The Moor Fairy

web title pageIt’s 40 years since I posted a rather special christmas present to my friend Sylvia Sayer.  In fact it was more a present for her grandchildren.  I had met her three elder grandchildren, then known as Googie, Luli and Frookie.  We had been on the heavenly Double Dart picnic that summer and I had spent some happy times with them at Syl’s Dartmoor home, Cator.  I knew that the grandchildren liked to be read to in bed, and so I wrote them a story.  It was called The Moor Fairy.

Double Dart

Double Dart, on the day of the picnic, 29 August 1974

web 2 Double Dart with heading

 

I first had the idea in September 1974 and worked on it all through the autumn term at Exeter University.  I wanted to write about Dartmoor and what it meant to me.  I had stayed at Hillbridge Farm on the western side of the moor once or twice a year for riding holidays since 1965.  But it was not until the early 70s that I ventured beyond riding distance of the farm.  In 1973 I first drove down to Dartmoor in my little white Mini, and began to walk in other parts of the moor.  All these expeditions are reflected in The Moor Fairy.

From Bellever looking towards Powder Mills

From Bellever looking towards Powder Mills, the day Syl and I met county archaeologist Peter Child to discuss forestry clearance to protect ancient monuments, 11 October 1974

web 5 From Bellever looking to PM with heading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is set at Beardown Farm, in the heart of the moor and within striking distance of all those places I was discovering—the West Dart valley above Wistman’s Wood, the Double Dart below Dartmeet, Corndon and Yar Tors, Hameldon and High House Moor near Cornwood.

High House Moor, looking across Broadall Lake to Dendles, the first time we went bracken bashing there, to protect the ancient monuments, 13 June 1974. This is now a regular event.

High House Moor, looking across Broadall Lake to Dendles.  The land belongs to the Dartmoor Preservation Association and this was the first bracken-bashing day there, to protect the ancient monuments,  on 13 June 1974. This is now a regular event.

web 3 High House Moor with heading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose Beardown Farm because I knew that Syl’s great-grandfather had stayed there in the mid-nineteenth century, before Huccaby House (which the family later leased from the Duchy of Cornwall) was built.  I made sure that the story included a pony, the Moor Pony, for horse-enthusiast Frookie.

From Broadun Ring looking towards Postbridge

From Broadun Ring looking towards Postbridge, 16 August 1972 when I walked up the East Dart with Dee Ivey from Hillbridge Farm

 

web 7 From Broadun Ring with heading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my only attempt at a fairy story.  It gave me the advantage of being able to get out of tight corners in the plot with a bit of magic!  I got very stuck towards the end though and was rescued by my university friend Drusilla Bates (now Belfield) who had much more imagination than me and came up with a brilliant idea of a battle between water and oil, representing good and evil.

Great Mis Tor

Great Mis Tor, on a walk from Hillbridge to Beardown Man with Claire Forrester (now Keith-Lucas), 16 April 1974, in amazing weather

 

web 4 Great Mis Tor with heading

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote out the book by hand, which took many hours.

Page 1

Page 1

I did eight watercolour illustrations, from photographs of special walks and places.  They aren’t particularly good but I felt quite pleased with them.  I’ve reproduced them here next to the original photos.

The view from Beardown Hill

The view from Beardown Hill, returning from Cut Hill to Two Bridges in the evening, 10 August 1973 (actually, I think it’s from Longford Tor)

 

 

web 6 The view from Beardown Hill with heading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is very much a one-off.  I remember the months of work on it, Drusilla’s immense patience, and the sense of relief as I posted it, on 18 December in good time for Christmas.  Only it wasn’t—the Royal Mail let me down; the book arrived as the grandchildren were leaving Cator after christmas for their home in Cheshire.  And when they returned they had got past the bed-reading stage, so I am not sure they ever read it or had it read to them.  No matter, others have read it and made kind comments.

The final page

The final page

 

When Syl died in 2000 I brought the book home, as a reminder of that time 40 years ago when I was discovering Dartmoor’s magic.

I used Syl's photo of Fox Tor as the model for the frontispiece, right

I used Syl’s photo of Fox Tor above as the model for the frontispiece, right

 

web 1 Fox Tor with heading

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Dartmoor, Uncategorized, wild country and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Moor Fairy

  1. thelongwalkercom says:

    Very nice; reminds of of Beatrix Potter.

  2. thelongwalkercom says:

    Remind me of BP that is!

  3. It would be nice to see Sylvia’s Wild Country (unexpurgated by any fainthearts) back in print.

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