Wednesday 8 February 2012

The obvious one and the hidden two !

Scorhill Circle
Buttern, Scorhill and Shovel Down

This walk starts near to Buttern Farm, in Gidleigh parish, not to far from Throwleigh.
Park just off the track leading to Buttern Farm at SX658895. Then head up the track between the farm and the enclosures out onto the open moor. Keeping the enclosures to your right follow the wall uphill until you reach the small tor on top of Buttern Hill.
Buttern Stone Circle

Buttern Circle is about a quarter of a mile SW at SX649884 in the valley bottom before you. It's not always easy to make out, but follow the long reave down towards Rival Tor and start to look out for the small stones sticking out of the long grass. One stone in particular (pictured below) is quite distinctive.
Buttern Circle

Once at the circle, you realise that it is in fact quite sizeable and that in it's day would have been an impressive circle. I counted 23 stones on the 7th July 2003 but only 19 on 4th January 2004. This could have been due to the long grass though. There are some large stones amongst the fallen, the largest being around 6ft. Nowdays only 5 small stones remain upright and the circle is almost forgotten, hidden in the golden grass.
Male Adder near Gallaven Mire
There is a tall granite Gidleigh/Throwleigh parish bound stone North West from here, on the slopes of Kennon, which I think was probably taken from the circle. It has a cross inscribed on one side
Jeremy Butler gives the diameter of the circle as 24.8 metres and that the original number of stones could have been as many as 40.
Gidleigh/Throwleigh Bound stone perhaps taken from Buttern Circle
Once you have soaked in the atmosphere here, it's time to head in a slightly SE direction and before long Scorhill Circle comes into view. The familiar tall pointed stone at the NW side of the circle catches the eye and you wonder when you see an equally big stone fallen by it, whether these were the portal stones welcoming you in to this large circle. This was the first ever Dartmoor circle that I visited way back in 1987.
It is situated by the confluence of the North Teign and the Walla Brook. Both of these two streams have wonderful old clapper bridges over them.The Teign bridge was originally washed away in floods in 1826 but restored to its former glory in 1999. The Walla Brook Clapper is a single granite slab. A smaller slab bridge crosses the teign just yards downstream.
Restored Clapper Bridge over the Teign
A man made leat runs around the Western edge, it used to take water all the way to Bradford Tin Mine at Shilstone in Drewsteignton parish, before being diverted By Bartholemew Gidley in 1653 to feed Gidleigh Mill.
Panoramic views are to be had of the High Moors with Kes Tor, Fernworthy and Sittaford Tor to the South West.To the west  the distant Granite blocks of Watern Tor, like giants standing sentinel, silently watching over the moors. Then comes Wild Tor, Hound Tor and Cosdon Beacon to the North West.
To the East is the track leading over Scorhill Hill, to the small car park at Scorhill Gate, from which is the quickest and easiest route and a good starting point for many a walk. This easy access making Scorhill  the most visited and well known circle on the moor.
Scorhill Circle
The circle itself consists of 23 stones still standing, the tallest, the pointed stone is just over 8ft. At least 11 fallen, some within the circle and there are also a couple of possible outliers. The diameter is approximately 27 metres (88' 7'')
Two old tracks cut through the middle causing deep scars. One can only imagine that a number of the original stones have been robbed by local stone cutters over the years.
Jeremy Butler guesses the original number of stones to have been around 60
He also mentions a small double stone row close by, but almost impossible to find, hidden in the long grass and turf.
Another well known feature of this area is the famous Tolmen Stone. A naturally holed stone which will have you balancing precariously over the river Teign, if you manage to crawl through it. It is supposedly a good cure for your rheumatism..
The Tolmen Stone
Crossing the clappers and heading up the slope, keeping the enclosure to your left, you will come to Batworthy Corner. Over to your left you can see Kestor, but we are veering a little to the right and following the Stone Rows of Shovel Down.
This is a large megalithic complex, stretching over Shovel Down, consisting of a stone circle, at least 6 stone rows, 5 of which are double rows, one of the double rows ending at two large fallen stones (one marked with the GP of Gidleigh parish) before a fourfold cairn circle. There are gaps and missing stones throughout the rows, some no doubt robbed to make the nearby enclosure walls, others simply buried beneath the turf.
Shovel Down Stone  Circle is another hard one to find, with only 3 stones left standing and at least 4 fallen, hidden in the long grass.The diameter is 17.7m, it is situated on sloping ground about midway between Scorhill Circle, about a mile to the North and Fernworthy Circle, a little over a mile to the South. There is a distinctive gorse bush,which I always used to locate it, which of course isn't much help to anyone else !!
The distinctive gorse bush........
Two of the Three remaining uprights of Shovel Down Stone Circle
Following the rows over the ridge you will see the well known Longstone, which now bears the marks GP, DC and C acting as a boundary marker for the parishes of Gidleigh, Chagford and the Duchy of Cornwall (Dartmoor Forest). It is part of the row which used to extend further down the hill towards Fernworthy ending at the Three Boys stone. A few stones can still be found if searched for.
Shovel Down Rows looking towards Batworthy Corner
The Fourfold Cairn Circle
A later Bronze age settlement lies right by the rows, a reave crosses some of the rows and enloses the stone circle. This settlement stretches right down to the River Teign. To the East another bronze age settlement, centred around Kestor, which is where we will be heading as soon as  we have had a good look at the Longstone and the Three Boys stone.
The Longstone
Three Boys
It's an easy stroll over to Kestor and the elaborate, well preserved settlement here. There are plenty of hut circles, but one in particular sticks out. Called Round Pound, it is actually a central hut situated within a pound.Excavations by Eileen Fox in 1951/2 Evidence of ironworking was been found as well as bronze age arrowheads and flints. There was also a roman coin found by an amateur rooting around ! This area has been used since mesolithic times. Flint tools have been found around Batworthy Corner.
Have a quick look up on Kestor for two rock basins, which have been formed by natural weathering and the repeated freeze/thaw action of water accumalating in a small hollow in the granite.
If you have time, have a look over in the enclosed fields just to the NE of Kestor, where a local farmer has erected his own stone circle.
The Newest Dartmoor Circle
Next we continue along the tarmaced road, leaving the moor and joining the Mariners Way footpath at a bend in the road near Brimstonedown. Turn left and head Northwards into Gidleigh Woods. The path goes steeply downhill, through the pines to a footbridge which takes you across the North Teign, spectacularly  gushing it's way down over the granite rocks towards it's confluence with it's other half... the South Teign.
Once across it's a short but steep climb up the other side and out onto the road near Gidleigh village. Here turn left and follow this quiet country lane, past the hamlet of Berrydown to Scorhill Gate ( you can alternatively turn right on the lane at Berrydown and follow it back to the car at Buttern).
If you have opted to go via Scorhill Gate, you will find yourself back out on the moor. Follow the drift path up and then follow the enclosure walls to your right  over Gidleigh Common.
Chambered Cairn on Gidleigh Common
You are heading for the lone enclosure ahead of you, where you will find two nice little chambered cairns just due east of the enclosure and remains of the leat.
From here, just follow the countour of the hill back to the Buttern enclosures, keeping just above the boggier area to your right, then retrace your earlier steps down past the farm to your car.

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