Monday, 5 November 2018

Dartmoor: In Search of Brewer's 'Ivy Tor', and other outcrops east of Swallerton Gate

Plat Tor

This walk had been in the planning for several months, ever since local tor hunter Tim Jenkinson, who I have spent many an interesting walk with, had been exploring several new rocks, some of which were forgotten completely. Using his extensive knowledge of Dave Brewer's accounts, and Paul Buck's research into the old Tithe Maps for the area, what we uncovered was unbelievable, more so in that this is a well-walked area of Dartmoor, even featuring in the OS' 100 Greatest British Walks.

We parked up at Swallerton Gate, where Tim would show Paul and I the first outcrop of the day, first thought to be a contender for 'Lower Ivy Tor', according to Dave Brewer, the person who described the area and mentioned these rocks that we were aiming to rediscover today; "Of Langa stane on Eofede Tor from the long-stone to the Ivy Tor. 'Eofede Tor' is identified with Water a corruption which is thought to have been the origin of the Hundred of Heytor. In the 18th Century Somers Cocks says that Water bore the alias 'Odeton' and field names perpetuate the association of water with the name 'Ivy Tor'. There are still fields called Higher and Lower Ivy Tor and the name Ivy Tor is identified with a large outcrop on Greator Farm. Other fields to the north of the tor are called Lower, Middle and Top Water Tor in keeping with the corruption of 'Odetor' from the original 'Oefede'."

From this, Tim has endeavoured to find these outcrops; as mentioned, so-called Lower Ivy Tor was one of them. Heading east from the car park, descending in elevation and just before the cattle grid,  north of the road, Tim led us left, over a wall to come to this beautiful small tor. Now called 'Plat Tor' after Paul found the old name on Tithe Maps, it consists of one 12 foot outcrop of granite, amid other scattered rocks. Access is unknown, but the way from the road was open and there were no warning signs.

Me beside Plat Tor - pic by Paul Buck

Plat Tor

Plat Tor

Back at the cattle grid, we headed south, back into the wood. Thought to be Brewer's 'Higher Ivy Tor', it is now called Yonder Piphole Tor, and the area is named as such by the Tithe Maps.

I like this tor, situated on Open Access Land, it is mossy heaven yet so easily accessible. A great place for a woodland picnic.

Yonder Piphole Tor

Yonder Piphole Tor

Ascending Yonder Piphole Tor - pic by Paul Buck

Relatively easy going so far, that was all about to change. There was no easy way out of this wood, other than to retrace, probably what we should've done. Instead, we found ourselves battling the bracken to reach the 'good' footpath to Greator Rocks, where we were headed next. I love this tor, despite being reluctant to climb it.

Greator Rocks

Greator Rocks

Greator Rocks

Dropping down eastward, to the Becka Brook, the lower section of this magnificent tor reveals itself, best called 'Lower Greator Rocks', there are several intimidating piles here. The contrast between the open moorland and moss accentuates the scene!

Lower Greator Rocks

Lower Greator Rocks

Lower Greator Rocks

Lower Greator Rocks

Lower Greator Rocks

Lowest outcrop of Lower Greator Rocks

Descending to the Becka Brook, over the picturesque clapper bridge, we decided to turn left, in the hope of finding an easier route to Leighon Cottages. That was not possible, but it was a worthy diversion.

Paul had spotted, on the left, on the other bank of the river and high up in the trees, a granite wall of moss. Without a second thought, he went to investigate. Tim and I later joined him to what is now called 'Becka Brook Tor' at SX 7522 7888.

Becka Brook Tor

Becka Brook Tor

Becka Brook Tor

Becka Brook Tor

There was little of interest as we took a long way round to Leighon, other than a boundary stone, marked with an 'M' for Manaton and an 'I' for Ilsington parish boundaries. There's another before this with no markings.

Blank boundary stone

Boundary stone with 'M' for Manaton. Painted by Tim.

Leighon is so colourful at this time of year! The contrast of the bright yellow from the trees, to the shimmering waters of the brook. It is a sight to behold and I love it.

Autumn in Leighon

Getting back into tor action, after negotiating 3 stiles, we were arriving at the quite magnificent 'Long Heales Tor', so named after the field that it sits in on the Tithe Map, most likely. Tim first found it, and it helpfully lies on a public footpath striking across the field.

Long Heales Tor

Long Heales Tor

Long Heales Tor

Long Heales Tor

Long Heales Tor

Me at Long Heales Tor - pic by Paul Buck

Up the field, more outcrops appear, more like Rubble Tors, under trees. A gate enters the road, where we headed left where 'Lower Nap Tor' is on the right, frustratingly on Private Land. Once again, Paul found this name on old maps. A marvellous pile of gigantic boulders.

Lower Nap Tor

Lower Nap Tor

Lower Nap Tor

This was almost the end of our exploration, overwhelmed by the morning's outcrops. Tim shows us the Greator Farm Ruin, back passed Plat Tor. Tim told us about a small tor in a field on our right, dubbed Gratnor Rocks.

He left Paul and me to investigate. A disappointing pile for me, and on Private Land, but it is much better viewed from the road.

Gratnor Rocks

Gratnor Rocks

Hound Tor car park

Back at Hound Tor car park, I tucked into a tasty hot dog, while the other two had a cheeseburger. By now the weather had come in; it was drizzling and I felt damp and cold.

UPDATE:

Consulting the Tithe Map further, Paul has spotted a huge outcrop in a small copse north of Greator Farm, which would 100% fit Brewer's description of his 'Water Tor' being in a field, or it could even be Ivy Tor. On Private Land, we would love to have a closer look and solve this ongoing mystery.

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