter with the piskies as a cowardly excuse for parting company with the dairy maid, others say that night he had imbibed too much on the local cider but there were those who just knowingly nodded their heads in sympathy and said nothing. To his dying day Tom always maintained the truth in his story.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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