Dartmoor: The Tors and Rocks near Venford Reservoir
|North Tor, with Mel Tor in the background|
Spring had definitely arrived this weekend and as much as I would have liked to have spent the whole weekend exploring, I had to get out into the garden and complete some much needed maintenance. That left me with a hastily arranged day off work on the Monday to get out on the moor and that day, I thought I would explore some of the tors and rocks above the River Dart.
I parked high up at the car park right beside Combestone Tor. A great accessible vantage point to view the wonderful Dart Valley. It is also a lovely drive through Hexworthy, along the river, passing the newly reopened Forest Inn.
From the tor, I dropped down the hill, over Holne Moor Leat, to pick up a bridleway that would take me, part way, to the first tor I was seeking. Despite three days of glorious sunshine, the ground was still wet underfoot but the gradient was gentle. I noticed that on the other side of the Dart, Vag Hill outcrop was obvious, and it looked a totally different prospect compared to the walk today. Perhaps it was just the skewed perception you get when viewing a climb from an opposite hill, but it did look a tough one to reach.
Leaving the bridleway after it crossed Aller Brook, I joined a path and came to an outcrop that, before checking my coordinates, I thought may be Aller Brook Outcrop. It was certainly substantial enough to be of note, and I took a grid reference in order to correct its position on Social Hiking, when I spotted the real outcrop a little further on.
|Granite before Aller Brook Outcrop|
Aller Brook Outcrop sits just above the footpath, where the more interesting formations reside. Further up, there is a more significant slab of granite, but less prominent.
|Aller Brook Outcrop|
|Aller Brook Outcrop|
|Aller Brook Outcrop, Combestone Tor in the background|
Having ascended to visit the highest point, I then returned to the path, which entered the woods, contouring nicely around the hill towards Venford Reservoir.
|Track above the Dart|
Along the way, the trees cleared affording views of the river valley, albeit a little hazy today.
|The Dart Valley|
|Looking to Sharp Tor|
As I moved around the hill, I began to notice a prominent outcrop down in the valley on the opposite side. This was Luckey Tor, also known as Lug Tor. I noted that William Crossing also said that it was sometimes referred to as the Eagle Rock, an alternative siting to another purported outcrop amongst Bench Tor; more on that later.
It was also immediately apparent to me that, along with Vag Hill, bagging the tors on that side was going to be a bit of an epic!
Approaching the buildings below the dam of Venford Reservoir, I dropped down to Venford Brook, crossing to join a track that skirted Bench Tor. In hindsight, I should have ventured further down the brook to discover Venford Twin Falls, but that will have to be another time.
|The track below Bench Tor|
|Into the woods below Bench Tor|
The track I was now on was a substantial, flat way and fortified from erosion by granite blocks. Into the woods, once again, I rounded the hill to its northern point, then took a narrow path up to the summit.
|Heading up to North Tor|
I stepped out of the woods to meet a wealth of granite tors on the edge of the ridge. Whilst this gathering of outcrops are known collectively as Bench Tor, the most spectacular is known as North Tor.
|The Dart from North Tor|
Looking for historical reference, it puzzled me as to why both Terry Bound and Ken Ringwood failed to differentiate the tors in their respective books. Tim Jenkinson pointed out to me that William Crossing wrote of the tors in his Guide to Dartmoor on p.358; "This consists of several piles, two of them being named in an old deed North Bench Tor and South Bench Tor respectively, which overlook the Gorge of the Dart. Another is known as the Eagle Rock."
Quite which of the other outcrops is Eagle Rock is open to debate. As I mentioned earlier, Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor says that some believe that Luckey Tor, to the north, on the other side of the River Dart, was some times;"..spoke of as the Eagle Rock." We'll never really know the true location.
It was a shame to leave Bench Tor, vowing to visit again when the visibility is clearer, and to linger longer. It amazes me that as I draw ever closer to visiting all the recognised tors and rocks, the national park still manages to blow me away!
I departed on an obvious path, in the direction of Venford Reservoir. I had done with tors today and now wanted to find a route back to Combestone without simply following the road. Crossing the dam wall, I passed through a railing fence to stroll along the banks of the reservoir.
As enjoyable as this path was, I did wonder if the railings would force me to walk right the way round the water, but fortunately, at its southern end, where a bridge crossed the Venford Brook, I spotted a stile breaching the fence taking me out onto Holne Moor.
I followed an old boundary work, now, as is often the way, little more than a ditch. I rested in the shade of a lone tree and considered my map.
|Some shade on Holne Moor|
Further along the boundary, the map clearly marked some stone rows. I continued on, keeping a close eye out, but this "triple row" is quite a visual disappointment as the stones barely break the surface. At its western end, are two fallen longstones. For more, visit its page on the Megalithic Portal website.
|Stone rows on Holne Moor|
On the brow of the hill, I could see Horn's Cross, and I diverted to visit. When William Crossing wrote of this in his book "The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor" he described it as mutilated and there is no doubt it was in a pretty sorry state. It has since been restored, the remaining head now clamped to a new base.
|Horn's Cross (restored)|
Turning northward, on a grassy track, I passed over a small cairn. Shortly after, Combestone Tor and my car came into sight. All packed up, and pretty pleased with these three first time bags, I made for home, but not before stopping off for a pint of Dartmoor Best in The Forest Inn, Hexworthy.