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Oh set me free,
TAVISTOCK AND ITS WICINITY. 143
In contrast to this dismal strain, imagine the shouts of
desired game. The brooks and rivers abound in fish, and much amusement may be derived by the observing spectator, from hearing the piscatory wanderers descant on the various merits of the Black-a-Brook, the Dart, or the Swincomb. Game of all descriptions is found on the moor. The black-cock and grouse are sometimes seen, and a solitary eagle has been before now observed wending its flight across the waste. The natural history of this interesting district will be mentioned elsewhere, but we may here introduce some valuable remarks on the use to which the natural peculiarities of the moor may be turned as a means of the improvement of health, from a manuscript kindly placed in my hands by a medical friend, who has directed his attention particularly to the statistics of the neighborhood of Tavistock. “The whole of the causes of the differing healthfulness of various climates, is far from being yet ascertained; but the most essential of those which are so, temperature, moisture, and purity of air, are materially different on Dartmoor to those of the lower country. The same motives which induce the visits of the Anglo-Indian to the Neilghearies, or of the Anglo-Italian to Lucca, or Switzerland, might render eligible a removal from our towns, and valleys, and sea-coasts to the Moorland. The same qualities of climate, in fact, which serve to recommend our county as a winter residence for those whose lungs are delicate, often render it oppressive and loaded with moisture and exhalations during the summer and early autumn heats. In the case of our large towns, an additional source of depression arises out of the contamination produced by a large, and in some instances, confined population. The good effects of a visit to the moor in such seasons, are immediately perceptible;— elasticity, and vigor of appetite, take then the place of their opposites, and the balance of functions in which o health consists is quickly re-established. The Temper- g
TAVISTOCK AND ITS WICINITY. 145
ature of the day is on the average about five degrees lower on the moor, than at Tavistock and Plymouth; * it differs less from that of the might; and the range between the highest and lowest of each month, is by no means so great. The density of the air is much inferior to that of the low country, and consequently holds effluvia less readily in solution, whilst their production is not so much encouraged by heat, and is probably checked by the prevalence of carbonized vegetable matter, which very much impedes the putrefaction even of the animal bodies buried beneath the soil. There is, besides, no dense population to occasion impurity of air : if any such should accidently be produced, it would be immediately dissipated by the breezy agitation which may be said to be there perpetual.” Such are the main elements of the summer climate of the moor.t. The method of turning to the best account these beneficial influences, has appeared to me to be the recommendation
* Ascertained from observations made by Mr. Bickford, of the Duchy Hotel, Prince town, on his thermometer, compared with those kept.-under the direction of Mr. Snow Harris, at the Devonport Dock-yard; hy Dr. Thomas Barham, of Exeter, and by Dr. Charles Barham, at Tavistock, during the year 1836.
+ The moorsmen are proverbially healthy, and celebrated for their great longevity, as well as for excelling in their favorite sport of wrestling. Abraham Cann, the famous pugilist, was a native of the moorland district. We may here speak of a race of gypsies, which once frequented Dartmoor, taking up their winter quarters at Moretonhampstead. They were men of might in various ways, and may properly be denominated “Children of the Waste." Stout in heart as granite tor, Fearless or for peace or war, Rich in spirit, worldly poor, Tameless as their native moor. But their energies were perverted to the guilty practice of horse stealing: the last of any celebrity, of whom I remember to have heard, was “Blue Jenny, of the gipsy tribe," condemned to death for stealing a horse from a gentleman at the prisons. Gipsies are still often to be met on the moor, where they encamp.
146 HOME SCENES, OR
of a few short visits to the moor, repeated during the warm season at more or less distant intervals. We have considered merely the physical influence of the climate of Dartmoor, but this is here as in most examples of advantageous changes of the sort, only a part of the altered circumstances in which its visitors are placed. The freshness of unreclaimed nature, the somewhat savage, but yet, in fine weather, cheerful wildness of that wavy expanse of moorland, with its tors for breakers; the absence of all accompaniments of lowland life, produce an effect of novelty, which stimulates the mind as the air does the body, and prompts to movement and activity. Neither is there any lack of objects on which to employ these energies;–the trout stream to the fisherman, the British village, the Druidical Circus, the ancient wood to the antiquarian; the zoology, botany, geology, to the naturalist, are all peculiar, and will tempt each to exercise his several taste. The mere freedom to roam on the greensward, or to climb the rock, will be object enough to the young. The use of the horse, pony, or donkey, will be desirable for those who are deficient in muscular power, or short-breathed. For the purpose of realising these advantages, no situation on Dartmoor can come at all into competition with Prince-town. Whilst it is so placed as to possess fully the characteristics of the climate of the moor, being more than fourteen hundred feet above the sea, and in no way confined, it furnishes every comfort desirable for such valetudinarians as have been described:—a good and well-conducted principal inn, besides some decent smaller ones; respectable lodging houses, an Omnibus between Exeter and Plymouth, with a ready access to Tavistock. It is proper to notice the existence of several chalybeate springs in the neighborhood of Princetown, the best of which is near the Officers’ barracks: the use of these under proper direction is calculated to