Wistman’s Wood - History and Facts | History Hit

Wistman’s Wood

Devon, England, United Kingdom

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About Wistman’s Wood

Located within the Dartmoor Special Area of Conservation, Wistman’s Wood is one of three remote high-altitude oak woods on Dartmoor, Devon, England. Known for its endless and mysterious-looking trees, rocks and lichens, it’s both a popular hiking destination and site of scientific interest.

History of Wistman’s Wood

Wistman’s Wood has been written about for hundreds of years. Thought to be left-over from the ancient forest that covered much of Dartmoor in around 7000 BC before it was cleared two thousand years later, photographs show that it has evolved and changed much since the mid-19th century, largely because of a warmer climate.

The oldest oaks are around 400-500 years old, and have grown significantly. In 1620, they were described as ‘no taller than a man may touch the top with his head’, whereas in the 20th century they’ve doubled in height to a new average of between 7m and 12m.

An engraved boulder to the east of the wood known as the ‘Buller Stone’ commemorates an attempt in 1866 to date the trees, when Wentworth Buller cut down an oak tree. The stone states that he estimated them to be around 168 years old.

In 1964, it was selected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Wistman’s Wood was one of the primary reasons that Dartmoor was chosen as a Special Area of Conservation.

Wistman’s Wood today

Today, the wood is visited by a number of hikers all year round. The mysterious landscape is home to over 50 species of moss and liverwort and over 100 types of lichen, as well as a wealth of wildlife. Indeed, the name may come from the dialect word ‘wisht’ meaning eerie/uncanny or pixie-led/haunted.

It is recommended that experienced hikers only visit in the winter because of changeable weather conditions at the upland site.

Getting to Wistman’s Wood

There is a carpark near the site, from where the wood is well-signposted. The wood is near the Two Bridge Hotel and around a mile from the road, along the West Dart valley and next to the West Dart River. The woods are split into three main blocks which cover about nine acres in total.