Page:A Book of Dartmoor.djvu/53

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25
ENCROACHMENT OF CULTURE

where they are shut in." Ockam says, "A Forest is a safe abode for wild beasts," and derives the word from feresta, i.e. a place for wild creatures. It was, in fact, a tract of uninclosed land reserved for the king to hunt in, and a chase was a similar tract reserved by the lord of the manor for his own hunting.

It is more than doubtful whether Dartmoor was ever covered with trees. No doubt there have been trees in the bottoms, and indeed oak has been taken from some of the bogs; but the charcoal found in the fire-pits of the primitive inhabitants of the moor in the Bronze Age shows that, even in the pre-historic period, the principal wood was alder, and that such oak as there was did not grow to a large size, and was mainly confined to the valleys that opened out of the moor into the lowlands. Up these, doubtless, the forest crept. Elsewhere there may have been clusters of stunted trees, of which the only relics are Piles and Wistman's Wood. There were some very fine oaks at Brimpts, and also in Okehampton Park, but these were cut down during the European war with Napoleon. After the wood at Brimpts had fallen under the axe, it was found that the cost of carriage would be so great that the timber was sold for a mere trifle, only sufficient to pay for the labour of cutting it down.

The forest is divided into four quarters, in each of which, except the western, is a pound for stray cattle. Formerly the Forest Reeve privately communicated with the venville men when he had fixed a day for a "drift," which was always some time about midsummer. Then early in the morning all