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Location guide - Wistman's Wood

At the heart of Dartmoor lies Wistman's Wood, a chaotic and unique oak woodland, that is covered in moss, lichen and ankle breaking boulders.

Even if you've never heard of it, it's very likely that you've seen an image of it as it is one of the most popular places in the South West of the UK for anyone with an interest in Woodland Photography.

To get the best of this location you need fog - the thicker the better, as it simplifies some of the aforementioned chaos and creates an otherworldly atmosphere that few other locations in the UK can match.

In my experience getting the right kind of fog is not easy - and I can safely say that even after 15 plus visits, I still haven't seen it at its best - you'll need to check out the work of Nick Green and Neil Burnell among others for that kind of thing! (and there's my disclaimer out of the way before I present any of my images!)

However, after 15 or so visits I feel I've picked up enough information to feel qualified to write a blog such as this; although of course it's all based on my experiences, and yours might be completely different. What I can say with some confidence though - if you want the best conditions, turn up the day after I've visited and you're guaranteed a bumper morning!

Where is it?

If you aim for Two Bridges there is a small car park opposite the pub where you can leave your car. The car park is free but fills up quickly, especially on a weekend, so it's best to get there early. Head through the gate and follow the valley for about a mile, and Wistman's Wood will be in front of you. It's not a particularly hard walk, but it can be muddy and uneven under foot, so you'll need to be reasonably mobile to reach it. However, once you get to the wood it can be very tricky with lots of boulders and hidden holes that are perfect traps for unsuspecting ankles.

There are signs saying to keep out of the woods as it is a site of scientific interest, although there are no fences other than at one section in the middle. You may feel like the grazing cattle/sheep/ponies will do more damage to the precious ecosystem than the mere photographer, but this is a very busy place, and people in general are arses, so it is advised to respect the signage. During busy times militant walkers will not be shy in telling you to keep out!

The woods themselves will initially appear disappointingly small, but as so many of the trees are full of character and interact in such a unique way - supported by various other fascinating flora - there is plenty to photograph. Even sticking to the edge will provide lots of photographic opportunity, although be warned, it can be a challenge to get a unique composition with it being such a popular place.


I am convinced you don't need fog to shoot Wistman's Wood and have tried my very best to prove this over the last few years, however if I am being honest with myself, all of the photos I have taken so far would look better with more atmosphere, so who am I kidding!

Taking advice from someone who has been so many times without success is probably not the best way to go, but maybe if you learn from my mistakes you might do better....

It can be foggy every where else on Dartmoor but not the woods...many a time I've skipped all the way in to the woods in a thick pea souper, only to get at location to witness the fog metres above my head and the forest clear. Look for a southerly prevailing wind that's not too strong, with high humidity and a fluctuating dew point and you might get more success than me. Apps like Clear Outside can help, and I tend to use this in conjunction with the met office to give me an idea about whether it's worth the 2 hour drive for me to get down to Dartmoor or not.

If you don't have the conditions for fog, rain and low cloud can sometimes be your friend - although at this location you are exposed, so bring suitable clothing and maybe an umbrella to help keep your camera dry.

It has always been the wind that has ruined a shoot for me and I will now avoid heading down if I see it's over 15mph on Clear Outside.

I tend to shoot first thing in the morning, but the fog can come in at any time here, and quite often I'll get a message from a photographer friend delighting in thick fog throughout the afternoon and long after I've gone home.

The Met Office doesn't give you a reading at Wistmans Wood if you use Two Bridges as the location, and seems to actually report from Princetown. Princetown is higher up and frequently covered in low cloud and fog, so this can be misleading if you're using it as a guide for Wistman's.

I think the wood is best to shoot in late Autumn and Winter, when the right conditions are more likely and you can see shapes of the trees without all that undergrowth. You can also see where you're walking a little bit better, and are less likely to get sucked on by ticks and adders.

If you don't get the conditions you want in the wood there are lots of other locations nearby that might be thick with it. I have been guilty of trying to wait out the mist at Wistman's when I would have been better served heading somewhere else. If you'd prefer to take your chances and stay at the wood the west dart river to the left is worth checking out, especially if there's been lot's of rain.

It's unlikely you'll have phone signal in the woods so you may want to let someone know where you are and your estimated time out. It's very easy to fall and hurt yourself if you did venture into the wood...To get phone signal you need to scale the tor to your right - which is not necessarily a bad thing as there are some nice views to be had up top..

If you walk past the main woods by a couple of hundred metres there's another smaller section that is definitely worth checking out if you're feeling energetic.


It can be very difficult to get something unique here - many a time I've got home quite pleased with a composition, only to realise that I like it because it's been a shot I've liked elsewhere. I'm not sure if that can really be avoided, particularly around the top edge, but do bear this in mind. Regardless though, you'd be hard pressed to come away with something you're not happy with if the Fog does come through. From my 15 visits I would say I've had about 15 minutes total of proper fog, so I could definitely do better - so I might see you down there!

If you do take a visit I hope you love it there as much as I do - it is a challenge to photograph, and it's not really a place you can get to grips with after a single visit - but if you slow down, think carefully and get some luck with the conditions you'll come away with some of your best images from anywhere.

If this goes well I may throw in a couple more location guides, so let me know in the comments if you found it useful.

Bye for now

A few more from the hard drives...


You do yourself an injustice mate. A fine set of images and a great guide too. I can concur abou the ankle breaking boulders!

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