A short walk around Top Tor and Pil Tor Area
Today the Children and I walked to Top Tor, Pill Tor, Hollow Tor, Tunhill Rocks, Wittaburrow Cairn, Ruddycleave Water and Foales Arrishes. You could do as much or as little of this walk as you choose.
Parking at Hermsworthy gate car park SX741 761 we took the track heading West up to Top Tor at the top of Blackslade Down. 432m above sea level, it offers fine views of Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Haytor Rocks.
Here we found at least three letter boxes, though I’m certain there are many more we didn’t stop long. It was already hot at 9.00am and we were craving a dip in the stream at Ruddycleave Water.
From Top Tor we headed South West along the track to Pil Tor. There were several Dartmoor ponies using the shade offered by its rocky outcrops to cool off and so we took a few photos and carefully avoided them. They had foals with them and didn’t seem to relish visitors invading their cool bouldery haven.
Off we pottered down the hill, slightly North West to Hollow Tor. There are two Hollow Tors on Dartmoor, the other is near Princetown so make sure you’re headed to the correct one 🤣.
Skirting the edge of the hill we then took the track South to Tunhill Rocks.
Tucked into the Eastern edge of Tunhill Rocks is a small enclosure which is marked ‘Homestead’ on the OS map. It consists of the remains of two medieval huts which are small and rectangular rather than round.
From here we headed South to Wittaburrow Cairn.
A Cairn is a pile of stones used as a boundary marker, a memorial, or a burial site. Cairns are usually conical in shape and were often erected on high ground. Burial cairns date primarily from the Neolithic Period and the Early Bronze Age.
From the Cairn we dropped down the Eastern side of the hill towards the dry stone wall and turned left keeping the wall on our right. We followed the wall enjoying what little shade it offered from the scorching sun.
Keeping the wall on our right we followed it as it turned East and then South, until we came to a gate.
Passing through the gate we could see Ruddycleave Water, a lovely little stream which the dog (Ernie, he belongs to my mum and we like taking him with us on walks that are too long for our 15 year old Chocolate Labrador) jumped straight into.
We were saving our paddle for a little further along as we like to sit by the trees.
We kept that trusty wall on our right until the little wooded area came into view.
This was where we all stripped off and played in the cool water, for half an hour.
Once Ernie had finished retrieving rocks from the stream and we’d dried our feet, we walked back through the pretty little wood to the dry stone wall.
Keeping the wall to our left we retraced our steps to the gate.
Here we decided to try and find Foales Arrishes which is a system of Reaves and hut circles dating from the Bronze Age.
The area is currently covered in Gorse, Heather and Bracken so was difficult to traverse and photograph, but there were sheep tracks and though it prickled our legs mercilessly we did find two of the seven hut remains.
The word ræw is an old Saxon word which means ‘line’ or ‘row’ and this has mutated to reave which denotes a ‘line’ or ‘row’ of continuous banking.
The majority of the Dartmoor reaves were built during the Middle Bronze Age (approx. 1500BC) Archaeological excavation has revealed that under some of the reaves are the vestiges of what are presumed to be even earlier wooden fences.
It was during the Bronze Age that people began to settle on Dartmoor. Foales Arrishes is thought to have been “almost as large as Grimspound.”
Grimspound was likely connected to Foales Arrishes and served as a ‘summer’ camp’ or ‘shieling’ during the warmer months.
From Foales Arrishes we could see the car and decided to make our way home. Thunder had begun rumbling, ominously over towards Princetown and heavy, warm rain started to wet our sticky, sweat covered skin.
Luckily we made it back to the car just as the heavens opened, proving once more how important carrying a rain coat is.