Twenty-eight of us gathered at Norsworthy Bridge car park on Friday 25th August for another “voyage of discovery” in the Burrator area. We started at Middleworth Gate, by the step stile, and walked through the fields towards Middleworth.
The reason for walking through the fields and not up the lane was to enjoy the views of Leather Tor …..
Above: Leather Tor, SX 563 700, elevation 380 metres (1246 feet)
Middleworth, as it is now usually called, from the name on the Ordnance Survey maps, was called Middleworthy in the past, as shown on the 1840 Tithe Map. This was in keeping with Norsworthy and Essworthy (now under the reservoir) and also the long-corrupted Lowerworthy, now called Lowery.
The photograph above shows much of the modern site of Middleworth, the ruins are of the buildings erected in 1885.
Middleworthy was first recorded as a settlement in 1281, 736 years ago, so it has a very long history of farming. One interesting aspect of the old farm was the circular outline on the left of the central building on the Tithe Map. This would have been a barn with a horse engine house alongside, no doubt to operate a horse wheel that was connected by gearing into the barn to thresh corn. Conditions would have been different in so many ways in those days: horse engines were popular in the period 1750-1850.
The whole farm was demolished and rebuilt by the landowner, Sir Massey Lopes, with a date stone inscribed ML 1885 high on the wall of the surviving barn.
A scene in Deancombe Lane, leading from Middleworth(y) to Deancombe. The girth of one of the trees was measured, and found to be 120-inches. It was a tree with a plain, round bole i.e. no convolutions. The measurement indicates an age of 120 years, but these are now mature trees and they add girth very slowly so the age could be older. If the age is 130 years, they would date from 1887, the time when Middleworthy and Deancombe farms were rebuilt by landowner Sir Massey Lopes.
Spread along the north side of Deancombe Lane — with some additional remains on the south side at the bend — are the substantial ruins of Deancombe Farm, first recorded in 1381, 636 years ago.. There are no less than twenty one ruined buildings at the site, including — at West Deancombe — a possible pigsty and pen, a probable converted longhouse, the foundations of a barn or cart linhay, an outer courtyard in which stands a large granite trough, and a small high-walled garden enclosure opposite the house with a step up from the yard, and — at East Deancombe, on the other side of the foot of the drift lane — the foundations of two possible longhouses, a ruined barn and other outbuildings, two (incomplete) sets of rick staddles, the ruins of the old house, and, a little detached from the other buildings, two ruined barns, and the ruins of the more recent house on the opposite side of the lane at the bend. Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 5792 6879.
At the back of West Deancombe can be found a hawthorn tree bearing a fine display of bearded lich, usually identified as the String-of-sausages lichen, Usnea articulata.
The photograph above is looking down the strole towards Deancombe brook, Ford and clapper bridge. It is said there are remains of ancient stepping stones across the ford.
Above: East Deancombe – part of the ruins of a barn where the floor was supported off the ground on staddle stones as a measure against vermin who would have raided the corn store.
Two upright stones that once supported a sharpening (grinding) stone.
The maps above compare the layout of the Deancombe farm settlements between 1840 and 1886 after rebuilding by the landowner, Sir Massey Lopes.
A view of Cuckoo Rock from among the buildings at East Deancombe.
Outholme Bronze Age burial cist, at SX 57990 68271, with Sheeps Tor behind, SX 566 682, elevation 369 meters (1210 feet).
“A field with ridges” – this is the field immediately behind the buildings of East Deancombe, numbered 1050 on the old Ordnance Survey map (this being the number in the surveyor’s notebook) ….. these are ridges and furrows that started in Medieval times when ploughs were non-reversible and the effect became more pronounced over time.
Looking back at the cist; it is marked by a solitary hawthorn tree: the hill behind is Eylesbarrow, SX 599 686, elevation 454 metres (1489 feet).
Coming from the cist, looking down on Outcombe Corner (an old newtake wall corner). There is a small square enclosure in the angle of the corner, labelled “Shaft” on the map. About 100 metres down the stream, Outcombe Brook, is a small adit hidden in the overgrown bank (in summer) draining what mine? Probably part of Great Rowtor (Rough Tor) Mine, it is a long way from Aylesburrow (Eylesbarrow) Mine, or possible another mine altogether because there are two shafts shown on the 1886 25-inch Ordnance Survey map.
The names Outcombe, Outhome and Outholme seemed to be used variously in this area for features: cist, corner, gate, farm, blowing house.
The first “new” tor encountered when walking into Roughtor Plantation from the east, East Rough Tor, at SX 57485 68512.
There is a page on this web site where the “new” tors are described in some detail at 2016-5-24 Roughtor Plantation Tors.
The original Rough Tor, after which Roughtor Plantation is named, until recently hidden under a larch tree, on the high point of the hill (albeit heavily forested) at SX 57435 68560; there is a rock pan on the top.
The recently-named Middle Rough Tor, SX 57388 68642, larger than the summit Rough Tor after which Roughtor Plantation is named. From here, we moved on to try and look down on Great Great Rough Tor, omitting Rough Tor Rock, Lower Rough Tor, Great Rough Tor, West Rough Tor and Lower West Rough Tor. We also omitted an adit and the entrance to Roughtor Mine, all due to time and ground considerations. From here, we returned via the main track outside the plantation to the Arboretum and thence to Norsworthy bridge again.
Unfortunately, while we had a good day with pretty good weather, I forgot to take a group photograph. If I had, you would have seen Jane, Peter, Angela, Hilary, Max, Colston, Linda, Darren, Martin, Sue. Mo, Jared, Val, David, Kirsty, John, Elaine, Stephen, Roger, Rob, Eric, Anne, Lesley, Janice, Bob, Berni and Bill or Keith (as photographer). No wonder it took so long to get over that high stile!