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April 10, 2012

I was looking through the photos I took when we were on the moor last week and it struck me how inhospitable and treeless the place is. Dartmoor used to be pretty much covered in forest in the time of William the Conqueror; in fact most of Devon was a Royal forest used for hunting – which explains a lot. It was King John who decided to begin the deforestation of Devon and it carried on through the ages until there wasn’t a tree standing – maybe that’s an exaggeration.

Looking at it now it’s hard to believe there were trees on the moor. Most of  high Dartmoor is treeless apart from the occasional hardy hawthorn nestling in a hollow against the biting wind even on a sunny day, and the odd pine plantation.

You can look for miles and not  even see a bit of gorse. Nothing but grass and ponies; even they don’t grow very tall.

But clinging to life on the edge of the granite, probably trampled by people and nibbled by sheep and ponies is the  humble wild blueberry or bilberry or winberry or whortleberry.

Later there’ll be berries  – and no doubt there’ll be a recipe on this blog for bilberry muffins. But for now I’m marvelling at the plant’s tenacity.

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