A labourer from the little village of Harford had heard some old ladies saying that anyone who went to Duck’s Pool and remained there until after midnight without getting piskie led would be rewarded by the faeries. So being stony broke the man decided that he would risk the wrath of the little people and go out to Duck’s Pool on the next full moon, that way he would have some light to help him across the dark moors. The only problem was that he had no idea where Duck’s Pool was, he just knew it was somewhere up on the moor.
The next day whilst he and some of the other workers were out in the fields he decided to ask one of the old moor men. The old boy looked at him quizzically, “what do ee wan’ tu go to thick place fur?”. The labourer the proceeded to tell him of his mission. The old man just laughed and said, “passel of ole crams (rubbish), dun’ ee believe such ole nonsense, ee wan’t get naught from the faeries as there be no sich thing, ee must be mazed!” But the lad persisted and was finally told to walk up the river Erme until he reached the old tinners workings at Erme Pits and then head north. It was going to be a 14 mile round trip but the thought of the faerie reward stiffened his resolve.
A few nights later was a full moon so the labourer rugged himself up and strode out onto the moor. Luckily it was a cloudless night and the moon lit his way better than a lantern. Up the river he went, past the stunted oaks of Piles Copse, across by the old stone row known as the dancers, on along Erme Plains, up past the Erme Cattle pound and eventually tired and breathless he reached the tinner’s workings of Erme Pits. From here he crossed the river and headed north, but could he find the pool? He zig-zagged across the wet, boggy ground in desperate search of a pool – nothing. Then he remembered the old man saying something about “when ee siz a ‘uge boulder then ee u’ll knaw ee be there,” and sure enough he could just make out a huge black shadowy lump and so slopped through the boggy mire towards it. When the lad reached the rock he saw a small pool of water and so realised that this must be Duck’s Pool. He then searched for a nice comfortable tussock to sit on and having found one started his midnight vigil. The moor was silent and still, the moonlight gave it an eerie pall and as the minutes ticked away his mind started to play tricks, “where was that noise, is something dancing on that rock, what if the piskie did come?” The labourer decided that should he get piskie led he would turn his coat inside out and then simply find the river Erme and follow it back to Harford – if it were that easy! Slowly the hours passed by, every now and again he would strike a match so he could see his watch, nine, ten and then eleven o’clock, still nothing. The youngster wished he had brought a crust or two of bread because now he was getting cold and hungry. The lad also realised that by now all the others farm workers would have heard of his quest and what would he tell them in the morning? He knew they would rib him for ages about his tom foolery. The labourer was actually beginning to wish the piskies would come and then the faeries could give him his reward and he could go back to his warm bed. The lad once again took out his matches and struck the last one, it was two minutes past midnight, his heart sank, all this for nothing but a good ribbing. He slowly clambered out of the tussock and stood up surveying the pool in one last desperate attempt to find the faeries.
Suddenly a load squelching sound could be heard coming from behind a huge peat hag, it was getting louder and coming towards him. This did not sound like any faerie it was making far too much noise. A huge figure loomed over the hag, it was enveloped in a steaming mist. The labourer knew not what to do, he had been warned about the piskies but nobody had mentioned a night stalking demon. The lad decided to put on a brave face, “you’m out a bit latish, ain’t ee,” he stammered. The figure walked up to him, “yes my friend later than I should wish, I left Princetown this afternoon and since then I have been wandering these god forsaken bogs, I would willingly give a gold sovereign to anyone who could lead me off this blessed moor.” By now the lad could see that this was no Demon from hell, it was simply some gent who had got himself lost, “where do ee wan’ a go,” he asked. “I am staying at Ivybridge but if I could get to Harford Bridge I can find my way from there,” the gent replied. With that the labourer held out his hand and gratefully received the shiny sovereign, he had never held so much wealth in his entire life. The coin was safely placed in his purse and with that he smiled at the gent and said “please to follow I, zir.”
The following morning all his fellow workers were assembled to hear of the lads quest. The old man sensing some sport could contain himself no longer, “well, an’ ‘ow much coin did the nice faeries give ee,” he gloated. The shepherd started to snigger, “bet t’was a passel, a passel of ol’ crams,” he jeered. “All ee got waz some achey feet,” the ploughman exclaimed. The young labourer smiled sweetly and slowly replied, “well if ee mus’ knaw, I went to the pool, staid ’til midnight an’ then all at wance I found this in me ‘and,” he opened his purse and showed them the shiny gold sovereign. Mouths were agape, feet were shuffling and the silence was deafening. The ploughman snorted and stomped off to the stables, the shepherd just scowled and whistled his dog and the old man had secretly decided to go up to Duck’s Pool that very night.
Duck’s Pool is very much like Cranmere Pool, there is no pool but a boggy depression, however there are more rocks and boulders than Cranmere. The main attractions are one huge boulder and a small ‘letterbox‘ sitting below it with its visitors book. The letterbox is the second of just two that are still marked on the Ordnance Survey maps (the other is Cranmere pool).
The huge boulder carries a bronze plaque indicating that it is a memorial to the famous Dartmoor writer – William Crossing. The plaque was placed on the rock in 1938 by Dr J. W. Malim, H. T. Franks and members of the old walking club, Dobson’s Moormen. In 1997 six dozen or so walkers made the trek out to Duck’s Pool on the afternoon of 14th November to celebrate the 150th birthday of Dartmoor’s most famous author.
The post box was inaugurated at the same time as Crossing’s memorial. In 1963 a new post box container was placed at the pool and this one had an engraved tablet affixed to its lid as a memorial to Mr R. C. Carter, a founder of the Dobson’s Moormen.
Crossing’s Memorial and the Duck’s Pool letterbox.