The most famous tree on Dartmoor

Or maybe it isn’t…

Having had a wonderful meal at the Two Bridges hotel, I was about to set off for my final destination of the day. Only a faded black and white photograph close to the exit made me slow down for a closer look. It was of a church perched high on a hill and I guessed it had to be fairly local. By the time I had reached the car I was Googling “church, hill and Dartmoor” on my smart phone. It did turn out to be local, but on the eastern edge of the moor and I should have been heading west. I was torn. In theory I should have had enough time, but I had to find somewhere to park, find the best viewpoint and I had no idea if late afternoon was the best time in terms of light. I made the reluctant decision to leave it and as things turned out, I did the right thing.

Saddle Tor should only have been a short twenty-minute drive and a doddle with my rented TomTom. I had never used a satnav before, but it was proving to be a very useful addition. No more remembering routes in advance, or trying to find somewhere to pull over and check the map. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Until we tried to turn into Widecombe. The tiny lane was closed – apparently for the famous fair. On a Tuesday? Never mind, I turned right and continued driving, waiting for the revised directions from my navigator friend. Only it wanted me to turn around. I ignored it and we continued this way for the next thirty minutes. Eventually I found the button to inform it there was a road block ahead, but by this time “ahead” had no meaning and I was well and truly lost. With no villages to identify and nothing on the map except a large green expanse, I had to hope the annoying little box knew what it was doing.

It was well over an hour after leaving the hotel that we eventually reached our destination. I was frustrated, but happy in the knowledge that I at least knew where to find what photographers know as the most famous tree on Dartmoor. It stands next to a rock and makes an impressive foreground for sunsets. Hadn’t I trawled through Flickr looking at the location data? More than one photographer had the same GPS point – follow the curve of the road around Haytor and it should be just over that hill. Only it wasn’t. This clearly wasn’t going to be my day. As luck would have it, a team of young orienteers came into view. I called out to their adult coach and he jogged over. “Excuse me”, I panted “do you know where I can find the famous Dartmoor tree?” He stared at me. I tried again “It’s next to a rock.” I could see that I wasn’t making any headway, so I thanked him and he ran off.

Alone again in the middle of the moor with the light beginning to fade, I spotted a large rock not far away. That would do instead of the tree. Not as nice, but it had a lovely view to the west and sunbeams were beginning to play in the distance. Setting up the tripod and camera, I grabbed a few shots before looking around. And there it was – the tree. Not more than two hundred yards away. My tree! At least for this evening it was and I rushed over, scattering a few sheep as I went. The sunset never did materialise, but it didn’t matter. I still had a mile to walk back to the car and a further two hours drive back to the B&B, but all in all it had been a wonderful day.

Saddle Tor

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