The DPA monthly short walks seem to come around quite quickly. On Wednesday morning, 25th April, twenty-four of us met at Swallerton Gate car park to set off at 10 o’clock. While enjoying the conviviality of the occasion, having arrived over half an hour early, I suddenly realised 10 am had passed!
Our first port of call was actually in the car park – a chainsaw-carved tree that was turned into a seat, I pointed it out to early arrivals but forgot about it later. Next, a few yards from the car park was Swallerton Gate itself – the old gatepost, apparently, is seen across the road in the photograph above, just left of the road sign. The post bears a stout iron hanger for a gate. Possibly, the free-standing stone to the left of the post was a gate-stop. Swallerton is a corruption of “Swine Gate” as was used by Crossing in his Guide (page 297).
Between wooden fence posts 7 & 8 from the left, in the photo above, almost in line with the end of the cottage, is an old Medieval cross head …..
It is a cross-shaped stone that also bears an incised cross. There is a story as to how the cross was given a reprieve from being incorporated into hard-core during building operations at the cottage. It is possible that this is all that remains of Swine Path Cross, a marker on the boundary between the stannaries’ of Chagford and Ashburton.
A main section of the walk then ensued – up the slope alongside Hound Tor, keeping left to avoid the squelchy areas found on all three reconnaissance walks.
We then headed south across short vegetation to the well-preserved cairn circle, with its close circle of retaining kerb stones, and fairly intact cist – a Bronze Age burial site. Here a little magik was performed; this is often a reliable site for a demonstration of dousing, which worked two times out three on this occasion. One has to be very mindful of how the rods are held, somewhat loosely. I approached from the left in this photograph – it never seems to work for me from any other direction. But then, you wonder about the effect of the slope of the ground as you walk in slowly. The impressing aspect is the power of the apparent force of the in-turning (in this case) as the rods slowly pass over the front surface of the long slab in the cist.
From the cain and cist, we found Houndtor Pool on the top of the hill and then walked to the gateway into Holwell Lawn.
Both gate posts in this gateway are reused old slotted posts. These can date from late medieval times. The Medieval, or Middle Ages, lasted from the 5th to the 15th Century. They are reused because they have been turned 90° around their vertical axis here.
The area offers good views of Haytor Rocks, although the day wasn’t crystal clear!
After a turn around Holwell Lawn, when on talking to a landowner I was reminded to keep to the public paths, we came back towards Hound Tor via Grea Tor, or in modern language, Greator Rocks. It was Grea Tor to William Crossing (in his Guide, page 297). The Ordnance Survey surveyors renamed a lot of Dartmoor names, perhaps not understanding the dialect of the time.
Down the slope from Grea Tor is the magnificently preserved Medieval village of Hound Tor, probably the Hundator in the 1086 Domesday records. The building above is one of the more impressive of the four longhouses. The uphill end is closest to the camera, where an annex has been added (hidden under the raised path) that leads tp yet another extension. This was probably for elders to live in. The far end of the longhouse would have housed the cattle, their effluent would drain out through the wall. Another annex iis built onto the left side of the house, as viewed here.
The Medieval settlement has three corn-drying barns, suggesting that drying was difficult in the climate of the day. This photograph shows the uphill end of Building 9, where the openings have been described as openings to kilns and ovens. It has been suggested that the settlement was abandoned sometime after 1347/1348 when the Black Death (“plague”) started in Devon. After a few years, about half the population would have died and more fertile land at lower levels must have become available.