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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

The Tolmen Stone

The day we found the Tolmen stone we first walked to Kestor Rock which is easily seen on a clear day from the Batworthy car park. Also on our route were Middle Tor,

Shovel Down standing stones, prehistoric field systems and stone rows, which are classified as a premier archeological landscape.

Scorhill Standing stone circle, and had an icy cold dip or two in The North Teign.

We saw so much and I’ve since read a great deal about each point of interest. As such I decided certain things deserved their own post but with careful planning, a circular walk of about 5 miles will encompass all of the above and makes for a very enjoyable day out.

We parked at Batworthy car park (SX 662 876, TQ13 8EU) about 8.30am.

The temperature was already fairly warm, we were all covered in sun cream and had packed more. There is always an extra layer and a raincoat in my backpack but I was fairly certain they’d stay in the bag on this occasion. We visited Kestor Rock and Middle Tor first, doubling back via the amazing Bronze Age, Shovel Down stone rows (SX 660860).

The kids were in good spirits, you can never tell which way my teenage daughters temperaments may swing and a pack of Wine Gums in the backpack is a useful pick me up for those times the raging hormones raise their delightful heads (throw sugary treats at them from a safe distance until they’re laughing again). Wine gums are lighter to carry than the equivalent bottle of gin I would need not to care.

We pottered down the track Northwards from Batworthy corner and across the Teign-e-ver Clapper bridge, turned down stream to a sort of rustic looking, makeshift clapper bridge. Just below this is a small pool with manmade vertical sides perfect for a dip and indeed we did stop here a while to swim and play in the idyllic setting. It was peaceful and extremely pretty. The Tolmen stone is just down from the small pool, among the rocks and cascading waterfalls.

Tolmen stone (SX 655 870)

The word Tolmen means holed stone.

The Teign Tolmen is the only known Tolmen stone on Dartmoor, it is a very large boulder that sits on the bank of the North Teign river. It has a hole through the middle which was formed by erosion. The hole is big enough for an adult to pass through with an approximate diameter of 1.03m.

There are several old wives tales attached to the stone from cures of rheumatic disorders and whooping cough to Druidic purification rituals.

On the day we visited, the river was very low and I must point out that should the water level be on the high side, passing through the stone may land you in deep water. On our day out however we were all able to slip through the Tolmen, down onto another flat boulder beneath and hop over the rocks back to the river bank.

I let Richard and the children have their turn at “purification” first whilst I took photos.

I wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity, so I left my backpack and camera on the bank and pottered precariously over the boulders to have my go. I stood a while and gazed at it almost mesmerised by the thought of how long this beautiful, naturally formed rock had been there.

These rock cut basins are formed by vortexes of water and smaller rocks gradually widening and deepening the divot until, as in this case they cut right through. It must’ve taken millennia to form and it is said to have been used in its perforated state hundreds of years ago.

As I slid through, the sides of the hole we’re smooth where countless bodies had gone before me and I mused quietly to myself as to who they were and why they’d done the self same thing I was doing.

There is a story in several books I’ve read since about “Faithless wives and fickle maidens” being forced to perform a purification ritual, running three times round nearby Scorhill stone circle (a rather impressive and the third largest stone circle on Dartmoor) before being chased down to the Tolmen stone and passing through. From there they had to walk to Grey Wethers double stone circles (these are lager than Scorhill and another fantastic place to visit) some two miles or so away.

Here they were made to kneel before one of the stones and ask for forgiveness. If they were forgiven the stone would remain standing if not, it would topple and crush them.

I wonder how many poor women lost their lives either drowned in the icy waters or flattened beneath a large piece of granite?

After each of us had our turn slipping through the smooth worn rock, we ambled a little further down stream for our picnic to another swim spot. This part of the river was slippery underfoot but once we were brave enough to get our shoulders into the water (this is always the bit I struggle with most when wild swimming) it was very pleasant.

It is here that I should write a small side note regarding your picnic and littering. DON'T! just don't. Take it home with you! Richard and I pick up any litter we find while we're on Dartmoor and bin it at home but we shouldn't need to. If you brought it with you take it home again and don't be selfish. Equally if you need the toilet while you're there, bag it up and take that home with you too. No one wants to find a big pile of poo and toilet roll stuffed under a rock while looking for letter boxes (oh yes I have found this more than once, filthy beggars!).

After lunch we popped up to Scorhill Stone circle (which probably deserves a separate post along with Grey Wethers) and then back to the car via Gidleigh woods.

The climb back up the valley from that direction is tough and the walk along the country lanes wasn't ideal (special thanks to the silly teenage girl speeding down single track lanes with blind corners). So my advice if you'd rather avoid the steeper climb and road walking is simply go back the way you came towards Batworthy corner and onto the car park.

As I said before, we saw so many interesting things on this walk, there will be another post because I get overly excited by the ancient structures.

Cheers m'dears.

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