A fairly recent tradition takes place on New Year’s Day and that is the Fur Tor Pilgrimage. It is quite simple, people trek up to Fur tor and then hold a brief get-together at lunchtime where they eat a picnic, have a chat, take a group photograph and then trek back and retire to a pub for afternoon drinks. The first ‘pilgrimage was the brain child of Ian and Caroline Kirkpatrick and took place in 1981 when about six people made the trek. Since then the meet has taken place every year and the numbers attending have grown immensely. Fur tor is one of the remotest tors on Dartmoor and involves a round trip of about 10 miles. Many people have their favourite way of reaching the tor but the traditional route is from Postbridge, up Drift Lane and Broadun and then across to cut hill and along to Fur tor. The walk takes place regardless of the weather and over the years conditions have ranged from snow, sharp frost, rain, and fog. Out of the twenty years the walk has running only four of the pilgrimages have been completed in snow.
There are always ample opportunities to collect letterbox stamps as many people make special ‘New Years Day’ stamps for the occasion. Some have been previously sited and others are taken to the tor. There is always an ‘official’ Fur tor meet stamp which is produced by the Kirkpatrick’s. It really is an event for everybody and an excellent chance to walk off the over indulgencies of Christmas, although in some cases they are still evident in the lunch boxes.
I can recall that in 1995 it was a cold crisp day with a biting wind that dropped the temperature to well below freezing. I saw one person take a wine bottle out, stand it on a rock whilst they rummaged for some glasses and then turn around in amazement as the bottle simply shattered due to the cold.
A Fur Tor Meet Stamp.
Another memory that sticks with me is the time that one of the ‘Dangerous Dartmoor Club’ had their mettle tested. The D.D.C. were a group of men who partook in activities that today would be described as ‘extreme sports’. On this particular day another walker turned up with his notorious dog. One member who clearly had not heard of the dog’s reputation was dared to go and stroke the animal. Being an expert at ‘danger’ he saw nothing extreme about this challenge and so with nerves of steel simply walked up and put his hand out to smooth the dog. In a blink of an eye the dog lunged forward and sunk its fangs into the outstretched hand. Amidst howls of pain and unsympathetic laughter everybody agreed that this really was a dangerous Dartmoor stunt.
If you set off early and get to there for about 10.30am it really is great to see little groups of walkers trudging from every direction towards the tor. Everybody is well ‘rugged’ up against the cold and all have a healthy red glow by the time they reach there. There is usually plenty of banter and always several complaints about the Tavistock Badger.
As the years have rolled on quite a few of the old stalwarts have found it increasingly difficult to make the 10 mile pilgrimage and so an alternative meet has begun. There are in fact two Fur tors on Dartmoor, the well known ‘Queen of the Moor’ in the north and a small insignificant pile located near Leeden tor. The nearest accessible tor to here is Yes tor which is where the meet is held, it is about a mile from the B3212 road. This now means that anybody not wishing to do the ‘proper’ Fur tor meet can opt for this much shorter stroll. But the idea is the same and letterbox stamps are similarly made for the day. It does mean you are back in the pub a lot earlier so it does have its advantages. Clearly people cannot visit both ‘meets’ so the result has been that the numbers walking to the ‘proper’ Fur tor have dwindled somewhat over the past few years.
Many thanks to Ian Kirkpatrick for his invaluable help with the information.