We were so lucky. 6th May was hot and sunny with clear views over the north of Dartmoor. 14 walkers left the car park by the house that used to be the Rising Sun pub, on the old A30 near South Zeal. The first stop was the chimney which had served Ramsley Mine until the early 20th century. The stack was damaged by a storm in 1998 and repaired by the Parish Council. During its heyday the mine had several shafts said to be up to 170 fathoms deep.
After a few hundred yards along the road, we took the packhorse track from Prospect towards the open moor. This runs for 5.5 miles to Hangingstone Hill and was used for access to peat cutting areas. The peat was sold at peat markets in towns to the north of South Zeal including Hatherleigh and North Tawton.
The track winds its way onto the open moor between fields enclosed in the 19th century by farmers and miners from South Zeal; they ran into dispute with the landowner, the Duchy of Cornwall. Some of the fields are now Access Land, but others are still in use.
After a hot climb to the open moor we arrived at the triple stone row and double cist, known as “the Cemetery”. It is almost 150 m long from the double cist and there is a large stone (probably a blocking stone) 30 metres further on. Some of the taller stones, nearest to the cist, were re-erected when the site was investigated by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1886.
Half an hour of contouring and climbing brought us to the summit of Cosdon with its very large hilltop cairn, visible from much of the north moor. Lunch was taken in the sunshine, with views to north Devon and Cornwall, Yes Tor and other tors to the west and south. The area around Cosdon cairn was surveyed by the Dartmoor Preservation Association survey team a few years ago. Close by is a ring cairn over 20 metres in diameter, although now only half a metre or so high and within a couple of hundred metres are a smaller ring cairn, and a very small cairn as well as another large cairn (very easy to see as it is on the most used track).
The return journey, almost all downhill, went north from the summit to where the leat from Small Brook leaves the moor, then down more old-established farm and mining tracks, and finally through Pixie’s Moor, an area of wet, enclosed but not farmed land, now given over to wildlife. Finally, up and over Ramsley again, passing mining spoil heaps and remains.