Dartmoor: The Tors around the Merrivale Stone Rows
|Vixen Tor from Little King's Tor|
Foul weather on Boxing Day had me changing my mind, and I did not travel up to Princetown until the next morning. Today, conditions were forecast to be “sunshine and showers, maybe wintery in places”, so I booked into the Fox Tor Cafe Bunkhouse about 10am, and after breakfast, I was back out to the car park above Merrivale, on the B3357.
It was certainly chilly, and I remained fully layered for the day. I crossed the road and headed up to Little Mis Tor on a good track. I can’t recall, for certain, the first and only time I visited this tor before; it must have been when I was doing a recce for my perambulation of the forest boundary attempt, way back in 2007. Despite its name including the word "little", it is a fine tor, and I was happy to return, and log it properly.
|Little Mis Tor, with Great Mis Tor behind.|
The sun was out now, and the golden browns and lush greens of the landscape were accentuated. Despite the cold, I was revelling in being back here. I descended to a wall and hand railed it for a short while, over a small stream running through some tin workings.
|Ladder Stile, looking across the Walkham to Roos Tor|
I left the path where it turns sharply to meander down to the farm, and wandered through some open access fields in search of my next bag. Early on, there is a significant outcrop, which I thought might be the lower levels of Longash Tor. However, I could not be certain; the place I stood was a fair distance from the official bagging point.
The official point actually sits about 50 metres from a wall, on private land. However, the wall is intermittent and poorly looked after, if maintained at all and I noticed an un-gated opening with an obvious trodden path. I saw no issue with the short wander up to the base of the tor to bag it, taking care to return the same route.
Back on open access land, I made my way down by a fast tumbling stream, contemplating how I would cross it. The field was saturated, but my Scarpas performed admirably in keeping my feet dry. A ford of the stream proved unnecessary as I returned to the public footpath and a bridge that made it simple.
|Lower section of Longash Tor|
|Vixen Tor from Longash open access land|
|View of Vixen Tor from Longash Tor|
|Stream near Longash|
|Un-fordable stream near Longash|
I had planned to enter more open access and follow the southern side of the stream up to the wealth of archeaology at Merrivale, but the track proved to be a pretty one through some enticing woodland, and I was easily drawn into exploring Hucken Tor. On my previous visit, with +Phil Sorrell, back in September, Hucken Tor was covered in foliage, and it was difficult to gauge how big it was.
|Hucken Tor: Exploring its surrounds|
|Hucken Tor surrounds|
Winter is the best time to visit this place; Phil and I just scratched the surface of this area on our visit. It was pretty expansive, and a delight to discover! I came out over the top and back onto open moor and stopped to take in some impressive light across the Walkham Valley; Vixen Tor looked perfect!
I passed Little King's Tor then followed the old railway track round the base of King’s Tor, before veering off to join a footpath that crosses a stream through some more tin workings. I was intent on keeping my feet dry at this late stage of the walk, so it did take me a while walking the bank to find a suitable spot to avoid a dip in the freezing waters.
Once across, I could have cut the walk short to the car park, but it would have been a crime not to have diverted to check out the remains. Merrivale is a renowned area, believed to be a significant ceremonial location over three and a half thousand years ago. I arrived at a large standing stone, situated next to a small stone circle and single stone row that I followed north-east.
|Standing Stone, Merrivale|
|Cairn within the southern stone row|
I soon reached a double stone row. This is the southern of two that run parallel from east to west. I followed it east, over a large cairn and, further on, to my right, a deep cist with a heavy cap stone, broken in two; reading later, I found that it was damaged in 1860 when a local stonecutter removed the middle for a gate post.
|Large cist and broken capstone|
|Looking west along the southern stone row|
It is a fascinating area, and rued the change in weather curtailing my explorations, but I will, no doubt, return on a better day.