Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

Twelve (Dartmoor) Days of Christmas

“The Twelve Days of Christmas“ is a famous English folk melody which has had many variations in the lyrics, since it was first published in an illustrated children’s book, Mirth Without Mischief, in London in 1780. The lyrics from composer Frederic Austin’s 1909 publication have established the current form. In the Austin variation, each verse deals with the next day of Christmastide, adding one new gift and then repeating all the earlier gifts, so that each verse is one line longer than its predecessor.

This post is a tongue in cheek Dartmoor variation, which the author has devised taking each of the gifts (and how many of each) that ‘my true love gave to me’ from the Austin (1909) variation and replacing with locations that ‘my Dartmoor Explorations have taken me (to)’.

The Dartmoor locations use homonyms, rhymes and the numbers relating to the original carol lyrics, with one or two of them which replace the ‘gifts’ from the original being a little ‘cheesy’ perhaps. That said, I hope this post is taken in the spirit in which it is written. There may well be better suited alternative Dartmoor locations, which could have been used and which the author would love to hear about.

Happy Christmas everyone…..

0. Twelve Days a
The lyrics from composer Frederic Austin’s 1909 publication have established the current form of the carol. The gifts ‘my true love sent to me’ are:
A partridge in a pear tree
Two turtle doves,
Three French hens,
Four calling birds,
Five gold rings,
Six geese a-laying,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Nine ladies dancing,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Eleven pipers piping,
Twelve drummers drumming.
0. Twelve Days b
Locations of the Twelve (Dartmoor) Days of Christmas. For three of the days (2, 8 and 11) there are multiple locations.
1. an intro to day 1
First day of Christmas
1. Postbridge Clapper a
The Postbridge clapper bridge would probably have replaced stepping stones to help packhorses cross the river.
1. Postbridge Clapper b
The bridge with its two central piers spanned by three large granite slabs, or clappers is probably the most photographed bridge on Dartmoor
1. Postbridge Clapper c
The bridge is the finest on Dartmoor and probably one of the finest in the country.
2. an intro to day 2
Second day of Christmas
2. Dovecote a
Stable Arch to Bayfield House taken from the car park at Lydford. It was built circa 1870 at the same time as Bayfield House which was built as the rectory to St. Petrock’s Church. Interestingly, it originally had a clock at the top but this is now a dovecote.
2. Dovecote b
Providence Place. This mid 19th century building (now part of three dwellings) was built around 1840 by Richard D. Gay who supervised the building of the Providence Chapel with Mrs Callard in 1839. Note the lovely dovecotes.
3. an intro to day 3
Third day of Christmas
3. Frenchbeer a
Map of Frenchbeer Rock and its three adjacent hut circles to the east.
3. Frenchbeer b
Frenchbeer Rock approaching from the north.
3. Frenchbeer c
Hut Circle 1 at SX67193 85486
3. Frenchbeer d
Hut Circle at SX6720685465
3. Frenchbeer e
Hut Circle 3 has been extensively robbed and is located at SX67228 85428
4. an intro to day 4
Fourth day of Christmas
4. Colly a
First Colly view – Small weir on the Colly Brook near the farmstead of Wedlake.
4. Colly b
Second Colly view – The Colly Brook below Little Combe Tor
4. Colly c
Third Colly view – Footbridge over Colly Brook below Little Combe Tor
4. Colly d
Fourth Colly view – Next to the Colly Brook and a small bridge is Higher Mill. It is 18th century and has a 19th century addition. There is still a millstone here (just behind the red car).
5. an intro to day 5
Fifth day of Christmas
5. Gold a
First Golden Dagger ‘thing’: Adit Level mine entrance with Tin Miners from c.1912 superimposed.
5. Gold b
Second Golden Dagger ‘thing’: The miners dry (and probable blacksmiths shop) located approx 100m from the adit level mine entrance.
5. Gold c
Third Golden Dagger ‘thing’: A superimposed picture of the water wheel from 1937 onto a 2022 photograph, showing the cornish stamps. The wheel had ceased operation circa 1914. The stamps were housed within a shed when they were operational. It is believed that the wheel was a ‘pitchback’ variety (rotating anti-clockwise from the viewpoint in the photograph).
5. Gold d
Fourth Golden Dagger ‘thing’: Dinah’s House is 19th century origin. It was variously known as Dinah’s Cottage, Dinah’s Bungalow, or just as “Dinah’s”. Dinah Hext and her children lived here in 1860s and 1870s, having moved from Challacombe, which is presumably how it got its name. It was also known as stamps cottage, which probably relates to the waterwheel a short distance up the track (which might have fed a stamping mill).
5. Gold e
Fifth Golden Dagger ‘thing’: The round buddle was introduced to Dartmoor in the mid-nineteenth century and was the means of the one of the first stages of separation. A wooden launder would have lead to the central buddle ‘cone’ and material would have been shovelled into the launder mixed with a stream of water and thus fed into the circular buddle . A small water wheel would have powered several ‘sweeps’ which would have rotated around the buddle (centred on the ‘cone’). The ‘sweeps’ had rags or thin sacking hanging below them. The process would have collected the heavier good quality material against the rag / thin sacking and so would not be washed away with the surplus water and waste.
6. an intro to day 6
Sixth day of Christmas
6. Geese a
The famous residents at Two Bridges Hotel….6 geese a-laying (down)
6. Geese b
From the Dartmoor Magazine, issue no.137, Winter 2019: ‘By 1772 the turnpike bridge had been constructed across the Dart at Two Bridges and by 1794 Francis Buller had constructed the inn near the site. The inn bore the name of the Saracen’s Head…’ Around the time of First WW, the name changed to Two Bridges Hotel. I am not sure how long the geese have been residents.
6. Geese c
Picture taken from one of the rooms (when the author stayed there) looking west. The geese had by this time had their rest and were waddling around the green.
7. an intro to day 7
Seventh day of Christmas
7. Seven Lords Land Cairn
Seven Lords Land Cairn (SX74124 76237) lies next to the Ilsington / Widecombe Parish Boundary (wall in picture) but the reality is the seven manorial bounds co-join within the vicinity of the cairn, not exactly at the cairn.
8. an intro to day 8
Eighth day of Christmas
8. Maids a
St. Peter’s Churchyard, Meavy. Slightly more that 8 ‘Maids’ here (but who is counting).
8. Maids b
Snowdrops are also known also as “‘Candlemas Bells” (named after Candlemas, 2nd February). The latin is Galanthus Nivalis. The photograph is another view of snowdrops at St. Peter’s, Meavy 
8. Maids c
There is always a good display of snowdrops around St. Raphael’s Church, Huccaby. The church is always a delight to visit. It was originally built in 1869 by Revd Morris Fuller, as a mission chapel. William Crossing stated it was built on some ruined old cottages that were thatched with rye straw.
9. an intro to day 9
Ninth day of Christmas
9. Nine Maidens a
Nine Maidens (or nine stones) and are the remains of a Bronze Age Barrow. According to legend, the nine stones are the petrified figures of nine maidens who were turned to stone for dancing on the sabbath. They are said to be resurrected every Hunters’ Moon to dance again…”‘twixt dark of night and break of day”. The site is also said to be the sacred spot where a coven of witches gather to enact its Sabbat (ritual ceremony) at each of the eight pagan festivals. 
9. Nine Maidens b
Although called nine maidens, there are actually seventeen stones and it is said that counting them twice, one never arrives at the same number. The word maiden is believed to be a corruption of the celtic “maen” or “stone” (ref William Crossing) and the combination of ‘nine’ with ‘maidens’ may suggest a witches’ coven with nine members and the nine forms of the witch-goddess, Hecate. (Source: Haunted Dartmoor by R.W. Bamberg)
9. Nine Maidens c
The Witches’ Sabbat (Beltane). Is is believed that the “counting difficulty” of the number of stones is a local tradition and that the harmless “sabbath” (maidens dancing) has been replaced with “sabbat”.
10. an intro to day 10
Tenth day of Christmas
10. Ten Commandments a
One of the most recognisably curiosities on Dartmoor are the Ten Commandments Stones. The carving of the stones on Buckland Beacon commenced on 23rd July 1928. The work was undertaken by a W. Arthur Clements (from Exmouth) and whilst he was undertaking the work (he finished on 31st August 1928) he lived in a small hut on the fringe of the woods below the Beacon. The hut was little more than a cattle shed and the only light he had was a candle. He used to wash in a nearby stream. The Lord of the Manor of Buckland (Mr William Whitley) wished to commemorate the rejection of Parliament of the proposed new book of common prayer in 1928 as he considered it to be a “victory for the Protestants over popish trends” so he had the stones engraved. Source: Article by Judy Chard in Autumn 1988 edition of Dartmoor Magazine.
10. Ten Commandments b
Apparently Mr Whitley would often ride up to the Beacon with his dogs to see how Arthur Clements was progressing and gave him the nickname of Moses!
11. an intro to day 11
Eleventh day of Christmas
11. Pipes a
Top Left: The iron pipe was probably the largest piece of detritus to have ever been on Cut Hill. It was located in an unusual location near the top of the North West Passage and its use is unknown to the author. The picture dates from the early 1990s. The pipe is no longer there, Top Right: The water augmentation pipe at Devonport Leat conveying water from the Meavy into the leat just below the aqueduct, Bottom Left: Part of the two mile long china clay pipeline once conveyed waterborne clay (in suspension) down to the Shaugh Bridge china clay works from the Wigford Down – Shaugh Lake clay pits, Bottom Right: Pipe outside Belstone water treatment works. On 19th September 1963, the Belstone Treatment Works and Taw Marsh Abstraction Scheme was opened taking water from Taw Marsh. The treatment works, since the late 1990s uses water fed into the reservoir which originates from Meldon, being pumped up from Tongue End.
11. Pipes b
Top Left: Part of the “gravity” fed clay pipeline to from Greenhill Mica’s to Cantrell near Quickbeam Hill, Top Right: Pipe at the Burrator Discovery Centre, no doubt was a part of water supply, Bottom Left: Discarded pipe at Jack Cloke’s Prospect at Wapsworthy, where he is alleged to have found Zircons (fake diamonds). Bottom Right: Pipe near Week Ford Tin Mills was most likely part of the hydroelectric plant built at Saddle Bridge to supply electricity to Hooten Wheals (Hexworthy) Mine. The station had its water supplied by a 16 inch iron pipe to a Pelton Wheel, which took its supply off the Wheal Emma Leat.
11. Pipes c
Left: Inside the four slotted building (thickening tank) at Shipley Bridge Car Park is a clay pipe intake. The building is believed to have been adapted from earlier naphtha works. Top Right: Plasterdown Camp near Tavistock, was demolished in 1976. The camp was built in 1943 as a British Army Hospital, (known as the 115th Station Hospital) and became an American Army Hospital before the D-Day landings. The Grimstone and Sortridge Leat crosses through the site and during WWII concrete pipes were installed to take the flow of the leat, presumably to avoid pollution to the farms and houses fed by the leat downstream. Bottom Right: Clay pipe crossing the Zeal Tor tramway taking the clay (in suspension) from the Bala Brook extraction works (Petre’s Pits) to the Brentmoor China Clay Works at Shipley Bridge.
12. an intro to day 12
Twelfth day of Christmas
12. Drummers a
Beat-Route in Chagford Square for Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2012. Picture kindly provided by Terri Windling.
12. Drummers b
Beat-Route coming into Chagford Square. I have counted 12 drummers in this picture (but there may be more!). The number fits with 12 drummers drumming. Picture kindly provided by Terri Windling.
12. Drummers c
Beat-Route outside the ‘Pepperpot’. Picture kindly provided by Terri Windling.

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