TV’s More4 on Dartmoor

This week saw the first episode in a new series aired on More4 entitled Devon & Cornwall. The show follows a host of fascinating characters who reveal what it is really like to live and work in the far South West corner of Britain, where rolling fields meet stunning coastlines.

These two counties attract millions of visitors every year to wander the moors of their national parks and enjoy the golden sands of their beaches. But both Devon and Cornwall are more than a playground for hikers and holiday makers.

The series celebrates the people who live and work in this beautiful corner of Britain, revels in the incredible landscapes in which they live while also revealing the difficulties
that come from remote, rural living.

In episode 2 we meet the Alfords. In the heart of Dartmoor, the Alfords are one of the last families to tend to wild ponies who’ve roamed Dartmoor for centuries. As demand for the ponies is on the wane, they rely on their other livestock to keep their heads above water.

The Alfords, a deep-rooted Devonian farming family who work their land on horseback must test their cattle for Bovine TB. The outcome will affect the farm’s ability to sell, and potentially its future; yet Stephen and father Crispin approach it with a stoicism that comes with the territory.

In episode 3, on the South edge of Dartmoor, sheep farmers Jess and Russell Steer prepare for their first trip to the historic Widecombe fair. Their family trip includes three generations mucking in, in addition to Jess’ baby bump. Whilst Russ aims for a rosette showing their local Whiteface Dartmoor sheep for the first time, Jess is taking their freshly spun and dyed wool to sell at their stall … if they can keep it in place amidst the Widecombe wind.

In episode 4 we return to the Alfords on the northern reaches of the moor. Farmers Crispin Alford, son Steve and wife Diana are preparing to sell five of their hill ponies at the last remaining pony market in Chagford. The iconic Dartmoor ponies that lead a semi feral life on Dartmoor were once highly valued as they helped to haul up precious ore from the local tin mines. But as the industry collapsed, so did pony numbers and their value.

Episode 6 sees us travelling to the north of the moor and meeting Lucy Atkins who is helping friend and fellow explorer Fi Darby celebrate her fiftieth birthday. The pair plan a camping expedition in the only place in England that you can legally wild camp. The friends have decided to track down the remains of an ancient, Bronze Age burial chamber before setting up camp in their beloved, unspoilt Dartmoor.

The penultimate episode introduces, at the edge of Dartmoor National Park, in the Teign Valley, local woodman John Williamson who has taken on an apprentice, Jordan Harris, so he can pass on the traditional woodland skills he learnt from his father. Today, the pair plan to make a batch of charcoal in a forest clearing that they hope to sell to local restaurants.

Devon & Cornwall can be seen on More4 on Monday nights at 9pm.

Ross Bryant

Author: Ross Bryant

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