Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Walking in the Hoofprints of War Horse



“I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor ... And, with two-and-a-half weeks of extensive coverage of landscapes and skies, I hardly scratched the surface of the visual opportunities that were offered to me.” Steven Spielberg, shortly after filming his Oscar-nominated adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's book 'War Horse' in Devon, England.

We have seen the stage play in London and the film, so the opportunity to take a day out of the office to see how the Dartmoor film location would work with our Walks proved too great a temptation to turn down! Normally we spend February behind the scenes, but this day was our chance to get into the field (quite literally!) and follow in the hoofprints of War Horse.

So on a grey damp day, Michael and Betsy West, Steph Crabb and our canine mascots packed up the home office and decamped to Dartmoor. Arriving at the Royal Oak in Meavy, we met with Muff Dudgeon, Walk Leader, and Dr Tom Greeves, Dartmoor Cultural Historian and Environmentalist, for lunch and a chat about how the day on Dartmoor for our Pentillie Castle Walk will work this year.

Afterwards, we set out to see the nearby locations which provided the gorgeous backdrops for most of the filming in Devon. On Ringmoor down, we saw beautiful views of the Burrator Resevoir and the hamlet of Sheepstor. We walked to the derelict farmhouse - Ditsworthy Warren House - which was the Narracott family home and scene of Joey the horse's formative years. We saw the field where Joey learned to plow and the gateway to the farm where the family goose gave chase to 'intruders'.

This year on our Pentillie Castle Walk (September and October) - Wednesday will be spent exploring Dartmoor in the company of Dr Tom Greeves, visiting the filming locations which also happen to be in some of the most interesting and historic landscape within the Moor! Near Dittsworthy Warren, we'll visit Drizzlecombe, named not for the rain but for the little droozle bird (like a black bird). Here Dr Greeves will point out traces of prehistoric sites and the ruins of medieval farms and tin works. Scratch the surface of Dartmoor and we find thousands of years of history and just as many stories and legends. We lunch at the Royal Oak and then have the option of a horse ride on the Moor in the afternoon for those who wish to continue in the hoofprints of War Horse!

Pentillie Castle Walking Tour Info:
War Horse Wednesday on Dartmoor is just one day of a fantastic week-long itinerary that encompasses a tour of historic Plymouth (Pilgrim Fathers, Spanish Armada), coastal walking in Cornwall and a visit to a former home of Sir Francis Drake. Gentler coastal estates include Tudor Cotehele with its own quay and stewpond, and Mount Edgcumbe with its Grade I Cornish gardens. All week we stay in Pentillie Castle where we have exclusive use.
September and October Departures from $3995 per person based on Double Occupancy.

Recommended Reading:

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Fictional tale inspired by true history of how horses were commandeered from the countryside across Britain and used in the World War I effort. The author lives in Devon, England, and his tale was grounded in the culture and countryside of Dartmoor.

Warrior by General Jack Seely
True tale of an officer, General Jack Seely, who served in World War I with his horse, Warrior, born and bred on the Isle of Wight in England. The horse was seen by fellow troops as a beacon of hope throughout the war and stood brave and strong in many difficult circumstances including leading a decisive charge on Moreuil Wood near the end of the War. Man and horse survived the War and at the time the horse was famous throughout the nation. When Warrior died at the age of 33, his obituary appeared in all the papers.

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