Bowerman’s Nose is the Torbay Rambling Club ‘logo’, ‘symbol’, and badge. It is ‘our rock’. When exactly it was adopted by the club I am not sure, but it was certainly an inspired choice. Situated on the northern slopes of Hayne Down, about a mile from Hound Tor, and close to Manaton, it is about 21.5 feet (6.6 m) high and is the hard granite core of a former tor, standing above a ‘clitter’ of the blocks that have eroded and fallen from it. William Crossing in his Guide to Dartmoor describes it as the great stone which Nature has rudely moulded into a semblance of the human form.
The height of the stack was exaggerated by early writers, and it was also regularly described as an ancient object of veneration.
N.T Carrington, the poet of Dartmoor, wrote as follows.
On the very edge
Of the vast moorland, startling every eye,
A shape enormous rises! High it towers
Above the hill’s bold brow, and, seen from far,
Assumes the human form;—a Granite God!—
To whom, in days long flown, the suppliant knee
In trembling homage bow’d. The hamlets near
Have legends rude connected with the spot,
(Wild swept by every wind,) on which he stands—
The Giant of the Moor.
With a little imagination, it is possible to see the profile of a human face in the rocky outline, but as John Page said in 1889: “If his nose bore any resemblance to the topmost layer of the pile, it cannot have boasted much comeliness.” Other writers have seen the topmost layer as a cap, for instance Ruth St. Leger-Gordon wrote in 1965: “With grey cap pushed well back from a face consisting mainly of the parrot-like feature which gives him his name…”
Another derivation, noted by Burt, was that Bowerman was a hunter (a “bow-man”) who lived in the nearby village of Houndtor at the time of William the Conqueror. However, Eric Hemery noted that a John Bowerman was buried at North Bovey in 1663 and that the name also appears in a Dean Prior register of 1772, so it is possible that the name is of no great antiquity.
Not only is Bowerman’s Nose a spectacular rock formation, which appears on many local postcards and calendars, but it is also the subject of Dartmoor folklore.
One version of the local legend relates that a huntsman called Bowerman lived on the moor about a thousand years ago. When chasing a hare he and his pack of dogs unwittingly ran into a coven of witches, overturned their cauldron and disrupted their ceremony. They decided to punish him, and the next time he was hunting, one of the witches turned herself into a hare, and led both Bowerman and his hounds into mire. As a final punishment, she turned them to stone – the dogs can be seen as a jagged chain of rocks on top of Hound Tor while the huntsman himself became the rock formation now known as Bowerman’s Nose.
Bowerman’s Nose is square J 17 in Dartmoor 365 by John Hayward, where on page 178 you will find a song which tells the story of Bowerman the Hunter in a song.
See also www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk
The walk that was arranged for this Sunday, led by Mandy, would have visited ‘Our Rock’, and the opportunity for a 70th anniversary photograph. Let us hope it won’t be long before we can go there again, and record the moment.