Wistman’s Woods is a supposedly haunted woods high up on Dartmoor. It’s known for its twisted branches of its dwarf oak trees. The woods are covered in moss and lichens. It was noted as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1964.
In 1797 a local Reverend named Swete had this to say about the woods…
“It is hardly possible to conceive anything of the sort so grotesque as this wood appears”
I’m not sure why he thought it grotesque, it’s certainly not a word I would use to describe the woods. I’d use words like magical, enchanting or unusual.
Related Post: Our Devon Bucket List
The woods are close to The Two Bridges Hotel in Princetown. To get there you need to park in the car park opposite and follow the footpath away from the hotel. Follow the river and you’ll find the woods in front of you.
The walk takes about 15 minutes.
We took a picnic with us and sat in the middle of the woods. The kiddies made friends with some robins who were very interested in our sandwiches.
According to legend Wistman’s Woods was a meeting place for druids. It’s said that the locals won’t go near the woods after sunset as it’s haunted.
There is also talk of hounds that live in the trees with yellow eyes that hunt for victims at night.
The woods have been the inspiration for numerous artists and poets including Nicholas Toms Carrington. He wrote the following…
That old wood sleeps in the sunshine;- not a leaf
Is twinkling, not a wing is seen to move
Within it;- but, below, a mountain stream
Conflicting with the rocks is ever heard,
Cheering the drowsy noon. The Guardian Oaks,
My country, are thy boast – a giant race
And undegenerate still; but of this grove –
This pigmy grove, not one has climbed the air,
So emulously that its loftiest branch
May brush a traveller’s brow. The twisted roots
Have clasped, in search of nourishment, the rocks
And straggled wide, and pierced the stony soil:-
In vain, denied maternal succour, here
A dwarfish race has risen. Round the boughs,
Hoary and feeble, and around the trunks,
With grasp destructive, feeding on the life
That lingers yet, the ivy winds, and moss
Of growth enormous. E’en the dull vile weed
Has fixed itself upon the very crown
Of many an ancient oak; and thus, refused
By Nature kindly aid, – dishonour – old –
Dreary in aspect – silently decays
The Lonely Wood of Wistman!”