Wistmans Wood

On a recent visit to Plymouth, I had a few hours spare in the afternoon, and took the opportunity to visit Wistmans Wood, high on Dartmoor.

The moss covered boulders, and twisted, ancient brambles of Wistman’s Wood are haunted by tales of druids, ghosts, and supernatural spooks.

For the real details, I’ll quote Wikipedia: Wistman’s Wood has been mentioned in writing for hundreds of years. It is likely to be a left-over from the ancient forest that covered much of Dartmoor c. 7000 BCE, before Mesolithic hunter/gatherers cleared it around 5000 BCE. Photographic and other records show that Wistman’s Wood has changed considerably since the mid-19th century; at the same time climatic conditions have also generally become warmer. Over this period, the older oak trees have grown from a stunted/semi-prostrate to a more ascending form, while a new generation of mostly straight-grown and single-stemmed oaks has developed. The oldest oaks appear to be 400–500 years old, and originated within a degenerating oakwood that survived in scrub form during two centuries of cold climate. In c. 1620 these old trees were described as “no taller than a man may touch to top with his head”. Tree height increased somewhat by the mid-19th century, and during the 20th century approximately doubled (in 1997 the maximum and average height of trees was around 12 m and 7 m respectively).  In addition, a wave of marginal new oaks arose after c. 1900, roughly doubling the area of wood. Part of the evidence for these changes comes from a permanent vegetation plot located in the southern end of South Wood. This is the oldest known of its kind in British woodland, with a small part having been recorded by R. Hansford Worth in 1921.

Whatever the history is, it’s an amazing place to visit. But, an important note, Visitors to Dartmoor are being asked to keep out of the ancient woodland to protect the fragile habitat.

Unbelievably, during Lockdown people had been camping in Wistman’s Wood, stripping moss from trees and rocks, and making fires!!! This environment has taken hundreds of years to create, and only takes minutes to destroy – and the signs of destruction are clear to see. Look, but don’t touch! 

I took most of my photos from the edge of the woods, using a longer lens than I would normally, to zoom into the woods. And then used a technique called focus stacking, to ensure everything was sharply in focus.