Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Dartmoor: Rediscovering Broomage Tor, and visiting other tors in the vicinity

Paul Rendell at Broomage Tor

This could perhaps be called one of those Dartmoor irritants, and certainly one for tor baggers if you're aware of it. Broomage Tor has never, until now, been located which surprised me given William Crossing mentions it in 100 Years (1901), as do Dr Peter Sanders and Alan Watson in their Tors 380 List (1996). So why has this elusive rockpile been forgotten? Does it even exist? We are amid clay workings, after all. It only made sense for me to meet Paul Rendell, editor of the popular Dartmoor News. Both intrigued about this conundrum, we met up for the first time to go in search of this forgotten tor.

Note: Broomage Tor has finally been documented for the 21st century in Dartmoor News Issue 169 July/August 2019: Exploring the Tors around Lee Moor. All other tors in this post also make an appearance in the article.

Strolling through Lee Moor Woodland

But firstly, my family dropped me off an hour early at Whitehill Tor car park, so I thought I ought to pay another visit to Blackalder Tor, but before this, bag a new tor which I was semi-aware of at the time: Higher Blackalder Tor at SX 5684 6167.

The tor consists of two main piles of granite well away to the north of Blackalder Tor proper, and even that continues right down the road, scattered through the woodland. Higher Blackalder Tor, though, sits on moorland and offers a wide panorama of Plymouth Sound, but also the high moor at Penn Beacon, Butterdon Hill and Western Beacon.

Higher Blackalder Tor

Higher Blackalder Tor

Higher Blackalder Tor

Higher Blackalder Tor

 Then, down to the best of the best of the clay works: Blackalder Tor. The bracken is slowly wrapping itself around the rocks, but I still made an effort to climb up the to the top as that's something I didn't do last time.

Blackalder Tor

Blackalder Tor

Blackalder Tor

Blackalder Tor rock basin

Blackalder Tor

The track below the summit dissects the tor, but its lower section is just as grand, mossed and sited in what feels like an ancient woodland.

Blackalder Tor lower outcrops

Blackalder Tor lower outcrops

Blackalder Tor lower outcrops

Heading back towards Whitehill Tor, I noticed a car in the layby just below the tor, just west of the car park. I assumed this was my companion, Paul Rendell, and it was! He was early and I was early as well.

He took the lead, leading me around the base of Whitehill Tor, dropping down into the woodland below the access track southward. A bit claustrophobic (thanks, ferns), we came to a tor that Paul had visited before. It is quite detached from Whitehill Tor and, had it not been named, you would have no reason to visit as Whitehill Tor is just above and is easier to access. Lower Whitehill Tor is an appropriate name for this tor which can't be seen from above.

A secluded rockpile, Paul Buck did a blog post on the area in April 2017 where his photos show that the tor is clearly larger in winter/spring months. We were here in late May, and it was a totally different story but we reckon this is far from the worst of the bracken this year.

Interestingly, old OS maps show an outcrop below Whitehill Tor but it's further east than this one. Perhaps it was lost during the construction of the access track. It's amazing this one still survives.

Lower Whitehill Tor

Lower Whitehill Tor

Lower Whitehill Tor

Lower Whitehill Tor

Lower Whitehill Tor

We took our time navigating around streams, waste and woodland where we found ourselves near the pond which feeds the leat in Torrycombe Valley. Once you're across this, you are standing below a small crag, dubbed 'Little Torrycombe Tor' at SX 5780 6155.

Having previously visited before with Mum two days' ago, I snapped one shot as we were in a haste to find Broomage Tor, or at least be in the supposedly correct location: somewhere north of Crownhill Tor, on the west side of Ridding Down.

Little Torrycombe Tor - yeah, the shot doesn't do it justice

Paul guided me to the top of the woodland where we would loosely follow a faint track bounded by fields on the left. As we entered the open moor, we were in the GR that Sanders and Watson give: SX 578 611. Their description is that William "Crossing mentions this tor in passing, it is so insignificant that it is easily overlooked. A few stones none of them large, protruding on the west side of Ridding Down mark the site of this tor."

We were looking around, wandering aimlessly. Paul spotted a few diminutive rocks at SX 5762 6108 which could be contenders and the only way to find out was to have a look. We both deduced this is not Broomage Tor; it is just too minor and we both concluded there must be something more substantial nearby.


This is not Broomage Tor

This is not Broomage Tor

This is not Broomage Tor

This is not Broomage Tor

We began ascending the hill where Paul again noticed some rocks, but this time there was hope. Over a wall, we were met by a considerable mound of granite and grass, immediately north of Crownhill Tor. There is evidence that there was once a bigger outcrop here; granite appears to have been removed to build the stone wall below beside a dry leat.

We were slightly out of Sanders and Watson's GR, but this site fits their description and we can only assume theirs is an estimate. When I got home, I consulted many of William Crossing's books to see which one mentions the tor, and sure enough, it's in 100 Years on Dartmoor; "Broomedge Tor, usually called Brimage Tor; at the northern end of Crownhill Down, in the vicinity of the clay works." It seems that post Crossing's time the name has mutated to 'Broomage', which is believable. He also states what I think is the most compelling information; "Crownhill Tor, a small pile on Crownhill Down, not far from Broomedge Tor." OK, so 'not far' gives one quite a wide scope of the area, but indeed Broomage Tor is a mere 200 metres north-east of Crownhill Tor.

When you combine this with Sanders and Watson's description and its geographical location, it ticks every box: how the tor is sited at the point where Ridding Down and Crownhill Down converge; how it's on the northernmost part of Crownhill Down; and how it's only 150 metres away from Broomage Farm Ruins in the catchment area of that name. I logged a ten-figure GR of SX 57841 61053.

The tor is visible from the road west of Tolchmoor Gate, just left of Crownhill Tor if you know where you're looking. It's quite a distinctive mound, too, rising as it does abruptly from the flattish moorland below.

Broomage Tor

Broomage Tor view of Great Trowlesworthy Tor - not Legis Tor, as I first thought

Broomage Tor view of Penn Beacon

Broomage Tor

Chuffed with the find, we made our way to the Broomage Farm Ruins, a place I also visited with Mum - but today, I would discover the two grand gateposts.

Broomage Farm Ruins

Broomage Farm Gateposts

Paul said he remembered encountering an isolated outcrop in Broomage Wood, which was once thought to be a contender for Broomage Tor. Finding the stile was, to say the least, difficult as its stinging nettles pose a death trap for the visitor.

This has taken stile climbing to a whole new level!

Err... is this a public right of way?

Broomage Wood

At the west side of the wood, there is a bizarre arrangement of large granite boulders, seemingly acting as an impenetrable barrier between the wood and the field. It's not natural, but it's been here for so long nature has reclaimed it.

Large boulders in Broomage Wood

Having ensured ourselves that we had found Broomage Tor and it wasn't in the wood, or any outcrop for that matter, we exited, retraced past the farm ruins and took the track north to Tolchmoor Gate, then onto Whitehill Tor where we would say our goodbyes.

It was great to meet up and we solved a mystery which will hopefully encourage people to visit the tor, which, as far as I'm aware, is either accessed from the gate to the south or from the gap in the field wall westward.

Paul kindly gave me the January/February 2019 edition of  Dartmoor News to read on Whitehill Tor as I waited for my lift (we finished much earlier than expected). I was only there two days' ago!!

Whitehill Tor

Caterpillar

Whitehill Tor

Whitehill Tor

Whitehill Tor

When the family arrived, we drove to Piall Bridge as the dogs hadn't had a walk all day. It is a nice stretch of the river, but there are no tors here.

Piall Bridge

Flora

Flora

Piall River

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