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davidx Sheepstor - A travel report by David
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Sheepstor,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Sheepstor on Dartmoor

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I lived in Plymouth as a boy. Hence the Devon and Cornwall coast – but above all Dartmoor – were the areas of my earliest walks. Sheepstor is the name both of a village and a tor [see later] and was one of the first two ascents I ever made.

Sheepstor travelogue picture
Dartmoor is one of England’s National Parks – an area of granite cropping up through limestone in South Devon. It sees many holidaymakers, though the nearby coastal areas, particularly Torbay and Salcombe, still get the majority. Proximity to fine coast is one of Dartmoor’s appeals. What should be another is its even greater proximity to wonderful river valleys. No, not big like the Amazon or the Mississippi, some very small and virtually unknown outside Devon: Tavy, Walkham, Cad and Meavy [forming the Plym], Yealm, Erme, Avon, Dart and Teign all flow south from the moor giving lovely woodland scenery and in the case of the Yealm and the Dart outstanding estuaries. Then we come to the Moor itself. The first thing you will notice is the prevalence of the tors, granite outcrops forming hilltops, mostly shapely. Sheepstor is one of these and others that come particularly to mind are Pew Tor, accessible to many less fit people from the road, and Vixen Tor, the top requiring a short but definite scramble up a granite chimney. Next, unless you have a remarkable insensitivity to the past, you will wonder at the Bronze Age remains. They are probably more profuse here than anywhere else in Britain. The stone circles don’t approach the individual magnificence of Stonehenge, Avebury or Callanish but there are so many of them – and some of the stone rows are miles long, possibly beaten only at Carnac in Brittany, France. Then there are considerable settlements, the one at Grimspound having been partially re-constructed and innumerable cistveins. If prehistoric history is a bit too remote for you, try tin. The ‘stannary towns’ of Plympton, Ashburton, Chagford and Tavistock had considerable powers of their own such as their own Parlianent and Court and their own prison at Lydford. A fascinating account of this and ‘warrening’, rabbit breeding, can be found at http://www.wideco m/history/minutes/19-99/tin ners_&_warreners.htm

Favourite spots:
Sheepstor travelogue picture
Having listed this report under Sheepstor, it can come as no surprise to find it here. How like a ram you find its shape I’ll happily leave. Things like that only interest me if they help me find my way – and this one doesn’t. Whatever animal it might resemble, it is a very substantial pile of granite boulders. Try finding the Pixies’ Cave if you must. It takes some finding and is not much when you do, but don’t lose the delight of scampering over the great boulders in your search. I’ve never tried to count tors from the top but quite a large number are to be seen. The village is tiny but, like a number of places on Dartmoor, it has a church out of proportion to its size [Exmoor is the place for tiny churches]. An interesting tomb in the graveyard commemorates James Brooke [d.1868], apparently known as ‘the first white rajah of Sarawak’. A visit can be combined with seeing Burrator Reservoir and Meavy with its ancient oak, supported by iron.

What's really great:
What used to be special were the Dartmoor letterboxes. When I was in my later teens, there were three of these, located at Cranmere Pool and Fur Tor [both on the north of the moor, then often inaccessible because of military activity] and Duck’s Pool, then wrongly marked on the map, between the heads of the Erme and the Plym [Cad]. Of course they had nothing to do with the Post Office. There was a visitors’ book and a stamp[rubber] at each and you could leave a postcard addressed to yourself and stamped – both the rubber stamp to show you had been and a postage stamp to make it legal – and the next visitor would post it to you. However, when I did a search to ensure they still exist, I find that they have bred to an extent that puts the rabbits in the shade and there are now hundreds of the things. Perhaps special [since the spellcheck renounces the very word] are the leats or leets that took water to the city of Plymouth. [leat is to stream as canal is to river]

Sheepstor travelogue picture
What are sights here can usually become destinations, many tors being walkable in a single day. Here some sights are near but not actually on the moor. Dartmeet, where the East and West Dart meet [would you believe?] is on the moor but two other scenic river junctions, great for young adventure [if you don’t want a theme park], lie in steep and wooded valleys. These are Double Waters [Walkham joins Tavy, itself a tributary of the Tamar] and Shaugh Bridge [Meavy joins Cad to form Plym]. Fine river scenery further east can be found at Lustleigh Cleave. Another truly impressive one is Lydford Gorge. Harford in the Erme Valley is delightful.
I suppose I can’t deny that the prison, near Princetown, is a sight because it is horribly prominent but I hate people gawping at it.
A ‘sight’ which gets people gawping is the Dartmoor Ponies, which will beg for food. Feeding is STRONGLY discouraged.
The moor and lower valleys are a wildlife haven.

Obviously a tent was my scene but there are Youth Hostels at Okehampton, Dartington, Steps Bridge and Bellever.
We stayed once at ‘The Stannary’, an award winning vegetarian restaurant with rooms – a real treat. [Mary Tavy, Tavistock, Devon, PL19 9QB
Phone: 01822 810897]

A clapper bridge
A clapper bridge
Any selection must be very arbitrary. I tried various criteria and found I still had to choose between the inseparable so I have listed a very few personal favourites. I make no claim that they are necessarily ‘the best’ because there are masses I haven’t tried – but, unless they’ve changed a lot, they’re really good.
Drewe Arms, Drewsteignton; Royal Oak, Meavy; Elephant’s Nest, Mary Tavy; Who’d Have Thought It, Milton Combe: Castle Inn, Lydford; Dartmoor Inn, Merrivale Bridge; Old Inn, Widdecombe. If the Rugglestone Inn at Widdecombe still exists, add it – but i can find no evidence on the web and the Old Inn used to be called the ‘New Inn!'

I have not eaten out much in the Dartmoor area. The Stannary, mentioned under accommodation, is great.
The family had a ‘do’ for my great aunt’s ninetieth birthday at the Magpie Restaurant on the Yelverton – Tavistock road by the Magpie Bridge over the River Walkham – very good.

Other recommendations:
Sheepstor travelogue picture
Some manmade points of interest are Buckfast Abbey [which is an abbey!], Buckland Abbey, which is in fact a house that belonged to both Sir Francis Drake and Sir Richard Grenville. Near but a bit away, going east from Tavistock is Morwellham Quay Open Air Museum on the River Tamar, a good trip for adults and children.
While we’re on attractions that involve spending, think of the South Devon Railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh along the Dart Valley. It’s one of the most scenic in England. k/ manor%20houses/buc kland%20abbey.htm wellham/Welcome.html

Lastly, if you find it bizarre that I should be so short of pics on a place that has meant so much to me, there’s a simple answer. I do too!

Published on Sunday February 20th, 2005

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Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 01:49 PM rating by mistybleu

Nice report, I've always wanted to got to Cornwall. My friends says its such an agreeable please to visit.

Hopefully this summer.


Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 06:17 AM rating by magsalex

Brought back memories of visits to Devon and Cornwall as a kid.

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