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Dragon of O Brook

Dragon of O Brook

To the north of Holne Ridge lies the small valley of the O Brook, here the moorland waters peacefully tumble down through granite rocks that are overlooked by tombs of the ancient men of the moor. Today the tranquil little valley is home to the moorland sheep and ponies who graze contentedly along its bracken covered sides. Pied wagtails and dippers playfully bob and weave amongst the fern covered boulders that lay in the bed of the brook as they are gently washed by the cool moorland waters. However, things have not always been this idyllic as there was a time when the valley was filled with dread and horror. At one time the old name for the waters was the Wo Brook, time seems to have inadvertently lost the letter ‘W’. In view of this story it may well have lost an ‘E’ as well for this tiny valley was full of woe and nothing’s truer than that.

Way back in the days of errant knights and distressed damsels the valley was home to a fierce dragon whose reputation spread far and wide. Hard moormen who feared nought would walk several miles out of their way just to avoid this valley of dread, even the tinners feared to set pick to rock. This particular dragon had no name because all the folk of the area feared to even mention its name, they would simply shudder at any mention of the Wo Brook. Any sheep or cow that was tempted to graze on the lush grasses of the valley soon became a meal for this ferocious beast. Over the years the local farmers lost count of the animals they lost to the dragon, estimates of the time ranged from hundreds to thousands, either way it cost them dear. Livestock was one thing but the dragon also had a penchant for human flesh and many a lonesome traveller met his fate in the Valley of the Wo Brook.
The dragon lived in the ancient ruins of a dwelling place of the Men of Bronze, in fact it made its home in the largest of the old settlement. The walls stood high and the beast could often be seen perched upon them, his blood red eyes eagerly scanning the moor for an easy meal, two legs or four it wasn’t fussy. People often ask why some brave man of the moor never ventured into the Valley of the Wo and slew the monster. This simple answer is that they did venture into the valley but legend never recalled the eventual fate of the dragon. Clearly something happened because there is no sign of claw nor scale of the beast today, maybe the truth was too awful to recount. Down through the ages scholars have searched for the answer but nothing is to be found except for one theory: The moorfolk went into the Valley of the Wo and, according to Mr Crossing, caught the dragon, bound him from head to claw and, “draw’d ‘n in the Dart”.
There was a tradition amongst the tin miners of Devon and Cornwall that dragons could lead them to the precious veins of tin ore. On early Cornish antiquity Richard Carew supposed that; “Some say, that on a still night you may see fiery exhalations issue out of such places; and some again, that they see streams of fire to fall on them, which they call fiery dragons.” On a site plan of Eylesbarrow tin mine it was recorded that a fiery dragon was said to have fallen in Evil Combe, a place to which it came to slake it’s thirst and not far away and associated with the 19th century mine there were two lodes named the North and South Dragon Lodes
What is for sure is that on the left, upstream bank of the Wo Brook the Dragon’s den still sits with its tall walls awaiting the return of their evil occupier. Some folk even say that on still nights you can hear the roar of this mighty beast rent the peaceful calm of the ‘Valley of Woe’. Incidentally, is it just a coincidence that the first three figures of the OS grid coordinates for the dragon’s den are – 666?

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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