Had another jaunt on the moors with Daddy and Molly on Sunday. We took the Saab and parked up at the Pork Hill car park where I was very impressed to see that the ice cream van still camps out year round.
We set off across and down towards Vixen Tor and I was very disappointed to hear that it’s no longer open to the public. Apparently it’s now surrounded with barbed wire and fenced off as the owner is a miserable lady. It’s always been a popular crag as it’s the tallest tor on Dartmoor and loved by climbers and ramblers but ownership changed in 2003 and people are now forbidden access and the new owner has removed stiles and daubed “Private Property – Keep Out!” with spray paint around the site. Apparently she has also fallen foul of DEFRA and prosecuted by “improving” the land by spreading seaweed and manure over the area changing the field from open moorland habitat to semi-improved pasture.
Dad says she also had an altercation with some climbers up there and cut their ropes. This action ended up with her in court in London and much to everyone’s disgust she wasn’t charged and her appeal against the mapping of Vixen Tor as “open access” was upheld. It’s very sad and I can’t believe the public are no longer able to visit this great tor.
There are many legends told about Dartmoor and I guess it’s quite apt that folklore surrounding Vixen Tor concerns an evil witch called Vixana. She lived in a cave at the bottom of the tor and as she hated other people she would watch for weary travellers and conjure up thick fog if any crossed her path. She would cackle as the travellers lost their way and got sucked into the great bogs surrounding Vixen Tor. Once trapped, she is said to have cleared the fog so as to watch the struggle for life, and gloat. From one angle, the tor even looks like an evil craggy old woman.
We walked up to Windy Cross which is a granite cross by the side of the Grimstone and Sortridge Leat, marking the Abbot’s Way and Dad pointed out the bulls-eye in the leat. This is an inch hole allowing a measured amount of water through a granite block in the leat.
As we walked Molly fished stones out of the leat and brought them over to Dad for him to throw back into the water for her. He’d tend to throw a nice sized stone in for her and every time she’s come wagging back carrying the largest stone she could carry in her mouth! There must have been another dog ahead of us doing the same thing as occasionally we would spot other stones that glistened with water having recently been removed from the channel.
Dad has got terribly informed about local history and also pointed out all sorts of things as we walked along. We spotted a few bronze age stone circles and then when we saw a similar but smaller mark on the landscape he explained that that was instead the work of the army in the 40s.
He also pointed out the wooden launder taking water across the moors, he pointed out towards a kist (an ancient tomb covered by a granite lid) that can be found about half a mile South of the Pork Hill car park and explained that the bizarre herringbone effect in the landscape was the manmade result of strip tin mining over the centuries. We entered a valley where it was clear miners had worked up and down looking for tin, and which now seemed to be a valley of the horses as it was full of Dartmoor ponies sheltering from the elements.
As we continued up the valley it got soggier and soggier and eventually we discovered a spring bubbling up from the ground. Molly thought this was fantastic and tried to stick her head right into it after happily padding it about with her paws.
That was as far as we went before heading back to the car as although Molly and Daddy would usually carry on for a much longer walk my tummy was beginning to feel quite uncomfortable and in need of a lie down. Sorry Dad.
Back at the car park a trio of pony trekkers were gathered around the ice cream van buying 99s but we were good, no ice cream for us today.