Monday, 10 April 2017

Dartmoor: Was Tor

Was Tor
Was Tor
I arrived an hour before opening time for Lydford Gorge, parking at the White Lady Waterfalls car park, with the intention of trying to find the owner of Was Tor before I turned my attention to the gorge. Please note this small outcrop lies on private land with horses and permission should always be sought.

The trouble with asking for access permission from landowners can be finding them in the first place. I think this can be more labour intensive than actually climbing the tor itself! Add to that, you likely won't get access anyway.

So, with little expectation of a favourable outcome, I went in search. First, I walked along the lane to Was Tor Farm, which appeared to be the obvious starting point, but this appears to be a collection of holiday lets with no one about.

Next, I turned my attention to inquire at the converted chapel and cottages below the hill, but before I reached them I saw a dog walker in a field below the lane and asked if he knew who owned the land. He lived in the cottages below, and said his dad knew, so I went round to the house to speak to him. I was told the owner had moved to Mary Tavy and that he didn't think she would mind if I went up, but if she was around I would see her landrover. Having seen it at the bottom of the path up to the tor, my hopes were raised and I went back.

The car was still present but there was nobody about but by chance I looked up and saw someone on top of the tor! I waited ten minutes for them to come down, it was the owner and I asked if I could go on up. The lady wasn't willing to let me go alone, there are electric fences surrounding the tor to keep the horses under control, but she said she would be happy to take me up there if I could come back another time. Not wanting to inconvenience her any further, arrangements were made for me to go back that evening at six.

Pleased with myself for persevering, I walked back, with a spring in my step, to the gorge, an account of which you can find in my blog post here.

Fast forward to the evening. I returned to meet the landowner. Distracting the horses at the gate with some hay, we made our way up the hill. Asking how I had found out about the tor, I explained that Ken Ringwood had visited for his book, and that he had mentioned being granted permission, to which the reply was; "the man who took some photographs? That was years ago!"

Taking a photo of the summit, close to the same position that Ken took all those years back, one thing was clear, this picture doesn't do it justice. But then, how do you capture a tor in one photograph?

Was Tor top
Was Tor
The tor is rarely visited. Only from a distance, best viewed from Black Down, do you get an inkling that there is a tor here. From its base it hardly merits a second glance.

When there was the furor about the court case for Vixen Tor, an article in the local newspaper was run about the forbidden tors of the moor. The landowner remembers a journalist visiting and when offered to be given a tour just looked up, figured it wasn't worth the climb, and jumped back in their car. How wrong can someone be?

The view alone is enough for me! After ungraciously crawling under a part of the electric fence not wired up, we came to the top. I was immediately charmed by this small basalt outcrop with fine views of the north moor and Gibbet Hill.

View of the north moor from Was Tor
View of the north moor
As we strolled around the tor, we briefly touched the subject of open access; in the case of Was Tor, horses are kept here, hence the electric fences keeping them away from the outcrop, and a real concern that some people would feed them. There is also very much a personal attachment to the tor, so I can understand the decision to keep the public out. But I was saddened by the underlying fear that if a member of the public were injured, whilst on the property, they would be sued and I wondered if, having never heard of that happening, that was a justifiable reason to restrict access. But, I guess, in our "where there's blame there's a claim" society, you never know!

Getting back to the walk, rounding the outcrop revealed a more dramatic face of the rock.

Was Tor
Was Tor
Was Tor
Was Tor
Was Tor
Was Tor
We looked down at the lower slopes, covered in gorse that veils the tor from those looking up from the lane. There was a thought to clear some of it to expose the rock, but perhaps that would draw more attention to it and unwelcome visitors might decide to ascend. I would be inclined to keep it as it is.

Lower slopes of Was Tor
Lower slopes of Was Tor
The end to a beautiful day, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit here. I think the landowner got some pleasure showing it off and I am extremely grateful for her kind permission and the time taken to give me the tour. I hope I am afforded the same generosity for the remaining forbidden tors on my list!