This walk: 2019-12-19 - postponed until 9 January 2020. Arboretum path, Yellowmeade Gate, blocked gateway, Sharpitor, Leather Tor, PCWW 1919 pillar, multiple (fourfold) stone circle, Combshead Tor, Cuckoo Rock, Down Tor, Great Mis Tor, Snappers Tor, Burrator Reservoir, Peek Hill, vermin trap, Pixies Cave, John Elford, Longstone Manor, rabbit buries, Sheepstor Warren House, Maiden Tor, rock basin, Joey's Lane Gate, corn ditch, Narrator i.e. Narrow Tor, upside down trough, Narrator Gate, WIFF stone, Narrator Farm Incised Cross. D365-Q6 (R6).
Walk details below - Information about the route etc.
Previous walks in this area: 23 June 2010-1, 23 June 2010-2, 7 July 2011 (into Pixies Cave), 7 July 2011, 15 Feb. 2012, 16 Feb. 2012 (climbed to Narra Tor), 21 Apr. 2014 - Arboretum re-opened by Emily Wood (BBC Spotlight), 3 Dec. 2014
Old maps .....
Notice in the Arboretum car park. Click the image to see a larger version.
The entry gate into the Arboretum ..... on a cold and frosty morning .....
The chosen path for cutting through to access Yellowmeade Down and Sheeps Tor .....
Looking ahead .....
Somewhere along the way!
The far stile. This is followed quickly by a second stile beside a pair of locked gates.
A tip - the path used here is through the entry gate and turn right, next turn left, proceed, go straight across a cross-paths junction, proceed, turn right, proceed - almost coming back on yurself slightly, lastly - turn left and see the stile.
The old track up to Yellowmeade Gate, with the Down beyond .....
Unusual arrangement in the plantation wall just upslope from Yellowmeade Gate. What is this? Possibly for drainage off the slope?
Keeping left, walking up the slope near the wall, a blocked up gateway, at SX 57184 68593.
A row of beech trees along the way: the other side of the wall is Roughtor Plantation.
Looking up the long slope at Sheeps Tor, the sheep's head is on the left!
According to Eric Hemery (1983), High Dartmoor, Robert Hale, London, page 160, Sheeps Tor is really four tors:
Sheeps Tor has been known as .....
Scitelstor 1244, Skyteletor 1262, Schytlestor 1375, Scitestor 1408, Shittestor 1474, Shipstor 1607, Shetelstor now Shepstor - Survey*, Shitstor (Elford tablet, Widecombe) 1650, Shippistor alias Shittistor 1691, Sheepstor alias Shittestor 1695. Apparently, Schitestor and Shittor spellings have also been used (genuki.org.uk) .
*Survey - Presumably Tristram Risdon (1714), The Chronographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon. New edition 1811, Rees & Curtis, Plymouth.
Zoomed view to Sharpitor (SX 560 703, elevation 1345 feet or 410 metres) and Leather Tor (SX 563 700, elevation 1246 feet or 380 metres).
A granite pillar marking out the catchment area of the reservoir at Burrator, incised PCWW 1919, PCWW being the old Plymouth Corporation Water Works. A map of all of these can be seen on the Dartefacts web site - this explains the 1917, 1919 and 1932 pillars. There are also 7 undated cast iron posts and one marked tor - North Hessary Tor.
There are five hut circles shown on the 1:10,000 map but not on the higher scaled 1:25,000 map in this area, with two quite near the pillar. They are described briefly by Jeremy Butler, 1994, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Vol. 3 - The South-West, Map 47, 8: Sheeps Tor East, page 68.
The huts are hard to find but should be at SX 56967 68250 (Hut 1), SX 56960 68188 (Hut 2), SX 56942 68180 (Hut 3), SX 56930 68160 (Hut 4) and SX 56900 68155 (Hut 5). Hut 2 is worth looking at, it is about 30 metres along a track from the PCCW pillar leading south. Hut 4 is also recognisable with a few stones remaining. The other huts have been badly "robbed" of their stones. The photographs taken were too dull and uninspiring to show here - the weather and lighting were bad.
The group on Thurs. 9th January 2020 at "Hut 2", near the PCWW 1917 pillar below Sheepstor .....
Zoomed view to the multiple (fourfold) stone circle on Yellowmeade Down.
Zoomed view to Combshead Tor, in the direction of Ter Hill and Combestone Tor (6 miles distant) - can the two "pimples" be they? Note Cuckoo Rock at the bottom of the photograph, right of centre.
Nearby, Down Tor, SX 579 694, elevation 366 metres (1200 feet).
Highly zoomed view to Great Mis Tor, SX 563 769, elevation 538 metres (1765 feet), 8.75 km (5.4) miles away. Note Little Mis Tor towards the right edge.
A view of the main rocky boss of Sheeps Tor, where climbers use the vertical face for practice.You will notice if you have the 1:25,000 map that the words Feather Bed are printed on the area of Sheepstor. This refers not to a quaking bog but to flat pavements of exposed granite on the summits but also in other places such as Joey's Lane, which you might have used to get to Sheepstor hamlet. John Earle (2002), Walking on Dartmoor: National Park and surrounding areas, Cicerone, Milnthorpe, page 107.
An alternative explanation might be that the label is positioned just to the right of the area of flat grass below the climbers' rock face, similar to the juxtaposition between the label for Pixies Cave and the feature.
Part of this walk is to identify Narrow Tor, i.e. Narrator, which lent its name to an old farm down below it. This is not it!
Looking down on Snappers Tor, near Middleworth.
A montage of three photographs to show the reservoir. At the left end, the bend in the road into the dam can be seen where it passes the Higher Quarry car park. The summit elevation of Sheepstor is 369 metres (1210 feet). Click the image to see a larger version.
A view that shows Sharpitor and Leather Tor at the right but bulk of the view is taken up with Peek Hill - with the Bronze Age cairn at its summit. It was somewhere up here that a German bomber struck in WW2.
Another view of Sharpitor and Leather Tor.
Vermin trap, at SX 56643 68119, below the climbing face, looking east, mentioned by Hemery (p.161). This not very obvious but it consists of a X-arrangement of low walls which would guide stoats, weasels and possibly polecats (?) into a centrally positioned trap mechanism. In the distance are the trees at the Scout Hut and, beyond, is Gutter Tor and, further away, is the pyramid shape of Hen Tor.
Mrs Bray (1836)..Vol 1 of 3, page 234 .....
|" On returning for our horses, we discovered near the top of the
tor two stone ridges, almost covered with turf, that intersected each
other at nearly right angles, and formed a cross. In the middle was a
flat horizontal stone. Measuring from this central point, the ridge
to the east was twelve paces, west six, north seven, and south
eleven. We afterwards discovered a larger one below, at the south
side of the tor. At first we conjectured they were sepulchral
monuments ; and afterwards thought they might have been folds for
sheep ; which at the same time was endeavouring to account for the
name of the mountain. But after all, these conjectures are
entitled to little attention ; as nothing can be accurately decided
without more minute examination than we were then capable of giving."
These constructions were contemplated as being "sepulchral monuments" or " folds for sheep" .....
Bray Mrs (Anna
Eliza Bray or Mrs A. Eliza Bray) (1879),
The Borders of
the Tamar and Tavy, 2nd edn, Vols 1 & 2, Kent & Co, Paternoster
Row, London. Books written as
letters (each forms a chapter, 38 in total, in 2 vols) to
Southey, Lakes poet (1774-1843). Mrs Bray lived 1790-1883.
First published 1836, entitled: A description of the part of Devonshire bordering on the Tamar and the Tavy, Vols 1-3.
She compressed the work herself, leaving out material she considered of no value to the then-current reader. Much of the book is material from her husband's Journals - Reverend Edward Atkyns Bray (1778-1857).
Vermin trap, looking north at the X-arrangement - this is the direction of the trap, designed to catch vermin passing around the tor. There are artificial rabbit buries (i.e. warrens) and a warrener's house on the south flank of Sheeps Tor. Rabbits were bred as meat for the local tinners.
Another view of the climbing face.
Looking at Pixies Cave, midway between the left evergreen tree (holly?) and the right deciduous tree (hawthorn?) .....
Three photographs from 7 July 2011 .....
The cave is inside the cuboid rock formation.
The entrance is low
down and small, narrower than your shoulders.
I could only enter feet first, on my stomach, arching backwards
because of the raised rock in front of the hole.
Getting in and out of
Pixies Cave is very difficult except for smaller people, like Pixies.
As I said at the time, never again!
Pixies Cave is said to been used as a refuge used by John Elford, Lord of the Manor, in the Civil War - actually there were three wars between 1642-1651).
There is a tablet in Widecombe Church to "Mary, third wife of John Elford of Shitstor" which states they were married February 1641/1642 and she died in February 1642/1643 after bearing twin daughters. Source: The Cromwell Association - Cromwellian Britain - Widecombe-in-the-Moor (last paragraph, before Notes).
John Elford's four wives were Elizabeth Copleston, Anna Northcott, Mary Gale and Sarah Woollcombe.
- Historic England
The site of Longstone Manor house was possibly owned from at least the C13 by Herbert de Cumba, Lord of the Manor of Sheepstor. By the C15 it was owned by the Scudamore family, before it was passed to the Elfords when John Alford married Johanna Scudmore. Much of the present building was re-built for Walter and Barbara Elford in 1633. Their son, John Elford, is understood to have built the wind strew (threshing platform), to the north-west of the family farm in 1637 (the windstrew was partially rebuilt circa. 1800). It was sold to Sir Massey Lopes in 1748 and was later tenanted until 1897. In 1898 the valley adjacent to the site was flooded to create the Burrator Reservoir, during which the main house was abandoned. The house was noted as being in good repair at this time. However, after the site was abandoned the roof was removed. The reservoir was expanded between 1923 and 1928.
Rabbit bury or "pillow mound" at SX 56535 67998, often arranged sloping downhill with a drainage ditch around to keep the rabbits dry.
Sheepstor Warren House, SX 56447 68035, very ruined. Below it are the remains of Chubstone Wood that was felled during WW1. The Warren House shows no stone cutter marks, and dates perhaps from 1500-1600s (Hemery, p.160). Sheepstor Tithe Map 1843, Plot 183, described as "Garden" and use as "Pasture". Ditto - (1882) 1887 25-inch OS map, shown as fir trees, therefore abandoned before the tithe map was drawn (in 1843).
A later zoomed view from along the path of the warren house plot.
Another bury, with gorse, SX 56368 68084.
Maiden Tor, SX 56280 68120, a very small tor .....
Rock basin on the top of the main rock of Maiden Tor.
A view of Sheepstor church from Maiden Tor .....
A third bury at SX 56228 68176, up the slope from Joey's Lane Gate .....
Joey's Lane Gate, at the top of Joey's Lane that leads down to the site of Park Cottage (Boarding House) - now the site of a small car park - almost in the centre of this OS 25-inch Sheet Map Surveyed 1882/1883 - Published 1887 .....
Close-up of the gate, with a PCWW pillar beside it .....
A good section through a corn ditch wall, these originate from the time when Dartmoor was a royal hunting area and there was a need to keep the King’s deer out of the cultivated land. A stone revetted wall and external ditch faced onto the open moor which deterred deer and other animals from jumping over, whilst the sloping grassy bank on the inner face allowed those animals which had entered to exit again without difficulty.
Narrator (or Narrow Tor), overlooking the site of the ruined Narrator farm ..... seen from the footpath around Sheepstor .....
A zoomed view, this time from SX 56694 68735 which very close to Narrator ruins ...... note the distinctive small summit rock .....
Approaching Narrator (the tor) from Narrator (the farm overlooked by the tor) ..... seen from a few yards away ..... a direct straight line scramble I will probably never do again although there may be an easier path as seen in the 2nd photograph below ..... this was to be sure of getting the right tor instead of false tors when approaching from the far side of Sheepstor .....
An overview of Narrator, GPS readings SX 56656 68447 and SX 56657 68446 ± 3 metres error, elevation 344 metres (1128 feet) ..... note the distinctive small summit rock .....
Looking down from Narrator over the old Narrator farm area.
A hawthorn tree beside the path almost at Narrator, seemingly of several interwoven stems.
Features at Narrator .....
The Upside Down Trough, at SX 56718 68742, beside the track at the Narrator site ..... Narrow Tor is on the skyline in the centre of the photograph .....
End view, note the hole where the trough appears to have been broken .....
A picture of a drain hole at the far end!
Even better, a picture of the hole from the inside of the trough.
The signpost, looking from the broken trough, down past Narrator Gate through the old farm site towards the road .....
Sign for the road and reservoir.
Sheepstor Tithe Map 1843 - Copyright Devon County Council
NARRATOR - Earliest record - 1718. Last used in 1923. Named after the Narrator outcrop of Sheeps Tor. In 1718, John Elford of Longstone paid for repairs to "Harris", a yearly event. In 1732, it was referred to as "Harris alias Narrator" - a name change. There are various records of payments and at least 19 tenants. One record has John Bayly as Lord of the Manor in 1850 and living at Narrow Tor. By 1914, the tenant was paying rent to Plymouth Corporation. Source: Paul Rendell (2007), Exploring Around Burrator - A Dartmoor Reservoir, The Dartmoor Company, Okehampton, pages 26-28 & 56.
Old maps showing Narrator .....
Ruined building at Narrator .....
Ruined building at Narrator.
The WIFF stone, at SX 56650 68798 .....
The WIFF stone, note the clear area low down, to the left ..... the moss had been removed before the day of the graopup walk on 9th January.
The letters "WIFF" are incised into the stone with a small cross below. The story behind the stone is unknown. The cross is included in the Dartmoor Crosses web site: Narrator Farm Incised Cross.
MAP: Red = GPS satellite track of the walk.
© Crown copyright 2016 Ordnance Survey Licence number 100047373
Also, Copyright © 2005, Memory-Map Europe, with permission.
The walk was accessed from the B3212 road from Yelverton to Dousland, turning right to Meavy and Burrator Dam, driving past the dam and Norsworthy Bridge at the far end of the reservoir to the Arboretum car park at the yellow cross on the map. There is a shorter route by going over the dam and turning left before Sheepstor village - the roads here are quite narrow.
Distance - 5.08 km / 3.16 miles