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.
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.
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
and up on to heathery Hameldown.
We came to Grimspound, the bronze-age settlement.
A group of walkers was already heading up 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.
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.
I first joined Devon Ramblers in 1977, and there were a few present who had joined before me.
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’.
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.
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.
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.