The importance of Dartmoor

I wrote a while ago about other local contextual factors which helped the area to develop as a site where countercultural practices have flourished, citing the perhaps surprising impact of Torquay on Totnes and Dartingon. Another such ‘external’ influence is the proximity to Dartmoor. This section gives a brief summary of its importance.


Dartmoor’s significance as a spiritual site grew during the 1970s with the rise in interest in earth mysteries and alternative spiritualities based on druidic or pagan traditions. The publication of The View over Atlantis in 1969 by John Mitchell renewed interest in Ley Lines, ancient paths and tracks that cross the landscape, often signified by the alignment or religious buildings, prehistoric sites and natural landmarks. These tracks are believed to have a significance in their use of ancient telluric energies (Michell 1983, 7). The View over Atlantis identified the importance of Dartmoor as a prominent site for such earth mysteries, not least through the existence of the St Michael line, a line of hilltop shrines dedicated to St Michael or other dragon killing saints which crosses Dartmoor (Michell 1983, 72). Michell (2003) later identifies a number of sacred sites on Dartmoor, as does Deveraux (1999). The presence of such sites attracted both visitors and people who relocated to the area. More generally, Dartmoor’s existence as one of the few wilderness areas in England also was an attraction to some. For example, a well know white witch Paddy Slade lived on Dartmoor for many years. As Harvey (2006, 87) has noted, the interest in earth mysteries and alternative spiritual practices is a phenomenon that has occurred across the south west peninsula. However the proximity of Dartmoor was a factor that encouraged alternative thinking in the 1970s that was distinct to the effect of Dartington. Indeed Dartmoor can be said to have had an ongoing influence on people around Dartington since the 1970s, most recently the staff and students at Schumacher College.

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