Hollywood cast its glamour on Dartmoor for a couple of weeks in August 2010 while parts of the movie War Horse, based on a book written by Devon-born Michael Morpurgo, were filmed.
After researching on the Internet and following various rumours and intrigue I’ve put together a couple of locations where you can go to follow in the footsteps of director Steven Spielberg and his cast and crew. Can you feel the stardust yet?
THE ROUTE: It’s a circular so you can start at any point. It’ll make a nice scenic day trip, but if you’re planning on walking then you may need to split it over a couple of days.
1. Yelverton: Steven Spielberg popped into a Dartmoor Co-op for a pint of semi-skimmed milk. Yelverton wasn’t mentioned by name but from the description given I deduced it was here, as there aren’t that many villages not too far from the location shoot that have Co-ops!
While you’re here look out for the massive and well-known “rock” on the Plymouth road and now disused airfield, RAF Harrowbeer, which was created early during the Second World War. Yelverton also has a paperweight centre.
The town also has a visitor centre, arts centre, prison, and used to be part of the Plymouth to Princetown railway line which closed in 1956, and is now a nice walking path/cycle track. The added bonuses are tearooms and pubs – time for coffee and cake!
Another fact about Meavy is that King Charles (during 1600s) was said to have hidden in the split oak tree that stands outside the Inn.
4. Ringmoor Down: A location in filming. This is a wide open space, so my guess is that a lot of the running around with horses was done here. You can drive along the road and see some of Ringmoor Down on your right.
WALK: If you wish to stride across the common and imagine horses galloping across it then park near Ringmoor Cottage or Brisworthy and take a wander around, taking in the stone circles and rows that adorn this part of the moor. If you are feeling ultra fit then walk across to Ditsworthy Warren House and save yourself a little drive.
It also has an interesting history, being a Grade II listed stone-built building dating from the 16th century. It was originally built for the keeper of the warren – rabbits – which lived in “pillow mounds”. You can still see the shape of these on the hillside opposite the house. It was one of the largest rabbit warrens in England.
The house isn’t visible from the road, so if you want to see it you have to walk a little!
WALK: Park at SX579673 or if you don’t have an OS map handy, go through Sheepstor village, along a bit, up a hill and over a cattle grid, go left at the signpost to Nattor. Once parked head south, following the track that puts Gutter Tor on your right and you will eventually come to it. It’s nearly a mile down the track.
For a longer walk keep going past the house (with the river on your right) and you’ll come across a large Bronze Age complex with stone rows, standing stones, cists and hut circles. The moor’s tallest standing stone at 4.5m (15ft) is here with the impressive Giant’s Basin cairn next to it.
6. Sheepstor: Possibly a location. Fantastic views from here all around. If you don’t want to walk then you can see it from the car along the Yelverton to Princetown road. Otherwise you have to walk to the top.
WALK: For a longer walk park at the same place as Ditsworthy Warren House, head North towards Sheepstor, via the impressive Yellowmead stone circles. For the shorter (just over a mile both ways) yet much steeper route (and the one I usually take) park at SX559680, not too far from Sheepstor village.
7. Holwell Farm, near Widecombe-in-the-Moor: The owners entertained Steven Spielberg and his crew on their Dartmoor recce. It’s also near to Bonehill rocks where filming took place. If you want to stay here there a re luxury holiday cottages for rent. You can’t see the cottages from the road, but you can stare at it’s entrance on your way to/from Bonehill Rocks, make a visit down the hill to the village, or visit the website www.holwelldartmoor.co.uk
Yes, there is an annual fair held in Widecombe every September where Uncle Tom Cobley and all make an appearance. There are also a couple of tearooms and an a striking 14th century church.
WALK: You can park right by the rocks, or if you prefer to stretch your legs walk to the next tor, Bell Tor, and do a little loop around and back.
9. Iddesleigh: Where author Michael Morpurgo was born and also mentioned in the book as the home of the main character. No filming was done here as far as I know. Note: It’s outside of the national park area and about 30 miles from both Milton Abbot and Widecombe-in-the-Moor so if you don’t fancy a long drive just look up pictures on the internet instead.
Iddesleigh is a cute thatched roof strewn village with a pub and Grade I listed church.
NOTE: These locations listed here might change after I see the film.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are going to do a walk on Dartmoor please dress appropriately and take a map.