The morning of New Years Eve was a beauty, and marked contrast from the day before. After seeing the high River Tavy crashing through Tavistock, the waters tumbling over Meldon Dam, and the surface water on the roads between the two, we, Jim and I, were mindful that river crossings would be hazardous, and planned accordingly! Time to explore the tors around Lustleigh, and what a cracking day it was!
I’ve been wanting to visit this corner of Dartmoor ever since I saw an excellent article in the Autumn 2015 issue of Dartmoor Magazine, by Tim Jenkinson. There were references to a number of hidden tors and rocks, undocumented on Social Hiking and I was keen to add them to our list.
Getting there was relatively straightforward. The A382 was clear of surface water and Lustleigh is a couple of minutes after the turn off. The village is small, though, with no public car park and it can become quite congested; I would suggest that if exploring this area in the summer, it might be an idea to park up on Trendlebere Down or the car park at Manaton, and make your walk a longer one. For us, in winter, we managed to park on the road on the outskirts of the village.
We took a right hand lane before the village centre, taking us into an orchard where our first find stood out immediately. Pathfields is a huge boulder, with plenty of evidence of a great tor slightly above it to the north east. The article in Dartmoor Magazine cites reference to it in William Crossing’s “The Teign: From Moor to Sea”.
Buoyed by this start to our day, we continued along the footpath, between gardens possessing the ultimate in rockeries, and viewed by me with envious eyes.
Next significant rock of note can be found by taking a left turn at the road at Mapstone. Almost immediately, Parsons Brown Loaf can be seen in the verge on the bend. Curious as to why this doesn’t make our list, which has been compiled from various sources. It does appear on the 1886 edition of the Ordnance Survey map, and also on their modern Open Data Map; suitable evidence for it to be included in our bagging list.
Our next objective was located on the other side of Middle Combe. We dropped down a lane to Combe Barn, taking a rugged granite lined footpath across the brook, and began to ascend.
Following the path, we entered an area signed as Cothland. This clearing looked very much like a garden, with landscaped ponds, and cascading waterfalls. We spotted more granite, and spent some time exploring this little oasis of order in the gnarly wild woodland. There was an obvious tor, unmarked, like so many in the area, and I, for want of a better name, called it Cothland Tor.
We returned to the path, or so we thought. Here, I advise caution; we must hold our hands up and say we cocked up by following a different, quite obvious trail that climbed out of the clearing. We, unwittingly found ourselves incurring the wrath of a resident as we wandered by his house and down his drive to the road! A simple enough mistake, but, in our defence, at no point did we see any signs indicating the path we were on was private.
With this unintended trespass over, we moved down the road, passed the footpath we should have been on, to a field where an outcrop dubbed Ellimore was located. The gate to the field was unlocked, and, again, no sign that we shouldn’t venture in. I wager that the fascinating outcrop is so close to the road that it would seem churlish of a landowner to bar access.
We left the field, securing the gate, and leaving no trace, as should always be the case. We went back up the road a few metres, then took a splendid rocky footpath left, upwards to Sharpitor (Lustleigh).
This footpath passes other hidden tors, with one notably worthy of inclusion in the list. It’s a huge outcrop with an almost “cave like” overhang. Very pleasing to come across this one, now dubbed “Hammerslake Tor”, and break up the climb to the ridge.
We came to Sharpitor (Lustleigh). It’s a scattered tor, with some scrambling involved to get as high as you can. Its location amongst the woodland makes it difficult to photograph or even discern its true top, but we got as high as we could and we got a notification that we had bagged it.
We returned to the path, and came out onto the ridge. It was a muddy line amongst trees, close to a boundary wall that runs along the ridge to Hunter’s Tor. With our attention drawn to an incoming front, I had a bit of a debate with myself regarding the correct outcrop for Harton Chest. Looking back, it is relatively straightforward as the path takes you straight passed it. The main granite, perched out over Lustleigh Cleave, dominates your attention, but the tor takes its name from the square section behind it, closer to the path. A little artistic licence and a good imagination is required to think it resembles a chest, though.
Lack of a signal meant that we didn’t get a notification here, and taking its name too literally meant I figured we hadn’t found it. We moved on, and found another outcrop off path further down the hill. I got a notification and assumed this was Harton Chest, despite it looking even less a chest than the real one!
Not for the first time, my tweeted photo was questioned by Dartefacts Dartmoor Artefacts, who was following my progress through my Social Hiking track. He confirmed the previous tor was the correct one, the confusion quickly cleared up.
As we went on to Hunter’s Tor, the first of the rain moved across us. We encountered a hailstorm and it was a bit of a worry being so exposed on the ridge amongst all this granite. Fortunately, the storm was short lived and the sun rejoined us for the stroll to the tor.
This turns out to be another wrongly positioned tor on our list. To be fair, Hunters Tor is also a Tump and Sub Hump on The Database of British Hills, and the location was lumped in with their coordinates at the top of the hill, when it should be separate at the end of the ridge, fifty metres further on.
We hunkered down behind the wall that joins the tor, as I tried to make a note of the errors. All sorted, we went back along the ridge, at a slightly lower altitude, in search of Foxworthy Tor. Difficulty with this one is it is stubby and scattered across the hillside. We found Ken Ringwood’s, photographed, higher location early on, but I was more intrigued by larger outcrops further down the slope.
With all the granite here in Lustleigh Cleave, you could spend a lifetime trying to catalogue it all, so we accepted we had found Foxworthy and moved on to locate the next tor. Raven’s Tor meant a drop down the steep side, through dead bracken and clitter, but all that effort was worth it when we reached the tor and navigated round its lower wall.
We had planned to drop down to the Bridleway below, but the gradient and unnerving terrain put us off. We contoured through the wooded cleave, attempting to rise when we could, and we came across a wonderful spot with a significant outcrop, again not listed, at SX 764 819, that I later named ‘East Raven’s Tor’. So much to see here in the cleave, so little time!
The sheer amount of granite to explore in this area meant our walk was taking way longer than anticipated. It was decided to cut the planned route and return to the car before the expected afternoon downpour arrived. So Gradner Rocks and the final hidden tor in the article at Mill Bottom had to be left for another day.
We kept to the lanes, for speed, but even these have distractions, with plenty of gardens strewn with more forbidden granite. We arrived back in the village, tempted by the tea room in the centre, but disappointed to see it had closed down and was up for sale. Just as well we couldn’t stop, really, as the rain arrived just as we reached the car and it made the journey home to Okehampton a difficult one.
Summing up, a lovely walk, full of incident and unexpected delights. Looking forward to the summer and making a full day of it here in “Granite Heaven”, although I think the cleave might be difficult with all the bracken!