The mist is descending and the wind is picking up as Honey and I walk along the bleak track to Foggintor Quarry. The approach looks like something from a post-apocalyptic movie in this grey, November light. Most people imagine Dartmoor to be a wilderness, but it’s a man-made landscape. The earth has been quarried and mined for millennia; Foggintor and neighbouring Swelltor were hollowed out in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their granite now lives in the walls of Dartmoor prison and some other famous landmarks, including Nelson’s Column.
As we draw alongside the entrance to the quarry, we see a little vista opening up through the passageway to the centre of the tor. Juicy green turf, ivy-green mosses, and little ponds of lettuce-green weed entice us through to the pool. Sheer cliffs rise around fifty feet from the slatey water, which is being whipped into wavelets. From time to time, I watch the progress of a gust of wind as it agitates the surface causing a swirling, transient, opacity. The smell of sheep-wee fades.
I change in the chill wind, and swim towards the tiny islands. The water is cold and satiny. I pass over tumbled heaps of granite and occasionally scrape my hand or my knee; sometimes I notice them in time and bank like a low-flying jet-fighter negotiating a canyon. When I look up I see the cliffs begin to fade like ghosts into the mist.
I love being in the womb of what was once a tor; I think of how the heart was ripped from her, and how nature has mended her wounds with a skin of turf and moss. The spring has bled into her exposed core and filled it, making a place for animals and birds to drink and wash, and for me and Honey to swim.