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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

A short walk to Jays Grave and Bowermans Nose

Parking at Hound Tor car park also known as Swallerton Cross car park SX739 792.

Turn right heading out of the entrance of the car park to Swallerton cross and right again down the road. Almost immediately, the road splits (looks like a triangle on the map). Take the left hand road and walk roughly 500m to Jays Grave SX732 798.

The story of Kitty Jay

In the 18th century, Mary Jay was an orphan residing at the Wolborough Poor House in Newton Abbot until her teens when she was sent to a farm just outside Manaton. It may have been at this farm that Mary became more famously known as ‘Kitty’.

It was also on this farm that she reportedly fell for the attentions of the farmers son and became pregnant. She believed that "Harry" (as he's known in the song which tells the tail) would marry her but upon the revelation of her condition, the farmer and his wife banished poor Kitty from their land and Harry refused to make an honest woman of her. She was left without a hope of finding a new position and in desperation, took her own life and that of her unborn child. She hanged herself in one of the barns belonging to the farm.

Back then a suicide victim could not be buried on consecrated ground. As such they were interred at a crossroads. This was to ensure that the restless soul of the deceased could not return to haunt the living.

Some say that on a moonlit night a dark figure can be seen kneeling beside the grave with its face buried in its hands. It is thought to be the soul of the farmer’s son "Harry" sent to stand vigil over the grave of Kitty and his unborn child.

supposedly fresh flowers are mysteriously left at the grave every day, though on the several occasions I've visited the flora and vegetation looked slightly sad and wilted having clearly been there a while.

Opposite Jays Grave is a footpath leading across Cripdon Down, take this track (making sure to close all gates behind you) across some fields to the road that runs past the base of Bowermans Nose. There is a gate across this road you are allowed to go through it, just be sure to close it behind you.

The Legend of Bowerman

Bowermans Nose SX742 805

Several of the sources I've read suggest that the legend dates back to Norman times when a "Bow Man" or hunter settled on a nearby moorland farm after the Conquest.

The story states that Bowerman offended a local coven of witches. He was not afraid of them and he encouraged the local people to be the same. He was a strong man and was generally accompanied by his faithful pack of hounds.

Late one Autumn evening as Bowerman was leading his pack homeward a large hare bolted out of a clitter of rocks, at speed down the hillside. Bowerman and his hounds eagerly chased after the hare, to a clearing where the witches were gathered around a bubbling cauldron (how original 😊 ). The hare darted through the middle of the women closely followed by the hounds and Bowerman.

The witches were angry, they cursed Bowerman and planned their revenge.

There was one witch among the coven who had the power to transform herself into any animal she wished. She would turn herself into a rare white hare and lead Bowerman and his dogs on a chase across the moor.

The dogs picked up her scent and were soon on her heels in full cry. She led them over the moor for hours.

Bowerman and his hounds became completely exhausted, they followed blindly and fell right into the witches trap. Behind a tor were the rest of the coven. They cast spell a of transmogrification and to this day you can see poor Bowerman and his dogs turned to stone. Bowerman became a huge granite figure and his hounds the large boulders at his feet (though some versions of the story state that the hounds are the rocks on the top of Hound tor.)

When visiting, the children and I like to sit up with old Bowerman for our snack and hot chocolate if it's chilly (on winter walks I substitute the wine gums for hot chocolate and a pack of biscuits, not so easy to throw at hormonal teenagers or those having a 360° head spin moment but a classic for bribery and corruption).

There are usually several letterboxes to be found under rocks in this area.

When you've had your fill of the beautiful views over the valley below and pottering around in the clitter (lots of rocks strewn around) head back down the hill to the road.

Turn right and head back towards the gate. This time you wont need to cross the fields but stay on this road. It leads all the way back to Swallerton cross and the car park.

If you're after a longer walk, it is here that you could also encompass Hound tor (visible from the car park) and even the medieval settlement ruins on the other side of the tor.

I will write that up in a separate post as I have a different route that takes you to Greator Rocks and down to Becka brook, a pretty little stream and wooded area (great place for a paddle).

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