Category Archives: dartmoor

Foot in Mouth (ignoring it locally)

Friday night’s news: foot-and-mouth found on a farm in Surrey. The last outbreak (in 2001) remains fresh in peoples minds, when it spread rapidly to many areas, and the government and farming industry (specifically the NFU) between them made a colossal cockup of dealing with it, and did huge damage to the country as a whole.

Saturday’s update: it appears to have come from a research institute near the farm. So whereas last time it was primarily the fault of the farming industry, this time they appear to be innocent victims and can justifiably feel aggrieved.

So they’ve imposed a ban of movement of susceptible animals, and farmers throughout the country have laid down disinfectant at access points to fields. At least, according to our national news reports.

Today I was out on the bike, and passed quite a lot of fields of cattle and sheep. No sign of any of those security measures. Instead, some strong smells, and at one point I met a tractor hauling a trailer piled high with manure (there was lots on the road, too). Evidently Devon farmers aren’t going to let it bother them too much.

Anyway, they killed all the cattle on the farm where it was found. Wonder how they’ll deal with it when a comparable leak happens at a human medical research or bio-weapons facility.

Bubblewrapped generation

They’ve called off the Ten Tors this year, due to bad weather.

Well, I was out (briefly) on Dartmoor yesterday, am looking out on it now, and expect to be there again this afternoon. Yes, we’ve had some significant rain over the past week, and over the weekend. Yes, the rivers have reached a wet-weather size. But it’s warm, the winds are light, and the rain is mixed with sunny intervals. The ground is not saturated as it was in March when we had far more rain, neither are the rivers in spate as they were then. It’s not tourist-weather, but neither is it severe. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

The Ten Tors is explicitly for teenagers. Not for small children. Not for frail pensioners. Not even fat middle-aged slobs like me. And these are self-selecting teenagers: they choose to do it. In other words, people who are at the prime of life, physically robust, have lots of excess energy, and should have absolutely no difficulty with a bit of rain.

A reporter on the radio just interviewed two or three being taken down off the moor (good grief!), and they were disappointed. Well, naturally. I wonder how many are rebelling against that organisation by completing the walk on their own, unofficially?

This is of course a stupid overreaction to the training run they had for it a couple of months ago, when one girl got swept away by a river and died. That weekend was altogether different, with a lot more ground and surface water out there, and a great deal more rain. And of course a seasonal difference in evaporation rate! To have called that weekend off would have made sense. But of course that would have been an organisational nightmare: they need a lot of adults involved, each of those adults needs to be security-cleared, etc, all in the name of protecting the teenagers from possible child-molesters.

The bubblewrap culture must bear the principal burden of guilt for that girl’s death. And now it’s deprived a far greater number of teenagers of a great weekend out. Some of them may have lost their only chance of a real walk for a long time.

Equinocturnal chill

I’m not sure of the exact time, but the equinox is about now. And we’ve got a sudden cold snap. Or what passes for cold here: the BBC weather page says tonight’s minimum will be -5°, though the daytime remains mild and sunny, and it’s just the one night below zero forecast. This is as cold as we’ve had all winter!

I mentioned before that we had a big tree in blossom as far back as the beginning of February. Until a couple of days ago it’s been a persistently very warm spring, with a mix of wet (more than average) and sunny. The daffodils are out now, which is right, but so are a great many other plants that shouldn’t be flowering until much later! What’s largely missing are the insects to pollinate them: I’ve seen the occasional bumblebee, but no honeybees or butterflies yet this season. I wonder which of the plants will suffer from that, and whether missing so many flowers will adversely affect the insects?

[UPDATE] The BBC weather forecast was, as usual, a pile of ****.  The core of the “arctic blast” passed, but the night never went below zero!

A pleasant surprise

Went for a new year Dartmoor walk with two friends yesterday. We picked the right day for it, with very pleasant weather, though after recent heavy rain and with folks who are squeamish about getting too wet, we avoided any real hound-of-the-baskervilles bogs or river crossings.

In view of the season, we’d already decided to lunch at a pub. After an unfortunate experience on a previous Jan. 2nd walk (when we found the pub where we planned to eat a late lunch closed, and had to walk an unplanned extra three miles into driving wind and rain on empty stomachs), we made Princetown our lunch venue this time.

The Plume of Feathers pub has always been a decent lunch spot. But now it’s moved up from decent to very nice indeed, with an interesting menu (few but very nice veggie options). It’s not so easy to describe a dish you’ve never eaten before, but mine was a big filo stuffed with a cheesy filling and served in a sauce that enriched the accompanying spuds & veg. Prices were higher than before, but not to the obscene extent of some other Dartmoor pubs that fancy themselves as gourmet eateries.