"Beam: A term with mining signification. Where this word is found on the moor a deep, open working will usually be seen." - William Crossing
News broke on www.dartmoorletterboxing.org recently that the post commonly known as Cater's Beam - situated just South of Fox Tor - no longer stood upright. Cater's Beam has long been associated with an upright railway sleeper at the North end of Black Lane peat pass. A useful waymarker in an otherwise barren landscape. In John Hayward's book 'Dartmoor 365', first published in 1991, a sketch of the near intact sleeper shows an inscription of 'Caters Beam'. William Crossing, in his 1912 Guide to Dartmoor points out an age-old Ordnance Survey error, placing Cater's Beam a mile to the West of it's true location - which is the Eastern half of Naker's Hill, between Aune Head and Fishlake.
So, despite it being misnamed, mislocated, and misrepresented, hearing that a plank of wood had fell over was all the prompting I needed to get my boots on, bag packed, and drive to Whiteworks.
I can confirm that Cater's Beam is no longer upright. Yet I cannot believe that it fell. It has rotted terribly since it was sketched in John Hayward's book, yet it remains a hefty lump of wood. The bottom 5th of the post has clearly never been exposed to the elements, and shows how deep underground it was sunk. Conditions recently have been wet and windy but no more than has been experienced in past decades. I smell sabotage. The weight of the post, the risk of further damage, and the surrounding deep pool of water deterred me from resurrecting Cater's Beam. If anyone has a Ronseal treated railway sleeper, and a spare weekend, I don't mind helping out replacing it.
In the mean time, bearings on the post are off. This only affected a handful of clues on my glorious walk out to Black Lane on Saturday. The weather was about as perfect as it can be. Bright blue skies, not a speck of wind, and temperature not too cold or too warm. In July, weather like this is usually accompanied by horse-flies, deep foliage, sunstroke and crowds. None of this in early January though.
My route took me up to Eylesbarrow past Siwards Cross, before dropping to Hand Hill, and on up to Crane Hill where the 360 degree views never fail to impress. Down to Fox Tor Girt next, with several new boxes to find. Stopping only to exchange superlatives with a walker in relation to the views from Fox Tor. One of just the few people I saw in the area not cycling up or down Eylesbarrow. By now I was chasing the sun towards Nun's Cross Farm.