Mr Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor

s-l225

Just a look at some past blogs recent blog-watchers might have missed.

One of the best things we did in my time as chief exec. of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, was to pay for the restoration of the gravestone of William Crossing, author of the classic Guide to Dartmoor and many other works about the Moor. Before we had the stone in Mary Tavy churchyard re-lettered, it was hard to read. It was a job well done.

Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor was first published in 1909, and it remains the most detailed book about the Moor.

(Note that: The Moor, with a capital M. While you may be in the Lake District, or the Scottish Highlands, you are always on Dartmoor. If you are in Dartmoor, it means you’re banged up in the prison – I never have been. They haven’t caught me yet! Though I have several times found myself within its precincts.)

Back in the 1960s, it was hard to get a copy of the Guide, until in 1965 David and Charles did an admirable reprint, with an introduction by Brian Le Messurier. Brian wrote introductions for several other Crossing books.

As a teenager with a Dartmoor obsession, I devoured the guide. Brian was sensible not to try to update the guide. It didn’t need it, Dartmoor hadn’t changed that much in sixty years, despite being Britain’s most abused National Park, and, as Brian pointed out, the result wouldn’t have been Crossing’s guide.VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

There’s not a bit of Dartmoor left out from the hundreds of walks Crossing suggests, or not that I’ve found. And his Hints to the Dartmoor Rambler chapter is one of the best thoughts on what you might encounter on your walks. The summary of ancient tracks is superb, giving further scope for moorland expeditions.

Best of all, Crossing caught Dartmoor at an interesting time, before the modern world got at it. When folk farmed in a traditional way, when old folktales were still being told around the moorland hearths, when antiquarianism was being transformed into archaeology.

William Crossing was born in 1840 and died in 1928. He lived a lot of his life in poverty, writing hard to keep himself out of the workhouse. In old age, crippled up with rheumatism, only the charity of friends kept him from poor relief. He did some desultory, badly-paid work for the Dartmoor Preservation Association, which hardly benefited him (I know the feeling!)

His contribution to the DPA’s work has never been properly appreciated.VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

I think back fifty years to the day I emerged from a Newton Abbot bookshop with my copy of the reprint. Now, though I collect guidebooks, I seldom follow routes in them, but I made up my mind that day to walk every single walk Crossing suggested – and I did, though it took several years. Interestingly, there were only a few where I had to improvise, where, for example, reservoirs had been built or conifers planted – I do wonder how many other Dartmoor walkers have done every walk in the book exactly as Crossing suggested?

In that period, everyone referred to the book simply as “Crossing”, such was its authority. I suspect most Dartmoor walkers these days hardly glance at it, which is their loss. There are some excellent modern writers of Dartmoor guidebooks, but none of the present generation come close to William Crossing.VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

I used Crossing’s work as written evidence in numerous Dartmoor campaigns, from fighting mining companies to preserving the ancient lines of footpaths. He remains an authority worth quoting.

When I quit the Dartmoor Preservation Association in 2005, it was suggested to me that I should write a topographical book on the Moor. I gave it serious thought and decided not to do it. How could I compete with writers like Crossing, or Richard Hansford Worth, a predecessor of mine at the DPA, who wrote fine archaeological essays about the place?

I may still write a non-fiction Dartmoor book – you might like to try my Dartmoor thriller novel Dangerous Game – but it won’t be a guide, more an autobiography of those days when Dartmoor was less crowded, when I explored the Moor in Crossing’s footsteps. I can’t compete with the great William Crossing.

I shall never do all those Crossing walks again, but doing them when I was young enabled me to get to know Dartmoor really well. A foundation which served me well in the years that followed.

So if you are near Dartmoor and want to get to know the place really well, find yourself a copy of Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor, and start on those walks. It’ll take you a few years but, if you have the energy, you’ll know the Old Moor in a way that’ll be the envy of Dartmoor dilettantes.

And, if you do, I envy you the chance of following in Mr Crossing’s footsteps for the very first time

Published by John Bainbridge

Rambler, hillwalker, stravaiger and trespasser, access campaigner. Novelist writing historical and period crime fiction.

8 thoughts on “Mr Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Learning, Science and Society

blogging new ideas in science, business, learning

Northern Fell Wanderer

'I Can See Ingleborough From Here!' - The ramblings of a Northern Fell Wanderer: and wanderer of fells everywhere.

New Tales from an Old Forest

Exploring the New Forest with Joan Begbie

Stories by Patricia Furstenberg

Travel, History, Fiction and Dogs, Romania & South Africa ~ For what is wind, but the amassed power of words long ago uttered? (Patricia Furstenberg)

hiking-scotland.co.uk

Outdoor Adventures in Scotland

Walk the Old Ways

Rambling Journeys in Britain with John Bainbridge. Fighting for the Right to Roam. Campaigning to Protect Our Countryside.

COLONEL UNTHANK'S NORWICH

History, Decorative Arts, Buildings

Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!

Stories From Norfolk and Beyond - Be They Past, Present, Fact, Fiction, Mythological, Legend or Folklore.

Blaggers' Blog

Adventures from Dartmoor and beyond

Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire's Moors

Campaigning to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire's moors.

sunshine and celandines

These are a few of my favourite things.

Lakeland Walking Tales

Walks, stories and musings from the Lake District Fells

Daniel Greenwood

Unlocking landscapes

Stonehenge Stone Circle News and Information

Stonehenge Visitors Guide www.Stonehenge.News

Know Your London

A good place to find out about the history of Inner London. There’s no fake-history on this Website.

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

Mick Canning

My Writings

Pam Lecky

Historical Fiction Author

A Suffolk Lane

A diary of my life in rural north Suffolk.

CampaignerKate

Campaigning for open spaces

Friends of the Ullswater Way Blog

Celebrating Our Heritage

heavywhalley.wordpress.com/

Just another WordPress.com site

Pathways to the Past

Exploring the legacy of Ethelburga - a community project focused on the Anglo-Saxon heritage of Lyminge, a village in the Elham Valley in East Kent.

Geraldine Evans's Books

Mystery Without Gore...Bio Historical with Love

Sophie Neville

Writer and Producer

Bee in the Moment

Taking time to notice nature.

The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

John D Burns

Mountaineer, Storyteller and writer.

Musings on Life & Experience

Poetry, Fiction, & Non-Fiction Writings

A Literary Bent

All about books, the people who write them, sell them and read them...reviews and news, travel and photography.

setinthepast

Historical novels, films and TV programmes

AndyClarkWalks

When out walking a new route, I often think about how, when I have completed the walk, I should look up and find out more information about some of the places I have seen. This does not actually happen as often as it should. Hopefully, this site will go some way to redressing this.

Path Watch

Someone's got to do it.

Ratmobile Adventures

Family adventures around Britain in a small car

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Welcome to the Beautiful North

Whimsical musings on my travels around the north of England and beyond

walkingisaacsteatrail

The short-distance approach to walking a long-distance footpath.

Zombie Salmon (the Horror Continues)

A blog about Horror fiction, Horror writing, and Horror criticism...a continuation of The Horror at Open Salon

The Dorset Rambler

Exploring the countryside and lanes of Dorset

treksandtors

A photographic record of walks on Dartmoor and the surrounding areas

bowlandclimber

Walks and climbs

The LongWalker

Long Walking, Long Thinking, and Deep Nature Connection

Down by the Dougie

“Beware those men, the jokers and the tricksters and the clowns. They will laugh us into hell.”

%d bloggers like this: