The Dartmoor Guide

The Dartmoor Guide

It was a beautiful bright & sunny morning in Spring.  Silence prevailed, it seemed that all was asleep upon the moor. Even the granite Tors that stand guard over the moor like resolute sentry’s did not appear to yawn in the morning light, but then again, it was still early.

A group of walkers led by Brian had set out on a ramble at the crack of dawn to the ancient pre-historic village of Grimspound. When reaching the remains of the boundary stones which once encircled the village, Brian turned to the group an announced, “OK guys, we will take a break here for 20 minutes”.

“That’s good” exclaimed George while taking a flask of hot tea from his rusack. “With such an early start, I did not have time for breakfast.  Sally, would you like a drop”?

“Yes please” she replied taking a mug from her rucksack.

“You cannot beat this” continued George, taking a cheese and onion sandwich from a plastic container. “Just imagine, people were eating breakfast on this very spot centuries ago”.

Sally smiled, “Not from a plastic container though”.

George replied with a cheesy grin, “Trust you to come out with something like that. I was going to offer you a sandwich but go on, help yourself” as he placed the container in front of Sally.

Brian studied his Ordenance Survey map where Grimpound was clearly marked. Wiping the dust from his round rimmed spectacles he leaned back and closed his eyes in reflection.

Alice looked at George, “Looks like Brian has nodded off”.

George smiled, “Yes I think you are right, it is good to have a rest anyway”.

Alice looked thoughtfully, “If only these old stones could talk, I am sure they could tell a story or two”.

The remainder of the group, which comprised of 15 all took advantage of the break, taking refreshments and studying their maps of the area.  All agreed; to be in such a beautiful place in the early morn was bliss. The pace of life in the modern world seemed to be a million miles away.

People who know Dartmoor are well aware how conditions can change quickly to catch the unprepared walker by surprise and this morning was no exception. From nowhere a grey mist rolled down the hillside to engulf the prehistoric village.

“Here we go” exclaimed George, “Best give Brian a nudge, we ought to make tracks”.

Alice wandered over to Brian to give him a shake. Brian stirred with a grunt. “Oh dear” he commented. Brian surveyed the misty moorland. “Best make a move to the nearby road, we can take our bearings from there”. Everyone stood up and congregated together behind Brian.

The group began to move forward but after a few paces they became conscious of a strange whistle which appeared to surround them. As they were hidden within the mist it was indeed eery and members of the group looked at each with some alarm.

“What on earth is that” commented Alice.

“No idea, never heard anything like this before” replied Brian. Hesitating, the walkers stopped and listened intently.

“Who art thee” a voice came from within the mist. “What be ‘ee doing ‘ere”?

“What was that”? exclaimed Alice.

Brian, as usual took charge of the situation. “Who are you and please come forward so we can see you”.

The reply came quickly, “Thee cannot see me, for I am not here but there”.

Brian asked again. “Please come forward”.

“No, I am here not there”.

Brian glanced around at the group, who were now becoming quite worried. Brian questioned further, “Ok, but at least tell me your name”.

There was a short silence, then “I be of no name for I am not here but there”.

Brian now puzzled and beginning to think this was some sort of practical joke spoke again. “We are a group of walkers lost in this mist and just trying to locate the road”.

“What road; there be no road” came the reply. “’Ee be walking the valley with much danger, I tell ‘ee”.

“Oh” replied Brian “How do you know where we are in this mist”?

“I see all as clear as the waters of life. Tell me, do ‘ee want me to help ‘ee”? the voice asked.

Brian wiped the mist from his glasses, thought for a minute or two and continued, “Ok, I do not know who or what you are but we are lost, some help would be greatly appreciated”.

“ Turn around and beware for the ground be wet. As ‘ee be walking keep the stones on the right”.

Brian looked at the group and said “Ok, let’s go”. The group followed the stones for a half an hour or so. It was rather strange as when they thought the stones had come to an end more stones seemed to appear. It was like magic, they appeared from nowhere – just a few steps in advance at each step.  Suddenly,  the stones disappeared and the walkers found themselves on the road.  The group looked at each other with amazement – all thinking the same. “What just happened”?

Making their way along the road, the walkers came to an old Inn. By this time they were certainly ready to stop for lunch. On entering, the tired companions were pleased to see a fire crackling in the old fireplace as they were damp from the strange mist. Now, a refreshing drink with lunch would be most welcome.

Brian went to the bar and ordered a pint of cider.

“Looks like you lot are a bit worn out” smiled the landlady.

“You would not believe what happened this morning. We got lost in the mist and a weird voice came and directed us to the road”.

“That would not be up at Grimspound would it”?  Brian nodded yes.

The landlady continued. “You are not the first to encounter the Dartmoor Guide”.   “Who is that” asked Brian.  She smiled again, “Local legend has it that a man who once lived in the village a couple thousand years ago, helps lost walkers to avoid walking into a mire which is nearby”.

“It was a ghost then” whispered Brian.

“If you put it that way, then yes.  At least he avoided you all getting wet feet!”

With that, Brian and the walkers enjoyed their pints, lunch and a curious discussion.

By Ray Steed
Edited by Sandi Mcconnell, Canada