Monday, 8 April 2019

Dartmoor: Shipley Bridge to Ivybridge (Part 1)

Ryder's Rocks

This was going to be quite a big walk for me, and it took in a lot of tors on the featureless south moor. But I love it like that sometimes, and it enabled me to just forget any issues in my life and breathe in the fresh air.

The family kindly dropped me off at Shipley Bridge just before 11 where I first passed the lovely waterfall at Shipley Gorge.

Shipley Gorge

Shipley Gorge

Then, a stone's throw away, The Hunters' Stone. This single stone may appear to be of little significance, but its history has baffled many. For the whole story, go to our Tors of Dartmoor Website.

The Hunters' Stone

The Hunters' Stone

The Hunters' Stone

Further along the road can be found the Mary Meynell Memorial and, yet again, another feature subject of disagreement in the valley, go to our Tors of Dartmoor Website and all will be explained.

Mary Meynell Memorial

Mary Meynell Memorial

Around another bend, I started my ascent of Black Tor, the most beautiful tor in the area in my opinion. It deserves to be called the 'Sentinel of the Avon'.

Black Tor

Black Tor

Black Tor

I could see a path heading north-west, in the direction I was heading, however, it descended before ascending and levelling off. I chose to contour the hillside as the ground here is firm and easy going. This brought me to a ford and I began ascending to the large settlement of 'Rider's Rings'.

Ford below Rider's Rings

Rider's Rings

Rider's Rings

Using my GPS as it had to be done, I beelined towards the laughable Ryder's Rocks, marked on OS maps! I don't care, though, as the views of Avon Dam are good but the weather was really starting to grey over at this point.

The rocks are actually a small clitter, on the side of Zeal Plains. I remember walking the track below but can't say I'd ever bagged this feature before - well I have now!

Ryder's Rocks

Ryder's Rocks

Ryder's Rocks

Boundary stone above Ryder's Rocks? Sorry, no GR.

I now made the mistake of making a beeline towards Eastern White Barrow, the unmistakable submarine cairn on top the large, broad hill. But why did I want to visit when I could've just headed west to the Zeal Tor Tramway? Despite it not being natural, thus not a tor, I can't ever remember stopping by previously and it's such a dominant feature; for most of the walk, its dark shape was in view.

The route took me over tussock grass and, with the dull weather and solitude, and the fact that I was alone, I had every right to feel scared and apprehensive. I just wanted to summit the cairn and move on! Reaching the cairn was a sigh of relief.

Tussock grass

Eastern White Barrow

Eastern White Barrow

Tin workings west of Eastern White Barrow

I had hopes of taking a track, shown on satellite imagery, to Western White Barrow or somewhere in that direction: west. But it became boggy as I left the Eastern Barrow which forced me to battle through the tussock southward to reach the tramway near Petre's Pits and Bala Brook Head.

It's soggy underfoot

Giving the Western Barrow a miss, I turned left at Boundary Crosses and just followed several boundary stones south towards the imposing dome of Three Barrows, over the flattish Quickbeam Hill. My, though, was this a damp affair!

I failed to find any markings on any of the stones and really, I should've taken GR's.

Scanning old OS maps, I have come across the name 'Hobajohn's Cross' which sits along the boundary here on a corner, obviously a significant position. But before any of you say that the cross sits south of Piles Hill, then you're also right as that's its present-day position, as far as I'm aware. There is an upright stone still in both locations but why are there two locations for one name?

Intrigued, I did some research and came across this very detailed write-up from Tim Sandles on Legendary Dartmoor. Once again, I cannot infer the information any better than he has so do go and give it read.

Boundary stone

Boundary stone looking to another with Western White Barrow on the horizon

Boundary stone with Three Barrows on the horizon, my next bag

Hobajohn's Cross in its location marked on old OS maps

Ascending Three Barrows was relatively straightforward, but before reaching the three large cairns, I did a south-westerly which placed me amid a large clitter of surprisingly small stones. This clitter is very extensive, scattered all over the west slope of the eminence and almost reaching the River Erme at least 150 metres below. It is evidence of a tor which no longer exists; a disintegrated tor which may be buried under one of the cairns - but its unlikely to me. I reckon the clitter nearest the summit was used to build the cairns as it's certainly plausible and makes sense to use the resources closest to you.

It's also interesting how Donn's Map of Dartmoor in 1765 shows the hill as 'Three Burrow Tor', which translates to 'Three Barrows Tor' in modern-day. Then again, Western White Barrow is called 'Petre Cross Tor' and there is no bedrock there either. Another thing to note is that by some definitions, the word 'tor' can also mean hill, explaining the naming used here. Anyway, because of the clitter I have to include it as a bag and the views are well worth it; visit on a clearer day, and you should be able to glimpse Great Links Tor and Cut Hill high up on the north moor.

Three Barrows Tor, or what's left of it. Views of Sharp Tor and its cairn.

Three Barrows Tor, or what's left of it. Views of Sharp Tor and its cairn.

Three Barrows Tor, or what's left of it. Views of Staldon Barrows.

Lots of clitter on the west side of Three Barrows.

It was mandatory that I summit the hill with its trig point.

Three Barrows largest cairn

Three Barrows trig point

Three Barrows trig point

After this, I descend and make my way to the small tor of Old Hill Rocks, then onto Wacka Tor, Sharp Tor, Hangershell Rock, Butter Brook Rocks, Western Beacon and into Ivybridge. This will all appear in Part 2.

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