On Friday 25th May, under a sky of mostly white cloud, eighteen of us met at Pork Hill car park to walk over Barn Hill, down to Windy Post, over Feather Tor and its quarrying artefacts, on to Pew (Pu) Tor and its stone workers’ “keep out” markers. Then, to Heckwood Tor Quarry and on to see a view of Vixen Tor, returning via Windy Post again before following the Grimstone & Sortridge Leat to the ruins of the blacksmith’s shop and its wheelwrights stone on our return to the car park.

 

Barn Hill cist, with Pew Tor in the distance

Barn Hill cist, with Pew Tor in the distance

 

The Bronze Age burial cist on Barn Hill (above) has a view of Pew Tor in the distance. The sharp-eyed among us might also see Windy Post, i.e. Beckamoor Cross, down to the left on the low ground. It is 1/6th of the way across the image and 1/5th the way down from the top edge.

 

Windypost Cross (Beckamoor Cross) and the Grimstone & Sortridge leat

Windypost Cross (Beckamoor Cross) and the Grimstone & Sortridge Leat

 

Windypost Cross, also known as Beckamoor Cross, is situated beside the Grimstone & Sortridge Leat that was built to supply those two manors near Horrabridge. It is one of the wayside crosses along the Abbots’ Way connecting Buckfast with Buckland and Tavistock Abbeys. Source:  F.H. (Harry) Starkey (1989) Dartmoor Crosses and Some Ancient Tracks, pages 27-28, although he says the precise route is uncertain. Eric Hemery (1986), Walking Dartmoor’s Ancient Tracks, Robert Hale, London, pages 74-78, shows Windypost Cross as being beside the Jobbers Road (Tavistock Branch) that ran from Tavistock to Princetown  where it linked up with the track to Buckfastleigh. This was important in the wool trade in the 1200’s/1300’s. Windypost Cross was also passed by the Tavistock-Ashburton track that was marked by the erecting of the TA stones in 1669 (Hemery, pages 109-111). Probably several tracks passed this way and then wended off to different destinations.

In the photograph above, the leat runs in from the lower left side and exits to the old manors on the right side: the water flowing straight away from the camera has passed through a bullseye stone. This is a stone with a 1-inch hole in it as a means of regulating flow, in this instance it flows to other farms below Pew Tor.

 

Windy Post, looking at the bullseye stone

Windy Post, looking at the bullseye stone

 

The photograph above is looking north, with Middle Staple Tor (left) and Great Mis Tor (right) on the skyline.

 

The bullseye stone

The bullseye stone

 

This is a closer view of the bullseye stone – it is slightly misleading because the leat was overflowing and putting extra water into this side-branch..

 

Clapper bridge near Windy Post

Clapper bridge near Windy Post

 

There is a useful clapper bridge not far from the cross, which we used!

 

Abandoned cider press pound stone at Feather Tor

Abandoned cider press pound stone at Feather Tor

 

Feather Tor was one of the tors in the area, which included Heckwood Tor, Pew Tor, Little Pew Tor (i.e. Sampford Tor), the Staple Tors, Roos Tor, Ingra Tor, Swelltor and Foggintor which were damaged by the quarrying activities that took place, it is believed, from around 1790 when Prince’s Town was being built.  The photograph above shows an abandoned workpiece at Feather Tor, often said to be apart of a cider press although it may have been destined to be a millstone?

 

Showing the cider press in relation to Feather Tor

Showing the cider press in relation to Feather Tor

Besides the cider press/millstone in the foreground here, there is a near-circular piece of stone just visible on the ground, just left of the shadow seen “at 10 o’clock” from the cider press/millstone. It is of great interest because it was cut by the old wedge and groove method, which was superceded around 1800 by the more efficient feathers and tares method.

 

An example of the wedge and groove method of splitting granite

An example of the wedge and groove method of splitting granite

 

After leaving Feather Tor, we saw the stone above out in a solitary position that has been split by the wedge and groove method.  It may be surmised that it has lain here  like this since 1800 for over two hundred years.

 

Approaching Pew Tor from the north

Approaching Pew Tor from the north

 

Pew Tor is sometimes spelt as Pu Tor – this spelling is seen on the 1844 Tithe Map of Sampford Spiney parish – where it lies outside the plotted fields etc about halfway down the map and almost 1/3rd the way in from the right edge.

 

Pew Tor with a Sanpford Spiney parish boundary stone

Pew Tor with a Sanpford Spiney parish boundary stone

 

On the south side of the tor there are two granite pillars marking the boundary of Sampford Spiney parish. This was good place for our short coffee break.

 

Walking group at Pew Tor

Walking group at Pew Tor

 

The sky wasn’t quite so blue as on the days when I reconnoitred the walk! However, we had coffee at this ocation before continuing.

 

A Pew Tor stone masons' "keep out" marker (1847)

A Pew Tor stone masons’ “keep out” marker (1847)

 

Around the base of the tor, or within very close proximity, there are nine marks cut into earthfast stones – these are  10-inch diameter quartered circles. looking like hot cross buns.  They were put in place in 1847 because the ravages o the stone workers were such that the appearance of the tors were altering or they were disappearing and some citizens started to protest. Similar markers were put around Roos Tor, later reinforced with marker pillars.

 

A Pew Tor stonemasons' "keep out" marker (1896)

A Pew Tor stonemasons’ “keep out” marker (1896)

 

Public concern continued over many years, there were also problems with common land being enclosed and in 1883 this concern was instrumental in the founding of Dartmoor Preservation Association. In 1896, the “no take” are around Pew Tor was extended by four new markers placed further away from he tor. These were 6-inch quartered circles with a hole drilled at the intersections of the lines. There has been some conjecture over these markers, the north-east one seems not to be recorded and cannot be found, despite hours of searching by various persons and groups. The north-west and south-west markers are known, the north-west marker is actually a double marker, with one on a flat surface and one on a vertical face – about two or three feet apart. Why? The marker above is the south-east marker, re-found in 2010.

 

Showing the 1896 marker in relation to the tor

Showing the 1896 marker in relation to the tor

The photograph above shows the south-east 1896 marker which is quite near the tor. It is dead-centre just inside the bottom adge of the image.

 

Heckwood Tor quarry, with blocks destined for Plymouth Breakwater

Heckwood Tor quarry, with blocks destined for Plymouth Breakwater

 

The quarry under Heckwood Tor contains two granite blocks that are said to have been intended for use in the construction of Plymouth Breakwater, but were rejected.

 

Vixen Tor, with Great Mis Tor behind and the Walkham valley to the left

Vixen Tor, with Great Mis Tor behind and the Walkham valley to the left

 

A little further along this track that passes Heckwood Tor Quarry is a welcome view of Vixen Tor, with Great Mis Tor towering over it in the distance.

 

Wheelwright's stone beside the leat at the site of the blacksmith's shop

Wheelwright’s stone beside the leat at the site of the blacksmith’s shop

 

After returning to Windypost Cross, we followed the leat roughly northwards to the site of the abandoned blacksmith’s “shop” – why is it always a “shop”? The smith here kept tools sharp for all the stone workers and also repaired wagon wheels by fitting new red-hot iron rims (“tyres”) onto the wooden wheels. This was a highly skilled task that is little seen today, although Moses/Merlin/Methusula remembers seeing it done in the mid-late 1950’s by the blacksmith at St. Erth in Cornwall.

 

Leat aqueduct over Beckamoor Brook in Beckamoor Coombe

Leat aqueduct over Beckamoor Brook in Beckamoor Coombe

 

A glimpse of the leat crossing over Beckamoor Brook by means of an aqueduct, namely a wooden launder, can be seen from the path as it diverges towards the car park from the leat-side path. If you walk down to the aqueduct, you will see “John Wills 1953-1987” carved into the top surface of one of the sides of structure. Nobody seems to know who he was.

 

Pork Hill car park viewpoint display

Pork Hill car park viewpoint display

 

The west end of the car park has a viewpoint installation that was inaugurated in 1984 in a ceremony with HRH Prince Charles.

 

Artistic rendition of the view for identifying features in the scene

Artistic rendition of the view for identifying features in the scene

 

The main attraction is the artistic version of the view and the labels that connect down to various features that can be seen from here.

Satellite map + GPS track of the walk

More photographs on the Dartmoor CAM web site