The Man on the Tor


“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” 
―Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

It was the year I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes. My The Complete Stories of—my red bible—lay in the backseat of my dad’s Mercedes. We left the long shadows of the car park to continue to stretch unseen behind the clunk-close of a wooden fence and made our way through thigh-high grass and evergreen spires. It was one of those rare, hot English July afternoons—we had both gotten sunburnt walking (and getting lost with) the dogs around the Burrator Reservoir earlier that morning.

Sheeps Tor’s jagged pinnacle of granite pointed away from us, pushing like a pin against blue paper, beneath the last bow of the silver blaze. We began to climb through brown ferns and knee-high grass. I fell behind to snap photos with the camera. Dartmoor extended with sloping fields, flanked by peat walls—wild with yellow—and adorned with egg-shaped trees. The horizon bent around the shape of a green disc. The blue reservoir flared white.


Granite boulders of varying size began to speckle our ascent, but the tor’s peak still pointed away like an ebony statue. After brooding over the enormous wilderness I followed Dad, who was near the peak, camera unholstered and shooting. Cerulean hills faint in the background of the earth’s outline could be admired as the tor finally levelled amid a reef of irregular rocks. The craggy top was much broader and flatter than we had expected.

‘Wow,’ said Dad.

‘Yeah,’ I said.


With Watson’s eye I glassed the curving distance of Dartmoor: no silver disc, no imprudent pose before a rising moon, but a summer sun—the red circle. Instead, cotton-ball sheep and stick-figure horses grazed in the world below. The field-dissecting roads were hidden, as we looked out at surroundings that belonged in the pictures of calendars (like the one my mum bought the day before in a local shop) and I searched the sainted country—where is the man on the tor?

He might have been the very spirit of that place.

This is one of my fondest memories. Not because I was linking all the Holmes references I could with the developing moors—though I wish to also have been there at night, prey to the enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen—and although I was, I didn’t actually expect to find anything. But I did. Whenever the world darkens, I think of this memory. I return to a beautiful part of the country, accentuated by the weather (it always helps), to be alone with my dad.

To me, he is the very spirit of that place.

The Man on the Tor

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