On Saturday lunchtime I dropped my son at his weekend job and then headed up to Southcombe hill, above Widecombe in the Moor, to take Rocky for a walk. I only intended to explore the ridge going northwards towards Hamel Down as it was a beautiful walking day. But you know how it is, your getting your walking legs in, you realise that you’ve covered quite a distance already and before you realise it you’re off on an expedition.
I’ve been meaning to walk Hamel Down for ages as I’ve seen it from so many other walks and it looks such an imposing hill. I’ve seen the cairns along the ridge, like little pimples, from the top of Corndon and wanted to see how they compared, as well.
It is an easy walk and there is a well-defined path to follow as it is part of the Two Moors Way. We were at the first cairn, which the marker stone calls Hamilton Down Beacon, quite quickly and then at the next, and then the next. The view is amazing – a 360 degree panorama and you must be able to see all the way to North Devon looking north-east. I gave up trying to count and name all the tors I could see.
Each of the cairns, or barrows had a granite marker set on it, labelling them “Two Burrows”, “One Burrow” and “Broad Burrow” on one side and DS 1854 on the other. I must look up who DS was. There are also a series of tall pine marker posts, in twos, that look like weathered pine trees with the tops knocked off. I guess that they must be marking some archaeological features, but I have no idea what. Another thing to look up or ask about.
Once we got to “Broad Burrow” I decided that we really should head back, but I’d have a look at the map first just to see where we had got to . That’s when I realised that the next cairn I could see was the final one and that Grimspound was just over the brow of the hill. Having got that far it seemed daft not to carry on.
The climb down to Grimspound is very steep, but the sight of the walled compound with its 25 Bronze Age huts tucked in the valley below is is worth it. I’ve seen many round house remains on my walks on Dartmoor, but nothing on the scale of Grimspound. The size of the houses suggests that the occupants must have been considerably smaller than a modern day adult.
After a good look round, and with my tummy rumbling by this stage – I had only brought a muesli bar and a box of juice as I hadn’t intended to be out for so long – we headed back up to the ridge and to the car. The return trip seemed to whizz past, fuelled mainly by fantasising about the bacon butty I was going to make when I got home!