Devon Ramblers’ golden day

On 7 September over a hundred ramblers converged on the summit of Hookney Tor on Dartmoor to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Ramblers’ Devon Area.  Nine of the area’s 12 groups had arranged walks of different lengths with different start points.

8 aerial view

Convergence on Hookney Tor

I joined the Totnes Group at the Hound Tor car park.  Ramblers’ trustee Richard May from Norfolk was also there; he was in holiday in Devon and chanced upon the walk.

1 setting off

Setting off

We followed the lane to Jay’s Grave (which is the grave of Kitty Jay, an unmarried housemaid) then took the lovely path to Natsworthy Gate

Widecombe valley

View south to the Widecombe valley

and up on to heathery Hameldown.

11on hameldon

The view east from Hameldown

12 heather

Heather on Hameldown

We came to Grimspound, the bronze-age settlement.

10 Grimspound


A group of walkers was already heading up Hookney Tor.

4 Heading for Hookney

Heading for Hookney Tor

We were the third group to arrive at the top and soon all the others did too; it was joyous to meet so many old friends.

Robert Woolcott, former chairman of Devon Area, even made it up the hill, eight weeks after he had had a new hip.

2 Robert Woolcott

Robert joins us

We found the most sheltered spot among the rocks and the Area chairman, Andrew Chadwick, who had organised a microphone, called us to order.

Rob Parkinson, a member of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, and I were the speakers.  I recalled that I had first been on Hookney Tor more than 50 years ago when I had come here on an evening visit from Hillbridge Farm, where I was staying for a riding holiday.  The beauty of Dartmoor had really struck me on that evening, as I looked across the moor to the sun setting over Cornwall, and led to my zeal to fight for Dartmoor.  So it was for me a fitting spot.

5 Challacombe

A fitting spot

I first joined Devon Ramblers in 1977, and there were a few present who had joined before me.

6 words from the rock

Speaking on the rocks

I gave a call to action, remembering some of Devon Ramblers’ great figures who are no longer with us: Joyce Stanley, Jim Martin, Ron Vinnicombe, Ron Bagshaw, Mike Soper and Eric Mawer to name a few.  There was also a long list of Ramblers’ campaigns—against military training, the Okehampton bypass, china clay extraction and afforestation, the battle for access and the claiming of paths.  Our work was needed more now than ever, in country and town.  Celia Minoughan had done a wonderful job in persuading Totnes to become the first town to adopt our charter for walking neighbourhoods.

Rob talked about the seventieth anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and the Glover review of protected landscapes, reminding us of Lewis Silkin’s pledge that the act was ‘a people’s charter’.

7 gathering

The gathering on Hookney Tor

Then Devon Area presented Mike Owen, project manager of the Dartmoor Way, with a giant £500 cheque towards the creation of this new long-distance trail around Dartmoor, through the beautiful but unpublicised moor-edge landscape.

3 cheque

Andrew Chadwick presents Mike Owen with the cheque, in the middle is George Coles who has worked tirelessly to make the Dartmoor Way happen

The celebrations having ended we all set off again on our separate ways, and my group walked back down through Heathercombe.  As we passed Jay’s Grave we noticed that more flowers and coins had been left there since our morning visit—fresh flowers are left here every day.

11 Jay's Grave

Jay’s Grave

The day was topped with a visit to the celebrated Hound of the Basket Meals caravan at Hound Tor car park, for tea (served in china mugs), cakes and ice creams.

13 Hound of Basket Meals

Hound of the Basket Meals



About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, campaigns, Dartmoor, Devon, National parks, Ramblers, walking, wild country and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Devon Ramblers’ golden day

  1. John Bainbridge says:

    I think I was first a member of Devon Area nearly 50 years ago. I was proud to serve on its area council and as it’s area footpaths secretary and helped to form five or six groups. I still remember the folk you name, great campaigners all. Still hard to believe they’re not here. Another campaign was the Porchester Inquiry on Exmoor.

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