For his book The Wild Places, Robert Macfarlane journeyed to Britain's remaining wilderness areas -- including Ranoch Moor, a large stretch of bog and heath to the west of Loch Rannoch in Scotland. His reflections on moorland, and the importance of open space, could easily apply to Dartmoor as well:
"In a land as densely populated as Britain," writes Macfarlane, "openness can be hard to find. It is difficult to reach places where the horizon is experienced as a long unbroken line, or where the blue of distance becomes visible. Openness is rare, but its importance is proportionately great. Living constantly among streets and houses induces a sense of enclosure, of short-range sight. The spaces of moors, seas and mountains counteract this.
"Whenever I return from the moors, I feel a lightness up behind my eyes, as though my vision has been opened out by twenty degrees to either side. A region of uninterrupted space is not only a convenient metaphor for freedom and openness, it can sometimes bring those feelings fiercely on.
"To experience openness is to understand something of what the American novelist Willa Cather, who was brought up on the Great Plains, called 'the reaching and reaching of high plains, the immeasurable yearning of all flat lands.' To love open spaces -- and they have, historically, not been loved -- you have to believe, as Cather did, that beauty might at times be a function of continuous space. You have to believe that such principles might possess their own active expansiveness. Anyone who has been in an empty sea, out of sight of land, on a clear day, will know the deep astonishment of seeing the curvature of the globe: the sea's down-turned edges, its meniscal frown.
"Open space brings to mind something that is difficult to express, but unmistakeable to experience....The influence of spaces such as the moor cannot be measured, but should not for this reason be passed over. 'To recline on a stump of thorn, between afternoon and night,' Thomas Hardy wrote in The Return of the Native, 'where the eye could reach nothing of the world outside the summits and and shoulders of heathland which filled the whole circumferance of its glance, and to know everything around and underneath has been from prehistoric times as unaltered as the stars overhead, gave ballast to the mind adrift on change, and harrassed by the irrepressible New."
In The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich, based in the Big Sky country of Wyoming, writes: "The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly, light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding."
"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed," said the American historian and novelist Wallace Stegner (1900-1993)."We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”
And indeed we do.
The beautiful Dartmoor photographs above were taken last week by our friend David Thiérrée, when he and five other French mythic artists from Brittany came to walk the moor and visit our community of mythic artists in Chagford. In the photo below (left to right) is Virginie Ropars, Claire Briant, Alice Dufeu, Olivier Villoingt, Yoann Lossel, and David himself. Please follow the links to see their enchanting artwork.