Join me for ghost tours and tales of Dartmoor

The view today (January 22) from Sharpitor, Dartmoor. Picture: Paul McDonnell.

The view from Sharpitor. - Credit: Paul McDonnell

Elsewhere in this issue you will find an article about me and my new business Moors & More Tours where, along with my chauffeur, we offer bespoke trips across the magical landscape of Dartmoor beguiling our customers with the many myths and legends that the twisty lanes and open moorland are famous for.

As this is my first effort for Torbay Weekly - some of you may have seen my offerings over the seven years I wrote for the Torbay Times sharing my experiences in the world of the paranormal - I thought it only right that I introduced myself and gave you an idea of what I have to offer to this column going forward.

Thanks to Covid, lockdown and being furloughed from my job at the Princess Theatre for over a year, the downtime has given me a chance to reinvent myself and to try and earn a living out of combining my passion for all things spooky with all things Dartmoor and sharing them with anyone who is willing to listen and brave enough to come on a journey out on to them there moors.

I was born and raised in Bristol, my parents having honeymooned in Plymouth, and as I was born nine months later the allure of Dartmoor may have played a part in my conception... explaining why the call of the wilderness is so strong in me!

Growing up, the eldest of four children, I was always fascinated by anything weird and spooky, always making a point of buying the local ghost guide whenever we went anywhere new on our family holidays, which was usually Wales, Cornwall, Weymouth or staying at the Dartmoor Lodge at Ashburton for the autumn half-term holiday, usually over Halloween.

This is probably how I first discovered the spooky side of the moors, for, armed with the ghost books I had purchased and having circled them all on dad’s road map, I persuaded my parents to take us to as many allegedly haunted castles and houses as we could possibly fit in.

Fast forward and after three years at Mountview Theatre School, my first job finds me performing in a summer season at the Palace Avenue in Paignton, beginning an association lasting over 30 years with Torbay theatres.

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That first summer I continued with my ritual of buying the local ghost book and while marking them off on my map, imagine my excitement when I realised that I had landed on the doorstep of one of the most haunted castles in the country... Berry Pomeroy!

The first opportunity we had for a day out I took some other members of the cast with me for a road trip.

We headed to Dartmoor where I climbed my first tor, Sharpitor, overlooking Burrator Reservoir.

We had lunch at the Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown and after a few stops at a few pubs, we headed for the castle...

By the time we got there it was dark so we had to make our way down the lane by torchlight expecting to see something spooky at every turn. Sadly nothing happened!

Turning the last bend, we were confronted by the towering ruins of the gatehouse and rampart walls giving me my first glimpse of those atmospheric ruins and starting a love affair that exists to this day. But more about that in future columns.

The other love affair that began that day was with Dartmoor itself. I couldn’t get enough of it!

Once the summer season ended and I had taken up residence in the Bay, all my spare time was spent rambling on the moors.

I even started letterboxing - looking for rubber stamps in plastic pots under rocks - totally immersing myself in its history especially the spooky myths and legends. 

So the seeds were sown back in the summer of 1987 and the fruits are being displayed now with the setting up of my Moors & More Tours business and the opportunity to share with you here all my experiences in the paranormal and the many tales I’ve learnt during my time spent on Dartmoor.

I hope you will join me for the ride!