Tuesday 25th July saw 25 of us gather in the Rees Jeffreys car park, which is between Merrivale and the large Pork Hill car park. This is quite a large car park and is shown on old maps as a former “Gravel Pit”. We were setting out to see Little Staple Tor, Middle Staple Tor, Great Staple Tor and Roos Tor. There is a LOT of clitter in places on these slopes and it was thought best to avoid most of it! The route was decided after the fourth reconnaissance walk, as an out-and-back route, with a small diversion near the end to see the curious sett makers’ bankers that formed part of an industry here around 1870-1876. The third reconnaissance was used in a separate web page HERE because it was decided not to go in that direction. Also, a certain return route was avoided because it offered almost no view of these tours by virtue of the slope of the land.
A few paces out of sight above the car park runs the dry channel of a parallel cut of the Grimstone & Sortridge Leatthe still, today, supplies these farms. There ensued a slightly confusing Tale of Two Leats!
A plaque in the car park mentioning the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund – this was set up to commemorate William Rees Jeffreys, the man, who was responsible for roads being classified as “A” & “B” roads.
This tree is about 70-80 yards up the slope from the car park and makes a good landmark when exploring the area.
Little Staple Tor, elevation 380 metres (1246 feet) …..
There is a well-formed rock pan on the highest rock, the rim is eroded through so that it is more or less self-draining of water.
Middle Staple Tor, elevation 431 metres (1414 feet), showing the notch in which the midsummer sun sets when viewed from near the menhir at Merrivale.
Great Staple Tor, elevation 455 metres (1492 feet). The names of these tors derive from corruptions introduced by the Ordnance Survey surveyors who miss-interpreted the name of “Steeple Tor”.
The photograph above shows the PW boundary stone seen on the route going to Roos Tor. This side, with W, signifies we are in the parish of Whitchurch and on the other side is “P” for Peter Tavy.
To the east of the walk is Great Mis Tor, elevation 538 metres (1765 feet).
In 1947, the Duke of Bedford (the land-owner) had markers put around Pew Tor to restrict the activities of the quarrymen and stone-workers who were removing tors for their stone, which was used for building purposes. Roos Tor (previously known as Rolls Tor) had similar markers added but I have not seen any recorded date for this. The protected are at Pew Tor was extended in 1896. There are 4 pillars, added later than the markers …..
Above: the original mason’s mark, beyond which (when approaching Roos Tor), stone was not to be removed.
The “steeples” of Great Staple/Steeple Tor on the horizon to the south.
Roos Tor has a flagpole (and a red light at night) as a marker for the edge of the military training area.
Fur Tor (Vur Tor) can be seen 7.9 km (4.9 miles) to the north from Roos Tor, at 572 metres (1876 feet). elevation
West of the Steeple Tors lies Cox Tor (formerly Cock’s Tor!), with a triangulation pillar on the summit.
The col between Cox and Great Staple Tor is known as Beckamoor Dip, in, or on, which there is a pool.
On the return part of the walk, there was another opportunity to see the rock formations at Great Staple Tor.
The photograph above was taken on an earlier reconnaissance walk, actually in the notch in Middle Staple Tor where the midsummer sun sets – there was no sign of scorching.
There is an area on the lower slopes of Middle and Lower Staple Tors where the rock is different (as is Cox Tor). This is so-called “country rock” there the molten granite that rose up to form Dartmoor meets a surrounding “aureole” of other rocks. These were much changed themselves from the great heat of the molten granite, and consist of transformed mudstones and sandstones. The intrusion of the granite occurred in the late Carboniferous / early Permian Period, around 280 million years ago.
There several examples of large quartz crystals, or phenocrysts = a conspicuous crystal formation, generally indicative of slow cooling in the magma that forms this igneous rock.
Above is shown a view of a sett maker’s “shaker”. This is a simple shelter built of near-to-hand stone that would help to keep the wind off the workmen …..
The industry on these lower slopes was that of making “setts” which were the basic building blocks of the streets in Plymouth and Tavistock. A sett was 8″ long, 4″ wide and 5″ deep. The men either stood, crouched or knelt at these low benches, chipping away at pieces of rough stone prepared by less skilled men. Source: John Robins (1984), Follow the Leat, Penwell Ltd, Callington, page 147. This started around 1870 and continued until it moved into sheds at Tor Quarry (later, Merrivale Quarry) after it opened in 1876.