Saturday, 18 January 2014

Hare Tor

It has been a real treat to be on the moor twice in the past week, in conditions which could be described as perfect.  I was determined to get out a second time, and head out to Hare Tor, partly to recce the area for a future walk, and partly to recover an old box of ours.

It takes about 90 minutes to reach the western edge of the moor from Falmouth, and it was clear, as I was heading towards Lanehead car park that the low cloud and mist that greeted me would soon dissipate.

My first stop was an old 'Trotters Boxing Clever' for White Hill sited on the bank of the Willsworthy Brook.  Since this box was sited in 2009, the landowners have erected a fence effectively cordoning off White Hill.  The boundary runs North, crossing the Wallabrook and follows the contour low on Doe Tor to the existing walls of Doe Tor Farm.  There are two or three gates along it's length, but the wires are widely spaced so squeezing through is not a problem if you find yourself between gates.  As me and my box were.  Retreiving my box was not a problem, and I was delighted to find it on site and dry.

After a loop of Doe Tor, sitting out a hail storm over lunch at Doe Tor Brook, I set out for Hare Tor.  In April last year, Dartmoor's "largest moorland fire in years" took place up here.  It later transpired that it was caused by an accident involving a team training for Ten Tors and cooking stove. The area is recovering slowly.  The grass is short and stubby, and evidence of charred, burnt earth is everywhere around the summit rocks of Hare Tor and across the ridge to Chat Tor.

The walk almost done, I left Little Hare Tor and made my way to Ger Tor, for the relatively straightforward descent to Lanehead.  On my way I stumbled on a letterbox sited for the 18th Truro St George Scout Troop no more than 5 minutes from the summit of Ger Tor.  I was surprised to read in the visitors book that I was only the 34th visitor in 17 years it had been on site.  Not bad for an area that has gained notoriety for letterbox theft.

Monday, 13 January 2014


"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 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.  

A very successful day out all in all.  My self-imposed GPS ban means I have no idea how far I walked, but I did find 12 boxes, and I'm already planning another walk for the end of the week.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Just past New Year

The much publicised run of poor weather battering the South West kept me off the moor and away from the Fur Tor pilgrimage on new year's day.  The weather on January 2nd, was considerably better.  I haven't set foot on the moor since siting my Christmas walk on Bench Tor, and I've received a bunch of festive sets to find.  I plotted to complete two of these walks and another independent Christmas box.  

I have decided to go back to basics in 2014, and ditch the GPS for the purpose of finding letterboxes.  I'll keep it deep in my bag for emergency purposes, and when I site my own boxes.  These routes would test my skills, since all the boxes on my list had 10 figure grid references.

Off to Hollow Tor near Princetown to start.  Early gloom lifted, and the light was incredible.  A short Christmas walk which was found without fuss (and my Garmin).  It was interesting to be able to view Yellowmeade Farm's ongoing renovation.  In October, the National Park's Planning Officer recommended that planning permission to construct camping barn holiday accommodation be refused on the grounds that a. It was completely at odds with the NPA core strategy on development and b. The scale, appearance and design of the plan was detrimental to the wider environment.  Back to the drawing board then.

After lunch at the Plume of Doom, it was on to Littaford Tors for my second Christmas series.  This one posed a slightly tougher challenge, not least as it was pouring with rain.  Frustratingly, yet unsurprisingly, the day's best weather had been spent in the pub.  The combination of poor visibility in the heavy showers, an over-ambitious list of boxes to find, and the failing light meant I did not complete the set here.  It was clear that "don't bite off more than you can chew" would be a lesson learnt for the new post-GPS regime.  

On another house point, the property immediately below Crockern Tor on the Two Bridges to Postbridge road - Parsons Cottage - is up for sale.  Details here.  It is telling perhaps how planning regulations have changed in the past 100 years as this 3 bed house was built here in the late 1920s.  Although you'll need £275,000 to purchase Parsons Cottage, it is a Duchy Leasehold which can be a bit of a drawback.  You'll have to pay the Duchy 50% of any projected profit the property will make in the period of your lease up front.  You'll also have to pay the Duchy rent, which is subject to regular review.  It also makes the house non-mortgageable.  Still tempted?