Widecombe History Group Talk on Lesser Known Tors of Dartmoor

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Talk - Lesser Known Tors of Dartmoor

By Tim Jenkinson

This was a talk with a difference. Tim moved to Devon in 1988 and during his walking on Dartmoor was surprised by the number of rocky outcrops that could only be described as ‘Tors’ that according to the Ordnance Survey Maps at his disposal, had no name. On further exploration he found that in the literature and locally they did all have names, so he started a campaign to trace and record their position and names and as a result developed an interesting slide show and talk on this subject. Some of these ‘tors’ are just marked as outcrops and some not even marked at all. He has approached O.S. about this, but to date little has been done with regards to including them in further publications. In total he has so far located somewhere in the region of 60 different tors that are not marked on O.S. maps

He began his talk with a mention of Latchell Tor near Manaton rediscovered in 1999 and mentioned that in The Dartmoor Magazines, edited by Elisabeth Stanbrook and published by Quay Publications (Brixham), volumes 42 - 46 of 1996/7, he wrote a series of articles about this very subject. (Anyone having these back dated copies will find them very interesting, in many cases map reference numbers are given so that you can find some of these tors yourself).

For example, Ashbury Tor can be found in the woods on one side of West Cleave, South of Okehampton, with the nearby fort, once thought to be Roman but now considered to be Iron Age, above where Moor Brook runs down to join the Okement River. Close by, there is an unusual rock formation shaped like a chair, known as ‘The Roman Chair’, its shape caused by weathering of the rock. On the other side of the valley is Cleave Tor, once known as the Coronet of Rocks. These are near the village of Belstone. Hart Tor, a small but nevertheless resilient rock pile, sits close to the Military Ring Road from Okehampton Camp, but is overshadowed by the Army Observation Post 22 at its south end. Granite quarrying and stone mason activity has no doubt taken its toll on this tor, like many others on Dartmoor. At the northern end of the range of Belstone Tors, lies Tors End which has also been plundered for its granite. Indeed a small quarry known as ‘Sand Pit’ can still be seen which has eaten into the very heart of the tor substance. There are many interesting artefacts to be viewed around this area, for example a three quarter stone of an apple crusher, shows the abandoned work of bygone craftsmen. The nine maidens stone circle was shown on one slide, (legend has it that nine maidens were dancing on a Sunday and they were turned into stone, n.b. there are more than nine stones in the circle). Across the Taw a stout outcrop known as Ladybrook Tor sits high above the river. The name of this tor is associated with the picturesque brook that runs to the north which is incorrectly marked as Ivy Tor Water on O.S. maps.

Burrator or should we say Burra Tor is situated in the woods near the reservoir and is one of the largest lesser known tors on Dartmoor. Over the years it has been plundered for raw material no doubt when the reservoir was constructed. There are some interesting features such as a granite workman’s shed close by, the steps leading up to Burrator Halt on the old Princetown Railway Line, with the ‘kissing gate’ and the nearby Claig Tor with its modern stone memorial bench inviting you to sit looking out over the reservoir and Leather Tor and Sheeps Tor Church in the distance. From certain angles the magnificent rocks of Burra Tor take on the shapes of faces. It is quite amazing how many rocks have these expressions, Bowermans Nose for example and some have animal shapes like at Hound Tor.

South East of Two Bridges can be found Blakey Tor, George Thurlow did some sketches of this tor for his ‘Dartmoor Companion’, it too has interesting shapes and three cists (burial chambers) nearby. The well documented Over Tor consists of three rock piles, one with its rock basin described by Rev Bray as ‘Mrs Bray’s wash hand basin’ because she once washed her hands in the water held in it. Sampford Tor above Sampford Spiney used to be named on old maps of the area but for some unknown reason has been removed in recent years. There is a great deal of evidence of past quarrying and activity here, for example on the west side there is a small water filled quarry which according to William Crossing in 1901 threatened to overtake the tor such was the disruption. Here and there are several stones with iron spikes and bars still in them, this must have been a busy place in the past!

One of Dartmoor’s most scenic places Tavy Cleave is where there are about seven tors, the most spectacular being the Tavy Cleave Sharp Tor. There are several ‘Sharp Tors’ on Dartmoor, this one is quite dramatic when viewed from some directions. It was interesting to see the different rock formations within some of the Tors, some had lateral layers, some had upright fissures, all evidence of how they were formed all those thousands of years ago. It could be useful for some of these lesser known tors to be named on O.S. maps, it could help walkers to more accurately get their bearings. The omission of Tavy Cleave is especially puzzling given its size.

Leighon Tor near Hound Tor was mentioned along with Latchell Tor and the Freelands Tower at Manaton, which was built in the early 1900’s as an observatory and then used during World War II by the Home Guard as a look out post. Leighon House with its ponds lie below Leighon Tor and folklore has it that the owner at one time hung pheasants and hares above the pond until they were eaten by maggots which in turn dropped into the water as food for the fish.

Wacka Tor on Hickley Plain above South Brent with its low outcrops showing the remains of many a past stonemason’s work. There are in the area as many as five millstones, a socket stone for a cross, and a natural logan stone, there is plenty more to be seen in this part of the moor. Covering the Widecombe District at the end of his very interesting talk, Tim Jenkinson showed the meeting photographs of Rowden Tor on Rowden Ball with the two ‘Malim’ memorial plaques of Jeffrey and Mary Malim and the nearby stone hut circle. The Malins used to stay in the locality and he is believed to have been part responsible for the building of Duck’s Pool Letter Box. According to William Crossing "You get a feeling of Semi Wildness without too much exertion" at Rowden Tor!

The Tors above Widecombe with their fantastic views of the Webburn Valley and Hameldown were discussed, Honey Bags, Chinkwell Tor, Bell Tor and Bonehill Rocks. However on the south west slope of Chinkwell there is another ‘Lesser Known Tor’ this being another Sharp Tor with its magnificent rock face.

Tim Jenkinson then offered the group a guided walk on Saturday 8th March starting at Two Crosses car park at 10.30 a.m. taking in some ‘Lesser Known Local Tors’ like Rowden, Langworthy, Kingshead, Stoneslade and Hameldown.

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The information on this page was last modified on March 18 2013 12:55:03.

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