Cider in Dartmoor
Our hiking trip to Dartmoor, in southwest England, was a spontaneous affair. The winter was mild and no snow was forthcoming, so we grabbed our hiking boots, warm clothes, a flask of whiskey, and set off toward the wilderness of the moor, untouched by humans or a GPS signal.
As the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s spooky tale, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dartmoor always intrigued me, but local mysteries don’t end there. The region abounds with legends of the supernatural: pixies, a pack of spectral dogs, a headless horseman, a large black dog portending death, a beastly cat, a few restless ghosts, and a strange apparition called ‘hairy hands’ that likes to steer unaware drivers into ditches.
At first glance, Dartmoor seemed harmless. The moor was surrounded by cozy villages and attracted a large number of weekend hikers. If we were going to experience anything supernatural, we would not be alone.
Our first and only mystery occurred when we started putting on our hiking stuff. Instead of my favorite, high-quality, water-resistant boots, I discovered a pair of suede cowboy boots that I hadn’t worn since my university years. It was a real surprise to see them in the British countryside. Either I took the wrong shoe bag without looking inside, or the Dartmoor pixies had played a trick on me.
There was nothing I could do except go onto the moor in my everyday shoes, which got soaked in no time and made me look even more amateurish. The moor swarmed with serious hikers wearing knee-high rubber boots, water-resistant clothes and binoculars. I presumed they were out to spot a deer, or a Dartmoor pony, or a headless horseman. I hadn’t seen much wildlife except sheep.
The moor was even more beautiful than I expected. It became even more so when we put some distance between the wet grass and our feet, stopping at an inn. The fire was blazing and the landlady bustled around it. I changed into my dry cowboy boots. The bar was full of weathered, hirsute locals. There were a few bikers sporting leather pants and grim looks.
As the inn filled with hikers and their decidedly non-spectral dogs, we cradled our drinks by the fire. I had to try the cider. All the cider I drink in London comes from the West Country, and I was excited to sip the real deal in situ. This one was a local Devon cider, the bartender said. The amber liquid and was thick and pleasantly refreshing, not too sweet and not too dry.
There might well be a connection between drinking copious amounts of cider and having supernatural experiences, but unfortunately we weren’t there long enough to find out.