By accepting a house sit in North Bovey we saw an entirely different side to Dartmoor National Park. This was not a time for exploration, we not only had a 500 year old farm house to look after, we had a menagerie of inhabitants. Two hyper springer-basset hounds, two miniature donkeys, a cheeky pygmy goat duo and six chickens. With farm life being a new experience to the both of us the task of feeding, egg collecting, poo cleaning and patting all of these beasts was going to make our down-time practically non existent. Did we care? Not really. We had pygmy animals to look after 😛
It took us a day or two but once we had our routine covered, could navigate the stone kitchen and sustain a roaring open fire in the living room, life was bliss. Our mornings would begin by making a feeding round, leaving the dogs in a separate field while we said good morning to the other animals. Skipping out of the way we could avoid the head butts from the goats who were eager for their breakfast and escape towards the chicken pen. Running for freedom the elderly hens would take a moment to realise we were now offering them breakfast. They would make a rapid U-turn to gorge upon pellets and flakes of shell (which is good for their eggs). This was the perfect chance to sneak a peek at the laid eggs and to clean their poo tray.
Only after double checking that everyone had water and the gates were secure we’d hop over to the little donkeys who had starting eee orrr’ing for their food…. or was it just attention. Despite being shy boys, Midnight and Rainman were always keen for a pat down and often met us at the gate for a nuzzle. Their calm faces and big brown eyes made me melt every single time but eventually we’d coax them up to their stable to be served a handful of pony nuts. Being such obedient boys they’d follow and while munching away we’d muck out their stable. It was always a relief to put down the pitchfork and wheelbarrow as this was the smelliest part of the day. We’d part from them after serving up a good bundle of hay, hoping that this would stop them from eating their bed of straw… as if! It was always hard to say goodbye to these two but we’d detour back to the knee-high goats for some fun before finishing up. The sandy coloured one, called Nacho, liked to challenge us to a butting competition. Watching him rear up to slam his head into our fists was hilarious but sometimes we’d just sit and tickle their funny straw-like beards.
Once we’d cute-ed ourselves out we return to the house with the dogs. They get their crunchy feed while we concoct our own delicious breakfast using the stolen eggs. Those daily gifts kickstarted us into being more creative with our cooking!
After that it was “walkies” time, slipping a harness around the droopy faces of our hounds and bearing whatever weather Dartmoor decided to throw at us. Even with the rain searing our faces we were happy to take the dogs (and ourselves) outside into that raw fresh air. Literally soaking up the gloomiest days we’ve seen on our Ultimate British Road Trip. Cedric and Maud happily jumped into the back of the car so we often combined our sight seeing with dog walking. The heaving grey clouds somewhat matched the barren landscape with its sporadic cropping of slate-grey rock and skeleton trees leering over valleys filled with burnt orange grass. Striding beside Medieval settlements, ancient salmon rivers and disused quarries we found ourselves slowly bewitched by our surroundings almost as much as our way of life.
It certainly is a way of life out there.
We’d send our little blue Honda chasing through Dartmoor National Park’s tiny alleyways, praying that we wouldn’t face another car. Even the passing lanes are desperately tight. On our arrival our breaths had caught at the local bridge we needed to cross, a 100m long skinny passageway bordered by rocks. But by the time we left the area we were used to the roads, the newborn lambs that sporadically leaped onto the roadside and we had even become accustomed to the quiet. Aside from the trickling of streams, gusty winds and songful birds Dartmoor is silent, it is the most peaceful place in the World. Even when we strolled around our village of North Bovey it was empty, true there’s less than 500 people who live here but it’s so laid back as to feel unnatural. We saw one other person as we gazed around at the local church, the stone cross (a medieval signpost), post box and town hall, all customary items for a villages in this region. Naturally North Bovey also has a pub but it sadly burnt down several years ago and is currently being restored.
Within a moment a whole week had passed. We realised that we had spoken to no-one but the local grocer in Moretonhampstead, 2 miles from ourselves and our beloved creatures.
Our time in Dartmoor National Park may have been short but we will carry that harmony and sense of isolation with us for a very long time. It is the most beautiful area of England that we have visited so far.