Walk: The Plym Valley and Drizzlecombe
Either a 10-mile or 5-mile walk. The 5-mile route is easy to follow with various features but the 10-mile walk has a section across open moorland so the ability to use a map and compass would be essential especially in poor visibility. This walk starts at the small parking area at grid reference 581674 at the end of the ‘no-through’ lane leading from Sheepstor Village.
This walk was kindly provided by Moorland Guides
From the parking area walk towards Gutter Tor until you reach Edward’s Path - a rough track with Gutter Tor on your right side. There are views ahead of you to Hen Tor, which takes the form of a sharp prominent triangular peak on the south side of the River Plym. As you walk on the track there is plenty of evidence below you on the left of the work of the tinners with their streaming works with parallel mounds of spoil from their quest for tin in the valley. The whole of this area was also used for the breeding of rabbits, hence the name given to the area of Ditsworthy Warren. To try to keep down the vermin (mainly stoats etc) the warreners built traps of granite and wood, the ruined remains of which are still to be seen around the valley on your left. We are heading along the track to see one of these traps, which is situated on the slopes of Gutter Tor (a). Ahead you might, if the weather is clear, have a good view of the ridge in the distance of Trowlsworthy slightly over to the right - the site of another Warren. Hen Tor, also a Warren, and Langcombe Head and Shavercombe are also on the south side of the River Plym.
Just as the path goes around a sharp left hand bend into the gully, turn right and go uphill, back towards the summit of Gutter Tor on a gentle grassy slope leading to the top of the tor. As you go up the path between the bracken, you will see that your route enters an area of boulders and you come across a wall ruin, which crosses the pathway. Look to your left beside the path and you will see a large boulder put up onto its side to form a funnelling wall which leads into the vermin trap about 8 paces from the path. The trap is capped with a granite slab and is only a few feet from the track path. A small diversion here to the north takes you to a recently discovered stone which is believed to be the remains of a carved stone cross lying on its side about a hundred meters away.
Now return back down to Edwards Path and to the bend as the track goes down into the tinners’ gully in the direction of Ditsworthy Warren House. The track leads you through what would have been a gate and into the enclosure of Ditsworthy Warren (b). Ahead and to you left you will see the old warren house start to appear. Through the fields left and right you will see the mounds of the man-made rabbit warrens, which housed the rabbits, known as burries or pillow mounds locally. The track leads you to the house, now a training centre bunkhouse for expeditions. As you approach the house pass it on your right and continue to the rear where you will see several dog kennels built into the field walls. Looking south across the River Plym the views of the Hen Tor Warren are particularly fine, with evidence of large pillow mounds of the warreners in the area, along with field boundaries.
Follow along the track with the Plym valley way over to your right until you reach the significant Drizzlecombe Stone Rows (c) - one of the largest standing stones on Dartmoor marks the end of one of the rows. Once you have explored the stone row take a look at the nearby cairn then walk downhill towards the River Plym. We are now going to turn to walk up the Plym valley where you will see what affect the tinners had in this area. Ahead of you and to the south of the river there are some large settlement circles. You will find a reasonable path either beside the river and also a few yards from it. Ahead and up the valley you will see Lower Hartor Tors.
The valley becomes boggy in a number of places so keep to the left and go around the wet areas using the high ground. Evil Combe is particularly wet and worth avoiding. Continue up the Plym until you reach another smaller combe on your left. Turn left into the small valley and head for some old ruins, which are situated on a track at the head of the combe (d). This is where the 5-mile walkers turn left and westwards along the clearly defined path on their return journey back to the cars via the Eylesbarrow mine ruins. The track is well defined all the way to Eylesbarrow where it joins the main track from Sheepstor to Princetown, and where the 10-mile route rejoins it.
The 10-mile route walkers, however, turn right and eastwards along the well-defined track to Plym Ford where we cross the river Plym, now a much smaller stream and follow the less discernable route of the Abbots Way. Depending on the season the path is reasonably well worn but it would be wise to take a compass bearing for Broad Rock at SX618673, which is our next destination (e). The rock itself is becoming quite worn and careless walkers are eroding the inscription. There are a number of large rocks on this flat hilltop location but the Broad Rock is the slightly larger oval one about knee high. There are fine views if the weather is favourable down the River Erme into Erme Pits as well as towards the distinctive pyramid-shaped spoil heap at the head of the Red Lake tramway to the southeast.
The next section of the route is best done on a compass bearing, for even in good weather Duck’s Pool, out next destination, is in a hollow in a featureless landscape. As you approach, a narrow well-worn footpath takes you through some large rocks to the letter box at William Crossing’s memorial, located under a large boulder about 5 feet high on the southern edge of the depression. (f) After recording your presence in the visitor’s book and enjoying the possibility of a break here you now face a walk north westwards through the bottom of the boggy area of the pool. It is well worth a diversion by sticking with the well-worn path around the west side of the depression until you reach the other side. A brief check using a back bearing to Crossing’s memorial will ensure you are on course for Nun’s Cross Farm, about 3 kilometres to our northwest. Your route will take you across the top of Plym Head and the side of Crane Hill towards the North Hessary radio mast, seen way in the distance if the weather is clear. On the way keep an eye out for a 4 foot high pyramid rock with a tiny bronze cross on the top. This is Northmore’s Cross and one of the smallest on Dartmoor. Nun’s Cross Farm itself is now used as a bunkhouse for adventure training and walkers. While you are at the building put your back to the door and look back at the route you have just walked. Look slightly to the right at the boundary wall of the farm enclosure and you might see a rather curious and carved stone in the wall – the purpose of which nobody is quite sure! You will have crossed the Devonport Leat not far from where it goes underground into the hillside to your left. We will rejoin the leat on the other side of the hill once we have been to the farm (g).
Once you have been to the farm and the ruins of the original farm by the trees it is worth a small diversion to visit Nun’s (or properly known as Siward’s) Cross, situated on the boundary of the farms fields to the northwest. The cross is over 6 feet high and located on a well-defined track from Princetown up to Eylesbarrow Mines. If you feel you would like to cut your walk slightly shorter you may, if you wish, use this track to make you way up to Eylesbarrow which will save you about an hour in time. For those sticking to the route from the cross, head westwards and through some mining gulleys to the point where the Devonport Leat comes flowing out of the tunnel in the hillside below you. Stick to the south of the leat and head in a westerly direction over the hillside towards Down Tor 2 kilometres ahead of you. We are going to visit the stone row, which leads up the slope towards the direction of the tor. This is one of the better examples of stone rows on the moors (h).
Once visited leave the stone row and turn southeast towards Eylesbarrow Mine ruins on the hilltop ahead of you. You will be dropping down into a small valley with Combeshead Tor to your right on the other side of the enclosure wall. The valley can be a bit boggy but if you stick to the wall it will lead you to a reasonable crossing place. Once over the stream head up to Eylesbarrow Mine (i), slightly to the right of the top of the hill. As you get nearer there are two old granite gateposts to help you to locate the mine ruins. It is worth spending a little while here looking around but beware of some of the deeper holes and recently collapsed, but fenced, shafts. This is where the 5-mile route joins the walk again. The route follows the main track southwest back to where you left your car some hours ago.