Back on the Moor

After a week spent running around Manchester and London like a blue-lipsticked fly, it was nice to get back to Dartmoor. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the main reason I started illustrating and writing books was so that I could live here...

Back in the early '90s when Sarah and I still lived in Brighton, we only used to get one week per year on the moor. It was usually the third or fourth week in September, and we always used to stay in the same place, at Wooder Manor, just outside Widecombe, where farmers William and Angela Bell have converted some of their outbuildings into cosy holiday lets. (If you ever think of exploring Dartmoor for yourself, Wooder is an excellent base.)

We were staying there when I started writing Mortal Engines, and when I needed a family name for my hero I just looked out of the window, and called him after nearby Natsworthy*, where a line of grand old beech trees comes down to the road.

But eventually we got tired of going home after our holidays, so I started illustrating full-time so that we could move here (I can't drive, so if I was going to live in the country, I had to have a job that I could do from home)**. We've lived on the moor for almost sixteen years now, and for the past seven we've been William and Angela's neighbours, just across the valley from Wooder.

Last night Sam was on a sleepover with some friends, so Sarah and I had the rare chance to go for an evening walk together.  We left the car at Natsworthy and walked up over Hameldown to the ancient settlement at Grimspound. Here are a few pictures which I snapped on my phone...

Someone had pitched a tent in the circle of the old wall at Grimpsound, which must be a wonderful place to camp, but in this picture I've carefully positioned Sarah to block it out.

Hookney Tor catching some low evening sunbeams.

Not a menhir, I think, just an old gatepost in a fallen wall.
...and here's a rather better one which Sarah took with her camera (she's a proper photographer). 

Photo: Sarah Reeve

*Actually, now I know the lie of the land a bit better, I don't think you can see Natsworthy from Wooder Manor - it must have been some other line of trees that I was looking at. But I thought it was Natsworthy.

** Or I could have LEARNED TO DRIVE, I suppose - for some reason I never thought of that.


David Bridger said...

Lovely photos. Dartmoor is my heart's home too. It wasn't at first, in the mid-70s when I was enduring basic training which included everlasting, mind-numbing, bone-wearying trudges across its frozen wastes. But once that nonsense was out of the way I learned to love the place, and years later when I came home from sea it was at the top of my shortlist-of-one for places to settle.

Anonymous said...

Ever since I entered adulthood, this has honestly been at least half the reason I want to become a professional author as well - so that I can be my own boss, and so that I don't have to live within commuting distance of a major city.

And in Australia - and, as I understand it, in the UK - that comes with the added bonus of saving maybe $250,000 on the price of a house. Which has to offset the disadvantage of an author's paltry salary at least a little bit, right?

Philip Reeve said...

That's probably true generally, but not if you choose to live on Dartmoor - property prices are sky-high here. And on top of that there's all the driving that we wouldn't have to do if we lived in town. But it's where I want to be!

Sue Purkiss said...

Beautiful photographs!

Philip Reeve said...

Thank you, Sue!

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