Devon Perspectives

The River Dart on Dartmoor - 2

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Lucky Tor to Mel Tor

All images and narrative ©M.R.Russell
Commentary
Beautiful scenery is everywhere. Trees and boulders combine in little cameos and the woodland floor in spring is alive with bluebells and wood sorrel. In some places the rocks relent and narrow water meadows intervene. Eagle Rock, called Lucky Tor on the map, is beside one and stands back from the water's edge; it was naked in Burnard's time4, but now it is almost fully-clothed by trees. On the slopes above is Rowbrook Farm, where Jan Coo lived. He was pixy-led by voices from the Dart that summoned him to his doom in Langamarsh Pit nearby. The busy bureaucrat has also visited here and dropped its little jobsworth: there is a sign forbidding camping firmly fixed in a prominent position. Getting to the rocks is difficult enough with camera and tripod - and anyone would be truly terrified at thoughts of yomping hitherladen with a camper's backpack. The bureaucrat must be sad indeed that it has to litter all this beauty with such a mark of fearful pettiness.
Beyond the rocks there is wonderful, deep pink granite beside the river as Dart turns to go round Bench Tor, high above on the opposite side. Here the bank abruptly steepens and the path, now a narrow affair scarcely better than a sheep track, climbs away from the water and heads towards Simon's Lake, a small tributary that descends in a series of short waterfalls to the Brad Stones below.
Marked 'Broadstone" on the OS map, the Brad Stones are underwater granite ledges that span the entire riverbed. Dart flows quickly across them, gurgling with a 'cry' that when in spate echoes clearly from Mel Tor above. Their sound is a harbinger of misfortune, as related by Crossing5.
The haul up to Mel Tor is definitely not recommended; its summit is gained with considerable relief, but the view is very worthwhile (there is an easier way to see it: park the car at SX695732 and walk down the lane towards it). One local worthy considered it was so special he constructed a carriageway along the contours, so he could enjoy the scenery on journeys to his house. Dr. Blackall's drive starts from the road above New Bridge, where the open moors end on the eastern side of Aish Tor, SX708716 and more-or-less follows the contour to Bel Tor Corner. The walking really is much easier than scrabbling round the rocks below.
Notes
3. T A Falcon, Dartmoor Illustrated, J G Commin, 1900.
4. Burnard's photograph of Eagle Rock is shown in his privately published Pictorial Records Volume III, opposite page 23. There is also a version in Falcon3, plate 54.
5. In one of Crossing's articles for The Western Weekly Mercury Illustrated in 1914 (collected as William Crossing, Folklore and Legends of Dartmoor, Forest Publishing, 1997).
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