Thursday 25th July saw 18 members and friends gather behind the Plume of Feathers in Princetown on a gorgeous summer day with clear blue sky. On this day, a July record 38.1 °C temperature was recorded in Cambridge. For us, it was a relatively balmy 23°C with breezes. We were off to the mysteriously-named Crock o’ Gold!
We started the walk by passing by the end of Duchy Square, named after the old Duchy Hotel that now displays the name of the National Park Visitor Centre. This is also the HQ of Dartmoor Preservation Association – Friends of Dartmoor, who runs these walks – among many other activities.
There are two now-defunct drinking fountains in Princetown, dating from 1908. This one is on Two Bridges Road, the other is next to the Prince of Wales pub on the road to the prison. They are described as the gift of RH Hooker. This is possibly Reginald Hawthorne Hooker – the almost-bottom line on the Wikipedia page states “As a baby RHH was quite poorly and his father and Darwin exchanged anxious letters over his health”. This is just a thought but he must have been a man of means to donate two health-improving fountains? Darwin was in Plymouth in October – December 1831 before his epic voyage on HMS Beagle that led to the theory of evolution.
Along the way, shortly after leaving the main road, we encountered the contraption above – part of the level crossing gates from Dousland station, after the railway closed in 1956. Apparently they were used as a cattle crush – which relates to the next curiosity …..
In researching this walk, I knocked on some neighbours’ doors. One person, living here since 1986, told me she was told this was something to do with cattle and was erected by a farmer after it was moved from Princetown railway station. It reminds me of a smaller-scale version that my father had with a spring scales hanging for weighing fattening weaners (young pigs) before they went to market. Today, it appears support a training bag.
Right on the edge of the track where the preceding photograph was taken was some Bird’s foot trefoil.
There is a good view of the prison after some height is gained on the walk.
The photograph of Devonport Leat, above, is interesting because the field behind it, to the right, is called “Mine piece” in the 1840 Tithe Apportionments and the map shows a mine – Bachelors Hall Mine. Somewhere above the leat was probably a water wheel. The map shows a long long straight feature running up the hill to the mine itself – this was probably a run of flat-rods for pumping out water. The mine is shown but probably no longer working on the first, 1885, Ordnance Survey map.
The ruin above must be the original building at Bachelors Hall, which started as a corn mill. There was then a naphtha works, somewhere a smelting works (more in the next photograph), also mill cottages, a farm, mine cottages and a brewery. The modern buildings must account for the farm and possibly cottages – these are now being rebuilt.
A short distance from the old mine, the tithe map shows something else nearby – this is possibly the site of the smelting works – there is recorded a wheel pit and dressing floors within a few yards of this pit in the photograph.
Conscientious objectors in World War 1 were housed in the prison and were made to work on the building of a hard-base road from Bull Park (near Bachelors Hall) towards Sherberton and today’s Fairy Bridge, along a section of the old medieval TA packhorse track.
The road is a very bleak affair in poor weather – not a place you would choose to do hard work in the winter.
Pineapple weed, Matricaria discoidea – smells like pineapple with a little chamomile when it is crushed, particularly the flower heads. It is a relative of the mayweeds and chamomiles .
The Crock of Gold cain circle and cist – a Bronze Age burial site along Conchies’ Road.
The cist was an excellent stopping place for our coffee break. Just after we left here, two of our members who had telephomed because they were delayed by problems on the roads, caught us up and I was able to return a short distance to show them the cist.
Heath bedstraw, Galium saxatile, was used many years ago for bedding, and favoured for the aroma it gave out when cut and dried. This was photographed on the edge of the Crock o’ Gold cist.
While I had some trepidation about the forecast heat, it was cooler in the south-west and turned out to be a near-perfect walk