White Tor

This is a relatively easy walk which takes in the Neolithic remains at White Tor and a number of Bronze age settlements. The walk covers five miles and should be completable within three hours, allowing for some stopping time. This route can be attempted in any reasonable weather, but if the ground is wet it is best to begin at Pork Hill car park. I have pinpointed locations using the Ordinance Survey app, which I recommend using to better locate archaeological features on the ground in conjunction with navigation using the Dartmoor Ordinance Survey Explorer map OL28.

The Walk

The walk begins at an off-road parking area near Cox Tor at SX52806 76889. To reach the parking area from the B3357, take the minor road alongside Cox Tor which is signposted as Higher Godsworthy. Follow the road to its end. There are several off-road parking spots, although there is a risk of a vehicle becoming stuck if parking following periods of rainfall. Be careful not to block access to the nearby farm.

   Head East, following the wall of the farm along the track. There are some hut circles a short distance to the south, but the remains are barely visible and in the summer seasons they will be overgrown with fern. The track turns North-East passing some tin-working gulleys. There is a large Bronze Age settlement just to the East alongside a boundary wall which runs up to Roos Tor, however the remains are mixed in among a significant amount of clitter and are hard to distinguish in many places, but some of the larger hut circles outside of the settlement are well preserved and worth diverting from the route to investigate.

   Go through the gate into the field at SX53769 77027. There is a permissive route running North-East through the field. Keep the signposted route. There are a couple of hut circle remains in the field, but they are not well defined. At the North-East corner there is another gate and then a stream to cross. It is easy to cross in dry weather but after rainfall the ground can be extremely muddy and may require hopping over some of the strategically placed rocks.

   The route now ascends North. There are a number of hut circles to explore and some well-preserved enclosures which are worth taking some time to examine. The route the continues in a North-Westerly direction until reaching the track. The walk follows the track East, but it is worth making the minor diversion to Stephen’s Grave which is adjacent to the track a short distance to the West.

Tropical Leaves
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Tropical Leaves
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White Tor viewed from near the start of the walk

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Boundary Wall leading up to Roos Tor

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A view taking in much of the walks' terrain

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Collybroke after having passed through the field

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One of the hut circles above Collybroke

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One of the better hut circles among the 73 near Wedlake farm

Stephen's Grave

Stephen’s Grave is the burial place of a suicide. The story goes that in the mid-late eighteenth century, John Stephens from nearby Peter Tavy was courting a local girl whose parents disapproved of the match, forcing a split. John became melancholy after seeing his love with another man at a fayre and so purchased rat poison and consumed it, suffering a no-doubt agonizing death. Suicides were buried at a crossroads: the belief being that this prevented the soul of the deceased from finding its way home to haunt the locals.

Follow the track West, leaving it at the point it forks, heading north. There is a cairn, but it is little more than a mound. The remains of a settlement can be seen at the foot of White Tor on the South-Western edge at SX54011 78521. There are more than ten hut circles, although most are difficult to pick out among the clitter, the enclosing wall is clear to follow. Head west to SX53651 78536 where there is a well-preserved enclosure with seven hut circles, all of which are easy discern except one built into the southernmost point of the wall.

   Ascend White Tor. There is a small enclosure of hut circles to the north at SX5392 78742, although most of them are very insubstantial. White Tor can be difficult to climb in places, being steep and quite dense with clitter, but there are some easy routes to the summit. The view from atop White Tor provides a panorama which takes in East Cornwall, with Kit Hill being prominent, the Willsworthy range to the north, Langstone Moor and Great Mis Tor the west, and Cox Tor to the South.

   Like the Dewerstone, White Tor is often misidentified as a Hillfort. White Tor likely predates most of the surrounding archaeology by quite some time: Phil Newman in The Field Archaeology of Dartmoor suggests Neolithic origins for White Tor, liking it to similar sites in Cornwall which are Neolithic in origin. The Dartmoor Exploration Committee conducted excavation at White Tor, but the findings were meagre: flint tools, a few shards of pottery, slag, and some evidence of charcoal burning providing evidence of some kind of workshop. In volume two of the Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Jeremy Butler notes that flint shards dating back to the Mesolithic period were found near the tor and scattered toward a double stone row on Langstone moor where four hundred and fourty-one flints were found together. 

   The double wall which surrounds White Tor does give the feeling of a hillfort, but Phil Newman points out that there is little evidence for occupation at White Tor. The large central hollowed mound looks like a cairn or remains of a giant structure; however, it is more often identified as the remains of a clearance cairn.

   Descend from White Tor toward the remains of the settlement at SX54326 78855. There are a number of roundhouses inside a square enclosure, although most are slight and at a distance can be easily mistaken for clitter.

Head South-East where there are the unimpressive remains of cairns at SX5604 78677 where flint shards were found. Rejoin the track and follow it North-East a short distance where there is a stone row at SX55024 78782 consisting of twenty-six stones: none of which are very substantial except for the terminal stone which stands at almost three metres. The stone was damaged in World War II when it was used for target practice by American soldiers. Beyond the far end of the row is a mound which may have been a burial but has been completely robbed. Across the bog to the South-East the Langstone Moor stone circle is visible. The recumbent stones were re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee - again later used for target practice by American soldiers.

   Follow the track back South-West a short distance, diverting South at SX54599 78434 which descends into a small gully and ford across the stream. Follow the line of the drystone wall as it turns sharply South-West. After a short distance an abundance of hut circles will become apparent. There are seventy-three hut circles in total, most of which are in good condition: these are well worth taking some time to explore before continuing South-West toward the tin mining gully and following the outbound track back to the start.

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White Tor