Thursday evening saw my mate Neil and I having a quick 'bimble' up the East Dart River. I wanted to look at some crossing points while there was a moderate to high flow on the river. We stretched our legs out at about 3.30pm from Postbridge, and made straight for the waterfall; no chance of crossing there to be perfectly honest. We then eliminated several other places due to volume of water.
Now, I have stuck my leg through a few crevasse bridges in my time but I really didn't expect to find one on Dartmoor! While stepping through some scant remains of snow on the moor I had managed to plop through, waist deep, to a small rivulet which had been covered; Neil, being lighter than myself, by some reasonable margin, had managed to cross withought breaking through - Git!
Struggling back to my feet, I could see the spaniel 'whiffling' off to investigate an object which had suffered the same fate as I: a sheep! The poor soul was stuck up to its neck in snow with about 3 feet of icy water rushing past its lower, subterranean, body. Now, it's true that the closest I have ever come to farming is watching All Creatures Great and Small, so I was happy at least, to see the sheep did not put up a struggle as I wrenched her to the surface. She then padded off as if it were all in a days work!
Leaving the sheep to it's destiny, we carried on to Broad Marsh where we examined a further river crossing which is often used when the river is in full tilt; this seemed quite adequate but, to be perfectly honest, is an absolute torture to get in and out of while negotiating bog, water, hidden streamlets etc etc! Keeping this firmly in mind we decided to exit the valley via the top of Broad Down as the wind was freshening and the sky was the colour of coal ash...
That was it! 30 mph winds and a driving squall (lasting half an hour) of hail, followed by sleet, snow and freezing rain. It had been forecast, we new it was likely; and yet e had decided to walk out into it for no other reason than to look at places to cross a river - where we had crossed a hundred times before!
Our return to the lower slopes above Archerton (an hour later) saw the wind and hail abate long enough for a cup of coffee from the flask. I looked at the dog, oh, he has another bone in his mouth. Double take - Oh!!! it was a bit more than just a bone; and entire lower leg to be precise. At this point I must stress that my dog has no interest in following, worrying or otherwise being near sheep but when a leg of mutton as offered on a nearby decomposing body, I guess he couldn't resist!
Then I thought back to the sheep I had pulled out of a hole an hour and a half earlier, and thought: you were lucky sunshine...