Saturday, 27 February 2010

Skirting Pew Tor

The weather's turned mild now, a welcome change from the chill air that has been camped across Dartmoor for the last couple of months and a certain sense of warmth enthused us as we took Clover and Jack on an hourlong jaunt around Pew Tor.

Parking the noddy car close to Oakley Cottage, we crossed the leat and followed it roughly before edging towards Feather Tor and then down somewhat in the direction of Vixen Tor. A right turn - more of a sedate course amendment - soon had us walking alongside a dry stone wall along the designated footpath (green dashes on the map) and then another right and we went back almost over Pew Tor and back down.

Vixen Tor, an unapproachable landmark because the owner doesn't want to be made liable for anyone falling off.

A view up to Heckwood Tor ...

I spent a good few seconds lining up the next shot only for Jack to come charging back along the path and jump straight into both puddles. Another minute or so was spent waiting for the water to calm down again.

Here's a busy shot.

Finally a view across to Brentor, looking like a virulent pimple on the skyline. If you open it up in a photo editor and zoom in, you can see the church.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Tramway

The tramway under consideration runs from Dousland to Princetown via the Swelltor and Foggintor quarries. But let's put all of that into the past tense because tramway and quarries are no longer functioning; the former now acting as a sure-foot path all the way to Princetown and the latter existing as a collection of close-cut gorges and pools.

Today we limited ourselves to the stretch between Gypsy Rock and Ingra Tor. On the way back we met Graham the farmer. We think his eyebrows could generate electricity, but ordinarily we're just happy to listen to the man because he's one of those fountains of local lore.

Here we go ...

This is a view out towards Kit Hill, the various layers starting with the land descending into the Walkhampton Valley, then the rise that is Sampford Spiney, followed a partial view of Plaster Down, after which stuff generally gets less discernible.

Next we've got a slightly different direction with a view of five Tors. On the skyline, from left to right, are Cox Tor, Middle Staple Tor, Great Staple Tor and Roos Tor. Below the skyline, rising up from the western slope of the Walkham Valley is Vixen Tor.

Lastly, and continuing the general fascination with the sky and the clouds and all that ....

And finally ...

Monday, 15 February 2010

North Tawton

A mini adventure that was partly successful, a mite intriguing, but utlimately deserving of greater effort.

First things first, Clover and I couldn't actually get to the Roman Fort at North Tawton. If I'd been on my own, I'd have probably climbed over the barbed wire fence that wasn't supposed to be there, but seeing as Clover was with me, I decided agaist it. The unanticipated fence was found as an extension of the tree-lined bank that lies along the same north south direction as the eastern ditch of the fort as seen on the OS map. You can see that tree line on Google Maps here.

Despite not getting into the relevent field, there are some interesting observations. Firstly there is a distinct series of old trees that marks the line of the Roman Road as it approaches the fort and the river crossong below it. You can see an impression of that line in the following photo ...

The afore-mentioned tree-lined north-south boundary lies perpendicular to the road and - the intriguing part - incorproates a distinct ditch suggesting a possible outer defensive work facing east. Here's the ditch ...

As you can see - if you look carefully - the bank that marks the field boundary is distinctly higher than the ground to the east of the ditch (we're looking north here). If this is in fact an outer defensive work, then the general line of it dates back two thousand years or so, just as the line of the fort proper follows the same line. If you now go back to the OS map view, and follow the course of the road eastwards, you'll see a different set of field boundaries following a different line (some cross the railway line, some don't), until you get to where the road is labelled - Roman Road (course of) - at which point the boundaries again become perpendicular and match up with what is now a track that emanates from the 'yellow' road labelled Itton Moor. Notice also that the 'yellow' road follows the same direction as the Roman Road for a short stretch.

All of which suggests a very old set of field boundaries that merits the attention of a man with a dog.

A few more mouse drags eastward and the course of the Roman Road disappears. However, if you imagine that line continuing, you'll see it (perhaps) re-appearing as the odd field boundary running east-west and then, along roughly the same line, you end up at Keymelford where there's a crossing of the River Yeo. Once across the Yeo, it's feasible that the Roman Road coincides with the modern road as it passes Brandise Cross and Gunstone Cross, both road junctions.

More to do then ...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Trees above Deancombe

Just a quicky I'm afraid ...

I also took some mossy stone pictures that I'll try and stitch together. If only I had a wide angle lens.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A line along the Taw

The Taw is a North Devon river that runs from the centre of Dartmoor down east of Okehampton and then winds its way north up to Barnstaple where it enters an estuary that is also attached to the Okement River. Both rivers start their course from a boggy morasse in the centre of Dartmoor that's easier to call Cranmer Pool than anything else. In fact, there's less than a half a mile between the two river 'heads' and, within the space of perhaps two square miles, you can find the sources of four principle rivers, the others being the East Dart and the Teign.

But that's mostly incidental; the Taw is of concern because it positions a Roman fort and also - because this isn't just interesting, but might be related - it traces a collection of Grove-related placenames that certainly have a Brittonic (Celtic for those who have a preference) root, but are also composed of Germanic elements with the same meaning. The British element is Nymet, incorporating the Latinised Nemeton, and the Germanic element is Beer, Bear or Beere.

The fort in question is sited just south of North Tawton along the line of the Roman road from Exeter - at that point now the A3072, which spurs off the current A377 but was, at the time, the same road. Other forts are at Bury Barton and Okehampton. The North Tawton fort is actually one of perhaps two or three that, at different times, evidently defended a good crossing point of the Taw.

Current thinking has it that the forts date to the immediate post-conquest phase of Roman Britain - immediate meaning a few decade after - at a time when the 2nd Legion under Vespasian was consolidating its hold on the south west peninsular, in the process subduing the Dumnonii tribe. However, if that was exclusively the case, then the forts would have probably existed for just a finite time. That the Roman Road survives and that it crosses the Taw at pretty much the same point as it did two thousand years ago, makes a good case that the forts were in existence longer and that they, or what they generated in the local surrounds, was still active well after Britain was removed from the Empire.

So, because I'm a boring bugger who's got an interest in all of this, I'm establishing a project of sorts to visit the forts, hopefully trace the Nymet-related places and generally make a nuisance of myself for a time. Most likely I'll do this on my own - I don't doubt that even Gloria, the invented Witch of Sheepstor, would be bored rigid by such a venture ...