A CIRCULAR WALK VISITING HOUND TOR, BECKY FALL, BOWERMANS NOSE AND JAYS GRAVE
START POINT: SWALLERTON GATE CAR PARK GRID REF: 739 792

This walk visits some unusual places of interest on the southern moors of Dartmoor and part of the Bovey Valley. It was reccied by Joy and I on Sunday 22nd Oct 00 with a view to offering it as a walk route to the group later in the year.

For once and perhaps the first time in quite a few weeks we were able to walk the complete route in good weather with no rain whatsoever.

Later in the year ended up on Wednesday 13th December after continuous heavy rain and gales in the days leading up to it. Dry, what the hell does that word mean?

Unbelievably, the day dawned with sunshine and hardly any rain to speak of. Even though Dartmoor had 2 inches of rain in the previous 24 hours the route we took was quite passable and indeed we had far less mud on the walk than we have had during all the walks of the previous month. The wind was certainly strong though as the 12 ramblers on the walk found as we approached Bowermans Nose and from there across to Jays Grave.

 route outline here
The outline of the route we took is shown above. We estimate it to be between 9 and 10 miles with a maximum ascent of 1000 feet from the Bovey Valley up to Bowermans Nose.

It should of course be used in conjunction with the a 1:25000 map of Dartmoor. The most suitable one to use is the Leisure Map 28 of Dartmoor.

Notice the 3 alternatives offered through Hound Tor Woods and up to Water. Depending on the route taken the walk could vary from 8.5 to 11 miles.

To achieve the 9 to 10 miles we took option B route for the recce.

From the car park at Swallerton Gate we crossed the road and made our way up towards the very distinctive Hound Tor on a bearing of 120 degrees along up a wide grassy track.

It was no more than four hundred yards from the car park and we were soon at the top looking at the large rocks comprising the Tor.

One or two of the rocks are supposed to resemble hounds but I couldn't really see much likeness.

We then continued on more a less the same bearing and made our way down towards the valley below us, following one of many narrow grassy tracks through the bracken.

The next point of interest was an old medieval village which was inhabited until the 13th century when it appears the plague killed off most of the occupants of the village and from that date became uninhabited.

There is a lot of history surrounding this village and it even merits a mention in the Domesday book. It has obviously been well looked after and it is easy to see the outlines of the huts and the longhouses there.

 

After spending some time looking at this very old village, or what's left of it anyway, we followed a clear track across and up and found a sign that indicating a bridal path through a gate and then downhill alongside a stone wall.

We made our way down this easy to follow path until we came to a brook at the bottom.

Luckily there was a marvellous example of an old clapper bridge over this brook which we were pleased to use, and which we hoped wouldn't be under water on the day of the walk.

We then continued to walk uphill again on along a very rocky track that, still classified as a bridal path with many large granite boulders to pass.

Eventually we arrived at the top exiting the rough stone track and came upon two grassy path one which swung to the left and followed the contours whilst the other went straight and steeply up to the high ground above.

It was of interest to note that the signs in this area are very clear and indeed are very easy to follow.

We made our way along the track and then started to descend again heading for a place called Leighon on the map.

En route to Leighon as we made our way downhill, passed through a couple of gates and found the entrance to Leighon was private.

Once again there was an excellent set of sign posts to help us make our way onwards. These are shown in the photograph alongside. We headed uphill for a steady climb which took us below and to the north of Black Hill. At the top there were excellent views down into the valley and back across to Hound Tor were we had been 45 minutes before.

We stopped by the side of the path at the top for morning coffee and to enjoy the views.

 

After coffee we continued to follow this track; soon we came upon a narrow road which I knew would lead us down to Becky Falls some way below us.

We made our way to the road, turned left, crossed over a cattle grid and then began the half a mile descent down towards the Falls.

This was the only longish sections of road that we had to walk on this circular route, in total I guess it must be a shade under 1 mile.

 

On the way down, near the bottom we crossed over Beckaford Bridge and the road then levelled ahead of us.

It had been quite a steep descent and I can imagine that in some conditions it could be rather slippery.

A short distance beyond the bridge we came upon a wider road with a clear sign, indicating turn right for Becky Falls or to the left to Manaton, the largest village in the area.

We duly turned right and made our down, passing the public footpath to our left and continued over New Bridge to the entrance to Becky Falls. We wanted to see how much they are now charging for entrance to this picturesque tourist attraction.

We found the price to be 4.80p per adult and so decided we would not be paying visitors on this occasion.

We made our way back over New Bridge and into the public right of way to our right which we knew passed close to the Falls would give us some views of the waterfall.

We turned onto the footpath and made our way along it passing close to the river.

The owners of Becky Falls are very keen for people to pay and therefore during the next section of the route there were many signs saying "Access only to paying visitors".

They really mean that and to attempt to walk beyond those markers is to invite the wrath of the security staff who keep an eye open for non paying 'guests'. It is better to stick to the footpath, there are still good views to be had of the falls without trespassing.

In my opinion, why pay almost 5 when you can get sight of them, paying nothing from the public footpath. We followed the footpath public right of way along and away from the Falls. We then entered HoundTor woods and the footpath curved to the left, there being no other option we followed it.

After a few hundred yards following the footpath, we came upon a crossroads of public footpaths. The upper one would take us straight up to Water, a village by the way, whereas the other two routes would take us further into Hound Tor Woods.

The three routes are indicated on the outline map as A,B and C at the top of the description of the walk.

All three routes enable walkers to eventually get back to Water but provide a useful means of adding a mile or two on to the route, should you wish to do so.

We took the middle route (B) along and down through the woods and ended up quite close to the River Bovey below and we popped down to have a look at the old log bridge which crosses the river at that point. It is known as Woodash Bridge and is a most unusual example of a footbridge.

A huge log had come down the river following the heavy rains and had smashed into the bridge, causing damage which needs to be repaired before walkers can pass it in safety.

On the day of the ramble we stopped by the bridge for our lunch before the ascent began.

What goes down must come up and for the next hour it was to be mainly an uphill climb from the river Bovey up to the village of Water and then on up to the moors high above.

 

The route up through the woods is well marked and easy to follow.

It is however quite steep in places and therefore by the time we arrived at the village we knew we had been going uphill.

We made our way along a road which runs by the south side of the village and came to a cross road.

 

Just to the right of the cross road was the village inn called Kestor Inn.

On this walk the pub had no competition, since it was the one and only one we pass on this circular walk.

We gave it a miss this time around.

We continued on the narrow road rather than turning up by the pub, heading along a narrow country lane which took us away to the west of Water and eventually we came to another cross road, at a point marked on the map as Hayne Cross.

We could see the moors towering above us as we stopped to make sure we were still on the right route. It was a recce after all.

We ignored the sign to Manaton and continued south west along a narrow country road to a dead end for vehicles.

As the road terminated we followed a narrow track and above us, high above us was a very large rock outcrop.

Strangely enough, although all the rock outcrop was rather large and at 400 metres a significant high point it didn't merit a name on the OS map.

A strenuous climb followed as we made our way up towards the rocks at the top.

We were looking for Bowermans Nose, a strange rock combination which looks just a little like a person with a large nose and is often mentioned in texts on Dartmoor.

When we reach the top we searched around and sure enough there was Bowermans Nose just down below the main rock outcrop.

 

It did, if you have a sense of imagination, look a little bit like a person.

Mythology has it that Mr Bowerman frightened some witches and one of them responded by turning him to stone at this point.

This is a very cut down version of the full story, more on that to those who come on the walk with me.

We spent a few minutes looking at rock formations and then headed off south-west from the Downs toward a gate and a road which ran at North/South.

We crossed this road and turn right along a bridal path which headed due West for just under half a mile up through fields to the next local point of interest.

The path took us up a grassy slope to the top of the hill and down the other side and there by the side of the road at a junction with a bridlepath was a grave.

This grave is known as Jays Grave and it always has flowers on it, even though it is on unconsecrated ground, by virtue of the fact the lady interred within committed suicide, after being made pregnant by a rich local who refused to marry her.

Usually there are a few coins placed on the headstone of the grave and once again there was a few coppers left to make sure of that Betty Jay would never go without money again.

We turned South East and made our way alongside of the road passing by Swine Down to our left for the final stage of the walk back to the car park.

Some 15 minutes later and we were back again at the car park and the many cars in it with good views of Hound Tor above us and where we had been some 4 1/2 hours before.

Depending on which of the routes are taken through Hound Tor woods the Walk can vary in length from just over 8.5 miles to just under 11 miles.

We returned to Plymouth via a drive south off the moors to Ashburton and the A38 main express way from Exeter to Plymouth.