Thursday, 15 December 2016

Dartmoor: Gipsy Rock

sheep by a tree
sheep by a tree
I had planned on tidying up some stragglers this Sunday, with a few short walks in the south-west corner of Dartmoor, but some midday mist made the task of photographing new tors and rocks pointless. Instead, I managed two gentle rambles, adding two more rocks to my tally. First up, Gipsy Rock.

I took a leisurely drive across the national park, from Okehampton, via Bovey Tracy, passing in and out of pockets of low lying mist, before ascending to the open moor, bathed in wonderful sunshine. I had high hopes for the day. 

Parking up beside the B3212 on Peek Hill, I started down to the disused railway. The views of West Devon cloaked in fog were impressive. To the north, the cloud was covering the tops of the highest hills and I was pleased with my decision to come to this part of the moor.

From the car park on Peek Hill, walking down to the old railway
From the car park on Peek Hill, walking down to the old railway
Ingra Tor in the distance
Ingra Tor in the distance

Down to the old Princetown railway line, I went westward, to where the track began to curve south. Then I dropped down to a narrow road.

The old Princetown railway
The old Princetown Railway


Mist in the valley
Mist in the valley


reflection
reflection

I crossed the cattle grid and left the moor, along the lane, keeping an eye out for Gipsy Rock. It wasn't long before I spotted it to my left, set away from the verge, opposite a gate that affords a nice view of the church at Walkhampton.

Church at Walkhampton
Church at Walkhampton

I've seen a few photographs of Gipsy Rock, taken many years ago, so I was disappointed to see it being crowded by ivy and other assorted foliage. 

Gipsy Rock
Gipsy Rock

On encountering this unremarkable outcrop, you would be forgiven for wondering what makes this one so significant that it gets any recognition at all. The only research I have done (if you can call "Googling" research!) finds that it is thought to have been the meeting place of the Walkhampton Hundred (administrative division) in Saxon times. There is also a speculative connection with Walkhampton Church, in that the building faces north-east, the point of sunrise on the longest day, rather than due east and Gipsy Rock is on this alignment. (source: A BRIEF GUIDE TO ST. MARY THE VIRGIN, WALKHAMPTON by Peter Hamilton-Leggett)

Gipsy Rock
Gipsy Rock
Gipsy Rock
Gipsy Rock

Gipsy Rock
Gipsy Rock

As the above photographs will testify, I couldn't get a decent shot of it with all the growth, so there was little point trying for too long. I took the footpath south-east, leaving the road. First along the edge of a field and then into a walled lane between the enclosures near Horseyeatt.

Gate near Horseyeatt
Gate near Horseyeatt
Through another gate, and out the other side, it was time to ascend back to the car, but not before taking a look at a narrow, well built bridge for the railway. This allows access to the field the other side and is known as a cattle creep. What I particularly liked was that it was nicely paved with granite flagstones.


Railway bridge
Cattle creep below Railway bridge

Under the bridge
Under the bridge
I passed over the railway track, back onto open moor. As I did so, I noticed the sunshine had deserted me, and a mist had rolled in. By the time I had reached the B3212 near Goadstone Pond, I feared my day had been cut short.

The B3212
B3212

I crossed the road to find a stone row and cairn on my way back to the car park. Enroute, I noticed an old gorse bush with a bright yellow fungus growing from the bark of a gnarly branch, it's vibrant colour a beacon in the grey surroundings.

Tremella Mesenterica, Yellow Brain Fungus, Witch's Butter
Tremella Mesenterica, Yellow Brain Fungus, Witch's Butter

Asking the question, later, in a Facebook Group, I found that this was called Tremella Mesenterica, but it had other more descriptive names such as "Yellow Brain Fungus" and "Witch's Butter".

Tremella Mesenterica, Yellow Brain Fungus, Witch's Butter
Tremella Mesenterica, Yellow Brain Fungus, Witch's Butter

Goadstone Pond was a picture of loneliness in the mist, despite its proximity to the road and possessing a car park right next to it!

Goadstone Pond
Goadstone Pond

The stone row was unimpressive, the stones were identifiable, but as a spectacle, it was hardly to Merrivale, Assycombe, or Hingston Hill standards. The Cairn further on was more notable, though, with an obvious cist within its centre.

Cairn and Cist near the B3212 on Peek Hill
Cairn and Cist near the B3212 on Peek Hill

Pleased with the find, I returned to the road to retrieve my car. With the area cloaked I figured I may as well head to the Fox Tor Cafe. Perhaps the day would brighten up after a spot of lunch.

Back to the car
Back to the Car


Here's the short route: