Sunday, 9 August 2015

Cuckoo Rock,Combshead Tor, Hingston Hill and Down Tor


We arrived in Devon under the metaphorical cloud of a rubbish weather outlook and expecting to have to make our own entertainment.  But it turned out fine, so we found ourselves having to go out for walks instead.


Not that it was always that simple.  After lunch in the Cornwood Inn on the edge of Dartmoor on our second day away, we tried to find our starting point (admittedly from a very old guide book) down a lane so narrow it was more like wriggling your way through the Earldelving under Alderley Edge* than being out for a Sunday afternoon drive. Then, since it seemed to have disappeared, we made for Watercombe Water Treatment Works instead, which was the start of our planned back-up walk, but permission to park there had been withdrawn, leaving little choice but to back down another tunnel-like lane until there was room to do a fourteen-point turn and head for somewhere - anywhere - less trying.  

Which turned out to be Norsworthy Bridge at the eastern end of Burrator Reservoir, which has a proper car park and an ice cream van.  

Nearby is Middleworth Lane, one of many ancient tracks on Dartmoor. It leads past the ruined farmhouses of Middleworth and Deancombe, all long abandoned.  There are even some staddle stones remaining where the storehouses used to be.
Lichen draped over an oak tree 


Up ahead, on the northern side of the valley, we could see Cuckoo Rock, our next way-mark.  Too late for cuckoos now, of course, but actually we weren't far  from where we'd heard them back in the spring, at Legis Tor.  As for the Rock itself, well, apart from its strange shape, it's pretty nondescript until you get up close and appreciate just how massive it is.
Thence to Combshead Tor. On the way Ted spotted some sheep, and the wisdom of keeping him on a lead on the moor was again apparent. (He's of working stock and it's hard to fight all that breeding.)
The sheep spotted him too, and sensibly kept their distance.  
We had a bit of a rest on top of Combshead Tor and admired the views, including this of Down Tor in the middle distance, where we would shortly be headed, with Peek Hill, Leather Tor and Sharpitor on the horizon. 
But first we contoured around Hingston Hill to the celebrated stone row and cairn circle ...  

... only to find we'd been beaten to it by a couple of groups of squaddies, one accompanied by a border collie of its own.  We wondered whether it was a regimental mascot, or if it had just tagged along with them, as happened more than once out on walks before I had Ted. (But not since. Frankly, I think he'd take a dim view.)

While Ted pondered whether he could get away with pissing on a Bronze Age ritual feature, I got up close and personal.  
The circle at the western end of the row has 27 stones - they didn't dance so wildly that I couldn't count them - and there are two flat slabs in the central hollow which may be the remains of a kistvaen.  

The huge blocking stone next to the circle is reckoned to weigh about 3 tons, and the row runs for about 350 yards.  We didn't wander the entire length, but another day I plan to walk out to it from Nun's Cross and encounter it from the opposite end.  

After Hingston Hill we walked the quarter of a mile or so to Down Tor, with ravens cronking overhead.  
It was pretty windy. 
Here's the view across to Sheepstor and Burrator Reservoir ... 
...  over Newleycombe, scarred from extensive tin mining ...
... up to Roos Tor, Great Mis Tor and North Hessary Tor on the skyline ... 
... and back the way we'd come, to Combshead Tor and Cuckoo Rock.  

Coming down off Down Tor you're not supposed to look back until you reach Deancombe Rocks.  That way you get a whole new perspective on the tor you've just climbed, in all its conical magnificence. 

Then back to the car via two tors not even on the OS map but strange and unique and mysterious in their unsungness - Snappers Tor and Middleworth Tor, which online accounts suggest often get switched around. Anyway - whichever you are, we love you.




*I've been rereading 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' and 'The Moon of Gomrath'. And then I read 'Boneland'. And then I cried. Quite a lot.


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