Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Dartmoor: Buckland Beacon and other rocks

Buckland Beacon
Buckland Beacon
The murk of New Years Day had gone, replaced by a stunning, but cold, morning. My choice of a walk to Buckland Beacon made for a difficult drive on the east side of the moor with the glare of a very low winter sun.

It was bitter, up on Buckland Common, where we parked near Cold East Cross. Only a kilometre south across the open moor, we came to the beacon, with a wonderful view of the wooded valleys of the River Dart and beyond. We also found the Ten Commandments stones, difficult to read in the harsh light.

The Ten Commandments, Buckland Beacon
The Ten Commandments
Commissioned in 1929, by Mr William Whitely of Wellstor, a sculptor called W. A. Clement engraved the Ten Commandments on two stones. Further information can be found on Legendary Dartmoor.

From this vantage point, we eyed the woodland south, attempting, unsuccessfully, to see any sign of the outcrops within. The trees had grown high and I figured that discovering those hidden tors was going to be difficult.

Buckland Beacon
Buckland Beacon
We passed over a slippery wooden stile between an untidy dry stone wall. Ahead, on the path, lay a jumbled outcrop we took to be Welstor Rock.

Welstor Rocks, upper outcrop
Outcrop above Welstor Rock
As we walked down to the road, we noticed another outcrop, to our right, and it looked more prominent than the one behind us; I guessed that was likely the real Welstor Rock and we would make sure we visited on our way back.

On the road, we descended to Welstor Cross, where the trees of Ausewell Woods stood high in front of us. This is private woodland, but we didn't see any notices; It all seemed quite relaxed.

Were the area clear of trees, or access permitted, Ausewell Rocks (aka Hazel Tor) would rival some of the giants further north up on Haytor Down and would be very popular. Instead, the outcrops, of which there are three main ones, are shrouded in secrecy and little known.

Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
Ausewell Rocks
William Crossing mentions the area in his Guide to Dartmoor, describing, in detail, the "Buckland Drives"; wide tracks that pass through the woodland, and which made our journey to Raven Rock easy.

Raven Rock was not a difficult find, being sandwiched between a higher and lower drive. What makes it tricky is taking a decent photo of it, and in that respect, I failed miserably, from above and below it.

Above Raven Rock
Above Raven Rock
Raven Rock
Raven Rock
Raven Rock
Raven Rock from below
Jim, suffering from a nasty chest infection, wasn't keen on descending further towards the River Dart, thus lengthening the walk in search of Cleft Rock. Instead, we left the woods on a good track.

On our exit, we did come across a "Private Woodland - no public right of way" sign on a gate and a warning not to start fires.

We nipped back up to the lower outcrop we had spotted on the way down to the woods. This was the actual Welstor Rock and not the pretender we had first visited. A lovely tor with the highest pile being a natural granite bench overlooking Ausewell Woods. We took a break here, out of the wind and enjoyed the warm sun.

Welstor Rock
Welstor Rock
Welstor Rock
Welstor Rock
Back to Buckland Beacon, the visitors were more abundant. We made our way over the thawing moorland back to the car park.

The Route: