Haytor and Widecombe Loop

One of the fascinating things about running on Dartmoor is the history. The tracks you will run on have been trodden by ancient peoples down the millennia and it can add to the fun if you know what you're running past. Here are a few interesting sites you'll pass on the run.

Near Haytor you'll be running on the 19th century Haytor granite tramway. The stone from here was used for buildings like the General Post Office, British Museum and London Bridge (that's the London Bridge that ended up in Arizona). The route also takes you past the remains of a medieval village as you approach Hound Tor. This is fascinating and worth stopping to take a look. There are also a couple of small detours you can take that not only add miles but take in some additional sites of interest. When you reach the bottom of the climb up to Hameldown Hill you can head slightly further towards the east than my strava route towards the direction of Hookney Tor and eventually at the bottom of the slope up to Hameldown Tor you'll reach Grimspound. This is a huge prehistoric settlement with a 150m diameter boundary wall enclosing the remains of 24 stone round houses. After you had a look at Grimspound you'll have to head straight up the steep slope on to Hameldown and then continue along the ridge where you'll rejoin the route. If you don't take this detour then instead look out for an engraved stone on the climb up to Hameldown. This is a memorial to an RAF aeroplane that crashed here during the Second World War. Sadly Dartmoor has over twenty Second World War crash sites. Along the ridge of Hameldown there are numerous prehistoric cairns and other stones of interest. Look out for some upright wooden stakes, these are spaced along the hill and are from the Second World War to prevent German gliders from landing. Later in the run, after you have completed the climb out of Widecombe, you can head further to the west, and over to Buckland Beacon. Here you'll find a stone with the Ten Commandments engraved on it. Towards the end of the route you climb to the trig point at Rippon Tor. This tor is surrounded by ancient prehistoric field systems. These are widespread across the moor and another area I've run through and seen them is near Venford Reservoir. The field systems are bronze age and so thousands of years old. Look out for low rows of granite stones, these are ancient stone boundary walls called reaves. Many of the more recent stone walls are built on top of these ancient walls meaning some of Dartmoor's boundaries are prehistoric. Sadly I can imagine that many of Dartmoor's stone walls probably contain stones taken from prehistoric sites as it would have been far easier than collecting new stone. There must be countless stone circles, cairns and the like that were destroyed down the centuries. 

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© 2018 Jo Pavey