We call it the ‘Sleeping Giant’s Toes’.
It’s actually one of the first landmarks that you spot as you drive onto Dartmoor from Bovey Tracey. One of the busiest tourist areas, with many visitors never venturing further than the calloused granite rocks of Haytor. The children believe the formation looks like toes peeping out of the ground, like a slumbering land giant tucked under a blanket of green.
We have visited this area several times over the past few weeks; as beside the still foot of the mythical creature, lays an old quarry, its mining purpose long spent. Whilst most visitors head to the Tor, desperate to reach the dizzy heights of the big toe and claim victory, we slip into the quiet recesses of the quarry to watch the transformation taking place within its historic grounds.
The scarred and ragged landscape here has been enthusiastically reclaimed by nature, with little hint of the origin of the quarry aside from a few rusty old tools. The slow recovery of the land is something that will continue long after our footsteps have faded from the Moors; we are here to witness a different change.
The waters of the quarry are filled with life; fish, newts and even leeches make their home here, alongside thousands of tadpoles. It’s the metamorphosis of these tiny creatures that we are here to marvel at. We have watched the comically chubby tadpoles gradually form stubby legs, patiently allowing their transformation to take place.
Now the weeks have passed and the tadpoles are unrecognisable from their original selves. We spot several tiny frogs basking on the warm rocks, no longer restricted to muted life underwater. They are able to leave behind the slithering creepy leeches, curious newts, glittering fish and sometimes suffocating jumble of other tadpoles to sit alone and breathe in the fresh air.
Sat on my own sun-warmed rock, I ponder what it must be like to clamber out of the murky water, where life has been so muffled, to hear birdsong for the first time?