Sunday, 27 August 2017

Dartmoor: Coombe Tor

Coombe Tor lower southern outcrop
Coombe Tor

Coombe Tor is on private land. It is not a minor transgression from a footpath or a harmless hop over a gate; it is half a kilometre from the nearest right of way, within dense woodland left to encourage wildlife, and surrounded by a patchwork of fields. The responsible course of action is to seek the kind permission of the landowner.

I had sent out letters to landowners of those known tors I had still to bag, and waited patiently for a response. Of the six, I had, to date, received three replies; two did not actually own the land but provided me with contact numbers, whilst the owner of Coombe Tor rang and agreed a date for my diary. I was particularly keen on this one as it had a little extra.

I parked in Chagford on the Sunday morning of the August bank holiday weekend, deciding to walk up Waye Hill. It was already getting busy in town, the day was hotting up and I soon rued the decision, perspiring in the sun as I laboured up Manor Road, constantly having to lean into the hedges when nervous tourists drove by, religiously obeying their Sat Navs through the narrow byways.

Still, it wasn't all hard work, with plenty of gates providing good sight of Meldon Hill and Nattadon Common.

Meldon Hill
Meldon Hill
Nattadon Common from Manor Road
Nattadon Common

I arrived early at Waye Barton. I waited in the shade for ten minutes before knocking and it wasn't long before the landowner was escorting me through equestrian fields, surrounded by classic Dartmoor vistas such as Meldon Hill, Kestor Rock, Cawsand, Gidleigh Park and Castle Drogo. A beautiful estate.

I asked how often they got requests to visit and was surprised to learn that it was one in ten years; on that assumption, Mike Kitchener, who has pointed out quite a few tors to me through this blog, had probably been the last to visit! Obviously, my preoccupation with tor bagging is not as popular as I thought!

First view of Coombe Tor
First view of Coombe Tor
Entering the woods, it was overgrown. The first site of the tor straight before me was a tease, turning right I was met by a huge exposed lump of granite perched on smaller rocks to create an arch. A promising start!

Coombe Tor Lower southern outcrop
Coombe Tor lower southern outcrop
Coombe Tor lower southern outcrop
Coombe Tor lower southern outcrop
We stepped up beside the arch, making our way through tangled branches to a clearing on the relatively flat upper summit where there were stunning views over to Kestor Rock.

Views across to Kestor Rock
Views to Kestor Rock
Rock Basin on Coombe Tor
Rock basin on Coombe Tor
Here, I noticed a small rock basin but what took centre stage was the tall lichen covered cross which makes this tor even more interesting.

Coombe Tor Cross
Coombe Tor Cross
The owner pointed out the inscription low on its front face, explaining that the initials were for Mary Ann Liggins Clampitt, who loved it here.

M.A.L.C. 1908
M.A.L.C 1908

When searching for information on the ancestry website I was thrown when all I could find was a death in Bootle, Lancashire. 

Further digging turned up an entry from the Index of Wills and Administration, which revealed; "CLAMPITT Mary Ann Liggins of Bootle Lancashire (wife of Richard Vooght Clampitt) died 4 February 1908 Probate Liverpool 16 March to the said Richard Vooght Clampitt surgeon. Effects £14022 13s. 1d." This was increasingly feeling like a case of mistaken identity.

Coombe Tor Cross
Coombe Tor Cross
Eventually, the Devon connection was revealed when I discovered that the couple were buried in London Road Cemetary, in Coventry. The headstone read; "In loving memory of Mary Ann Liggins, the wife of Richard Vooght Clampitt of Coombe, Chagford... who departed this life February 4th 1908 Aged 70 Years. - Also of the above named Richard Vooght Clampitt of Coombe, Chagford, Devon who departed this life March 20th 1911 Aged 67 Years. United."

Coombe Tor Cross
The view from the cross

Census records show they resided in Bootle, where Richard was a surgeon, but I found out that he also owned Thorn Cottages and Coombe, which sit below Coombe Tor. 

When they would visit, Mary would climb the tor to sit in quiet contemplation. Some time after Mary died, Dr. Clampitt placed the cross on the summit, in her memory.

West Coombe below.
Coombe, below
The summit being flat, the more aesthetically pleasing outcrops are back the way we ascended. These piles had more character; weathered, rounded, tinged green with moss.

Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor
Coombe Tor Cross
Coombe Tor Cross from below

One last look back at the cross, I descended to rejoin the waiting owner. We left the woods, retracing our steps, to the house. I thanked the owner for access and for taking the time to show me round, then passed on the details of this blog and left, a very satisfied tor bagger.

I decided on the road down towards Beechlands, where I got the odd glimpse of the countryside through gates between imposing granite walls that lined the lane.

Coombe Tor hidden from the road to Beechlands
Coombe Tor, hidden behind the trees
The walls were impressive, the sheer size of the granite made me imagine the road had been cut through a once mighty tor.

Funghi
Tree growing upon a huge wall
Reaching the road junction, I turned right onto Mill Street, climbing back up to Chagford, thankfully in the shade of more impressive walls.

Huge Walls of granite
Huge walls of granite on Mill Street
The hostelries were beginning to open in Chagford and it was tempting, in the heat, to linger, but with my parking ticket nearing an end, I was sensible and headed home. 

A much anticipated visit had turned out to be a wonderful bag and thanks again go to the owners for their kind permission.