Friday, 28 August 2009

Dartmoor on our doorstep

Barbara and I have just spent 3 days walking in Dartmoor, only 90 minutes drive from Falmouth, in the adjacent county of Devon, the only English county to lend its name to a geological epoch.
The Devonian and Carboniferous geology of Devon is complex and fascinating, and Dartmoor and Cornwall's Bodmin Moor are the roots of the Variscan mountain range, formed about 300 million years ago when the ancient continents came together to form the supercontinent Pangea. The heat generated by the colossal tectonic forces partially melted the mantle, which crystallised into a gigantic (Cornubian) batholith, which underlies much of Devon and Cornwall, and outcrops on Dartmoor to form the fantastically eroded tors.
Anyone travelling to Cornwall should try to take time out to visit Dartmoor. The main arterial road, the A30, skirts the northern boundary of the Dartmoor National Park, a vast wilderness of deep gorges, dense woodland and high barren moorland. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and romance, the setting for Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, and home to the famous Napoleonic prison.
This wild and often inhospitable terrain is one of the reasons for Cornwall having retained its Celtic roots. The moor, and Cornwall's equally hostile Bodmin Moor, served as natural defensive barriers, deterring the Romans, Normans and Saxons penetrating this extreme south-west area of England.

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