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Pin Tor

Pin Tor

This shows you how Dartmoor can affect people, I was reading the latest edition of ‘The Dartmoor News’ where I read an article about how the recent access laws have meant that one can now visit Pin Tor. It seems despite the Dartmoor National Park erecting a brand spanking new gate people are walking through Pinmoor Farm to get there. But never mind that, well unless you live at Pinmoor Farm, what really excited me was a ‘new’ place on Dartmoor. Up until then I did not know Pin Tor ever existed, mind you that isn’t saying a lot!

Immediately I reached into my Dartmoor library to see if there was any mention of the tor as I had certainly not come across it before. Nothing, not even a line apart from the Placenames of Devon noting that in 1582 the farm of Pinmoor was listed as Pinmore. Crossing doesn’t acknowledge its existence neither does Hemery. Ok so now I’m on a mission and thus far it is proving fruitless, maybe some old maps might help?

Pin Tor

As can be seen from the above these too proved as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike, except can you see the three circles in the bottom centre of the extract? They do look very interesting, time to consult the ‘Butler Tomes’, sorry I forgot they don’t cover that far east. Ok, on the internet to ADS,  here there is a little more success. It lists a possible prehistoric or Roman cairn and field system to the south of the tor and apart from that – ‘diddly squat’. This still does not explain the three circles on the 1890 map. Maybe there is something showing on an aerial view of the area?

Pin Tor

As can be seen from above the field layout is virtually identical to the 1890’s and the area where the circles are is covered by what looks to be gorse. However inside the boxes marked 1 and 2 are what seems to be some linear lines and the line in box 2 is clearly visible for roughly 900m. There are also two ‘juicy’ circular crop marks in box 3. Bear in mind all this background research is being done from the home computer and not the record office, hence the quality of the aerial photograph.

So, the next thing is to wander out and have a look at the area and see if there is anything to be learned from the ‘field’. Would be nice to take a JCB to those tempting looking circles but maybe that’s best left to Phil Harding and his gang.

Well, found Pin tor and the other good news is that ‘Zeb’ has recovered from his cruciate operation enough to once more venture out into the wild expanses of Dartmoor. He still can’t get his two brain cells to accept that he is not longer in pain and that he could use his leg if he wanted. Trouble is the little sod can get around just as fast on three and he sees no need to use his very expensive back leg. What does confuse him is when he has to pee up against anything on his right-paw side, standing on the bad leg, he just falls over. Oh, and another brilliant thing, because he has been chauffeured around for the past two months he is no longer car-sick – bonus!  Anyway, I digress, Pin Tor…

Pin Tor

Well, there’s typical, we are in the middle of a heat wave and I pick the only wet day to go to Pin Tor! When I originally read the initial article, I took it to say that there was a special map with the access point marked. Accordingly, I visited the High Moors Visitor Centre to see if they had such a copy. Well, as usual unless you want to know anything about Pixieland don’t bother asking in there. Firstly, nobody had ever heard of Pin Tor despite several copies of the relevant Dartmoor News sitting feet away on the counter, do the staff not bother to keep abreast of any Dartmoor news? Secondly, I then had to show them where it was and sure enough on the master map all the access points were marked, including Pin Tor. But apparently the folks at Ordnance Survey chose not to mark them on their new maps and this was a special ‘layer’ the National Park added themselves. Ok, ok, sorry to have bothered you. I suppose if I’m honest what sticks in my throat is that about 15 years ago I applied to the National Park for a job in one of their visitor centres and was told that I, “didn’t fit their requirements”, hell at least I know where Pin Tor is!

Right, let’s go find Pin Tor, that was no problem, for any other saddo’s like myself, if you want to get to the tor the best option is to pull in on the brow of the hill and walk the short distant to the new access point – otherwise short of parking in the farm drive (not advised at all) there is nowhere else to leave a car. This brand new access gate must be about the worst fitted gate I have ever seen but once you have struggled to open it you are confronted with a track that has been slashed through the jungle of head high gorse and bracken. It then led us through a small wood where there were three huge feeder bins. You will probably be met by a 5ft mesh fence which was not quite finished on this occasion, but I am sure it soon will be. The path then led uphill and on cresting the brow we were confronted with a huge ‘humming’ sea of yellow. Immediately a fox darted off into the bracken by the tor and this was followed by its mate slinking of to the gorse on the opposite side. The yellow sea is in fact ragwort and the humming was the sound of hundreds of bees gorging themselves on its nectar. Believe me, you will never see such an infestation of the stuff, in any livestock were to graze here they would be dead in seconds, although judging from the carpet of rabbit droppings they seem to be thriving. The photo below shows part of the ‘sea of yellow’ with Haytor seven miles away on the southern horizon:

Pin Tor

The next problem was to get to the tor because the poor outcrop is drowning in a sea of bracken and gorse with just the uppermost granite showing. There is a nice ‘logan type’ rock on the top and apart from that – who knows? This is clearly somewhere to visit in the winter when the vegetation has died back. As for trying to locate the cairn etc, forget it, I doubt whether you would be able to find the Houses of Parliament in that jungle. The picture below shows what all the excitement was about?

Pin Tor

As it was midday we decided to have lunch up there and despite the disappointment there are some marvellous views to be had looking far across to the west, as can be seen below:

Pin Tor

By the way, just because there are no animals grazing here don’t think there won’t be any ticks, rabbits carry them too and I was covered. So all in all a failure, no mention of the place (so far) in any of the topographical books, no sign of the cairn thanks to the vegetation and come to that very little of the tor as well. But on the plus side plenty of wildlife, especially insects and stunning views of the summer fields of Devon with all their various colours and hues.

Pin Tor

If you travel in from Easton Cross, have a look at the Trig Point below Cranbrook Castle, it must be the least visible of Dartmoor trigs which is probably why it is no longer marked on the OS maps. Paul Rendell has informed me that the trig once stood up on Cranbrook Castle and it was the Dartmoor National Park Authority who got it moved to its resent location – that figures. It is literally beside the road and if the effort of walking the few feet from your car to the trig is too great there is even a seat to sit on. Nearby is also an old guide/boundstone which again none of the Dartmoor books mention, not even Dave Brewer.

Pin Tor

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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