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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

The legend of Childes Tomb and our visit

Looking into Childes Tomb, we found a surprise.

Someone has left a mannequin head in Childes Tomb which amused us greatly

On Sunday we decided that the Fox Tor Mire area (near Princetown) was the place for our next adventure.

We parked at Whiteworks SX 612 710 and Followed the Devonport Leat to Nuns Cross farm and Siwards cross. This part of the walk was nice and easy and a great short walk on its own if you're so inclined. In fact the track beside Nuns cross Farm leads back towards Eylesbarrow Tin Mine and the Drizzlecombe ancient burial complex (see previous post) so you could always park at Whiteworks and walk over there and back.

Nuns Cross Farm

Siwards Cross at Nuns Cross farm

The path that leads over to Eylesbarow Tin mine

We then cut over to an unnamed cross and Fox Tor, this is where our hike got tricky and is why I'm not listing this as a suggested walk (you can of course map out your own route in this area, that's up to you). It was very wet under foot as it's on the edges of Fox Tor Mire, one of the wettest and most difficult places to traverse on Dartmoor.

The whole area is a large basin, a flat granite base covered in peat, surrounded by rolling hills. All the rain water that falls on the hills is channeled into the basin, creating a large bog filled with tall, grassy hillocks and a lot of water.

If you can navigate a safe route up there Fox Tor is worth a visit and the view from the top is bleak and beautiful.

The view from Fox Tor

From Fox Tor we headed down to Fox Tor Girt which is an old Tin gully and out to Childes Tomb SX 625 704 .

The legend

The story of Childe the Hunter was first published in 1650.

A Saxon Nobleman, Ordulf Cild or Childe the Hunter as he's now known, held extensive lands in Plymstock and was a rich man. One day he was out hunting on Dartmoor when he got caught in a blizzard.

At first Childe fought his way through the snow but finally, both he and his horse being exhausted, he tried to wait out the storm. Eventually in desperation, his only hope of survival was to kill his horse, disembowel it and climb inside (very Luke Skywalker) seeking the last vestiges of warmth.

Childe was found weeks later, frozen to death and his passing reported to the monks of Tavistock Abbey.

The terms of Childe’s will stated, wheresoever he was buried, to that church would his lands belong, so the monks of Tavistock Abbey were determined that Childe would be buried in Tavistock at the Abbey Church.

At that time there was great rivalry between Plymstock and Tavistock and the people of Plymstock felt that, as Childe had been a Plymstock man, his lands should rightly belong to them. They assembled at the bridge over the river Tavy across which the monks of Tavistock would have to pass. They were going to hijack the body of Childe and ensure that his lands remained the property of Plymstock Priory.

On hearing of the plot, the monks of Tavistock returned via an alternative route, and built a simple bridge over the Tavy to avoid their would be attackers. The people of Plymstock had been deceived by guile and so the bridge which had been erected became known as Guilebridge.

It is said that Childe’s tomb once bore this inscription:

'They first that fyndes and brings mee to my grave The priory of Plimstoke they shall have.'

As the body of Childe the Hunter is supposed to have been buried in Tavistock, Childe’s tomb possibly marks the spot where his body was found.

When we visited the Tomb someone had placed a mannequins head inside which caused much amusement. Our middle child had run on ahead and was peering inside when she squealed in abject horror, believing that the Mannequin head was the mummified remains of Childe.

Although a tough walk, we had quite a few moments where we were all belly laughing and this was one of them. Thank you to whomever left it there, it made our day even more entertaining.

Once we'd finished looking at the tomb we headed across a tributary of the River Swincombe to the ruins of Fox Tor farm 1812-1863. There must've been some heavy rain the night before our trip as the water level was much higher and faster than we'd anticipated. This is why I advise, that when hiking on Dartmoor have an alternative route planned. We looked for a safe place to cross, where the stream was shallow and slower flowing, took off our walking boots and waded across. My lovely husband piggy backed the youngest two making him my hero of the hour.

Crossing the tributary

From here we walked down the hill and over another tributary through Whiteworks, a former mining hamlet until the area became used increasingly for farming in the 20th century but the site has now largely been abandoned.

Then back to the car, clocking in roughly 8.00 miles.

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