Karen’s Cuckoo Rock Canter – Dartmoor Walking Festival – Saturday 1st September

The final walk for the Club this year was led by Karen on a day where rain was forecast but nothing more than brief light drizzle arrived ! Mist on the drive up to Princetown was of some concern, but all cleared in time for us to appreciate the views of the open moor in this area.

A group of 26 left Princetown, after the usual instruction, route plan and appointment of back markers.

We set off along the well trodden track south, towards South Hessary Tor and eventually after 2.5 miles to Siward’s, or Nuns Cross. The oldest and probably the largest of the Dartmoor crosses, a marker on the Monk’s Path, or Maltern Way.

Turning West, we met the Devonport Leat, at the point where it goes underground and took our tea-break there near the old tinner’s hut where the remains of the fireplace can still be seen.

Another Dartmoor Cross on the north side of the leat, Hutchinsons Cross, the newest on the moor. A memorial from Commander Hutchinson to his mother, erected in 1968. Thoughtful son!

We were joined here by a group of cyclists – the area looking like central station at rush hour with them, their dogs, and 26 walkers all taking tea!

Our ways parted as we set off south towards the highlight of the day, if you are interested in Dartmoor history. The Down Tor, or Hingston, Stone Row. Karen advised that it was the second longest row on the moor (there are approximately 33 stone rows in total on Dartmoor), impressive because the path  of the row is concave and terminates in a stone circle and cist, probably an important Bronze Age leader placed there, the remains having been long since ransacked, sadly.

After some discussion on the reason for stone rows (as always, no conclusion but probably ceremonial) we made our way to Coombeshead Tor and then down to the focus of our walk, The Cuckoo Rock. More discussion ensued on the cuckoo, did that clump on the top really resemble a bird? Some could see it some not, but the huge rock remains a stunning sight against the backdrop of the West Moor and Sheepstor. Underneath there is a small cave, reportedly used for storing brandy and on the top a visitors book which no-one felt inclined to investigate as even if it could be accessed, the descent looked more precarious than the initial climb. But it has been done!

We walked downhill here, through quite high bracken at this time of year but thankfully the notorious boggy-bits were no problem after the long dry summer and we walked past the ancient farm ruins of Deanscombe and Middleworth before reaching Norsworthy Bridge for lunch, but sadly no ice-cream van! Molly Mac lost some business today.

A long lunch break today as the sun came out and the air was warm and we sat beside the Meavy, tumbling over the stones and the area was unusually quiet.

The second half of our walk took us through Stanlake Plantation, past the Potato Cave to Leather Tor Farm, another ruin but an interesting information board explains the history and shows the farm as it might have been in more bountiful times, before the flooding of the valley for Burrator Reservoir.

We followed the Devonport Leat once again and the eagle eyed spotted the indian head, put there possibly by french prisoners of war when building the leat. Sadly defaced but still in-situ if you can find it. Disappointingly small was the consensus.

We followed the leat to Raddick Hill, where the waters tumbled down the hillside and the infant river Meavy was our companion until we bore left, skirting the hillside below Black Tor to reach the busy Princetown to Tavistock Road.

Good ramblers all, we walked in single file at the side of this road and crossed at Devil’s Bridge to reach the Thomas Twyritt Tramway back to Princetown, built in the 1800’s to take granite to Plymouth.

A great walk everyone felt and a big thank you from Karen for diligent back-marking (Denise, Carol and Hilary) and good humour and patience from everyone.

9.6 miles in total and tea for some in the Old Police Station Cafe to round off the event.