Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

Opposite the Two Bridges Hotel there’s a walk that takes you up the valley parallel to the West Dart river to Wistman’s Wood, an impressive ancient sessile oak forest. You cannot fail to be impressed by the tortured nature of these trees, festooned with lichens and mosses, growing amongst a patchwork of enormous granite boulders.

There are days towards the end of the year when the grey has descended. With no wind to blow it away, it can be cool and damp, but immensely peaceful, the mist seemingly deadening out any sound.

Lichen hanging from the branches in Wistman's Wood
Lichen hanging from the branches

Photography generally requires decent light levels and the day I visited Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor the light levels were low.  Although you don’t get glorious back-lighting, decent modern digital cameras should be able to pick up the subtle tones prevalent at this time of year. 

A bleak but pleasant day in Dartmoor
A bleak day, but pleasant none the less

It’s a busy spot with families and walkers on the weekend. The walk is about three quarters of a mile from the car park opposite the Two Bridges Hotel.  Wistman’s Wood is a unique habitat with many people visiting through the year. It’s important to cause as little damage as is possible, it’s a special environment that should be admired and preserved.  It’s extremely easy to sprain or break an ankle between the boulders so please be careful. Alfie (pictured) had to be restrained from playing with another dog for the same reason.

Sessile oaks in winter
The sessile oaks are bare at this time of the year, showing the contorted branches that spread out horizontally rather than growing upwards. If you visit for a walk, be very careful of the rocks, it’s easy to sprain an ankle in one of the interstices!

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Two Bridges Hotel, one of my favourite Devon hotels.  I always liken a visit to a step back in time to a country hotel in the 1970s. You’ll often hear clipped English accents, broad Dartmoor ones, with old monotone photos of the Royal Family on the walls and welcoming real fires – don’t forget to try the Jail Ale – it’s a totally unique place!


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This article was written by

Nigel has been publishing magazines since 1995 (some 20+ years now). Passionate about our countryside and heritage, the magazines reflect this interest. Nigel's the Editor of the DEVONSHIRE magazine which he established in 2009 and founder of the innovative HUBCAST event promotion platform which launched in 2011