Countryfile magazine asked me to describe a walk taking in my favourite hill. So I chose White Tor in the Dartmoor National Park.
I have known western Dartmoor for most of my life, initially on ponyback and now because I love to walk there. White (pronounced Whit) Tor which stands above the Tavy valley is my favourite vantage point. On the broad summit, among the multitude of rocks and clitter, there are stone structures which were originally assumed to be an iron age hillfort but are more likely a neolithic enclosure—the uncertainty adds to the mystery. It’s wonderful to explore the layers of history to be found on Dartmoor, a true palimpsest.
My walk starts from the Pork Hill car park on the B3357, and heads for Staple Tor with its rock towers,
then nearby Roos Tor
and across a wild stretch of moorland to the Langstone Moor stone circle. This is a low, prehistoric structure close to an ancient settlement of hut circles. One can imagine people living on this silent hillside, commanding a fine prospect down the Walkham Valley, a view which in the misty autumn-light may hardly have changed over the centuries.
To the half-left, forming part of this same archaeological landscape, stands the Langstone menhir, a noble stone with telltale shell-holes: the military, which trains on Dartmoor, once abused it as a target.
Then you deviate from the track to clamber to the summit of White Tor. From here you can see the folding slopes of Tavy Cleave and follow the horizon clockwise round the curve of Standon Hill, the long sweep of Lynch Tor and beyond to Fur Tor and Cut Hill in the heart of the moor. Westwards you can see into Cornwall and the lumpy hills of Bodmin Moor, then round to the sparkling sea at Plymouth Sound. It is a view of which I never tire.
Below is the inconspicuous Stephen’s Grave where George Stephens is buried. He committed suicide because a girl was unfaithful to him and it is said that, at the moment he was buried, linen which was hanging out to dry at nearby Higher Godsworthy was caught in a freak wind and lost for ever.
From here you follow the path down to Wedlake Farm, passing more prehistoric huts and crossing the Colly Brook by a ford.
Then it’s back up the hill with the slopes of Staple and Cox Tor rising comfortably on either side, and down to the car park.