Wistman’s Wood, Devon: The remnant of a vast forest that once covered Dartmoor

Annie Elwes focuses on Wistman's Wood, a place that could make even the brave quiver at the knees.

The visiting Revd John Swete summed it up perfectly in 1797: ‘Silence seemed to have taken up her abode in this sequestered wood — and to a superstitious mind some impression would have occurred approaching to dread, or sacred horror.’

A remnant of a vast forest that covered Dartmoor thousands of years ago, Wistman’s Wood is full of twisted dwarf oaks that form a canopy over a carpet of granite boulders, all covered in damp, rich moss and lichen.

It might be a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but you’d still rather not get caught alone after dark at Wistman’s Wood.

Its name stems from the old Devonshire wisht, meaning ‘eerie’ or ‘pixie-led’ and locals associate it with ancient druids and the ‘soul-raving’ Wild Hunt of Dartmoor — a ghoulish spectacle of hell-hounds (or wisht hounds) pursuing sinners across the moor at night.

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