A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park
November 6, 2020
PERAMBULATION OF THE FOREST OF DARTMOOR (RATTLEBROOK FOOT TO PRINCETOWN)
The full Perambulation of the Forest of Dartmoor is around 50 miles. This post covers one leg (or around 20% of the route). The perambulation is being completed for the fourth time by the author as part of the 780th anniversary (1240-2020), having first completed it in 1990 (750th Anniversary). Each of the previous three perambulations were completed in a clockwise direction, this one being anti-clockwise.
The story of the Dartmoor Perambulation starts with King John in May 1204, when in a desperate attempt to raise funds for an army to for a war with King Phillip of France, he gave up his rights in Devon but retained the highlands of Dartmoor. It is believed it raised 5000 marks for the crown. In those times the term “forest” in this context was crown land, reserved for hunting comprised trees, turf and vegetation, where hunting would have included deer, hare, rabbit, pheasant, boar, wolf, fox, martin, partridge, quail, heron and mallard. The boundary was important as revenue could be derived from activities within the forest. King John failed (as with Saxon and Norman tradition) to order a “perambulation” to seal the boundary lines. However, in spite of this, it was not until his son, King Henry III came to the thrown that the first perambulation of Dartmoor was secured, this was in 1240. The perambulators completed their task on the 24th of July who were: William Brewer, Guy Breteville, William Wydeworthy, Hugo Bellay, Richard Gyppard, Odo Treverbyn, Henry the son of Henry, William Trenchard, Phillip Parrer, Nicholas Heamton, William Moreleghe and Durant the son of Boton.
The original 1240 perambulation was written in medieval latin and was subsequently open to interpretation for a few centuries. In 1608/9, a major attempt was made to clarify the boundary and later when OS mapped Dartmoor in 19th century, they relied on locals to define the boundary. Both these boundaries are shown in this post, however, the 1608/9 boundary is the one that most modern “perambulators” follow.
Note: The source of information for the above has been from: a) Dartmoor’s Greatest Walk by Bill Ransom (1987) – Devon Books, b) Dartmoor’s Greatest Long Distance Walk by Roland Ebdon (2016) – Halsgrove and c) Dartmoor Boundary Markers by Dave Brewer (2002) – Halsgrove