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Is Dartmoor Worth Crossing

On reaching the main road that leads from Ashburton to Tavistock, we turned in the direction of Two Bridges. The rain still continued to pour down in torrents, and we were not sorry to seek the shelter of the inn there – The Saracen’s Head, but as the rain showed no signs of abating, and there was nothing to be gained by waiting, out into it we went once more, and bent our steps to Princetown.” – William Crossing, Amid Devonia’s Alps, p.48.

The Saracen’s Head now The Two Bridges Hotel

The above words were published in William Crossing‘s book – Amid Devonia’s Alps in 1889. As noted above, the inn he refers to is now the Two Bridges Hotel. Today Crossing’s plethora of books are regarded by many as Dartmoor bibles whose paged contain a wealth of information of a bygone era. After a lifetime spent devoted to Dartmoor he passed away on the 3rd of September 1928. So imagine my surprise when on the evening of February 27th 2019 I sat down to a dinner at The Two Bridges Hotel alongside none other than William Crossing and his wife Emma. Even more astounding he had brought along with him what could only be described as the A-list of Dartmoor’s past celebrities. There was the Rev. Sabine baring Gould, theauthoress Beatrice Chase and her mother, Jonas Coaker the Dartmoor Poet, Mrs. Kingsley, a Bal Maiden, a very distraught Kitty Jay, Abbot Nattor, Brother Egbert, Lady Silvia Sayer, Henry Firth to name but a few. William Crossing then guided us on a walk from Lewtrenchard Manor all across the Moor to Buckfast Abbey. With the aid of some very atmospheric images William safely guided us on the journey. By using his expert knowledge we avoided all the dastardly bogs and mires and remained dry-shod. As the journey progressed we halted at various spots where one by one his guests came and told their story. Some recited fitting poetry such as Jonas Coker and the Mrs Kingsley. Other related their sad life stories such as poor little Kitty Jay whose grave sits silently beside a moorland track. There were heartbreaking stories of the Dartmoor Conscientious Objectors known as ‘Conchies’. The formidable Beatrice Chase and her mother made a graceful appearance as did a little Bal Maiden who told of her hard life working in the Dartmoor Mines. The trek took us over to Langstone Moor to Stephen’s grave, onto Princetown, down to Venton, over to Buckland Beacon before arriving safely, albeit slightly tired at Buckfast Abbey.

William Crossing and friends

No this was not a physic convention where the spirits of all these long departed people were summoned. This is fact was a production staged by The Edge Players in collaboration with Simon Dell of the Moorland Guides. It was Simon who played the part of William Crossing utilising his in-depth knowledge of Dartmoor to bring everything to life. The cast expertly played their various roles so much so you nearly believed you watching and listening to the real people. It is fair to say that the journey was a veritable emotional roller coaster. The was humour, and sadness all accompanied by a evocative and thought provoking information. Congratulations must also go to the Two Bridges Hotel for providing a delicious three course dinner. I am sure that everyone who attended the event would agree what a success it was. To show the popularity of the night the limited spaces were fully taken within days of it being announced. Additionally there was a waiting list of some other 40 folk waiting to take any cancelled places. Hopefully, due to it’s success and popularity there will be other chances to walk on the wild side with William Crossing and friends. But be warned if there is book immediately as spaces will go quicker that Glastonbury tickets.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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