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This walk: 2018-9-25. Pork Hill car park, Cocks Hill, Cox Tor, escarpments, dolerite, Cox Tor, triangulation pillar, cairns, Reep's Tor / Little Cox Tor, Coxtor Farm, Mary Tavy Church, Brentor Church, thufurs, Roos (Rolls) Tor, Great Mis Tor, Great Staple Tor, Beckamoor Pool, Middle Staple Tor, Quarrymen's Path, PW stone / Flat Rock / Black Rock. RB boundary stones.

Walk details below - Information about the route etc.

Previous walks in this area5th October 2011 7th October 2011,

Reconnaissance walks: 4th August 2018,  5th August 2018 6th August 2018

Google Satellite map + GPS track of the walk 


Further reading
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. Vol & pp?
Books written as letters (each forms a chapter, 38 in total, in 2 vols) to Robert Southey, Lakes poet (1774-1843). Mrs Bray lived 1790-1883. 
First published 1836, in 3 volumes, entitled: A description of the part of Devonshire bordering on the Tamar and the Tavy.
She compressed the work herself, leaving out material she considered of no value to the current reader. Much of the book is material from her husband, Mr. Bray's Journals -  Reverend Edward Atkyns Bray (1778-1857). 


Cox Tor versus Cocks Tor 
There have been two spellings in use for many years, as indicated by Eric Hemery (1983), High Dartmoor, Robert Hale, London, page58.

Cox Tor Cocks Tor
Hundreds Lists - 1700s Tithe Map - Cocks Farm  - 1840
 Tithes Apportionments - 1840 Crossing - 1912, p.149 (Cocks')
Ordnance Survey - 1809 RH Worth - 1967, p.494
Mrs Bray - 1879, vol. i, p.219  
RH Worth - 1967, p.120  

The index in R Hansford Worth (1967), Worth's Dartmoor, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, page 502, has both spellings.  Mrs Bray comments on the origin of "Cox", as possibly coming from the heath-cocks (grouse) that used to be common on Dartmoor. Perhaps the hill had more heather than today's bracken and gorse?  Further to Mrs Bray's comments, there is Woodcock Hill at SX 556 875, just north of Great Links Tor, which may be relevant to the naming of Cocks Hill. 



The view of Cocks Hill (or Cocks/Cox Tor Hill) towards Cox Tor, at SX 530 761, elevation 442 metres (1450 feet), after crossing the B3357 Tavistock-Two Bridges road at Pork Hill car park, slightly zoomed. To the left of this view, at the base of the hill. are some humps in the ground, they seem to be undescribed and may be cairns, tinners' trial pits or some other ground works: one semi-excavated one is reminiscent of a wagon loading bay.


The rocky promontories are NOT the top of the tor, they are part of an escarpment (or rock exposure) before reaching the top of the hill.  This photograph gives a good impression of the bench-like, or banked, slopes that have resulted from frost action on the altered slates and dolerites of this area - this is part of the metamorphic aureole of rocks that were highly heated when the molten granite magma upwelled and inserted itself into the rocks that were already present to form the bulk of upland Dartmoor.  Where the rock beds are visible, termed "escarpments" on this web page, frost action has kept them rough and near-vertical.  The upwelling of the molten granite occurred about 290 million years ago.  John W Perkins (1972), Geology Explained: Dartmoor and the Tamar Valley, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, pp.16-17 & 63-64. 


Zoomed view .....


A panoramic view of the main escarpment - on attaining this point, we headed up to the right, around the rock face. Click the image to see a larger version.


Part of the escarpment .....


Part of the escarpment. The rock here is dolerite, a "country rock" or part of the metamorphic  aureole that surrounds the granite batholith that formed Dartmoor.  Some online definitions.


The summit area, with another, smaller escarpment towards the right in this photograph; this time we headed up towards the left and then right around the back of the rock formation to reach the tor behind. Click the image to see a larger version.


Cox Tor, largely covered with stones forming a cairn and surmounted by a triangulation pillar .....


The view from the top to the south, showing the two peaks of the escarpment seen from the car park, and the car park being seen to the left of the rocks of the escarpment, with the B3357 road running to the left edge of the photograph ..... (trig. pillar database) .....


Zoomed view to the car park, taken on Recce-2 (5th Aug. 2018) .....


Trig. pillar plate .....


Cox Tor trig. pillar with Roos (Rolls) Tor, SX 543 766, elevation 454 metres (1489 feet) in the middle distance, Great Mis Tor, the most distant, SX 563 769, elevation 538 metres (1765 feet), and, to the right of the pillar, Great Staple Tor, SX 542 760, elevation 455 metres (1492 feet). Extreme upper right - trees and road into Princetown. 


The group with Cox Tor, and the sun, behind. 


The "middle" cairn on the top of Cox Tor Hill, at SX 53032 76346 .....

Cox Tor provides sweeping views in all directions, with the distant landmarks described by Hemery (p.958) .....

To the north, on a clear day, it is possible to see Great Links, Hare, Ger, Tavy Cleave, Dunnagoat, Green, Yes, Fur (directly over Lynch) tors, as well as the long skyline of Tavy Cleave Plains, Corn Ridge, Black Ridge, Black Lane (North) is seen between Baggator Brook and Lynch Tor.

To the north-east, the mountain, Cut Hill and, below, Maiden Hill, Devil's Tor, Conies Down and Tor.

To the south, Shiel (Shell) Top, and eastward to Hen Tor, Shavercombe and Langcombe Heads. More distant are Great Gnats Head, Caters Beam, Ryder Hill (above Ter Hill). There is more described but these are the main landmarks. 


Looking north across the shelter built into the "middle" cairn on Cox Tor to a smaller cairn ......


The small cairn, at SX 53022 76421.


Five photos from Recce-2, approaching the hilltop from the west


Looking down on Coxtor Farm: a photograph in Eric Hemery's High Dartmoor (p.958) shows wood panelling in the farm that dates from 1650. The second reconnaissance outing for this walk came by Coxtor Farm to look at a certain wood-and-stone gate, believed to be the last one working on Dartmoor. Alas, it has rotted and become broken - photographs of it can be seen HERE. The farm is pencil-labelled as Cocks farm on the 1840 Peter Tavy Tithe Map - located at top right (in from the large black "L" marking but all the fields etc), in the Tithe Apportionments the fields are labelled as Coxtor.  

By not visiting the now-defunct wood-and-stone gate at Coxtor Farm moor gate, we avoided an ascent of 155 metres over a distance of 870 metres in a straight line from the gate to the triangulation pillar on the tor: a slope of 1-in-5, which is a tiring climb, I found!  Click here to see a page about the gate


The tower of the Church of St Peter, Peter Tavy, seen more clearly below .....


(William) Reeps Tor or Little Cox Tor, at SX 52620 76171. The location was determined by projecting compass bearings from three well-spread locations along the track of the recon walk.


Highly-zoomed view through the blue haze of the landmark church of 13th Century Church of St. Michael de Rupe, atop the volcanic plug that is Brent Tor or Brentor, 7 km (4.25 miles) distant.  There is evidence of pillow lavas at the base of the hill which indicate that volcanic activity which started in the Devonian Period extended into the Carboniferous.  Pillow lava is formed in underwater eruptions.  John W Perkins (1972), Geology Explained: Dartmoor and the Tamar Valley, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, pp.56-57.


Church of St Peter, Peter Tavy, 1.9 km (1.2 miles) distant.  William and Emma Crossing are buried in the grave yard at St. Mary's Church in Mary Tavy: see 1st April 2015.  


Back to the walk .....  


Beware - thufurs!

Cox Tor is noted for its widespread hummocks, 1,000s of them: thought to be clitter stones covered by soil because in some areas they are often exposed - this appearance is intriguing. According to John Hayward (1991) Dartmoor 365, Curlew Publications, page 203, these are not ant hills, mole hills or buried stones. An update to this caption was written on 19th Dec. 2014: apparently they are THUFURS!  These are small mounds of periglacial origin, found around the edge of glaciated regions where seasonal freezing and thawing induces a particular type of soil "heave".  A more complete explanation, from "A Dartmoor Blog" ...........

"A special form of cryoturbation is represented by earth hummocks or thufur, they are vegetated oval mounds with heights of 30 to 50 cm. Earth hummocks develop because of local patchy freezing of pore-water in the active layer, yet no pure ice core forms but a small proportion of the soil freezes. This core of frozen ground causes moisture migration towards it, concurrently causing a small scaled displacement of soil material in the same direction. Frost heaving leads to the development of a small mound, and as the freeze/thaw processes re-occur many times, this displacement is amplified."


The growth of ice crystals at high sub-zero temperatures is described by Ryan, K.P.  (1991), Rapid cryogenic fixation of biological specimens  for electron microscopy.  Plymouth: Polytechnic South West (now University of Plymouth).  303p.  (PhD Thesis). See Chapter 10, The effect of exposure to subzero processing temperatures, pages 200-210. A similar effect regarding ice crystal growth is seen in ice cream kept in a domestic freezer for too long, when ice crystals (which are pure water) form and then grow into large, crunchy "bits".  As the Dartmoor soil froze then ice crystals would have grown and displaced soil particles; this effect would have relaxed somewhat after thawing, only to occur again with the next period of freezing.  The result was a cumulative formation of the hummocks, or thufurs, by "frost heave" perhaps over several decades as the climate warmed and the last "Ice Age" ended.  


Zoomed view to Roos Tor, SX 543 766, elevation 454 metres (1489 feet), with the Logan Stone just left of centre and the MOD flag pole to the right:

Beckamoor Dip, SX 536 762, this is the col between Cox Tor and Roos Tor where there is a shallow pool .....


Another view. The water level was low when this photograph was taken on 4th August 2018, during a prolonged heat wave.


A veined stone, at SX 53729 76228 ....


Closer view.


Part of a row of stones that form the Quarrymen's Path, at SX 53725 76259, that runs between Peter Tavy and Merrivale and the nearby quarries. This section between the Staple Tors and Cocks Tor Hill was built by men carrying a stone for roughly paving the path so they could find their way in the dark. Further north, where there is little surface stone, they lined the path with broken crockery! Apparently these could be seen even in the darkest night, as testified to by William Crossing (1912, reprinted 2001), Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, Peninsula Press, Newton Abbot, p.51.


A "side on" view from near Beckamoor Pool of the summit of Cox Tor Hill (the trig. pillar is discernible) showing the main escarpment (left of centre on the skyline) that is seen from Pork Hill car park. The other main escarpment, nearer to the tor, can also be seen here, between the tor / summit cairn and the camera .....


Zoomed view of the summit, showing the summit tor and the escarpment below and extending to the left of the photograph. This is behind the main escarpment that is seen from the car park.


The PW stone, aka Flat Rock or Black Rock, seen beside the track at SX 53453 75952, with Cox Tor behind.  This is the stone described by Dave Brewer (2002) Dartmoor Boundary Markers, Halsgrove, p.158 thus, after describing the RB stones below: "The line then bends north-eastwards to a Boundary Rock near Beckamoor Head at SX 5345 7595 called Flat Rock or Black Rock bearing the letters 'P' and 'W' on the appropriate sides of its flat top" - P signifying Peter Tavy and W signifying Whitchurch parishes. The 'W' can be seen on the near edge of the stone, opposite the 'P' (upside-down) on the far side, see next photograph ......


The PW Stone seen from the opposite direction, the "P" and the "W" are indicated by yellow vee markers. 



The following bound stones are part of the group of eight stones along an ancient reave, described by Dave Brewer (2002) Dartmoor Boundary Markers, Halsgrove, pp. 195-196. Seven are RB stones along the Peter Tavy / Whitchurch parish boundary and there is another stone, not on the boundary. The most westerly one, no. 1, is no longer to be found. The "R" probably refers to the Radcliffes of Warleigh, former owners of seven farms in the area .....

NEW - GPS'd on 4th Aug. 2018 ** Using 1884 25-inch OS mapping
8.  SX 52836 75392 - most easterly 8.  SX 52836 75392
7.  SX 52791 75416 7.  SX 52791 75416
6.  SX 52748 75424 - broken off 6.  SX 52748 75424
5.  couldn't find - in bracken 5.  SX 52673 75418  OS1
4.  SX 52545 75418 - pyramid? in book 4.  SX 52621 75420
3.  couldn't find - in bracken 3.  SX 52545 75418
2.  couldn't find - in bracken 2.  SX 52485 75421 OS2
1.  Reported lost by Brewer (2002) 1.  Reported lost by Brewer (2002)

** Still some confusion - wait until the bracken goes 

Addendum 24 Nov 2021: These stones have been cleared and cleaned, although I have yet to see them.

1884 25-inch OS map - zoom in to bottom left corner to see these boundary stones - this shows them to be on the boundary between the parishes of Peter Tavy (to the north) and Whitchurch (to the south). Ordnance Survey abbreviations: C.B. - centre of bank (reave); S.R. - side of river (old leat?).


RB8, beside the track, at left  .....




The same stone from the rear after cleaning during our visit, by scraping with a stick.  The RB initials are clear, are on the face towards the main road.


RB7, fallen over, beside the track .....




RB6, broken off low, beside the track, near the camera, left of centre .....




RB4 - could not find RB5 in the bracken.




RB3 - Can you see the large initials "RB", the right way up. 

Could not find RB2 in the bracken.  RB1 reported lost by Dave Brewer (2002).

The RB stones can also be found on the 1843 Whitchurch Tithe Map - see top right corner, at approx. "7 o'clock" to the "DEVON 1843" caption.  The dot-dash line is the boundary between the parishes of Peter Tavy (top right) and Whitchurch (bottom left).


Four of the RB stones labelled on the 1843 Whitchurch Tithe Map. 
(c) Devon County Council . See next image .....


Overview of the RB stones area from the 1843 Whitchurch Tithe Map. The fields are attributed on the Tithe Apportionments to Great Dennathorne; this is today's Dennithorne.  The smaller house etc. seen between Fields 628 and 630 was spelled as Little Dennythorne in the same apportionments document, there is variation in the spellings even in the same document?   
(c) Devon County Council . 


 Modern milestone at SX 52942 75181, down the hill a little from the car park, towards Tavistock, inscribed .....


Visitors' viewpoint at the west end of Pork Hill car park ..... erected in 1984, according to Mike Brown who thanks Simon Dell and others in his CD Guide to Dartmoor .....


Closer view .....


The installation above is an artistic interpretation of the view from this vantage point.  The various objects seen are identified along the top of the plaque where the wording is rotated left 90 and linked by vertical dotted lines to the distant object, as listed below. See Legendary dartmoor - Pork Hill for a good description of this area.  Click on the image to see a larger version

KIT HILL 10M 1094 FT      CARADON HILL 16M 1216FT      KILMAR TOR 17M 1280FT      TAVISTOCK 3M      BROWN WILLY 23M      (LAUNCESTON 13M)




This plaque is on the reverse of the installation ...... ("Merryvale" is as it appears in the inscription). 





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 parking at Pork Hill car park at the top of Pork Hill, at SX 530 751.  This is on the right when driving from Tavistock, on the left when driving from Two Bridges/Princetown. It is signified by the  P  symbol and the yellow cross on the map.


Distance - 4.3 km / 2.7 miles


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