Saturday, 31 August 2019

Dartmoor: Some Tors in Hound Tor Combe

Tim Jenkinson at Holwell Bridge Boulders

This walk was decided the night before I met up with Tim. He had recently walked the final part of Ilsington Beating the Bounds (IBB), a group walk which follows the parish boundary led by head ranger Rob Steemson. Completed in three stages, the final stage across the open moors invited Paul Rendell to show Tim two of his finds, both previously undocumented.

A sunny day forecast, Tim picked me up in Abbotskerswell and he drove me to the popular Hound Tor car park, in hope that the Hound of the Basket Meals would be there, later on, to serve us a much-need refreshment. How wrong could I be?

Hound Tor was our first tor of the day and, despite its popularity, remains one of the best tors - not a favourite, though. The tor was very quiet, not surprising given it was still morning.

We skirted the south side.

Hound Tor (Manaton)

Hound Tor (Manaton)

Hound Tor (Manaton)

We took the path to Greator Rocks where Tim pointed out the huge cave in the eastern outcrop. Too much bracken to reach, and not being the day's objective, I noted it down for a winter visit. It is a highly underrated tor.

Greator Rocks

Greator Rocks

Greator Rocks

Greator Rocks, cave to the right

The track took us over a massive stile and through a dense fern forest, towards Becka Brook. I have only ever walked up from the bridge, in 2017, but walking down was very stuffy, to say the least. Reaching Holwell Bridge was a great sigh of relief.

The scene was more picturesque than I remembered: the lush clear waters of the brook calmly flowing to Long Pool, the rope swing still in situ, and the newest addition to the area, a boundary stone unveiled in July 2019, inscribed M for Manaton and I for Ilsington.

To my shame, I missed both the plaque on the boundary stone and on the bridge!

Holwell Bridge and its plaque. New boundary stone far right.

New boundary stone, plaque on the other side

Becka Brook, plaque bottom right

Now I was in new territory. I was pleasantly surprised by the maintenance of the paths through the Emsworthy Mire nature reserve, and this continued south to Hemsworthy Gate.

Heading south from Holwell Bridge, passing a path junction, you can't fail to notice a huge boulder on the right. This was just the beginning for us, though, as the boulders continued up the hill with at least two more of significant size sitting at the top of the woodland. As well as smaller but equally interesting emergent outcrops littered through the trees, this is a fine tor.

As we progressed up the hill, we bumped into a couple walking along the disused driveway to Holwell Cottage, now in remains. It is covered in grass and dissects what has been dubbed 'Holwell Bridge Boulders'.

A good find by Paul Rendell and a new bag for me, Tim was also chuffed to have explored it fully on this occasion. It resides in the Parish of Manaton and can be found at SX 7461 7762.

Photos NOT in chronological order.

Holwell Bridge Boulders

Holwell Bridge Boulders. Tim gets a GR.

Holwell Bridge Boulders

Holwell Bridge Boulders

Holwell Bridge Boulders
Holwell Bridge Boulders

Holwell Bridge Boulders

Through a field, still southward, we made for the north side of another one of Paul's Tors. Cold Moor Tor is as good a name as any other for a tor propped up against a huge tree, amid two fields. The area is named 'Homer Cold Moor' on Tithe Maps.

An access point nearer the brook enables the viewer to visit both sides of the tor at SX 7446 7733.

Cold Moor Tor

Cold Moor Tor

Cold Moor Tor

Cold Moor Tor

Cold Moor Tor
Cold Moor Tor

Cold Moor Tor squeezed under a tree

Tim remarked how amazed he was that he hadn't spotted this tor before, given from it you can see Holwell and Little Holwell Tors, Emsworthy Rocks and Little Emsworthy. That's four tors with good views of the valley.

Taking the path, rejoining it at the access point, we passed a curious 'Chaise Lounge' Rock as Tim calls it. A huge armchair!

Near Cold Moor Tor, a large boulder

You can't lose the footpath on the outskirts of the mire as you pass a waymarker every few yards - it really is that well defined. Using boardwalks to cross dry bog, the panorama widens with the likes of Saddle Tor and Haytor visible from rare angles. I've done this part of the moor to death, or so I thought, and yet I'm seeing tors from sides I'm not used to seeing them from, providing a whole new perspective. I felt like I'd never been here before and I was right.

The head of the Becka Brook is a shallow depression with a stunning woodland above the left bank of its western tributary, at SX 7401 7691.

A magical woodland

The route takes on a gentle ascent upto the beautiful Sybil Ball Bench, where one can gain a wonderful view of Cold Moor Tor down the valley.

Footpath this way, Chinkwell Tor behind

Sybil Ball Bench

Sybil Ball Bench

Zoom of Cold Moor Tor

After this, veered off right to follow the wall uphill towards Hawkeswell, but before getting there, I noticed a recumbent slotted gatepost. I can't find a GR but if I do I'll stick it on here.

Recumbent slotted gatepost

Hawkeswell has another boundary stone.

Hawkeswell boundary stone

Hawkeswell boundary stone

Following the wall to Seven Lords' Lands, Tim commented upon another boundary stone sited in the wall and I spotted it immediately. From the south side, only the I is visible.

Boundary stone near Seven Lords' Lands

Boundary stone near Seven Lords' Lands

Seven Lords' Lands was a bit disappointing for me: a cairn circle and that's just about it. For such a grand name, I would've expected a little more.

Seven Lords' Lands

Seven Lords' Lands

Hemsworthy Gate, my usual stomping ground, took me by surprise. As John Hayward says in Dartmoor 365, "There is more to be found here than meets the eye at first." A cross, a bolt, a gatepost in a wall and waymark can all be found here.

A for Ashburton

The wall utilises the gatepost

Gatepost

Stentiford's or Stittleford's Cross
Stentiford's or Stittleford's Cross

The next section was boring as hell! Taking the busy B3357 to Harefoot Cross was of little interest apart from a granite block showing feather and tare. Then from Harefoot Cross we found a small tree to shade ourselves from the searing heat to achieve a good view of a rubble tor.

Feather and tare

Harefoot Cross

Holwell Tor and a rubble tor at SX 7379 7694

Holwell Rocks was next, my third visit to this fine tor. I've never approached it from the south-west side before and I can see why: a lot of tussock grass to negotiate!

Holwell Rocks

Holwell Rocks

Holwell Rocks

We past 'Big Rock' which is on the east side of the hilltop, descending northward to pick up the track into the north end of Emsworthy Mire. I was going to show Tim 'Hawthorn Rock', a logan stone more than likely manmade, in the woodland at the junction of old and new paths. Discovered by Jude Chilvers, she named it 'Hawthorn' as she remembered seeing some in the area, however, neither me nor Tim can confirm any at the rock itself.

Hawthorn Rock west approach

Hawthorn Rock, although I think Ivy Rock would be apter.

Boardwalk at Hawthorn Rock

Retracing partway to reach the cattle grid in the dip, Tim first showed me an inscription on a rock I've failed to find before, found at SX 73887 77934. When I compared his photos from 2014 to mine I realised we had seen it upside down!

BI 1688 Rock

BI 1688 Rock

Holwell Brook

Holwell Brook

Crossing the cattle grid we bumped into some cattle, which really should've mooved on! We followed the road past Rubble Tor (left) and Hound Tor (right) to the entrance of Hedge Barton, where Tim would yet again show me something I've walked past many a time. 1849 is clear enough but the initials below not quite.

Oh, and if you would like to visit, go to SX 73880 78779. The car park was now in sight where the walk finished. Hmm... how can I put that dramatically?

The inscription at Hedge Barton

The inscription at Hedge Barton

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