On Thursday 13th December, 17 members and friends met at Norsworthy Bridge car park for the last short walk of 2018. The weather was quite grey and cold – but there was no rain!
The route started at the small gate that is often overlooked on the left just before approaching the bridge. This leads to a path that climbs through the woods, encountering the ruins of a tinners’ mill almost immediately, on the right. There may even be another even sooner somewhere on the left, near the road.
The photograph above shows the bridge and the track that leads up to the ruins of Norsworthy Farm and continues up past Crazy Well Pool and on to Nun’s Cross and Whiteworks.
The walk is a pleasant path that climbs and bends left and right until you emerge a little below Devonport Leat. This is crossed using a clapper bridge near what was a flow monitoring station, this having been part of the water supply system. I understand that it is no longer used, unlike the building at the end of today’s leat that contains a revolving leaf catcher that prevents most debris from carrying on into the water that goes to the water works at Dousland.
Beyond the leat hut is the Cross Gate cist, a Bronze Age burial site that is now fenced to keep livestock away from it.
Returning along the track we then carried on to Leathertor Farm, where we left our rucksacks and went down the slope to see the tinners’ fougou. This is it is where it is believed that tinners once stored their tools. The tinners could have been from Bal Mine, at Norsworthy Bridge, or Keaglesborough Mine, up the valley.
The fougou is a carefully constructed “cave” into the bank, with a slabbed roof and stone-built walls.
We then went into the old farm at Leathertor. There has been a farm here since 1511, although there is a record of land being rented here in 1362. There were two longhouses and outbuildings and in 1840, when the tithes map was drawn, there were two establishments – East Lethertor and West Leathertor. The ruins above are of West Leathertor: these buildings were erected in 1870.
On the slope behind the buildings is an unusual feature, a circular enclosure that is securely fenced …..
Inside the enclosure is a vessel for collecting rain; this appears on the 1906 Ordnance Survey map.
The structure by the farm has been described as a possible base for a cider press, but I don’t think there is room for a horse to walk around it. I have another suggestion, it could have anchored a large sharpening wheel on an iron frame – I used to turn one of these for my father when he wanted to sharpen an axe. The pit would have contained water to lubricate the stone (“whet”, as in whetstone, comes from an old word meaning “sharpen”).
There is a potato cave a few metres down the track from the farm …..
These were dug into banks, normally into growan (decomposed granite) to make cool stores for root crops.
The next feature on the walk was Leathertor Bridge, built in 1833 for £26/10/0, i.e. £26 10s 0d or £26.50 in today’s money. This is a clapper bridge with parapets, on the site of Riddipit Steps (stepping stones) and an ancient ford.
A little way up the track by the River Meavy is Riddipit, a medieval farm, first recorded in 1564. The photograph was taken looking upslope, inside one longhouse. There was a second longhouse that is located across what is now a “clearing”, at the left edge of the photograph. Its outline still exists as traces on the ground.
Nearby this farm is another potato cave, shown above …..
The cave is about 33-feet in length and is known for luminous moss, although it seemed to be lacking at this time of year. The green ring seen from inside looked more like a simple alga
We returned towards Leathertor Bridge from the Riddipit sites, turning left just before reaching it and climbed towards Raddick Lane, entering the Keaglesborough site before reaching the lane. After crossing the openwork (“gert” or “beam”), we turned left to go a few metres down into the trench to see the adit that drains water from the old underground workings – there are remains of four shafts in the gert area …..
The adit is quite easy to find at this time of year – just look to see where the water is coming from! It is possible to get very close, but not to look inside as it seems to bend to the left right inside the opening. The photograph above was taken by stretching inside the hole with the camera, taking some flash photos and hoping that one of them shows something.
The next area to see was the lower dressing floor, seen above. The main feature here, besides the gert, was the waterwheel pit, which is 20-feet in length. In the photograph above, the bank ban be seen above it that brought water in by leat. Either side of the wheel, there were apparently stamps and buddles. In the background can be seen the upper dressing floor.
The group photo shows what the weather was like – dull, grey. cold and windy – but still we smile!
This photograph is an oblique view across the 30-feet long wheelpit showing the settling pit just beyond, beside the wheel-pit, and the tailrace running down towards the lower dressing floor. In the distance can be seen Leather Tor (left) and Sharpitor.
From the mine area, we walked down the main track to the car park.