Friday 30 April 2021

Dartmoor: Whiddon Down to Chagford

Throwleigh Church

Despite being little more than 7 and a half miles in length, this walk had a lot to see and I admit to feeling a little tired by the end, not because of the mileage, that was fine, but the overwhelming number of artefacts en route. This was another walk focused at picking up some outstanding 365 squares, and to also visit a new (replacement) cross by Leigh Bridge. Of course, along with all of the benchmarks I either found or did not, I will not be able to include every sight so if I jump about a bit you know why.

I got off the bus at Whiddon Down, heading south-west past a benchmark before crossing the A382. I noticed a slotted gatepost to my left, one of many on this walk; clearly North Dartmoor likes its slots! Another benchmark was found after this, just past Tor View.

B.M. on Bldg, N angle, SE side of road, Whiddon Down SX 69024 92410

Slotted Gatepost near Tor View SX 68818 92199

B.M. 0896.0, SW facing, SE side of road SX 68557 92002

Continuing in a south-westerly, I eventually reached the fabulous structure of East Ash Manor, my first 365 square of the day. This fine manor house is tucked away beneath the hills of the borderlands of the moor.

East Ash Manor

East Ash Manor

East Ash Manor

I left the sleepy manor to descend to Ash Bridge, a stunning bridge that spans the Blackaton Brook. I did try my best to look for the benchmark, but I couldn't make one out.

After this I made my way westward noticing a 'T' inscribed onto a granite gatepost at Rashleigh Farm; denoting the parish boundary of Throwleigh perhaps? If so that would be odd since the boundary is not here.

Ash Bridge

Rashleigh Farm 'T' inscribed Gatepost SX 67557 90616

Rashleigh Farm 'T' inscribed Gatepost SX 67557 90616

This road was a lovely one to walk: quiet, with barely a sound apart from the odd birdsong. I passed Meadcote and entered the beautiful village of Throwleigh that blew me away by its character.

Boasting a magnificent church, crosses, a butterwell and thatched cottages Throwleigh is archetypal of a Dartmoor village, but its distinction for me was how quiet it was, almost eerie, but the sun and flowers added a charm that set it apart from the exposed moor high above.

The Butterwell, Throwleigh

Throwleigh Village Cross

B.M. 0817.7, SE side of Throwleigh Church SX 66783 90775

Throwleigh Church

Throwleigh Post Box SX 66862 90702. Note the flush bracket

I left on a road heading south-eastward towards Langston and thence Wonson. Sadly, I could not locate any of the benchmarks along this road, and looked on the wrong side for one, so I doubt I'll be returning to search for them again anytime soon.

Langston Cross SX 67299 90015

It was but a steep ascent to Wonson which if I'm honest left me a little disappointed. I think I found everything barring the wheelwright's stone, but the small hamlet had little going for it and felt a bit empty. That said, the conker tree at Barrow Way Cross is nice alongside the post box and telephone box. The hamlet has its own pub, the Northmore Arms, something that nearby Throwleigh and Gidleigh lack, yet its exterior is feeling a little bit sorry for itself from what I saw.


Northmore Arms

Wonson Conker Tree SX 67315 89598

I continued in a south-easterly to reach Providence Place, a Methodist Chapel, just before which is a benchmark that is carved onto a slotted gatepost.

B.M. on Slotted Gatepost, SW facing, 1963 SX 67491 89353

Slotted Gatepost near Providence Place SX 67487 89367

Providence Methodist Chapel

The road turned downhill, around a bend or two until it abruptly turned sharp left where Blackaton Cross stood before me, a small cross in the hedge but a lovely artefact to stumble upon, even if it was intentional.

After crossing the Blackaton Brook (again), I turned left, uphill, to reach Yarnapitts Cross where I bore right.

Blackaton Bridge Cross SX 67772 89029

Yarnapitts Cross SX 68067 88933

I had another benchmark to seek out, desperate to find one after so many failures on this walk, but despite checking both gateposts on the right and the wall in between, I couldn't spot the cut mark. It was only when adding the item to Dartefacts that I noticed what surely has to be the benchmark, right at the NGR I had obtained from the old maps! 

I probably didn't spot it due to poor light and also not expecting it to be so obscure. After this I found another one, although this I actually spotted on the walk.

NBM Stone, W side of road, E face, S Junc Hedge, 1963 (look to the left) SX 68124 88855

B.M. 0765.6, NE facing, SW side of road SX 68228 88646

At Fairview I turned right down a stony track that took me to Leigh Lane by crossing another road. This lane is almost standard of Dartmoor: rocky, uneven but above all else beautiful with green shrubbery lining the banks where field meets track.


Leigh Lane

Close to the bottom of the hill, I decided that having done the first part of the route so fast I would pay a visit to Milfordleigh Plantation, a National Trust woodland that I had never visited before. Not only did I want to visit because I hadn't before, I wondered if there were any lesser-known outcrops in there and whether or not Puggiestone, across the Teign, could be espied.

My first impressions after scaling the stile were 'wow!'

The path is essentially a figure of eight but I stuck to the left where I passed a small building that looks as though it is a tiny cottage for the woodland dweller, but I've no idea what's inside it or what it's now used for, if anything. Proceeding along the leafy path I kept a good eye to my left where the hill rises high from the river for any rocks, and sure enough, I spotted a stack that just had to be visited.

At SX 68472 87817, it is a granite outcrop above 12 feet high from its base with other rocks scattered about the hillside. Not wanting to call it a tor nor a single rock based on neither really fitting the scene, I have chosen after some deliberation the name of 'Milfordleigh Rocks' on the advice of Tim Jenkinson.

Small Shack in Milfordleigh Plantation SX 68376 87724

Milfordleigh Rocks SX 68472 87817

Milfordleigh Rocks SX 68472 87817

Milfordleigh Rocks SX 68472 87817

I carefully descended to have a drink stop before continuing along the path where it eventually does almost a u-turn in the direction of the river (this is because the National Trust land at this point meets the boundary of private land). My word, the River Teign here possesses a certain dignity that few other rivers can match, its personality enhanced by the deposited mossy granite boulders that create a majestic scene amid the trees that line the banks. The path now followed the river for a short while, my heart rate quickening with excitement at what else I would see.

I am so grateful that the National Trust were able to acquire this woodland; I felt almost privileged to be walking here despite the OS Map indicating open access land. By the lack of footprints I doubt many people visit this special place.

River Teign from Milfordleigh Plantation

River Teign from Milfordleigh Plantation

I couldn't espy Puggiestone thanks to the trees on the opposite bank, but it wasn't a problem as my eyes were focused so heavily on the greens and browns of this woodland. Its tranquillity is unmatched in this locality, and people should visit to experience the same feeling.

Path through Milfordleigh Plantation

The National Trust Milfordleigh

Back at Leigh Lane, I turned left towards the dreaded stepping stones. In a blog post two and a half years ago, HERE, I crossed the stones but the scene back then was largely different. Today the atmosphere was blissful, the North Teign a mere trickle and the stones lovely and dry. I am a sucker for rivers through woodlands as I can imagine their immense power in former times; though now timid, attached is a sense of power - or maybe it's just me?

I happily skipped across the stones like I had no fear of stepping stones to the other side, taking the footpath to the road and thence Leigh Bridge.

Leigh Steps SX 68280 87871

Leigh Steps SX 68280 87871

Leigh Bridge is another fine example of a Devon bridge, spanning the South Teign just before it empties into the North Teign to form the River Teign. Historic England describes the bridge as a "Road bridge over the River Teign. Probably late C18-early C19. Granite stone rubble with rusticated ashlar voussoirs. Single span bridge with a plain segmental arch over vertical abutments. Parapet has simple flat-topped coping and ramps up towards the centre following the humpback of the road. No terminal piers."

Overlooking the bridge is the appropriately named rocks called Leigh Bridge Rocks, first noted by Tim Jenkinson. On my previous visits a couple to a few years ago, I wasn't aware of a cross, but that was because there was no such artefact on site at the time. The cross had served as a waymarker before sadly falling into disrepair in the winter of 2013/14 when the DNPA had removed it from its original position. For a few years after the cross had remained off site until the summer of 2019 when a replacement replica was christened on the same boulder as the original cross. According to the Dartmoor Crosses website, the original cross was thought to have been used as a waymarker at Teigncombe Farm, nearby, which is sited on the Mariner's Way. It is good to see the new one.

More information about the ruined tor can be obtained at Tors of Dartmoor.

Leigh Bridge

Leigh Bridge Cross SX 68366 87627

Leigh Bridge Rocks

I know I've been stuck on lanes all day, which for most people sounds like a nightmare, but on many Dartmoor lanes you rarely see a soul, which makes for pleasant easy walking. Just up the hill, I was very surprised to get such a good view of Puggiestone - if still viewing it from the road can be called 'a good view'.

A Glimpse of Puggiestone

A Glimpse of Puggiestone

Passing the entrance to the house of the same name, it wasn't long until Holystreet Manor Cliff Face was reached, a modest exposure of, believe it or not, granite. The only evidence that confirms it for me is that according to the British Geological Survey of Britain's 'Geology of Britain viewer', it is wholly within the granite pluton, but its appearance is so different.

The Manor of the same name is a short way below and is a simply breathtaking piece of architecture, and another 365 square but one that I had previously visited, just not photographed. John Hayward (1991), in Dartmoor 365, explains that "The guide book to Chagford says that the curious name of this manor house has no connection with the holy street, but is derived from an Anglo-Saxon term meaning "a tongue of land in a hollow"." He continues: "The core of the building dates from the 15th century, but it was considerably enlarged in the early years of this century."

Tim Jenkinson noted the cliff face and more can be read about it over at Tors of Dartmoor.

Holystreet Manor Cliff Face

Holystreet Manor

Holystreet Manor

The road now follows the course of the Mill Leat, perhaps the deepest leat I've seen on Dartmoor, and really clear in the sunlight. This took me right up to the road junction near Chagford Bridge.

Turning right, towards the town of Chagford, I found another benchmark, a decent one on the wall.

Mill Leat

B.M. 0540.2, NE facing, SW side of road SX 69605 87722

B.M. 0540.2, NE facing, SW side of road SX 69605 87722

In town, I had seen more people than on the entire walk. Chagford is always a lively place, and with around 20 mins to spare before getting the bus I explored Chagford Churchyard.

Chagford Church

Chagford Church

B.M. 0633.0, SW facing, Chagford Church

Chagford Churchyard

The weather for this walk was splendid, and although I did enjoy picking up some new squares the lack of tors did somewhat downgrade the overall enjoyment, but I cannot fault the peace that I was afforded prior to Chagford.

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