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Dartmoor is an area of moorland in the centre of the English county of Devon. Protected by National Park status, it covers 953 kmē (368 square miles).
The granite upland dates from the Carboniferous period of geological history. The moorland is capped with many exposed granite hilltops (known as tors), providing habitats for Dartmoor wildlife. The highest point is High Willhays, 621 m above sea level. The entire area is rich in antiquities.
Dartmoor is managed by the National Park Authority whose 26 members are drawn from Devon County Council, local District Councils and Government.
Parts of Dartmoor have been used as a military firing range for over 200 years. The public enjoy extensive access rights to the rest of Dartmoor, and it is a popular tourist destination. The Park was featured on the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as the top natural wonder in South West England.
Dartmoor is known for its tors, large hills, topped with outcrops of bedrock, which in granite country such as this are usually rounded boulder-like formations. There are over 160 tors on Dartmoor. They are the focus of an annual event known as the Ten Tors Challenge, when over a thousand people, aged between 14 and 21, walk for distances of 35, 45 or 55 miles over 10 tors on many differing routes. While many of the hills of Dartmoor have the word "Tor" in them quite a number do not, however this does not appear to relate to whether there is an outcrop of rock on their summit.
The highest points on Dartmoor are High Willhays and Yes Tor on the northern moor. Eylesbarrow and Ryder's Hill are the highest points on the southern moor. Probably the best known tor on Dartmoor is Haytor (also spelt Hey Tor).
The levels of rainfall on Dartmoor are considerably higher than in the surrounding lowlands. With much of the national park covered in thick layers of peat, the rain is usually absorbed quickly and distributed slowly, so that the moor is rarely dry.
In some areas, where water accumulates, dangerous bogs or mires can result. Some of these, topped with bright green moss and known to locals as 'feather beds', will shift (or 'quake') beneath your feet the result of pockets of air trapped beneath the surface.
Another consequence of the high rainfall is that there are numerous rivers and streams on Dartmoor. As well as shaping the landscape, these have traditionally provided a source of power for moor industries such as tin mining and quarrying.
The Moor takes its name from the River Dart, which starts as the East Dart and West Dart and then becomes a single river at Dartmeet
The majority of the prehistoric remains on Dartmoor date back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Indeed, Dartmoor contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom, which suggests that this was when a larger population moved onto the hills of Dartmoor.
The climate at the time was warmer than today, and much of today's moorland was covered with trees. The prehistoric settlers began clearing the forest, and established the first farming communities. Fire was the main method of clearing land, creating pasture and swidden types of fire-fallow farmland. Areas less suited for farming, tended to be burned for livestock grazing. Over the centuries these Neolithic practices greatly expanded the upland moors, contributed to the acidification of the soil and the accumulation of peat and bogs.
The nature of the soil, which is highly acidic, means that no organic remains have survived. However, by contrast, the high durability of the natural granite means that their homes and monuments are still to be found in abundance, as are their flint tools. It should be noted that a number of remains were "restored" by enthusiastic Victorians and that, in some cases, they have placed their own interpretation on how an area may have looked.
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