Sunday, 28 August 2011

Plaster Down

Stuff happens around Dartmoor on a Bank Holiday weekend. It's also likely to rain - our current Summer run should start any day now and will probably extend into October.

Our particular itinerary included a visit to the Sheep Dog Trials in a field bordering Plaster Down, of which more down the page. For now, here's a few action shots. Noting, of course, that stills could never capture the real action of a sheep dog collecting his small flock with a sharp run round the field boundary.

For those unfamiliar with the pastime - you might call it a sport, but these people are all working farmers and that takes priority - for anyone not familiar, a trial involves the shepherd and dog herding the sheep through or around certain obstacles or into a pen. The first two shots above show the same essential procedure - pushing the sheep between two hurdles. The third shot shows the shepherd and dog attempting to split the five sheep into two and three.

Shepherding with dogs is often cited as an example of man working alongside nature and indeed it is. But it is also an example of man using the natural instinct - the dog as a hunter - and turning it to his advantage. On Dartmoor, the sheep are less likely to need herding as they are left to roam without any field boundaries. Those farmers who let their sheep up on the moor will, however, make regular trips out to supply herds with feed and the sheep have learnt to follow the sound of the quad bikes used to get out to them.

The picture below is a view towards Sharpitor - the distinct pimple on the left of the horizon and the end point on that ridge that is Peek Hill. What's noticeable - but not immediately so for anyone not familiar with farming practice - is that none of the fields on view contain arable crops. Dartmoor, being high up, is more suited to raising livestock - mostly cattle and sheep - and as such, fields contain grass. Many of these fields will have produced silage earlier in the year - essentially cut grass which is then stored and used for feed during winter months - which is why, in late August they look so lush. Of course, the amount of rain we've received from the middle of July onwards certainly helps.

Plaster Down was the site of a US Army Field Hospital during WWII and after the site of a Territorial Army. The site is now barren with hardly any sign of its wartime use. A close friend, told that we had been there, let out the rather astounding fact that Plaster Down was where she was conceived - during the war, courtesy of a visiting US army soldier.

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