As resistant as I have been to the impending Autumn, I can ignore it no longer. Like everyone else keeping at least one eye on social media, I am officially in full Autumn mode - and if there's one thing that that unmistakeable nip in the air gets me in the mood for, it's strolls across glorious countryside landscapes. 

During the Autumn (much more so than in the Summer) I feel an undeniable desire to get away, to scramble across heather-clad hillsides and push on across wind- and rain-swept pastures to the paradise that is a pub with an open fire on a stormy day. This is probably a nostalgic hangover from my childhood, when we would use the October half term to escape to the Lake District for a week and revel in the explosions of colour that would undulate in intensity with the passing clouds.

Living in England, we can be sure to feel that Autumnal chill long before the leaves have actually begun to display all the glorious burnt shades of the season. And so it was that I found myself traversing Dartmoor with a group of fellow hiking enthusiasts towards the end of the Summer, with not a single brown leaf in sight!

Our route, however, was no ordinary route.

We were headed straight for a place rumoured to be the most haunted spot on Dartmoor.

(If you're a regular visitor to La Lingua, you'll know that I am an absolute sucker for a good ghost story).

Wistman's Wood is one of a few remaining woods on Dartmoor. Believe it or not, the desolate open spaces that we so readily associate with the moors do not truly represent their original nature. Dartmoor was once a densely wooded area and Wistman's Wood, with its tangled gnarl of dwarf oak trees, can give us a glimpse of what the moors once were before humans began to clear them for grazing animals.

The trees came to Dartmoor after the Ice Age (around 12,000 years ago) and in the green glow beneath their stretching, curled arms, you can experience a sensation of enclosed silence that greatly belies the vast expanse of moorland without. Legend has it that Wistman's Wood is home to the devil's hounds, who prowl the moors at night to search for lost travellers and weary souls...

Luckily, we didn't see any hounds (although we were slightly spooked by a herd of cows who started looking at us funny later on).

We clambered across the mossy boulders and down to slightly flatter ground beside the river.

The ground was incredibly wet and boggy. And of course it was only a matter of time before somebody fell in.

That someone being me.

In case you can't tell from the picture, that's my entire bum and most of my right leg covered in mud. Yay!

I also managed to step in such deep, boggy puddles that the water poured over the top of my boots and thoroughly soaked my feet too. Let's just say I will definitely take a change of clothes and shoes next time I attempt to do anything on Dartmoor!

En route to the tor which was to be our picnic spot, the river cut across our path. With no bridge in the visible distance, we each picked our way across the stones (which some found easier than others..)

And despite interacting with wild and semi-wild animals being generally a bad idea, Michele decided to go off and have a conversation with a Dartmoor pony.

Which luckily ended amiably!

Once we were all safely across the river and Michele had finished harassing the pony, we climbed up to the nearby tor where we huddled around and shared the picnic food we had brought.

(It was whilst we were perched up here that the cows began to eye us up and slowly advance. So we thought it'd be a great idea to share stories of people who had been attacked or trampled to death by cows. We uneasily began to plan our escapes).

As we sat around, the cool temperature began to register with us again and as we watched, a nearby tor disappeared beneath a hazy mist of rain. We packed up our picnics and began to retreat towards our starting point, taking a slightly different route after spotting a bridge in the distance to get us back across the river safely.

It was quickly getting colder and colder. Despite having only just eaten lunch we were all getting quite desperate to reach the Rugglestone Inn, where we had booked a table for the evening. Dreams of crackling fires and the legendary deep-fried brie were being eagerly shared as we beat a hasty retreat across the moor.


After scurrying past some more cows who were looking at us rather suspiciously (seriously, what is wrong with British cows? All the cows in the Dolomites were so chill when we went walking past), I was finally joined in the muddy arse brigade, hooray!

Now, although we had managed to find an easier spot to cross the river on our way back, we hadn't counted on the fact that we would actually need to cross it again in order to get back to the cars. The path we had been following pretty much turned out to be a sheep track and there was no sign of escape. We ended up (probably trespassing) cutting through a wooded area and stalking the riverbank until we found some stones that were suitable for crossing on. It was a slightly precarious river crossing and some members of the group chose to take drastic measures in order to avoid slipping off the mossy stones (although I'm not entirely sure that climbing across a mossy tree branch, as demonstrated below, was much better...)

And finally, we were out and back to civilisation!

We bundled into the cars, where spare clothes and shoes were passed around and wriggled into, and headed off to the Rugglestone.

Which is probably the prettiest pub on Dartmoor.

Inside, we found everything we could possibly want: a table in a cosy little room, endless beer, deep fried brie and more!

Now before heading to the Rugglestone, I would advise restraint when ordering even if you're absolutely ravenous. The deep-fried brie (above) is a STARTER. It was deliciously oozy and salty and hot, but it easily filled us up and I was infinitely grateful for having only ordered the garlic and ginger baked sardines (below) as my main - everyone else had ordered pub classics such as fish pie and the portions were GIGANTIC.

(Although that being said, I did polish off a sticky toffee pudding as well...)

And then sadly, that was the end of a glorious day on Dartmoor. The original plan had included camping but we were all far too wet and cold and tired for that so we packed up and headed back to Exeter - and yet, I'd happily do it all again in a heartbeat, muddy bum and all!

Are there any other Autumn hiking lovers out there? Or is it just me who likes to drive herself to the point of hypothermia before relaxing in a gorgeous old country pub?