1 SEPTEMBER 1900, Page 21


'4 Book of Dartmoor, By S. Baring-Gould. London; Methuen and Co. Lee.]

THE beginning of this book is a general account of Dartmoor and of the strange things to be seen on it. The first chapter is about bogs, but the reader need have no fear of sticking in it, nor, indeed, in any part of this amusing book. These bogs are very dangerous, and Mr. Baring-Gould tells us how in the autumn of 1891 he lost his way on one, and-" all at once I went in over my waist and felt myself being sucked down as though an octopus had hold of me." Luckily, he was able to struggle out, but not without difficulty. The tors are the most striking feature in the landscape, and there are some

• good photographs of them in this book. The rugged masses of rock look like castles in the distance. The word " thr " is derived from the "Welsh twr, a tower, and from the same root as the Latin turns," we are told in a note. They are the remains of great mountains in which there must have been lakes, for a canoe 9 ft. long has been found in a bed of lignite. At the sides of the tors the ground is covered with rocks that have - fallen down while the mountain has been wearing away, which are called " clitters." In the caves made by these rocks the moss schistostega osmundacea is sometimes to be found :- "It has a metallic lustre like green gold, and on entering a dark place under the rocks, the ground seems to be blazing with gold. Professor Lloyd found that the luminous appear- ance was due to the presence of small crystals in the structure which reflect the light. Coleridge says :—

"Tls said In summer's evening hour Flashes the golden-coloured Sower,

A fair electric light.'

It has the appearance of a handful of emeralds or aqua- marine thrown into a dark hole, and is frequently associated with the bright green liverwort It is to be found in a good many places, as Hound Tor, Widdecombe, Leather Tor, and in the Swineombe Valley, also in a cave under Lynx Tor. If found, please leave alone. Gathered, it is invisible ; the hand or knife brings away only mud."

The chapters un the prehistoric remains are very good reading. Dartmoor seems to have been thickly inhabited in the Neolithic age by a pastoral people with long heads. They lived peaceably among themselves, as is evident from the fact that their fortresses, in which are found spears and arrow-heads, are on the outskirts of the moor, as a protec- tion against invaders. Though there are but few weapons found on Dartmoor, there are plenty of household imple- ments, such as small knives for cutting up meat and scrapers for cleaning hides. According to Mr. Baring-Gould, these people were as much ancestor-ridden as the Chinese are to- day. Instead of building a house for himself, primitive man made dolmens, kistvaens, and menhirs for the dead. But his efforts do not seem to have relieved him altogether from ghostly terrors, for there are traces of customs, which can be explained by the help of modern savage behaviour, which seem to show that his whole life turned on the dread of ghostly apparitions. Their burying places were in the wildest parts of the moor and as far from men's dwellings as possible. "In the howling wilderness about Cranmere Pool, where there are no traces of human habitation, there lie the dead. On every rise above the swamps and fathomless morasses of Fox Tor, there they are scattered thick." The huts and camps of the long-headed people are in some ways more interesting than their tombs, and the plans and pictures in this book give a very good idea of them :— " [The huts] usually have a raised platform on the side that is towards the hill, and the circle bulges at this point to give additional apace on this platform. It was probably used as a bed by night, and was sat upon by day. In one hut at Grimspound the platform was divided into two compartments. In some instances small upright stones planted in the floor show that the platform was made of logs and brushwood, held in place by these projections. The stone platforms on the other hand were paved. The doorways into the huts are composed of single upright stones as jambs, with a threshold and a lintel, this latter always fallen, and often found wedged between the uprights. The floor within

is paved near the door The huts must have been entered on all fours; the doorways are never higher than three feet six inches, usually less Cooking-holes are sunk in the floor near the hearths; and piles of cooking-stones are found at hand much cracked by the fire."

Primitive man is so fascinating that we have left ourselves very little room to describe the other things Mr. Baring-Gould tells us about Dartmoor and its more modern inhabitants. There are many sad stories of the wanton destruction of antiquities, sometimes with excellent intentions on the part of the destroyers. This cannot be said, however, of the tripper who tears up. and then throws away, rare plants. It would be delightful to take some of the walks described here, and if the author's advice is followed no one need run any danger of being cast away in a quagmire. We wish the book had included a small general map of Dartmoor, as every one has not got the Ordnance sheets, to which reference is made, though, of course, they are the first thing that an intending explorer ought to get.