Tuesday 7 February 2012

Little Hound Tor Stone Circle

Little Hound Tor Stone Circle
The next couple of blogs are going to be about Dartmoor. A place very close to my heart.

Little Hound Tor Circle  grid ref SX63194 90084
also known as Whit Moor Circle.
My favourite circle ! I used to walk up here as often as I could, approaching from all directions. It is probably the most remote circle on Dartmoor and does take a little effort to get here, but it's well worth it. Its probably about a 6 mile minimum round trip. My favourite route also takes in Cosdon Stone Rows and the summit of Cosdon Beacon, with its Cairns.
You can park by Shilstone Tor. Head up to Shilstone Tor, then strike out following a rough track across Throwleigh Common. You pass a few reaves. On the Common is a large ancient field system dotted with clusters of hut circles. You are heading for a spot roughly SX648909  to the right of Cheriton Combe, where you will find a ford and probably the easiest place to cross Blackaton Brook. There are two streams to cross, but its not too difficult. Once across there is a track taking you to the foot of Cosdon Beacon and the stone rows. Keep the boggy area of Cheriton Combe to your left (you should also pass a modern stone shelter to your right, just after crossing the streams). A good marker to follow are the two Rowan trees in the distance at the base of the hill. Just keep going and you will come to the rows. In fact, a triple row terminating at a cairn.The cairn contained two cists.

Cosdon Stone Rows

Cosdon Stone Rows
A deep rut of the old peat track scars the row, but it is still impressive and with terrific views Eastwards, over East Devon and into Somerset. You can follow the row Eastwards on the flat shelf  for quite a way, though a lot of the stones are low and buried. Jeremy Butler in his invaluable series of books "Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities" vol 2 (of 5) says that the rows are at least 146m in length and possibly176.5m.
The next step involves a bit of a steep hike.There is a track of sorts but the climb isn't as bad as it looks. Just follow straight up ! If you don't fancy the climb, you can follow the footpath marked on the OS map. It follows the old South Zeal peat track, but it does get rather wet and boggy as it skirts Raybarrow mire, and especially after wet weather, you may have to improvise a little to avoid getting your feet wet, so it isn't recommended if you are an inexperienced moor walker.
If you have opted to go straight up Cosdon, you should after a couple of stops, to take in the view, emerge at the Southern End of the hill, with the larger of the summit cairns and the trig point in front of you. This is the point where we scattered the ashes of Poppy, my dog and moor walking companion of many years.
There are at least five cairns on the summit and its worth looking around for them all, even if it means a slight diversion.
From Cosdon, there is a well worn track heading slightly South East. Its easy going, downwards before rising to Little Hound Tor, which used to be marked by a pile of stones, but had been scattered by someone the last time I was up there.
If lucky you may put up a Red Grouse from out of the heather.
As you crest the hill, the circle comes into sight and its an easy stroll over to it.
I must admit that I had to laugh at a comment on one of the online stone sites stating that the route to the circle in "Poor weather could make this potentially life-threatening for the inexperienced walker" !! I think that they must of taken the South Zeal track and got a bit too near Raybarrow Pool for their liking. That said, you should NEVER underestimate the weather up on the moors. You can experience all four seasons in one day, so you should always be prepared. Never go without a map, good walking boots and a good deal of common sense !
Little Hound Tor Circle
Little Hound Tor Circle
The Circle itself is the highest of all the Dartmoor circles at a height of 1567ft asl, consists of 19 stones, of which 18 still stand, 5 of these being re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Commitee in 1896. 1 stone is missing. There is a gap for another stone, but as there isn't a socket hole, one can only presume that there was no stone present.The circle has a diameter of 65 feet (20 metres).
The views from here are stunning in all directions. All of the big hills of the Northern Moor are visible. Belstone Tors, Steeperton Tor, West Mill Tor and of course Yes Tor and High Willhayes (the two highest hills in England, South of the Peak District) all to the West, Hangingstone Hill to the South West, The Plantation at Fernworthy to the South East and Kennon to the East. You can sit here for hours,some times of the year and not see a single person pass by.

The English Heritage Pastscape website says about the circle - "The remains of a Bronze Age stone circle comprising approximately 19 stones.SX 6327 8961.
A stone circle, 65 feet in diameter and originally consisting
of 19 stones is on Whitemoorstone Down, about a mile south
of Cosdon. One stone is now missing and four have been broken
off. There is a distinct gap in the continuation; the stone
on the east side of the gap and the largest stone in the
circle are in due line north and south and point south to
the White Moorstone (SX 68 NW 6) some quarter of a mile distant"

The Whitmoor Stone
There is a cairn slightly SE of the circle hidden in the heather and an outlier a little further on. This is called the Whitmoor Stone (SX633894) and there is some debate as to whether the stone is in its original position, stolen from the circle or moved from somewhere else. I believe that it is an outlier of the circle and in its original position.
What is certain is that it has been used as a boundary marker for the parishes of Throwleigh (TP), South Tawton (T) and the Duchy of Cornwall's Lydford (DC) now known as Dartmoor Forest.
Another Throwleigh/South Tawton boundary stone, known as Weekmon's Stone  (SX637894) can be seen about a quarter of a mile to the West and a further two boundary stones near the head of Blackaton Brook (SX640900)
Weekmon's Stone
The Bound Stones near Raybarrow Pool
Back to the walk. Head over to the Whitmoor Stone then skirt round the boggy area and head directly over Kennon Hill. Again there is a "track" of sorts. Go right over the top, past Kenning Borough, a small cairn and down to Throwleigh Common. Once over Kennon. it's best to keep NE and rejoin your original path so as to avoid the wetter areas on the Common.
There are of course many alternative routes. I used to do this one both clockwise and anticlockwise. There is also much more to see... like the settlement on the Southern side of Kennon Hill, looking for the Throwleigh/Gidleigh parish bound marks on the rocks between Kennon and Gartaven Ford, or the tin workings and tinners huts near the head of the Blackaton Brook. I often used to extend the walk to take in Buttern Stone Circle (SX649884)
The great thing with Dartmoor is that you never know what you are going to find.
You may also have been lucky to see some of the great birds of the area. In the winter months Golden Plover are often around in small numbers on Kennon. A Merlin often hunts the area, as do Kestrels and Buzzards.Ravens call overhead, usually in pairs.
In the Spring, Cuckoo's call from the small Hawthorn trees, there are Wheatears and Stonechats. Reed Buntings like the streamside vegetation and Meadow Pipits and Skylarks sing and perform overhead..
Snipe can be heard "chipping" in the wetter areas.
There are a few pairs of Whinchats on Throwleigh Common and a pair of Dartford Warblers, though I think that the past few bad winters have not been good for them. Again, on Dartmoor, you never know what you are going to see.

One note. If you are walking on the Northern slopes of Cosdon, look out for the probable remains of a structure which was known as The Eight Rocks. According to Jeremy Butler, The Eight Rocks existed until sometime in the nineteenth century and was probably the retaining circle of a cairn

Eight Rocks

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