Monday, 20 April 2015
Voices at the river
I now find my usual Dart swimming sports rather dull (heresy, I know) having made a journey into the heart of the Dart Gorge, to its inner sanctum. We set off from Dartmeet on a dazzlingly bright day, with sunbeams bouncing off the river beside us. At the start there was a pastoral feeling, with almost lawned areas by the water, perfect for picnics, but gradually the surroundings grew wilder, with massive moss-covered cliffs, and huge granite pavements. The river grew more turbulent, with cascades rushing through chutes and channels, and thundering waterfalls. The water foamed with bubbles, like lime cordial, so fresh and silvery. We stopped to swim at the most beautiful place which I have since learnt is called Broad Stones, or Broada Stones, because of the vast granite ledges which make up the river bed in this pool. This place is the origin of the legend of the "Cry of the Dart", because when the wind blows through the gorge, it produces a strange high-pitched sound which is the amplified by what is effectively a natural speaker; the gorge itself. Broada Stones is very near Rowbrook Farm, scene of another Dartmoor tale: that of Jan Coo, a farmhand who was said to have been lured away by the pixies. He kept hearing someone calling his name, "Jan Coo, Jan Coo!" and went out several times to investigate. The final time he never returned. Perhaps it was the Cry of the Dart that lured him; unfortunate for him that his name sounded like the calling cry of the river.