Once in this country – just once – I have returned to my vehicle to find the engine oil frozen. Solid water is one thing, but when oil turns to treacle you know that it is very cold.
During the recent cold snap I parked near Hound Tor and worried the same might happen again. Hound Tor is at the top of the world. It's one of the highest crags on Dartmoor and is therefore apt to be cold in winter. However it's as magnificent a peak as you'll find anywhere among the hilltops of our undulating peninsula.
William Crossing says so, and I am happy to go along with whatever Dartmoor's premier chronicler has to say. In his celebrated Guide to Dartmoor, he claims Hound Tor to be: "Certainly one of the finest on the moor. The view which the visitor will obtain from it will well repay him for any trouble he may have taken to reach it."
Getting out of the car to see all this, the arctic breeze hit me. It was going to take a very brisk jog up to the tor to generate enough body warmth to beat the chill.
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And up there among the icy rocks I started to wonder how the folk who used to live up here kept warm centuries ago. By "folk" I mean two slaves, two villans and four bordars who worked land owned by the Church of Tavistock.
The Domesday Book records: "Reginald holds Great Houndtor from the abbot. Abbot Sigtrygg held it and it paid geld for half a hide. There is land for four ploughs. There are nine acres of meadow, and two acres of woodland and one league of pasture."
What the Domesday doesn't tell us is how they managed to keep warm on a freezing winter's day.