Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Back on Dartmoor after a long break

It seems ages since we've walked on Dartmoor so it was a particular delight to head to the south east area of the moor to 'bag' a few tors - four on this route. And weren't we lucky with the weather? A day later and we certainly would not have ventured out onto the open spaces for fear of being washed away.
The starting point for our walk was the Cold East Cross car park,  few miles north of Ashburton. From there we headed south to Buckland Beacon, west to Bowden Farm, then north-eastish to Blackslade Ford, north to Pil and Top Tors, east-ish to Rippon Tor and then south-westish back to the car park. Almost bang on 6 miles, with a few lumps and bumps - after all we were on one of the highest parts of the moor. A great route and great weather.

Wherever you walk on Dartmoor, you are never far from a carved stone. These can be milestones, boundary stones, estate markers or water company catchment areas. And more. This one was quite close to our starting point...
...and is marked, not that clearly, with the letters EPB. EPB? Work that out. No, not the initials of contiguous parishes but the initials of Edmund Pollexfen Bastard. The Bastard family purchased the manor of Buckland in 1614 and in 1837  a series of boundstones (boundary stones) were set up by Edmund to mark the limits of his estate.
A rather fine looking Dartmoor pony, enjoying being photographed. The ponies on this side of the moor seemed to be of purer stock than those we see on the west moor. But what do I now about horses?
And then it was further south a mile or so to Buckland Beacon. As the name implies, it was, and indeed still is, the site of a beacon. This was one of the beacons used to signal the arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and it has been used for other celebrations ever since, including the Millennium and the Queen's Jubilee. The Ten Commandment Stones sit at the base of the beacon and have weathered a bit since they were carved in 1928, commissioned by the then lord of Buckland, Mr William Whitely of Wellstor. They were carved by W.A.Clement to celebrate Parliament's 1928 rejection of a new Book of Common Prayer. There has been some restoration work done on them recently by the Dartmoor National Park Authority and this has been featured on local TV and radio, which might explain why there were quite a few (well, six!) other people there at the same time as us.
Some serious stone-walling on either side of the green lane leading from Bowden Farm up onto the moor. For many generations this track has functioned as a drove road for farmers bringing their stock up to graze on the high pasture from further down the valley around Buckland-in-the-Moor.
The cluster of buildings which make up Bowden Farm. It's a long-house, with a cross passage separating the people (under the thatch) from the animals down the slope in the rest. There's clearly been some modifications made and additions built on but the core of the mediaeval farmstead can still be discerned. The owner told us the building dates from the 14th century but the site is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
An unusual copse of pine trees close to Blackslade Ford was an ideal place for our lunch stop. In the sun and out of the wind.
On the top of Pil Tor. Effectively two granite peaks separated by an expanse of grass. Unusual but not unique.
The view from Pil Tor to the north-west, with the spire of Widecombe-in-the-Moor church down below.
Kim, our butterfly expert, trying to spot what's flying around. The answer? Not a lot as it was too breezy.
Looking north-east with Haytor to the left and Saddle Tor to the left. We've 'done' both of these in the past and it's probably time for a revisit.
Looking south-east from Top Tor towards our next target, Rippon Tor. Down to Hemsworthy Gate and then a bit of a slog up to the tor.
The top of Rippon Tor is another great place for views. This is looking south towards the Teign Estuary, with Teignmouth just discernible in the far distance.
A final oddity on Rippon Tor before we descended to our starting point, detouring on the way on a fruitless search for the Nutcracker Stone - a Logan or wobbly stone used by the locals to crack nuts (Really! That's what the legend says)). We couldn't find it as it had been blown up a long time ago but it's still marked on the map. And the oddity? An unfinished grindstone shaped in situ but never completed.

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