Uncle Tom Cobley and all

by Caitlin, 27 June 2015

First full day on Dartmoor today and the work is somewhat underway. Today was a bit of a family day though, as I’ve brought my parents along to show them this wonderful place, and my partner has joined us just for the weekend, so today was less about the remote areas and more about doing some things together, interspersed with a bit of video work and refamiliarising myself with the moor, its sounds and its moods.

It’s ended up being a bit of a Widecombe Fair day, though. This famous Devon folksong is used in Crossing Dartmoor as Simon’s chosen song for the text score ‘Windsong’. Today we visited Widecombe-in-the-Moor itself. No Fair, alas (it happens in September, apparently), but there was a market selling very nice goats cheese and honey fudge, which was some compensation. The sky was being gorgeously cloudy, so I took advantage of family members exploring the church to test out a video concept which I’m quite pleased with. The tripod makes a massive difference – amazing how much less disturbing it is when the patch of sky you’re looking at in a video doesn’t visibly wobble about! – but I think I need to do a bit more experimenting with the video settings on the camera to be sure it’s not automatically adjusting anything I don’t want it to. I think the wide-angle lens I’ve borrowed from my partner’s DSLR is making a real difference with the feel of the video than using my own lens, so I’ll probably stick with the one large lens for the rest of the time we’re here.

Particularly notable at Widecombe today were the birds (rooks? Something black. With wings. Sorry – I’m no good at birds). They had colonised a large tree about a field away from the churchyard and were making the most marvellous racket. Absolutely stunning. And then as I was packing up my video gear, they all took off and flew to another tree about 2 more fields away, and the sound moving with them was just beautiful. I didn’t make a proper recording of them because a) it would have been impossible to get a clean recording without tourist noises all over it and b) I want the sounds for the performance to be genuine remote-location sounds, away from the towns, but here’s a tiny clip of them shouting away on the soundtrack of my sky video:

In the afternoon we visited Finch Foundry up near Okehampton which unexpectedly turned out to be the resting place of one Thomas Pearse (d. 1875), supposedly (according to the National Trust) the ‘Tom Pearce’ of the song.

I did record a few sounds here – if you’re ever passing by, you should visit if only to hear the water-powered steel hammers in motion! – but just for my general collection rather than for Crossing Dartmoor.

Tomorrow, though, the real work begines: I’m heading back to Wistman’s Wood for video and field-recording duty. Hoping it won’t be swarming with tourists. Or if it is that they’re super-quiet ones!