If you’ve never heard the Dartmoor legend of Jan Reynolds, then make yourself comfortable as it’s fascinating. While we’ll happily concede that some of the myths that Dartmoor has inspired err more on the side of legend than fact, but visit the area that this one’s based on during a still evening and you’ll almost believe it.
Dartmoor’s isolated landscape has been the inspiration for hundreds of enduring tales, but this one has got to go down in history as one of the most peculiar. It all started outside the Warren House Inn, where you can still see four walled enclosures – each shaped like a playing card. Nestled between the marks from the mining days visitors can still see a spade, a diamond, a club and a heart.
The most popular explanation for the curious cards is that Jan Reynolds fell asleep during a service in Widecombe Church and that not only did the Devil steal him away but also transformed his playing cards into the stone ones we see today as a reminder that he’s always nearby. The story goes that the unfortunate Jan dropped the playing cards he’d been holding as the Devil whisked him away on a black horse
If you’re not quite convinced then there’s always the other explanation that the stone enclosures were created to keep the rabbits of local mine workers inside – but why they were formed in the shapes of playing cards is something we’ll probably never know. Whatever their origin, the stones still capture the imaginations of visitors to Dartmoor year after year.