Following on from “Virtual Walks” to Golden Dagger Mine (March), Powdermills (April), Haytor (May), Venford Reservoir (June) and Swelltor Quarry (25th July) this is another DPA Short Walk offered during the on-going Coronavirus situation – this time to Dr. Blackall’s Drive in the east of Dartmoor. It is reached from the west by following the road from Two Bridges to Dartmeet and then to the roadside car park 1½ miles (2.5 km) beyond.
Dr Thomas Blackwell MD FRCP (1814 – 4th May 1899, aged 85) trained at St George’s Hospital in London and had a practice in Mayfair.
He was the youngest son of Dr John Blackall (1771-1860), who was the sixth son of Rev. Theophilus Blackall – he was a Prebendary (Honorary Canon) of Exeter Cathedral. John Blackall was an eminent physician who trained at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and then returned to Exeter in 1797, settling in Totnes in 1801. When he died in 1860, Thomas, his only surviving son inherited his estate.
Thomas bought Spitchwick Manor – four miles north-west of Ashburton, in 1867. It seems that he never married but according to Censuses from 1861 onwards, there was always a Visitor, Julia Tindall, and her daughter Caroline. It was Julia who inherited his estate.
Some time in the 1870/1880s, he had the “Drive” constructed for his pleasure and for visiting guests to enjoy carriage rides driving southwards to enjoy the magnificent views down the River Dart valley. However, Hemery (1987, p.588) reports that it was cut “a century or so ago” by Gerald Warren and his family for Dr Joseph Blackall, of Spitchwick Manor.
His grave is visited at the bottom of this web page.
The walk starts from a car park that is 1½ miles (2.5 km) past Dartmeet, driving eastwards.
Heading down to Stumley or Stumble Corner from the roadside car park.
The above photograph of Sharp Tor is quite highly zoomed, just for the (presumed) hawthorn tree on the skyline.
There is no public access to Bel Tor, without permission.
Stumley Corner aka Stumble Corner is at the bottom of the slope shown in the first photograph.
A little way along the lane, or “Drive”, we come to a point of interest, this being a gateway with an old gatepost …..
It seems that only one gatepost is “slotted”, although I may not have looked into the field – the post above is “turned” for re-use and this may apply to the second post. Another such gateway with two posts (both “un-turned”) is seen below.
Mel Tor is easily reached across a piece of open moorland …..
The tor features some rock basins, formed by weathering.
This second gateway is a few yards off the main track, featuring two slotted gateposts …..
This gate post is the one in which the ends of wooden bars were inserted first …..
This second post is cut with inverted “L-slots” where the other end of the bars were inserted, slid across and then dropped into the slots to secure the gate against animals escaping from the field.
Across the Dart valley is Benjy / Bench Tor with a number of outcrops – North, Middle and South Bench Tors.
The “Drive” was constructed to give views of the Dart Valley.
Further down the track, we leave the main “Drive” and bear off left to try and see Aish Tor …..
Aish Tor proved difficult to reach at this time of year because of the high bracken. This was abandoned because of the risk of ticks – better to come back outside the bracken season!
This photograph shows “black and white” metamorphic mudstone and sandstone. This is metamorphic bedrock formed approximately 318 to 328 million years ago in the Carboniferous Period. Originally formed as sedimentary rocks in swamps, estuaries and deltas to form slates. Later altered by low-grade metamorphism i.e. heating during geologic processes such as the nearby intrusion of Dartmoor’s molten magma (granite).
A more complete view of this little scene.
Nearby is a small pile of rocks with no particular name that I could find. It is a low-angle view, taken like this for effect – the pile is just over knee-high!
On the return leg of the walk, near by Mel Tor are the remains of a particularly large hut circle, or “round house”. The main track can be seen behind it.
Leaving the car park after the main walk and turning right, brings us to a small road on the left after about 550 yards (500 metres), just over ¼ mile. Stop and park immediately, on the left. If you enter this narrow lane, there is no possibility to stop and park, without blocking the road. The gatehanger stone is about 60 yards into the lane, on the right …..
The pivot hole under the end of the gatehanger stone …..
Next to the gatehanger stone is the now-blocked gateway with a stile signed “Public footpath to county road near Ponsworthy, ½ mile”.
Driving a further 700 yards (650 metres) reaches a road on the left with two entrances (the second entrance is better?). This leads to the scene in the photograph above, entering the tiny hamlet of Leusdon. Take the right-hand option in the photo above and park on the left before reaching the end of this road – which is a T-junction. There are two jubilee stones in the photo above, marking Queen Elizabeth’s silver and diamond jubilees. These are mighty monuments for a small hamlet. This is part of Leusdon Common, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The mighty granite obelisk marking the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
The entrance to the Church of St John the Baptist, built 1863 …..
Here lies Dr Thomas Blackall …..
The grave is inscribed on at least three sides – I forgot to look at the fourth side for any inscription …..
The grave is in the corner of two paths …..
As the photo caption says, the grave is directly opposite the small rear door of the church.