The walk met at the car park below Rowtor – a total of twenty-two DPA members and friends, on a warm, sunny periods sort of a day. The weather forecast was for temperatures of 23-25°C but it was not over-bearingly hot – quite comfortable in fact. We set of straight up the gentle slope to Rowtor. Although there is an Historic Environment Record of an abandoned cider press with a central boss somewhere on the northern slopes, it wasn’t found during preparations for today’s walk.
Instead, we took the easy path to the summit, stopping to look at the swing-up/swing-down flagpole …..
Some way from the flagpole is a recorded abandoned granite trough …..
….. – if this is it, it looks to be in the very early stages of cutting.
The top of Rowtor (468 m/1535 ft) has interesting rock piles.
From here it was an easy descent to the military track and onto the old anti-tank firing range. The two firing positions and their command post are now demolished.
We walked across the firing ground to see the steel target plate used for some weapons – this was impressively pock-marked by seemingly two calibres of projectiles.
Behind the steel plate is an earth embankment that protects the target railway – this provided training at destroying moving targets, nominally tanks. The set-up consists of an engine shed that once housed a Wickham Trolley with a petrol engine, a track system of overall length of about 235 metres (260 yards) that includes two turning loops.
The engine shed on the target railway was the most obvious artefact associated with the railway, which dates from 1959, according to Duchy records. The fact that it was a double shed suggests that things could have been quite lively here sometimes.
The railway dates from 1959 – there are two older railway target systems; one on nearby Black Down (F Range) and the other at OP6 Incline Target Railway between East Mill Tor and Oke Tor (northern flanks, running north-south). These date from around 1880s/1890s and are mostly ground works, of banks and cuttings. They were built perhaps after the first Boer War (1880-1881).
We headed east from the railway to a military road and then turned south to New Bridge, passing an O-P-B boundstone along the way – an Okehampton parish boundary stone, onto the Forest of Dartmoor parish. The bridge is an old clapper that is reinforced with concrete, no doubt for military use. The bridge crosses Black-a-ven Brook.
There is then a hike along the military tracks to the famous OP22 i.e. Observation Post no. 22, beside Hart Tor. It might be argued mischievously that OP22 is the newest Dartmoor longhouse since it was divided by a wall for the Range Clearance Officer to occupy one end and his horse to be stabled in the other!
There followed the return to the car park, passing the old L (Lydford) parish boundary stone.
In good weather, there are fine views of some of the highest tors on Dartmoor, Yes Tor and High Willhays. D365-C8