Monday, 11 February 2019

Dartmoor: Shaptor Wood - Part 1: Northcombe Copse from Slade Cross

Northcombe Copse Tor summit rock basin

This is a very special place; I have walked in Shaptor Wood more times than anywhere else in the whole of Dartmoor National Park, and there are many fabulous tors within it. So I have decided to include every single tor in four separate blog posts to allow me to show you, in detail, this boulder-strewn woodland. Before I start I must thank Tim Jenkinson who has found many of these excellent tors and helpfully documented them on his Flickr Page. He is a true inspiration for this era of discovering long-lost rock piles and has motivated me to keep pursuing my hobby. 

In addition, I must also thank Paul Buck with whom I have gained a real passion for this woodland, because of his excellent blog posts on the area, linked HERE and HERE; inevitably, there will be more to come. From this, I have endeavoured to record my new findings, as well as those already documented by the tor bagging enthusiasts. However, this has proved unsuccessful until now, because of the abundance of various rock piles which makes your head spin in circles.

Please Note: The photos in this post and all the others from this four-part series were not all taken on the same day and are not in order of the various walks I have undertaken, so colours may be different as well as seasons, and if you try to recreate my photos, you might go back and forth at some of the larger tors, but for me, that's part of the experience!

Slade Rock (Slade Farm)


Starting off at the crossroads at Slade Cross, and by taking the footpath behind the farm of the same name, there is a modest boulder just out of reach on the left, hidden within trees in summer. Whilst lacking aesthetics, it is still worthy of note I think, and so I have dubbed it as 'Slade Rock' at SX 8000 8128. That said, it is not substantial enough to be documented on Tors of Dartmoor. I first bagged it on the 12/05/18.

Slade Rock

Slade Rock

Slade Rock

Eastpark Copse (Gladstone Rock)

The path winds through the edge of the woodland, still with the A382 obvious on the right. When the path ends, turning left will take you onto an ascending bridleway. The visitor will then find a way into the small copse where Gladstone Rock at SX 8027 8125 can be found. Marked on OS maps, this outcrop is heavily vegetated and lies on Private Land, but is accessible from the bridleway to the west and no warning signs indicate that access is forbidden.

Gladstone Rock

Gladstone Rock

Gladstone Rock

Gladstone Rock

Shaptor Bottom Copse (Hawkmoor Wood/Long Cleave)

Retracing and heading eastward, you will drop down beside a fence that backs onto the stunning gardens of Hawkmoor. The track splits; one goes right over the tumbling stream whereas the other heads steeply uphill on the left. Take the latter and you will face a fine small tor known as Hawkmoor Rocks at SX 8055 8093.

Stream behind Hawkmoor

Hawkmoor Rocks

Hawkmoor Rocks

Hawkmoor Rocks

The pile continues uphill, cutting out the large bend in the track. Still part of Hawkmoor Rocks, this small overgrown pile can be found at SX 8049 8097.

Hawkmoor Rocks upper

The next tor was a big surprise for me, and even more so that it is marked as a massive outcrop on OS maps. Not far northward from Hawkmoor Rocks, above the track as it descends to the stream on its west bank, and easy to reach from above, Long Cleave Tor is a worthy contender to be crowned the best woodland tor on East Dartmoor, even rivalling Shap Tor across the valley.

Situated at SX 8057 8103, a massive wall of granite emerges from the steep valley side. From the summit, roughly at 207 metres above sea level, there is a wonderful view of Shaptor Wood extending towards Stonelands; the stream running below. Descending from the top is much easier where the 20ft granite wall I nicknamed it as the 'Great Wall' can be viewed, intimidating the onlooker.

The name of 'Long Cleave' appears as a name for the vicinity on the Tithe Map for the Parish of Bovey Tracey, and so the appellation given seemed appropriate. It is surreal and is probably my best find to date - although Tim Jenkinson 'found' it before me!

Long Cleave Tor

Long Cleave Tor, nicknamed as the 'Great Wall'

Long Cleave Tor, nicknamed as the 'Great Wall'

Long Cleave Tor bluebells

Long Cleave Tor summit ledge

Shaptor Down (Outliers of Shap Tor)


After you've spent some valuable time admiring this tor, take the track to the south where an outlying pile can be seen. Turn right and then left over the stream to make for Shaptor Wood proper. Just before the stile, strike left over a low wall and uphill. The first of the many impressive piles of 'West Shaptor' can be seen on the left, a curious logan stone at SX 8071 8087.

Other huge piles can be found at SX 8076 8085 and SX 8081 8090 on the western side of the main tor, marked on OS maps, the former of the two Grid Refs boasting at least two well-formed large rock basins. All of the woodlands described here are on Open Access Land.

West Shaptor Logan Stone (?)

West Shaptor

West Shaptor middle pile

West Shaptor rock basins

West Shaptor upper pile

West Shaptor upper pile

On the right is the lower summit ledge of Shaptor Rock or, as I prefer, 'Shap Tor'. It is also recorded as 'Sharp Tor' by Mr William Crossing in Gems in a Granite Setting.

The summits, of which there are three, are reasonably flat and fail to suggest an impressive rock face below at SX 8095 8082. The views, however, are amazing. The most prominent eminences are Rippon Tor, Haytor, and Cosdon Hill.

Shaptor Rock

Shaptor Rock

Shaptor Rock

Shaptor Rock

Shaptor Rock

Northcombe Copse


Making your life easier, head east to the edge of the wood, and turn right at the field boundary to meet the path where the huge rock shown above can be appreciated. Further down, you come to a T Junction, after passing a couple of plaques on your left. Just opposite, slightly on the left, is a narrow opening in the wall to access Northcombe Copse. Contour the hill but you will probably have to ascend a little to your right to the flat summit rocks first noted by Tim Jenkinson.

The summit of Northcombe Copse Tor (SX 8056 8060) is a flat one, but drop down to the south-west and you will find a more substantial granite tor, some bizarre shapes as well as an odd rock near the summit. Try not to drop too far down to the northern edge of the tor where there are many fenced mine shafts. They are signposted to warn of the danger.

Update (11/02/19): On my 3rd revisit, I discovered a stupendous rock basin atop one of the summit rocks. There is little inclination to this from below so you have to climb on top to view it. Surprisingly, it is very deep and small but, not surprisingly, it is very much lesser-known.

Rock Basin atop Northcombe Copse Tor

Northcombe Copse Tor summit rock

Northcombe Copse Tor

Northcombe Copse Tor

Return to the T Junction.

In the next instalment, we will explore the tors and rocks of Sonny Copse, Pixey Copse and Aller Down Copse, including the cliff face above Stonelands. More to come soon.

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