Adam’s Ashburton Circular – Sunday 30th December

Thirteen walkers met today for this Christmas Bonus walk, where Adam ably stepped forward in Gail’s boots, as she is unfortunately not able to walk following a fall. Gail and Mike originally designed this walk so thanks to them and also to Denise for her backmarking.

The walk is of course the very last walk of 2018 offering  some invaluable exercise after Christmas and has become a tradition now or the Club.

Ashburton is the southern gateway to Dartmoor. It is one of the four Stannary towns in Devon. These towns were  where refined tin was assessed, coined and sold. Ashburton used to have a rail connection but the station along with the railway, like so many, proved uneconomic and closed in 1958.

We left the car park and made our way along the River Ashburn, out of  the town. We took a tea break just before leaving the river and beginning the steady climb up and on to the Moor. A noticeable drop in temperature here but a small diversion was made by some to visit the Rippon Tor Rifle Butts. Although we didn’t get to the top of the hill to see them in close up, the views down across the valley where the mist gathered like a blanket of snow, was fascinating and a considerable distraction.

The rifle range was constructed in 1942 as a vital part of troop training on Dartmoor. It was eventually closed in the 1960s. Despite some adverse comments (This monstrous construction, as high as two houses, must be quite the most unbelievable building in the National Park.”, Hayward, p.256.) the range can be considered as one of the most intact relics of military training on Dartmoor.

On to the well known, but as yet unnamed road bridge on the way to Cold East Cross, where we had lunch today.  It seemed to suddenly become colder and the climb up towards Buckland Beacon was welcome to warm us up.

The Beacon stands at a lofty height of 1,253ft (382m) and is one of the chain of Dartmoor frontier heights which was used as a fire beacon. It is said that the Spanish Armada was spotted from here. It was a must to climb the beacon today and admire the panoramic views.  We also looked at the now famous Commandment Stones, recently re-carved due to the inevitable erosion. The Lord of Buckland Manor – Mr William Whitely of Wellstor, commissioned a sculptor called W. A. Clement to engrave the Ten Commandments on two ‘tablets of stone’, work started in July 1928 and took a month to complete. Understandably the sculptor was nicknamed ‘Moses’. The words were re-cut in 1995 and again in 2016 when a hardy black paint was applied. Lets see how long it defies the Dartmoor climate this time!

The homeward route now took us over the heath and eventually along the road back to Ashburton, where we passed the ruins of mineworks, now greatly overgrown, which were extensive in this area for tin and arsenic.  Production records report that between 1854 – 1909, 1,460 tons of arsenical pyrite and 348 tons of black tin were mined from around the Ashburton/Ilsington area.

Passing The Great Bridge and the Old School House the group finally reached the car park.

Tea and cakes were taken in the Hound of the Baskervilles Inn where we were made very welcome and where Gail and Mike popped in to wish us all a Happy New Year!

Well done Adam for an excellent walk and a great day out.

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to good walking and good friends in 2019.