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Following in the Footsteps of Ancestors - Dartmoor's Daughter

Dartmoor's Daughter provides guided walks and immersive experiences within the National Park to offer outdoors education, helping to improve physical health and emotional wellbeing. Dartmoor has been home to Emma and her family for generations, her grandfather Eric Hemery was introduced to the area in the 1950s where he offered guided walks and pony treks. Centuries on, Emma shares her love and knowledge of Dartmoor through similar walks and talks. In this blog Emma takes us behind the scenes of Dartmoor's Daughter, exploring her history and how she utilises HARVEY maps on a daily basis.

I distinctly remember the first time I properly read the wealth of information on the back of the HARVEY British Mountain Map of Dartmoor 1:40,000 scale. It was 2016 and it was part of my bedtime reading that I had taken along to a Hill and Moorland Leader (HML) training weekend! The detailed and comprehensive information on the back of these maps includes first aid, how to take a compass bearing, geology, bird nesting restrictions, codes of good practice, accommodation, and much more. And then imagine my delight when I spotted my grandfather's name Eric Hemery and one of his books mentioned in relation to some of the 'ancient travel routes' shown on this map.

In the 1950s, my grandfather was a Dartmoor Guide offering walks and pony treks to locals and visitors. My Granny Val (his first wife) helped to make cakes and cream teas for clients as well as local hotels, and she transported guests' suitcases from farm to farm as they trekked for several days together across Dartmoor. It was quite the family enterprise.

As a teenager my mother Sally helped during holidays and weekends, riding with the groups and looking after the horses. Upon retirement, my grandfather wrote several well-regarded books about Dartmoor, and his contribution to HARVEY Maps focused on the inclusion of ancient tracks based on his meticulous research, as well as ensuring the proper spelling of place names based on the Dartmoor dialect and pronunciation (this is not always the case on other maps).

My maternal family has lived on or near, and loved, Dartmoor for generations, so my brother and I were brought up walking - come rain or shine! And, after a 20 years global corporate career, I returned home to Devon with a deeper appreciation than when I left. For the first time, I became interested in my grandfather's books about Dartmoor, my grandmother's stories about their early business and her love of this land, and I was walking many miles again with my mother to places that we loved.

I had been completely burnt out by my corporate career and become very ill, so moving home in 2015 helped me to (re)discover the joys of walking, the succour of vast open spaces and wooded river valleys, stunning views from majestic tors, and fascinating flora and fauna.

The peacefulness was, and still is, a much needed balm for mind, body and soul! After a year of being home and recovering my health a little, I decided to offer walks, talks and immersive nature-connection experiences to help educate as well as to promote health and wellbeing.

There is so much to learn about and discover here, so adults, families, teams, locals and visitors now join me to enjoy a deeper understanding of Dartmoor's geology, archaeology, hill farming and traditions, flora and fauna, myths and legends as well as learning map and compass skills, enjoying wild swimming, mindfulness walks, night skies walks and much more.

As soon as I heard that HARVEY Maps were publishing 1:25,000 scale maps for North and South Dartmoor, I immediately purchased both of them as well and regularly use them, often along with OS, on most of the walks that I lead.

In the last few years, I have become particularly interested in tracing ancient travel routes used for hundreds, if not thousands of years by farmers, monks, sailors, merchants with pack pony trains, peat cutters, tin miners, and more. Uniquely HARVEY Maps marks many of them on their brilliant maps. And so, combining HARVEY Maps with the history and detail in my grandfather's book 'Walking Dartmoor's Ancient Tracks', is a walkers, runners and riders joy!

For the most part, these routes contour around the hills (a wise way of conserving energy if you are a farmer or wool jobber for example) and avoid dangerous bogs. Some of these tracks are easy to follow, and others are now indefinable on the ground, so you also have to ensure you are reading the ground as well as looking at the map, particularly as some of the bogs have expanded over path sections.

Walking in the footsteps of Dartmoor ancestors, as well as my own ancestors, is a wonderful way to experience this extraordinary living, working landscape. I hope you will join me sometime soon for a walk or talk on Dartmoor.

Check out the experiences available with Dartmoor's Daughter on the website dartmoorsdaughter.com

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