Ranger Ralph War Horse Walk
Saturday 17 March 2012
We met at Gutter Tor with dark clouds looming and the threat of rain, but this special walk was rewarded with clear skies and sunshine if a rather cold wind. Ranger Ralph folk were rewarded with a fabulous event packed with fun, action and a story. Just like any good motion picture!
Ranger Paul had lots of photographs taken during the filming of this epic movie so that we could discover the location of many of the scenes in the film. He began, however, by telling us about the author and his inspiration for the story of Joey and Albert Narracott and their adventures together and apart, both on the farm and in the First World War.
By looking at a photograph from the film we found the boulder where Albert sat when Joey first learnt to come to a call.
We then passed the security gate which was necessary to keep the ‘film village’ and track free from unwanted ‘extras!’
After climbing Gutter Tor we charged down the slopes, on the sound of the whistle, as if we were the Cavalry. We also caught our first glimpse of Albert’s farmhouse.
The War Horse walk was fun and full of interesting facts about the story and the film but Dartmoor has many stories of its own. On the lower slopes of Gutter Tor we saw some Dartmoor treasures, a vermin trap used by the warreners at Ditsworthy farm to protect their rabbits, and an unfinished stone tough and granite cross.
Some of the local farmers had parts as ‘extras’ rounding up their sheep.
We hid behind the pillow mounds to enact the trenches and going ‘over the top’.
Ranger Paul showed us pictures of the ‘film village’ set up for all the actors, crew and technicians. The catering tent could seat 300! He told us about wind and rain machines both necessary as the Dartmoor weather was fine and sunny!!
We could just make out a few shallow marks left by the equipment, archaeology of the future!
On the way to the farm house we stopped and called Joey as Albert had done, using cupped hands to make the sound of an owl. Some of us being more successful than others!
We leant about the secrets of the turnip field and how Joey ploughed the field even cutting through granite boulders. Albert, actor Jeremy Irvine, became very cold and wet filming that scene which apparently took six takes!
The farmhouse where Albert and his parents lived which had a considerable make over is now fully restored to its original state. The photographs where amazing. The house had a thatched roof, new windows and front door as well as a big barn and a garden.
Sharp eyed Ranger Ralph members found and collected a sack full of spent shells and magazine clips left in the military training area, plus two flare parachutes. Tidying up these items, under supervision, we were told about the danger of picking up military debris and how grazing animals may get these metal pieces in their tongue. It is the same if people leave ring can pulls on the ground. All litter should go home or in a bin.
We had a great walk, lots of laughter and lots to see and learn.
Thank you Ranger Paul and Ranger Rob for a great time.