Hilary’s Brentor Circular – Sunday 10th March

Fourteen walkers convened today for Hilary’s Brentor walk on what promised to be a windy day but potentially some sunshine as well. We were optimistic and almost not disappointed.

Brentor is situated on the Okehampton to Tavistock road and is famous for the Church of St. Michael de Rupe, built  in the 13th century by Robert Gifford, Lord of the Manor at Lamerton and Whitchurch. It is sited on the top of Brent Tor, around 330 metres high, which itself is also unusual as it is one of the few Tors on Dartmoor not made of granite. It is a ‘volcanic cone’ created of basaltic lava which exploded from the sea some 300 million years ago, creating this rocky outcrop.

The Church was rebuilt towards the end of the 13th century with the tower being added during the 15th.  It is the 4th smallest church in England and is the highest in the Country to still hold regular services. These take place on Sunday evenings Easter to September. Access would not be possible in winter, the wind can be ferocious and the nasty hail shower at the end of our 11.5 mile walk was testament to that. Two intrepid walkers did climb the steep hill to the church, worth the effort for it’s spectacular views but the other 12 of us opted for the easier option of circling the base, albeit in howling wind and rain.

We set off circling the church and it remained in our view most of the day as we followed lanes and paths, initially passing Wortha Mill, partly in ruins now. We then walked out onto the moor with panoramic views before us, picking up the West Devon Way into Lydford, keeping the disused railway on our left.  Lunch was in sunshine looking at Was Tor, which we believe is in private ownership, one of the few on Dartmoor inaccessible to walkers.

After lunch we took the path through Wastor Farm and on to Burnville House. This stately Georgian manor house and farm is now a ‘tranquil retreat‘ according to the brochures, offering comfort and peace in the converted barns and Coach House, with tennis court, swimming pool and delightful walled garden, all refurbished for the luxury rental market. How times have changed.

We walked through the estate to emerge on the road and then took  a very lovely path through the woods, passing a Hydraulic Ram –  which is a method of drawing water from a spring or pond and forcing it uphill using its own weight and valves, with a 90% wastage, but no electricity required. They were first used in the 1800’s. This Ram was probably feeding Langstone Manor, which today is a farm, it could be heard rhythmically pumping and seems to be functional still.

There was a very steep climb after this, but we were on the homeward stretch and slowly, but surely, we managed it.  A necessary break near the top saw our leader trip and fall on a fellow walker who was leaning on a gate to recover from the climb.  Big bruise on arm of said walker – sorry Carol. In another incident, our Leader was assaulted by the pole of a walker attempting to catch his high flying hat. What goes round comes round as they say, no lasting damage incurred today, in this gentle sport of Rambling.

We finished the walk in the afore mentioned hoolie, but warmed up, if not totally dried out, at The Fox and Hounds where we were welcomed with cream teas and joined by Michael Tilley and Mandy.

Thank you everyone for being a great group to lead, I had a really good day, ably assisted by John.

Hilary B