Dartmoor’s Merrivale Settlement Shrouded in Mist

“We can do Merrivale,” Larissa had announced after researching the sites of Dartmoor that were on our drive home. This time we were taking the scenic route to drive through a bit of the park. “We’ve got two hours, tops, so we have enough time for the crop circle.”

“I don’t like the name,” I kept announcing, without really knowing why. It just didn’t seem to fit. It still doesn’t, but sometimes we just have to go with what our more modern ancestors decided to call these sacred landscapes.

The day began with mist and ended with sunshine. I knew Larissa was a bit nervous, but truthfully I was in heaven as we drove through fog so think you could not see more than a few feet in front of us. My only regret was that I knew I was missing a lot, but the effect was all too perfect. Sometimes you have to accept the gifts of the elements, even when there are definite drawbacks to them.

 

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“Dragon’s Breath” on Dartmoor

 

It was a little bit of a challenge finding the spot to pull over. Thankfully the navigation did a good job leading us there, and it wasn’t really a surprise that no other cars were parked in the lot. The weather really was messy. I rather like the term Stuart and Sue use for the heavy mist on the moors that gathers over the ancient sites. “Dragon’s breath,” along the dragon lines…

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Larissa walks into the mist. Once you ascend from the carpark into the dragon’s breath, you are swallowed.

We were drenched by the dew by the time we returned to the car, but it didn’t matter. We knew we had a heater. I also could have used the umbrella I was carrying, but as so often happens in these places, the right side of the brain takes over.

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A Guardian of Merrivale. One wonders how large the stone really is, with only its upper-half exposed and chin rested upon another stone.

A rather notable stone juts out of the earth and marks the ascend into the ancient settlement.  There was no visible signpost erected by a modern hand, and we later realized we were not likely parked at the main lot. Just as well, though, like the mist, it seemed intended for the necessary effect.

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Another notable guardian stone inside Merrivale. This one rather looks like a dolphin diving into the body of a protective seal.

I knew nothing about Merrivale before our visit, aside from it being an ancient settlement among many notable sites in Dartmoor. I like it this way. There is much to be said about starting your journey into an ancient land without preconceptions, allowing the nonlogical mind to take over. Here is where the landscape of the senses thrive, and the land of Dartmoor provides the ideal place to open the inner eye.

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A sheep surveys the landscape.

Although there were no other people to be seen through the few feet of mist around us, it was not surprising to encounter sheep. They seem to own the landscape of Dartmoor, along with the famous ponies we, unfortunately, did not meet. The Bodmin Beast was also nowhere to be found, not that we were looking for it…

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Sheep v. serpent stone face-off

So we had only the sheep and rocks to guides our footsteps, along with a rather fortuituous crow that kept appearing at just the right moment when I questioned whether I should continue on. There were signposts of sorts, but one could easily get lost in such a thick fog. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have cared all that much, but I did have my friend’s welfare to consider, and we did have that date with the crop circle…

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It was rather comforting to have the sheep present while we walked through time.

Even so, time seemed to step aside to accommodate, allowing us to walk through the veil of its passage and return to a past now long forgotten.  The stones and the sheep watched but didn’t interfere with our footsteps and I succumbed to the glory of just being in the magical landscape.

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There are rocks everywhere, but their placements are deliberate, even though many seem much more hidden by the earth than they once were.

These places are mysterious, but not completely elusive. The arrangement of stones signal sites of burial and also gathering places. Avenues line streams and circles encase sacred space.

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A place to gather?
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Stones surrounding a probable cairn

 

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Burial chamber?

 

Each footstep led to a place of wonderment, and I soon realized I would not be able to travel the full breadth of the settlement. The further I strayed, with the urgings of the crow that appeared through the mist atop the stones, the more nervous I knew I was making Larissa. She, though, was very obliging. We both knew what general direction the car lot was, and that we needed to descend into the midst to get there. At the very least, the avenues and stream would lead us back, once we found them again.

 

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A stream divides two avenues of stones at Merrivale. One is longer than the other. I walked the length of the one near the road when I entered the settlement, and the other upon my return. To our surprise, another visitor had quietly entered the landscape while Larissa and I were wandering. An elderly gentleman, whom I surmised must have been a local as there was no sign of another car when we drove aways, was seated nearby the marker stone at the end of the avenues. He lifted his head in a slight acknowledgment of greeting, and I glanced at the easel before him, and the unopened umbrella beside his chair. Noting, as I did, how seemed to be more than happy to be present within the dragon’s breath, and perhaps would rather us not be there with him. There was a sense that he belonged there more than we, and we quietly left, leaving him covered in another time.

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Trees in the distance beyond where we walked looked like a mirage.

I climbed reluctantly into the car, noticing for the first time how soaked by the dragon’s breath we were. My jeans were an uncomfortable second skin thickly glued to my legs, and I turned the heater on full blast as I turned the car around. I would miss this landscape and its assortment of living stones.

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Each stone held a story, but there was not enough time to stop and listen to all of them.

As we drove away, through the winding hills of Dartmoor, the heavy mist started to clear. The transformation was quite dramatic, and I found myself wishing I could pull over to photograph the land unveiled to the light above. It did not escape me how lucky we were to be given the magical effect of the dragon’s breath, followed by the sun-kissed landscaped in its full, bare beauty. As we turned corners, wonders appeared, included a large stone circle tantalizingly close to the road but with no layby to pull over. And, we were now pressed a bit for time.

We did, though, stop at the bottom of the hills of Dartmoor to admire a river running with the light of the sun. There were much-appreciated bathrooms too, and just enough time to take a few photos.

 

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Turning Back Time: I visit the Hurlers

I am climbing the walls of an old church. There is only the outer fortification of stone, smoothed into mortared slabs. Each slab is chiseled with symbols, hieroglyphics of an ancient language my cells remember, but my mind has forgotten how to read. My hands grasp the hollowed frames of windows, climbing through the inside through levels until I know I have reached the 3rd floor. Here my hands let go of their grasp and I find I am hovering weightlessly. My body prone, I look down to the depths below. And then I begin to turn, like a clock. My body the hands of the hours going backward.

I had this dream about a week ago, and it has lingered with me since then. It has been more than a month since my return from England. My third trip there in as many years. I go to this land to turn back time.

After we descended from Brentor, and I paid my respects to the guardian stone, Sue graciously offered to take us along in her car to the next site, and Larissa and I accepted without negotiation. I was more than happy to take a break from driving on the wrong  left side of the road down the winding narrow lanes of rural England, and I knew Larissa shared my fear that there was a good chance we would get lost following Sue who drives with the skill and ease of a professional racecar driver.

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I drove down this lane and many like it.

So to The Hurlers we went, with Stuart navigating using a traditional paper map as Sue manipulated the stickshift gears on her race compact car. Larissa and I were impressed, to say the least, and kept breathing large sighs of relief that we were not in the front seats and could enjoy the views that flew passed by. And, we never got lost. Well, that is until we got there and I started to wander…

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A ewe leads the way to The Hurlers

To be honest, I rather wanted to get lost, but at that critical moment the brain won over the longings of the heart, and I turned around. But, I am getting ahead of myself…

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It’s difficult to describe just how vast and complex the landscape of Dartmoor is, which covers 368 square miles of moorland filled with the evidence of ancient civilizations. Pure heaven for someone like me.

The Hurlers is the remains of three large stone circles in the wild moorland landscape of Dartmoor, which just happens to be aligned with the star cluster Orion and sits on the Michael ley line. To say it is a place of magic is an understatement. I knew I was home before I stepped out of the car.

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The Hurlers are larger than they appear, and are perfectly aligned with the stars…

As tends to happen in these ancient lands, my feet began to move as though driven by some deep cellular memory, responding to the forces of the land. Find the seer’s stone, the command kept entering my conscious mind as it whirled with the energies of the land.

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The seer’s stone sits in the center of the Hurlers

The land was damp from rain, and a puddle had formed within the well around the central stone. I could not comfortably sit here, as I had at Bratha’s stone in the Peak last April, so my visit within the circle was brief. After paying my respects, I walked the perimeter stones in two of the circle, while my eye caught upon the portal stones, briefly. I will return after, I promised myself.

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Portal through time.

I could not ignore the intense pull to the land beyond. The hill with the balanced stones of giants felt like a magnet drawing me ever-closer to its energy. The land, as I have learned, beyond stone circles is filled with secrets of the past. Stones litter these ancient landscapes and each has a story to tell. There were too many to linger beside here, and my feet did not want to go slowly.

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One can imagine a gathering place here, where the stones do the talking.

The vegetation of the landscape of these sites is always worth noting. How it grows along the ancient tracts…when it is interrupted, swirled or corse…

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An uneven landscape that seems to have been modeled by deliberate hands.

There are many ditches around the Hurlers, as well as deep circular depressions. As Sue noted, it could be from mining the lands for ore, or for some other, perhaps ritualistic reason.  There is the sensation of falling inward to another realm near some of them, and the grass often swirls in imposing tufts which speak of disruption.

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Several depressions threaten to tumble the unsteady.

My feet, though, kept racing toward the hill beyond, where the Cheesewring sits like a giant stone bird. Was I following the Michael line to some sort of apex of energy? It felt like a force beyond logical reason. Yet, I stopped at the edge of the stone settlement, just where the land starts to dip before it climbs. I looked at the imposing hill just beyond with longing, before I turned around. I was far, quite far, from the other three I had come with and logic told me it would not be fair to follow my heart into the mist. And so the climb would have to wait for some other day, perhaps in the future.

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I got tantalizingly close before I turned away.

Something told me, though, that if I had stood long enough between those to standing stones, I would have gotten there sooner.

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