Saturday, 20 April 2019

Dartmoor: Around Fox Tor Mires

Fox Tor

The Fox Tor Mires area of Dartmoor, which is infamous just because of the mire's history, actually houses three tors in the vicinity, some distance away from any other outcrops. They are best bagged in a short loop from Whiteworks like we did, but there is such a plethora of interest that you could easily spend a day here.

The main car park at SX 60388 70798 was already full when Dad and I arrived in the morning, so instead, we drove further down the road to a small area beside the Devonport Leat Bridge that Mum and I previously saw when we bagged Strane Tor, and also when I walked from Hexworthy to Cadover Bridge on my first ever Ten Tors Training Camp. Ha!

BTW, this small car park, if you could call it one, is at SX 60893 70817.

We set off along the narrow but pleasant path, turning southward, following the gentle contours of the Devonport Leat, with expansive views of the 'notorious' mire.

Devonport Leat

The huge Fox Tor Mires

Past a wall on our left, we were soon at a bridge carrying the track from Nun's Cross Farm to Little Fox Tor, clearly visible on our left now. We turned left, passing a small group of rocks at SX 6086 6972.

Boulders

Boulders

It was decided that going further up the hill on this track before contouring the hill would be the best plan of action, and sure enough, at a path junction, there is a standing stone - a cross - known as 'Headless Cross' in Whealham Bottom. It features a tiny incised cross at the top of the stone at SX 61324 69492, GR courtesy of Tim Jenkinson.

Don't confuse this with the Headless Cross on Mardon Down, which is also known as the Maximajor Stone.

Headless Cross

Headless Cross

From here, the route to Little Fox Tor couldn't be more obvious; a path leads right to its summit.

The tor, which is also known as 'Yonder Tor', is a small outcrop with a large clitter. Described in High Dartmoor; "At the head of some scattered rocks west of T Gert is the small pile sometimes known as 'Little Fox Tor' (approx. 1,350 feet) and formerly as 'Yonder Tor'."

Rocks near Little Fox Tor

Little Fox Tor

Little Fox Tor

Little Fox Tor

Little Fox Tor

We chilled here for about 10 minutes before conquering our next bag: Fox Tor itself, which is hardly a walk from here. It is simple once you're up here, but I haven't yet ventured up Crane Hill where bog awaits you.

Fox Tor is stupendous, every outcrop interesting forming a trident. The tor boasts two fallen rock basins, known by the name of 'Mammoth Skull' by Eric Hemery. I also found another basin on the north-east stack, and just below the summit rock are the remains of a famous letterbox. The location is awesome.


Sat in the Fox Tor rock basin - pic by Rich Piper

Fox Tor 'Mammoth Skull'

Fox Tor 'Mammoth Skull'

Fox Tor 'Mammoth Skull'

Fox Tor

Fox Tor redundant letterbox

Fox Tor north-west outcrops

Fox Tor north-east rock basin
Fox Tor

Fox Tor banana

We spent ages here, but there was still one more bag to go, and one we weren't in a hurry to reach. Across some disused tin workings eastward, we tried to beeline Rabbits Tor whose site is contentious. Firstly, we visited the site at SX 63305 69811. (We almost headed towards the wrong stream.) This location is a small, miniature tor which looks OK from afar but isn't brilliant. What I do like about it though is how close it is to the beautiful stream, the tor just above its left bank not too far from the head.

I believe this is the site.

Rabbits Tor

Rabbits Tor

Rabbits Tor

Rabbits Tor

Rabbits Tor appears as a small tor from the north

However, when continuing downstream, there is an extensive area of loose granite, little of which is natural and none that is bedrock. This, at SX 63315 69972, seems to be a popular site for Rabbits Tor, but why Eric Hemery would give this 'tor status' I don't know. All I see is clitter above Sunshine Valley.

The compelling evidence for me as to why this is the incorrect site is the description in 'High Dartmoor'; "Above the stream's left bank the rocks culminate in a pile known as Rabbits Tor (approx. 1,375 feet), its clitter spreading to the tin-streamed sward across which the stream darts to Swincombe." He calls it a 'pile' which the previous site represents, but take it with a pinch of salt if you will.

River Swincombe

Could this be Rabbits Tor? Where's the pile?
 
Could this be Rabbit's Tor? Where's the pile?

Below Rabbit's Tor possible site?

Below Rabbit's Tor possible site?

Looks better, but is it Rabbits Tor?

We followed the watercourse to the wall which we then followed on its south side. Over a small but beautiful stream, boasting a fantastic plunge pool, we passed through the same wall that is quite broken here. Soon after this, westward, a pair of gateposts mark the point where a track heads in a north-westerly to the magnificent Childe's Tomb.

Plunge Pool

A pair of gateposts below Fox Tor

It's one of Dartmoor's most famous stories. Legend has it Childe the Hunter was hunting one winter's day where, during a violent storm, he became stranded. In order to stay alive, he had to cut open his horse and rip out its internal organs (gross I know), utilising its warmth in the hope of not dying from hypothermia. However, this failed and he froze to death. Reference: Tim Sandles' Legendary Dartmoor Website.

It is believed that what we see today is a restored cross and cist amid a cairn circle. Childe's Tomb survives in remarkably good condition and its position is quite spectacular. 

Childe's Tomb

Childe's Tomb

Childe's Tomb Cist

Childe's Tomb showing both the wall and Fox Tor

Returning to the wall, I consulted Dartefacts to locate Goldsmith's Cross, to obtain a GR, so we knew where we were going to need to go to achieve finding it. It is a small feature so knowing exactly where it can be found is important.

Across another small stream (blimey, there are a lot of these today), we headed to the GR of SX 61700 70200. This is a bit out, though, as we found it at SX 61658 70155. It's another wonderful cross.

According to Dartmoor Crosses, it is "One of a number of crosses that marks the route of the Monks’ Path. This is the ancient name given to the track that links the Buckfast Abbey with those at Tavistock and Buckland. This path takes a more northerly route than the more commonly known Abbots’ Way."

Goldsmith's Cross

Goldsmith's Cross

Goldsmith's Cross

We headed back in the direction of the wall, south-west, fording a tributary of the Strane River before ascending the tussock grass hill. 

Tributary of the Strane

Tributary of the Strane

Back at the Devonport Leat, we retraced all the way back to the car park where we would drive to the Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown. It only makes sense after visiting Fox Tor!

Fox Tor Cafe Triple Decker

And there's still more food to come, as we then headed off to Pork Hill car park for a refreshing Willy's Magnum Ice Cream to cool us off before the day came to an end.

Magnum at Pork Hill car park

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