Friday, 25 October 2019

Dartmoor: Solving the Hare Tor and Clay Tor Conundrums

Clay Tor (Hemery)

I've been holding off writing this blog post for a while now because it involves two Dartmoor conundrums, both involving author William Crossing, which need to be explained fully for the reader to grasp what we're discussing here, so I'll try my best but at times if you fall asleep or get a headache, don't feel bad as I'm still trying to unpick quotes from the literature too!

Please note: I will be picking out the most important bits of information from the Tors of Dartmoor website, which goes into more detail if you're interested.

I met up with Tim Jenkinson to start this modest 8-mile walk at the quarry car park at Smeardon Down, passing Furze Tor en route to Set Tor.

Set Tor

Set Tor

Set Tor bagged, we moved onto Stephen's Grave before ascending Little White Tor, my first new bag of the day.

Little White Tor

Little White Tor

Little White Tor

Little White Tor

We decided that we would also take in White Tor as it was too close to ignore. Having been before, I wasn't expecting to be 'wowed' by the outcrops as I was somewhat disappointed last time, but it just goes to show revisiting places can instantly change one's opinion on an outcrop.

White Tor flagpole

White Tor

White Tor

White Tor

After we spent a few minutes enjoying the views, we headed north to a small tor which was thought to be Hare Tor (Wapsworthy) by Dr. Peter Sanders and Alan Watson in 1996. Found at SX 5438 7915, it is a small pile on the edge of a private field, but it can be bagged from public land. Tim and I reckon this isn't so-called 'Hare Tor', as Crossing's description in his 'Guide to Dartmoor' in 1912 is as thus, when discussing the naming of the other two Hare Tors in Willsworthy Range; "An analogous case occurs above Wapsworthy Wells, where a small pile on the slope above an equally small clatter, is always spoken of as Hare Tor, or, as it is sounded, Hayer Tor, the appropriateness of the name to its situation being understood."

But then we have Terry Bound's description in 'The A TO Z of Dartmoor Tors', stating: "The only feature remotely resembling a tor is a low rock-pile about 4 metres in diameter seen over a wall beyond a gate close to the two green army huts along the track from Wapsworthy Gate, near Bagga Tor. The pile looks as though it could be an artificial heap made by a bulldozer, but no other feature is in sight. This therefore, is likely to be the tor to which Crossing refers." However, there are two issues with this, the first one being that no one since has been able to locate the 'low rock-pile', and secondly it seems to have ignored the exposed outcrop on high.

So, assuming this site isn't Hare Tor, Tim and I went with the name of 'Butterburies Rocks' which refers to the newtake they are in.

Butterburies Rocks

Butterburies Rocks

Butterburies Rocks

Butterburies Rocks

Butterburies Rocks
Butterburies Rocks

We handrailed the wall to the next outcrop which in our opinion fits the bill, at SX 5499 7899. It is situated in private land like the previous contender but can also be bagged from public land. We surveyed the pile from the barbed wire fence where we noted a small clitter beneath it, fitting Crossing's assertion and therefore we believe this is the true Hare Tor.

Hare Tor (Crossing)

Hare Tor (Crossing)

Hare Tor (Crossing)

But nearby to the east, at SX 5516 7907, is another pile which is described as Hare Tor by Ken Ringwood in 'Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks' (2013); and whilst it is situated some 150 metres away from the 2nd site we have grouped it together with it, to let the reader make up their own mind. 

Both piles are collectively known as Hare Tor (Wapsworthy).

Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)

Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)

Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)

So, with the first conundrum sorted we took a bearing to the first Clay Tor site, at SX 5693 7810, which also features in both Ken Ringwood's and Terry Bound's books at the same grid reference. But there is some conjecture about this one, more so than Hare Tor I would say, despite only two sites being plausible, yet this, the first, is described by Crossing which gives us tor baggers little hope; "In connection with it the pastures of Crowtorre and Claytorre are also named. The latter is a small tract near the Walkham below Sandy Ford, but no tor exists here.

Richard Hansford Worth, in 'Worth's Dartmoor' (1967), provides a bit more information; "Of tors devoid of rocky crowns, I may name 'Clay Tor', a hill in the Walkham Valley, and bearing the name since 1665, at the latest."

And finally, Eric Hemery's description is the most compelling; "This summit-less pile, its crown long since weathered and scattered on the grassy headland, has a core of bedrock and a large clitter on the south-east slope. A tiny natural cavern, slightly built up on one side to form a cache, may be seen on the south side of the tor." What's more, he provides a photo on page 1048 which narrows down his positioning of the tor.

This site is more or less a broken pile amid a dense clitter, near Sandy Ford as Crossing assures us, and it also boasts a plaque dedicated to Bob Stewart. I suppose to Crossing this wasn't worthy enough to be called a 'tor', which is why it was dismissed in his description.

Tim and I chose to have lunch here as it really is a beautiful spot away from civilisation.

Clay Tor (Crossing)

Clay Tor (Crossing)

Clay Tor (Crossing)

Clay Tor (Crossing) view of White Tor

Clay Tor (Crossing) moss
Bob Stewart plaque

Moving west, along the right bank of the Walkham, we crossed Deadlake, where there is supposed to be a rock known as the 'Hanging Stone (Rock)' - no, not the one on the north-west slopes of Hangingstone Hill! We found a possible contender at SX 5656 7821, but we will likely never know if it's correct, so I'm omitting it from my bagging list.

Deadlake

Is this the Hanging Stone?

Or this?

Same rock as before...

The Walkham Valley twists and turns southward with Great Mis Tor, a true mountain, rising high above. Taking a slightly higher route, we contoured to a much more impressive sprawl of granite, which we surmised was Hemery's Clay Tor, at SX 560 779. Why? Because we saw the outcrop he called Clay Tor in his photograph in his book. That's enough evidence for me and this ruined tor has a bit more stature than the last.

Clay Tor (Hemery) view of Greena Ball Rocks

Clay Tor (Hemery)

Clay Tor (Hemery)

Clay Tor (Hemery)

Clay Tor (Hemery)
'The Fish' on Clay Tor (Hemery)

The second conundrum solved, we took a beeline for the Langstone Moor Stone Circle.

Langstone Moor Stone Circle

Langstone Moor Stone Circle

'The Langstone' was our next point of call, a large standing stone just to the east of White Tor, but to get there from here do not go 'as the crow flies' unless you like bog.

Me at The Langstone - pic by Tim Jenkinson

As we were so close we diverted to Wedlake Tor.

Wedlake Tor

Wedlake Tor

We rejoined the track back past Furze Tor to end the walk. A very enjoyable day with two conundrums sorted (we hope!).

Furze Tor

Furze Tor and its locals

But that wasn't the end: I wanted to have a look at the rock basins on Combestone Tor and so did Tim, so we parked up 20 metres away to explore the tor's beautiful rock formations. The summit can't be climbed without skill, which we both lack.

Combestone Tor

Combestone Tor

Combestone Tor

Combestone Tor

John Hayward mentions the fallen rock basin in 'Dartmoor 365'; "Near the western end of the rocks is a fallen block which has a basin now in its vertical face."

The Fallen Rock Basin at Combestone Tor

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