It was 40 years ago today (6 October) that I went on my first field trip from Exeter University. And 40 years since I met Hil Marshall (then Scott).
My main reason for going to Exeter was because it was near to Dartmoor, with which I had fallen in love as a teenager and for which I wanted to campaign. I had no car, so it was a delight to learn that our first biology field-trip, on the first Saturday of term, took in Dartmoor.
It was a grey day, but I didn’t mind. Our minibus took us on the B3212 through Moretonhampstead. Hil remembers that we first spoke to each other as we passed the almshouses; she was sitting behind me in the bus. We quickly discovered that we both loved Dartmoor and had been holidaying there for years, Hil at Ford Farm, Plympton, and me at Hillbridge Farm, Peter Tavy. I was overjoyed to find someone who knew Dartmoor and had even heard of the Dartmoor Preservation Association.
When we stopped at the Warren House Inn for coffee, Hil and I thought alike. We couldn’t bear to waste one second of Dartmoor time indoors and we took a walk over the heather around Vitifer. After that we drove to Two Bridges and walked up to Wistman’s Wood before we were required to go to the Plymouth aquarium. (My diary says that I wished we hadn’t gone to Plymouth but had stayed longer on Dartmoor—rather forgetting that the trip had an educational purpose.)
And so began my 40-year friendship with Hil, as enduring as Dartmoor itself. And together we delight in Common Wood, where Hil, a proficient ecologist, has done a botanical survey for me.