After a few weeks of walking on my own, it was great to go walking with Conrad on Saturday and with Ben who took me up on my offer on Sunday!
We agree to do a longer rather than shorter route and so it’s 8am when I pick up Ben on my way to Smeardon Down, just to the east northeast of Peter Tavy. As he leaps into the car a huge mug of coffee is thrust into my hands – this is going to be a good day!
There’s ice on the moor roads and it’s another day for suiting up against the weather, beautiful sunshine but bitterly cold wind. Both wrapped up warm, the first Tor (Boulters Tor) falls immediately beneath our boots and wins us some vertical height but’s a long slow gradient through the old field system to Setters Rocks. Setters, or Stephens rocks, offers us a great outcrop with a long view over the distant hills and valleys and the first snow of the day, the rocks sit on the edge of an odd mogul field of turf and heather which leading the eye, and eventually the boots, to stephen’s grave.
Stephens’ grave is a simple granite post on a triangular base into which is carved an S, like most such monuments however it has it’s own tale.
That tale goes like this;
About three hundred years ago lived a man called George Stephens, who lived at Peter Tavy on the edges of eastern Dartmoor. Here he met and fell madly in love with a local girl who promptly rejected his advances. His heart broken he took his own life, but not before taking the life of his beloved.
Like a male Kitty Jay, George Stephens, as a suicide, could not be buried in consecrated ground and so was buried at a bleak, windswept crossroads on the edge of the moors. It is said that his ghost can be seen in the area of his grave on dark nights. In William Crossing‘s fantastic book, he suggests that there was a George Stephens living in Peter Tavy and that he was buried as a suicide on the moor which gives some historical weight to the tale.
At the grave we have a discussion of tactics and head down to the south, past the frozen streams at Wedlake, and up through the multitude of ancient settlements and tin workings on the slopes of Staple Tor. There are three outcrops at the top, Great staple Tor has fantastic rock basins on many of the boulders, full of water they form by the combined dissolving and freeze-thaw action over the many years exposed to the hash winters.
Continuing along the high ground, we skirt the south of Petertavy Great common, past standing stones and more tin workings in this once industrial centre.
It’s a wonder how wild it seems now and how unspoiled it is compared to the “dark satanic mills” of old. White and little white tor, site of possibly the oldest and one of the most interesting prehistoric settlements (read more here: http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/white_tor.htm) mark the end of our time on the open moor and we descend into the hamlet of Wapsworthy.
Along the road and after stopping for a while to watching the salmon gathering in the crisp, clear waters of the pool below we turn into the woods at Hill bridge and wander along a leat to Horndon. “The Elephant’s nest” awaits us with piled plates of nice food and a couple of pints of dartmoor ale. Back into the woods we waddle past Brimhill and Kent‘s tors, (my first woodland tors, and so overgrown as to be easily missed) and along the side of a long thin reservoir – perfect for a cooling dip if I come here in the summer but dangerous today – down through Whitestone, past Longtimber Tor, another woody outcrop and into the pub at Peter Tavy to finish the journey.
In the Peter Tavy pub we’re asked about our walk, and as I explain what we’re doing and why, it turns out our questioner has Hodgekin’s Lymphoma. He seems thrilled by the challenge and along with other members of his group, he donates to the charity, which is what it’s all about really.
So if you’re one of the many that have donated, THANK YOU! it really makes a difference to my motivation and most importantly to other people’s lives!
If you’ve got here because you’ve bumped into Einstein and I on our travels – Hello! Nice to have met you!
And finally – If you’re thinking of donating, or think you have some friends/family/colleagues/enemies that you can get to donate PLEASE do! Wendy has said she’ll carry me to a Tor if I reach £500 and I think I’ll benefit from a break by then ;P
Here’s some pictures from the day;
- Announcing Tor.com Science Fiction and Tor.com Art Department (tor.com)
- Elementary, dear hiker: Literature and lookouts meet at Dartmoor (nationalpost.com)
- Stay the night: Elephant’s Nest Inn, Devon (independent.co.uk)
- Dartmoor National Park [Will Williams] (ecademy.com)
- Announcing Tor.com Fantasy and Tor.com Steampunk! (tor.com)
- Narrative verdict over drowning (bbc.co.uk)
- Coroner calls for safety improvements at Ten Tors inquest (telegraph.co.uk)
- 10 country houses for a winter break (guardian.co.uk)