Combestone Tor must have the ‘privilege’ of being the most accessible tor on Dartmoor, it is literally about 70 metres from a car park. It does also command some superb views of the Dart Valley which drops down 130 odd metres to the river below. Visit on a windy day and you will hear the famous ‘cry of the dart‘ as the waters crash through the rocky defile. But the tor does have a few more attributes for the moor inquisitive. Firstly, for the geologically minded the tor displays the effects of jointing and the effects of erosion which are all part of the tor formation on Dartmoor. The actual summit of the main outcrop is studded with forming, formed and unforming rock basins which were the one-time Druidical ceremonial basins. Not only were the sacred ‘basins’ for Druidical purposes but they may serve as a washing place for the piskies who are said to live in a small combe on the side of the tor. It is said that on still nights you can hear the music from their revels wafting up the slopes to the tor. At one time this tor would have been in an remote area between Holne and Hexworthy but the road soon changed that.
Today, the tor is bustling with activity both of a human and animal kind all going about their daily business. Often the tiny car park will be crammed with military Landrovers as some exercise is taking advantage of its height for a communications centre. The area around the tor is also popular with letterboxers and rock climbers as well as picnickers. The animal visitors are usually a herd of mixed Devon cows that migrate up and down the common and these are a splendid example of prime beef animals. The car park also makes an ideal starting point for a walk across to Aune Head which lies a couple of boggy miles away the the south-west.
A few months ago I parked up at the tor in order to take a bimble over to Ter Hill and as it was about the only dry day of the autumn I sat on the tor having a pre-walk flask of coffee. Here was I happily staring down the valley in a little world of my own when suddenly a small figure darted around the side of the tor. As is the norm, if it’s human ignore it and hope it goes away but sadly this one was going nowhere. The small figure transpired to be an elderly gent who without invite plonked himself down next to me and immediately started babbling on. It seemed that he was some paranormal investigator and was looking for Hangman’s Pit. I was then regaled with the sad story of the farmer’s suicide – yeah, yeah, and told how he was going to try and contact the spirit. Was it Jasper Carrot who once did the sketch about, “why do the nutters always sit next to me?” Anyway, apparently this was the man’s first visit to Dartmoor and he couldn’t find the pit, which was a bit of a shame because if he’d carried on a quarter of a mile down the road he would have driven right into and we would never have met. But IF me granny had balls she’d be me granddad, so hey-ho. I finished my coffee and pointed the ghost-buster in the right direction, just as I was about to leave the old feller nonchantly said, “you won’t find them, they’ve gone.” “What’s gone,” I asked. “The nails,” he said and then darted off back to his car. I was completely dumbfounded, the reason I was going up to Skir Hill was to try and re-locate what at one time was said to be the smallest cross on Dartmoor. I never mentioned a word of where I was going or why and the scary thing is that the cross was made of two nails. How could someone who has never been to Dartmoor possibly know about the cross? it’s certainly not in any of the books. More to the point how did he know I was going in search of it? Even more annoying is that he was dead right, I didn’t find them despite an exhaustive search. On the way back I drove past Hangman’s Pit but could see no sign of the enigmatic paranormal investigator.