Wednesday 28 October 2020

Dartmoor: Coombe Tor and Bee Tor (with kind permission)

Coombe Tor (Chagford)

I had been eyeing up these two tors for quite some time now. The great majority of those tors I have left to bag reside on private land, and some are quite deep within so the best course of action for me was to seek the kind permission of the landowners. I am not very accustomed with this, either viewing an outcrop from public land or by making a small, harmless trespass in the form of passing through a gate, for example. I would treat these tors differently; knowing that access to both tors was granted to my good friend, Paul Buck, I was optimistic.

I sent letters out to both landowners and had a quick response from Coombe Tor but not from Bee Tor so, confirming a suitable date for Coombe, I made a voyage to also see if there was any chance of me visiting Bee Tor as well since for all I know I could've sent the letter to the wrong place!

I got off the bus in Chagford where it immediately began to rain quite heavy. The day was forecast to have intermittent showers and sunny spells, so this was expected, and as you will see as this post progresses I got pretty lucky.

Rainy Morning on Manor Road

Autumn on Manor Road

Manor Road is not a nice road to walk; first you descent to a bridge before tackling the steady ascent up to Waye Barton. The ascent is not the issue, that's manageable, it's the volume of traffic and the need to keep hugging the hedges to avoid being taken by a vehicle. There is a bench halfway up, but I can think of hundreds of spots I'd rather sit; places with a view for a start!

I arrived at Waye Barton to walk up the driveway to meet the landowner and, before I knew it, we began chatting about the tor and what unique features it holds. I can see why the tor is on private land; it is miles from the nearest road or public right of way and sits in a small, secluded copse that is left for wildlife surrounded by farmed fields that are often patrolled by grazing animals but, upon asking how many requests they get, I was shocked to hear that it was around three in 30 years! So, presumably, Paul Buck, who visited in 2017, was the last to visit, and I, being not even 18 yet, was probably the youngest person to visit in at least three decades!

A bit of limbo under some electric fences to keep the animals in and we were entering the top of the woodland. The top of the hill, at 259m, is a diminutive slab of granite but, further down the hill, the landowner showed me across a mossy wall and before my very eyes was a magnificent granite cross. At some 11 feet tall, this stands atop the largest outcrop of the tor where the trees become sparse enough to allow for a stunning view westward towards Kestor Rock.

Coombe Tor Cross

Coombe Tor Cross M.A.L.C. / 1908.

The cross is dedicated in memory of Mary Ann Liggins Clampitt who lived in the cottages below Coombe Tor. She would walk up to the tor to sit in quiet contemplation marvelling at the views laid out before her. The owner also made mention of a plaque set away from the cross on the north side of the tor that he hadn't seen for years; a huge plaque also in memory of Mary Ann Liggins, inscribed atop a flat, table-like boulder.

We explored the mossy rocks to the north of the cross and, dropping down slightly, I caught a glimpse of it and, to show my appreciation, I gladly cleaned the moss and leaves that were concealing its message. Being careful not to fall off the cliff (as the hillside is precarious in places), one can read "IN LOVING MEMORY OF / MARY ANN LIGGINS CLAMPITT / OF COOMBE / DIED FEBRUARY 4TH 1908 /".

Mary Ann Liggins Clampitt Memorial Plaque on Coombe Tor

Back to the tor proper, the reason why I was here in the first place, the landowner showed me the southernmost which are my favourite: large, rounded, jointed outcrops tinged green with moss. Descending the hill further, we came to a very large cave that the owner confirmed was naturally formed. Impressive and I certainly felt privileged to see it!

Coombe Tor (Chagford)

Coombe Tor (Chagford)

Coombe Tor Cave

Below, we exited the woodland and said out final goodbyes to the tor, passing through a field of a few inquisitive horses before ducking under some more electric fencing before walking down the driveway for me to say thank you for the 10th time to the owner for taking the time to show me around Coombe Tor. It was very enjoyable and I think the owner had as much pleasure as me seeing the tor.

Noting a very fine post box at the entrance, I headed south along the road to Tunnaford Cross. Also quite a busy road, adjoining as it does to Manor Road and the best route to Fernworthy Forest, it has little interest so I just kept plodding on diving into the hedge here and there.

Waye Barton Post Box SX 68987 87029

Tunnaford Cross with Tunnaford Rocks above

East Dartmoor has a plethora of granite gateposts, and this area is no exception: I always check them to see if they house any benchmarks since many are not on old maps, either because they are more modern or because the gatepost was moved. I spotted a slotted gatepost to my right, before reaching the entrance drive to Downes, and to the right of the deep slots was a very nice cut benchmark.

Slotted Gatepost near Tunnaford SX 69179 85686

B.M. Not on Maps, near Tunnaford SX 69179 85686

From hereon I spotted slotted gateposts everywhere I looked, and I won't be posting photos of all of them.

Past Yellands Cross and skirting the south side of Stiniel Down, I came to the fabulous Langaford Bridge (Lettaford). This stone bridge is a beautiful example and is best viewed from the north on the open access side of the road, where there is a rope swing; no doubt also a lovely picnic spot.

I knew of no benchmark on this bridge but checked anyway thinking it would be a perfect place to inscribe one only, sadly, to actually spot one on the north-west side with a rivet!

B.M. Not on Maps with Rivet, Langaford Bridge SX 70184 84979

B.M. Not on Maps with Rivet, Langaford Bridge SX 70184 84979

Langaford Bridge (Lettaford)

Up the hill I neared Furze Park who own my next objective, Bee Tor. I was obviously apprehensive about knocking since, knowing that only three people have visited Coombe Tor in the last 30 years, I doubt Bee Tor is visited any more, and requesting to visit would either have a successful outcome or not. However, with the confidence that I had sent a letter two weeks ago, I proceeded.

Approaching the door two nurses walked out to their car who were parked in the drive, and I asked if the owners were in and they confirmed that they were. I knocked a couple of times but to no avail, I somehow had the courage to, because the door was partially open and I heard shuffling, ask if they would let me walk up to the tor after sending my letter two weeks ago with no response. The lady said she would ask her brother and he kindly granted me permission telling me how to reach the tor, to which I showed my gratitude by saying thank you.

Bee Tor is not a grand tor, in fact the hill is very gorsey which likely accounts for the 'Furze Park' name given to the house. The gorse obscures parts of the low tor but the top outcrop was surrounded by short grass. I was quite taken by this modest lump of rock, a nice, rounded boulder from which Meldon Hill and the north-eastern heights can be viewed. I was pleased to have persevered and felt quite pleased with the day's outcome.

Bee Tor

Bee Tor

Bee Tor

Bee Tor

I left the way I came, joining the road to Lettaford Cross to follow the B3212 towards Beetor Cross at 'The Watching Place'. A fine guide stone rests just up from the granite cross at the crossroads, inscribed 'C' for Chagford, 'T' possibly for Tavistock and 'M' for Moretonhampstead.

The Watching Place

Beetor Cross Guide Stone SX 71305 84291

Slotted Gatepost near Beetor Farm SX 71246 84443

The road drops down to Beetor Bridge with so much moss that any benchmark would be impossible to find today. There is, on the other hand, a fabulous slotted gatepost here, and just a little further up the hill, to the right, I spotted an outcrop beyond a gate on the edge of a woodland.

Beetor Bridge Slotted Gatepost SX 70852 85071

Beetor Bridge

This outcrop was so close to the road that I decided a quick visit wouldn't pose a problem given there were no animals in the field. This enabled me to see a much grander perspective of what I have since termed 'Grubby Close Tor' on account of the field here being named as such on Tithe Maps, plot 887. It is largely overgrown in ivy but there is evidence of more boulders down the river.

Grubby Close Tor suggested name SX 70888 85149

Grubby Close Tor suggested name SX 70888 85149

Grubby Close Tor suggested name SX 70888 85149

I simply followed road past Stiniel Cross to Weddicott Cross thinking about where I would go next. I had achieved the day's objectives, but I still had just over an hour before getting the bus. I planned the route so that I could either continue down the road to Meldon Hill and back into town, or take the slightly more scenic route over Nattadon Common. I figured that neither route would take as long as an hour, and I wanted a challenge (in terms of time) so I pushed for Meldon Hill. 

The road by Lower and Higher Weddicott is lovely, but it doesn't last for long as it begins to ascend around a bend up onto the edge of the moor.

Lower Weddicott

Higher Weddicott Trees

The slopes of Meldon Hill were quite busy, with a few families out walking their dogs, but as soon as I reached the South Tor, I was alone. I had noted this tor back in 2018 and my opinion on it being a great tor has not changed. The tor while low possesses a fine rock basin on the middle stack and interesting rock partings in the upper rocks.

Meldon Hill South Tor

Meldon Hill South Tor

Meldon Hill South Tor Rock Basin SX 69508 85981

Then, a short ascent to the Summit Tor, which houses the trig pillar and plaque that is dedicated to Frederick Painter who loved this spot. The tor itself is not as good as the others, but the the best view see it from the south,west side.

Meldon Hill Summit Tor

Meldon Hill Trig Point

Meldon Hill Trig Point Frederick Painter Memorial Plaque SX 69563 86105

Meldon Hill Trig Point Flush Bracket

The East Tor is of similar altitude and is a more interesting tor to view; blocky and shapely with great views down to Nattadon Tor and Common.

Meldon Hill East Tor

Meldon Hill East Tor

Meldon Hill East Tor

With the intention of descending via the track by the North Tor, I wanted to visit West Tor and North-West Tor first, the West Tor being a fine small tor with a huge rock basin that was brought to my attention by Tim Jenkinson.

Meldon Hill West Tor Rock Basin SX 69431 86176

Meldon Hill West Tor

The North-West Tor is a magnificent tor with a lot of character, containing crevices where I once found a letterbox.

Meldon Hill North-West Tor

Meldon Hill North-West Tor

Meldon Hill North-West Tor

The North Tor has arguably the best view out of the six tors here as Chagford seems a long way down, and the huge rock basin here rivals those on Kestor and nearby Tunnaford Rocks.

Meldon Hill North Tor

Meldon Hill North Tor Rock Basin SX 69580 86239

It dawned on me that I only had 20 minutes or so to get the bus and I somehow had to descend some 200 metres to get back to Chagford. Easy, you might think, until you realise that I had decided to go between the West and North-West Tors to take what I assumed would be an easier route down that contours a bit more. It was easy at first, but it became muddy and I kept sliding and slipping so I had to be careful, sticking to the edges of the track where there was grass and grip.

Muddy Descent to Padley Common

I couldn't rush otherwise I could've hurt myself, but I was determined to keep up the pace so I didn't miss this bus otherwise I'd be screwed. A laborious 13 minutes later I made it to Padley Common passing a herd of ponies, one of which walked up to me to sniff my walking pole!

Pony on Padley Common

I still hurried through the two gates that took me back to Manor Road, and because of this the hill climb back to town felt tougher than it should've been. I made it back just in time, with three minutes to spare, picking up a very fine benchmark in 'The Square' that I doubt anyone notices.


The Square - Chagford

B.M. 0630.0, NW facing, The Square SX 70055 87541

A very successful day, picking up some grand artefacts in one one of my favourite parts of Dartmoor, and visiting two private tors with the landowners' kind permission who I once again thank for allowing me to visit and tick them off my list. I hope I will be afforded the same quality of service for those other remaining private tors.

1 comment:

  1. Well done. Surprises me that people don't make the effort to ask landowners, they're not all unapproachable.