The impending heatwave this week inspired whoisthechallenger to return to the moors. We had a short route planned up to Longaford Tor via Wistmans Wood. The ground was much firmer under-foot than the last time we were out on Dartmoor.
Deep within Wistmans Wood is a small fenced off area preserved since the mid 60s to allow us all to see how the wood may have looked in the past. Our recollections of the Wistmans Wood just 15-20 years ago are of fire-beaters stacked at the corners, and very few tracks into the undergrowth.
Wistmans Wood is synonymous with an impenetrable woodland of stunted oak trees and damp moss covered caves and boulders. But the copse is changing rapidly, with the trees no longer stunted, but growing. Erosion caused by grazing animals and by the sheer numbers of human visitors are taking their toll on the undergrowth. Its listing as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve, and featuring in so many 'official' guides to Dartmoor have left Wistmans Wood slightly exposed.
Black-a-tor Copse in the West Okement Valley looks set to receive a full fence surround to protect it (at MOD expense). Piles Copse, the third major area of ancient woodland on the Moor, has been blooming for several years, and certainly lacks the accessibility and attention of it's more Northerly counterparts.
Still its location is stunning, and provides subject material for tons of letterboxes in the region. Our walk passed the forest and up to Longaford, returning down the ridge passing Littaford, Little Bee and Crockern Tors, before returning for well earned drink at Two Bridges Hotel, and the car.