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This walk: 2017-3-4. RAF Harrowbeer, Roborough Rock, Allan Williams gun turret base, South Roborough Down Mine, Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee drinking fountain,  monument, mine-worked ground, Devonport Leat, Drake's Plymouth Leat, Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt's Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway, granite setts and a tram-way rail, Sheep's Tor, foxgloves, Red campion, piglets, kissing gates, tunnels, adit, Yeoland Consols Mine, Mabor Wood, 13-mile post on the old tramway. 

Walk details below - Information about the route etc.

Previous walks in this area:  28 November 2012, 30 January 2013 and 11 February 2015,

Google Satellite map + GPS track of the walk 


One of three RAF Harrowbeer information boards around the WW2 aerodrome, with the Knightstone Tearooms & Restaurant. in the white property behind. This building was the original Watch Office, commonly called the "Control tower", until the proper one was built out on the field in 1941.


Close-up of the notice. Click the image to see a larger version.


View into one of the aircraft bays. The concrete slab is the hard standing to support the aircraft that were dispersed here for protection against air attack. The surrounding bank at the back is actually a concrete tunnel that forms a Stanton type air raid shelter capable of holding 28 persons., the entrance at the far end is now blocked up with brick and stone work. A  description of the defences and many other features at RAF Harrowbeer can be found HERE.


A view of Roborough Rock, known locally as "the dry one"; the "wet" one being the nearby Rock Inn.  The rock was formerly known as Udal Torre, Ullestorre Rock. Ulster Rock and Udell Torre or even Yelverton Rock. This 6-inch map from the 1888-1913 Series shows Udal Torre ..... The British Geological Survey geology viewer shows this area is not granite but of other bedrock. It is described as "Tavy Formation - Slate, hornfelsed metamorphic bedrock formed approximately 359 to 385 million years ago in the Devonian Period". This is originally sedimentary rock formed in open seas by pelagite deposits i.e. sediments. These were altered later by the high temperatures of igneous intrusion of molten rock such as granite.


 Allan Williams anti-aircraft machine gun turrets were designed to defend against air attack and this RAF Harrowbeer link states that there were "several" turrets at the airfield. The round "bump" in the ground under this tree looks as if it might have been one although it seems dangerously close to the one behind and to the right, near the rock (see next photograph).

Another name for this rock formation, in William Crossing's younger years, was the "Duke of Wellington's Nose", presumably this being the protuberance at the right-most end: William Crossing (1912, reprinted 2001), Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, Peninsula Press, Newton Abbot, page 444.  In reality, "The Iron Duke" was known for his hooked nose, leading to his soldiers knowing him as "Old Hookey".

"Old Hookey"


An iron base ring is all that remains of the Allan Williams turret, this was a simple anti-aircraft system using converted .303 machine guns or similar. Allan Williams is hyphenated on some web sites, but the designer was actually one A.H. Williams .....


Another view of Roborough Rock.


Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee (1897) drinking fountain .....

These things need testing - still working after 127 years .....


Glenfield & Kennedy Ltd, Kilmarnock (on the Grace's Guide - British Industrial History web site), Glenfield & Kennedy (on the Future Museum web site), Glenfield Valves Ltd (the modern company, part of a conglomerate.


"Victoria Regina 1837-1897" - she reigned 20 June 1837 - 22 January 1901 (63 years 7 months, she died aged 81)......


Closer view.


Bumpy ground beside the main road, looking towards Yelverton, typical appearance of old tin diggings, reminiscent of the same ground appearance seen associated with North Roborough Down Tin Mine. these may be signs of South Roborough Down Mine (SX 515 675), which produced more than 1,500 tons of copper in the mid-1800's. Source: Helen Harris (1986, 3rd edn), Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, page 61.  Also, from AK Hamilton Jenkin (1974), Mines of Devon: Vol. 1: Mines of Devon: The Southern Area, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, page 113 .....

"the area of Roborough Down is crossed by an estimated number of ten east-west lodes whose outcrop workings are visible today in the form of grass-grown entrenchments from Yeoland Farm to the railway."

The page continues to describe how William Crymes had erected "clash-mylls upon Roburghe Down to work the tynn". A clash mill is a stamping mill that grinds the tin ore prior to smelting in a blowing house. It was Crymes that broke into the Plymouth (Drake's) Leat to take water to power machinery via the Clearbrook (Crymes') Leat that terminated somewhere near the village.


A diversion from the walk route - scene seen if you follow the Devonport Leat towards Yelverton roundabout. The pipe is drainage from the old airfield, it joins the Devonport Leat which is running from top right to bottom left in the photograph - the water feeds into Drake's Plymouth Leat, then into Crymes' Clearbrook Leat and finally into the River Meavy when rains are excessive. Unfortunately the area is being overgrown by the invasive bracken, despite several clearance sessions by Dartmoor Preservation Association volunteers .....


This photo from 28th  Feb. 2013 shows the area after one such clearance, recorded on the DPA blog. The side-channel from the airfield is seen clearly while the Devonport Leat can be seen emerging from under the main road. The fencing is onto the road.


This photograph shows part of the scene approaching the leats after crossing the main road from the car park by Roborough Rock. It shows signs for the cycle path, the bridge over Devonport Leat (completed 1803), the road to the right down to the Chub Tor area and against the far hedge will be found the Plymouth Leat (completed 1591), built by Sir Francis Drake .....


The road bridge over Devonport Leat .....


The anti-flood arrangements for Yelverton, against run-off from the airfield, include a pipe in the far wall of the Devonport Leat that connects with the Plymouth Leat a few metres away in the background. The Devonport Leat has a small dam to the right of the pipe to direct the flow of water in times of heavy rain.


Plymouth Leat,  a few yards from the previous photographs. The leat was originally just a ditch dug into the earth, it was lined with granite slabs in 1871. Eric Hemery (1983), High Dartmoor, Robert Hale, London, page 113.


Looking left after the road bridge shown above are signs of Thomas Tyrwhitt's horse-drawn tramway (1823), with its granite setts to hold the rails and a section of original rail .....


Another view of the old rail. The steam railway took a different route when it was built in 1859, it was on the embankment that we see later on this walk.


Another look at Devonport Leat .....


Showing Devonport Leat from the Chub Tor road.


We took the footpath towards Hoo Meavy. The lighting was such that the photo is taken looking back the way we came.


Seen along the way.


A zoomed view to Sheep's Tor.


Foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea.


Red campion, Silene dioica.


Gloucestershire Old Spot piglets.


Way signs.


After passing through the first old railway tunnel, at SX 5212 6701 .....

The railway embankment is part of the of the South Devon & Tavistock Railway that opened on Wednesday June 21st 1859, running from Plymouth to Tavistock. It was built in the broad gauge (7 ft 0 ins compared to standard gauge 4 ft 8 ins). The engineer was a Mr Bampton who died in 1857; the Railway Company subsequently secured the services of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but as he was already busy with the Royal Albert Bridge across the River Tamar at Saltash, the work was done by his chief assistant, Mr R P Brereton, and two Assistant Engineers, by the names of Grose and Glennie. 


The first of two kissing gates, beside the first tunnel (above),  so-called because the gate is enclosed by a cage arrangement which it merely "kisses" and has no need of being securely latched. The enclosure here is constructed from iron rails - how many patterns?


Elfordtown Farmstead - Elfordtown farmstead was called 'Yelverton House' in the 19th century and was mentioned from the 13th century (between 1200 AD to 1299 AD), Farmstead shown on 19th century Tithe Map as a group of buildings around a rectangular yard with an angled building adjoining to the north-west. This building which was probably the farmhouse is not present on later maps. The Apportionment lists the farmstead as 'Yelverton or Elford Town Farm'. The Tithe Map was drawn before the railway was built in 1859.  Yelverton is mentioned as 'Elleford' and 'Ellefordlak' in 1291 and 'Elverton' in 1765. The farm is still called 'Elfordtown'. 'Yelverton' is the dialectal form adopted by the Great Western Railway when the station was built in 1859.  Information from the Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (linked above). 


Dartmoor bamboo, a domestic escapee.


The foorpath ahead, running alongside tghe railway embankment (on the right).


The second "kissing" gate, with an enclosure of wooden planks.


Rhododendron, pretty but invasive when left to its own devices .....


Another view.


"Adit" in the railway embankment for drainage, presumably of the land behind .....


View into the "adit".


A small tunnel through the railway embankment, suitable for piskies.


Yeoland Consols Mine, SX 52147 66363. "South Yeoland Consols Mine extended their operations to the east side of the River Meavy in the mid 19th century. In 1854 production was 4.30 tons black value 230 pounds 60 pence". Information from the Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (linked above).  

There is a surprising number of "Yeoland Mines" in this small area. Yeoland Consols had several features such as a Shallow and a Deep Adit (the entrance to which is in the west bank of the River Meavy, opposite Olderwood farm), It operated 1851-1657, raising 15 tons and realising some 13,000. East Yeoland lay below the railway and adjacent to the dressing floors of Yeoland Consols. On Chubbtor Farm, a little way south of East Yeoland, was Plymouth Wheal Yeoland, which developed three lodes that yielded very little. By 1855, the name had changed to South Yeoland, In 1881, a new Yeoland Consols company was formed. In 1883, when 16 hundredweight of concentrate was sent to Redruth, Cornwall, for smelting, it was said that some 2,000 tons of tinstuff was ready for stamping although little seems to have been done - there was no water provision or or machinery for the work. It seems to have been a costly failure, with shares ceasing trading in 1890. Source: AK Hamilton Jenkin (1974), Mines of Devon: Vol. 1: Mines of Devon: The Southern Area, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, pages 114-116.

Addendum, later information: "At Yeoland Consols, a barn now stands at the location of a burning house depicted on the abandoned mine plan (AMPR153).
Source:  Phil Neuman (2010), Tin and Copper Mining on Dartmoor c. 1700-1914, PhD thesis, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Exeter, page 197.


The track ahead: just out of sight ahead, on the right, is the second railway tunnel .....


The second railway tunnel, at SX 5213 6633, immediately after the tunnel, on the left, is a ladder stile (next photograph) .....


Ladder stile into Mabor Wood .....


View from Mabor Wood towards the property of Chubb Tor or, on old maps, Chubbtor on the 1885 25-inch OS map. Oddly, this is not the property where the "lost" Chub Tor is located ..... this is old mining "spoil" .....

An addendum .....

Photograph of the lower section of Chubb Tor ..... the height of this "vertical" face has now been tape-measured at 3.5 metres (11 ft. 6 inches) down to the level indicated.  The tor is on private land in the area of Chub Tor but there is now no public view or access from paths or access land.  It became "lost" with the construction of the railway embankment (the railway opened  in 1859).  I agreed with the landowners not to publish the location, even their neighbours are unaware of its existence!


The path up through Mabor Wood, with a field beyond.


After following the footpath up across the field above Mabor Wood, there is a stile (above, left) and a small bridge over the Plymouth Leat; there is a sluice just ahead on the left of the leat  .....


About 100 metres from the photograph above, the entrance to the 200-metre tunnel on Devonport Leat can be seen. Both leats are coursing westwards towards Clearbrook at this point.


A photograph taken down inside the Plymouth leat.


A nasty surprise! While looking to the north along the cycle track / road, I came upon a deep pit at SX 51928 66296. It is possibly a tinners' trial pit because there was tinning activity in the area, this is not far the South Yeoland Consols Mine.


Another chance to see granite setts of the old horse=drawn tramway.


At SX 52000 66738, the short pillar on the left of the road is a granite mile post from the old tramway / railway .....


Closer view .....


Showing "13" miles from, probably, the original start at Crabtree, near Marsh Mills, Plymouth.


Almost back at the bridge over Devonport Leat at the start of the walk, looking back west towards Clearbrook.


Back to the road bridge over the Devonport Leat, across the road from the car park.


Walk details

MAP: Red = GPS satellite track of the walk.

Crown copyright 2016  Ordnance Survey Licence number 100047373
Also, Copyright 2005, Memory-Map Europe, with permission.


This walk was reached by accessing the old RAF Harrowbeer WW2 airfield at Yelverton by turning off the main Plymouth-Yelverton road at the trun-offs for Crapstone and parking in one of the old aircraft dispersal bays adjacent to Roborough Rock.


Distance - 5.17 km / 3.21 miles





All photographs on this web site are copyright © Keith Ryan.
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