Saturday, 15 August 2020

Dartmoor Walk - Drizzlecombe Ceremonial Complex


It's been just over a week now since I started to compose this post only to discover that it was not going to be quite as simple as I first thought.

The creative team behind this platform, 'Blogger' that hosts 'JJ's Wargames' have been rather busy in recent months redesigning the layout of the screen that I look at when putting the blog together, so much so that I am never quite sure what I will find each time I press the 'Create a new Post' button, and long familiar ways of doing things are suddenly thrown astray by the creative whims of the people that make the changes.

This last week was slightly different in that someone in the design team had managed to create an input system that caused all type inputs to be created with a double spacing between lines which rather messed up the final appearance of a post.

Someone then discovered a convoluted solution to press the space key at the same time as pressing the return key to create a new line, that overcame this issue and kindly passed it on to the wider community of bloggers, and now I find, as I sit down to compose this post two weeks since my last, that the error has been corrected altogether and we are back to normal!

Hey-Ho, who said life was designed to make you happy - anyway on with the blog!

The end of July saw Carolyn and I celebrating our thirty-second wedding anniversary and so to enjoy the day together we decided to make the most of the hot weather with another expedition to Dartmoor to explore the prehistoric Drizzlecombe Ceremonial Complex and the scenery depicted in the Spielberg film War Horse based on Micheal Morpurgo's 1982 novel of the same name.

The OS Map of Dartmoor that I carry on my View Ranger App on the phone shows the route of our walk starting at the small car park, just below Gutter Tor, the first point we intended to head for and where we planned to stop for our lunch as we gazed out over the splendour of south Dartmoor towards the coast and the entrance to Plymouth. 

The view below shows the climb up from the car park with the rocky crop of Gutter Tor before us silhouetted against the azure blue of a July Devon sky with glorious temperatures to enjoy on our climb to the top.

We descended the tor after a half hour stop for lunch, enjoying the views to join the stone track below that leads out over the low-lying scrub-land around Gutter Mire as we made our way towards Ditsworthy Warren House the star of the movie.
The trail below Gutter Tor looking back to the car park

Our walk for the day would take us over the ground ahead encompassing Gutter Mire and Drizzle Combe

Abandoned in 1947, Ditsworthy Warren House dates back to the 16th century although the building that stands today traces its buildings back to the 18th and early 19th century.

It was built for the keeper of Ditsworthy rabbit warren when rabbits were bred commercially in the area for their meat and fur, making use of the poor agricultural land on Dartmoor but perfect for breeding rabbits, allowing them to burrow easily in the pillow mounds of granite stone, topped off with soil that were constructed for them around the house.

Today the house is abandoned and occasionally used by the British military who train in the area and is described as a stone tent capable of accommodating twenty-three soldiers, and the odd use as a film set as in 2010, depicted below with its false thatch in its starring roll in War Horse.

War Horse’s production designer Rick Carter said the location’s panoramic views gave “it a sense of being part of something huge and imposing – the expanse of skies, the force of the elements – and that created a beauty beyond what we had hoped for."

Following the path that leads around and behind the house we followed the route of the upper reaches of the River Plym that gives its name to the historic Devon city of Plymouth, carefully picking our way over muddy and fast flowing leats drizzling their contents into the Plym close by with the intent of reaching the higher ground beyond to see the amazing Bronze Age spine line of stones and the Drizzlecombe Complex of twenty-two cairns or burial mounds that surround it including the massive Giant's Basin Cairn one of the most remarkable prehistoric sites on Dartmoor.

The final leat crossing proved a bit too much for Carolyn who decided to head off along the course of Drizzle Combe (see map) to find an easier crossing, as I having made the other side with a bit of a jump, kept her in view as I made my way alone up the slope towards the stone row, immediately recognisable by its two large standing stones at each end, re-erected in 1893 in their original sockets.

The first view of the stone row and its imposing header stones at each end

A closer view of the stone row reveals the Giant's Basin Cairn directly behind the closer of the two largest stones.

Meanwhile Carolyn had found a friend as she discovered an easier route across Drizzle Combe to get up to the complex

The stones are massive when one considers the work it would have taken for these early bronze age settlers on Dartmoor to erect them and the significance these monuments must have had for so many burial mounds to have been constructed close by.

As with the stone row, the massive Giant's Basin Cairn reveals a structure that would have taken an enormous amount of labour to construct and suggests a person of very high status within the community.

The cairns consist of an outer and inner ring of stones in their construction, with a central pit.

It is an amazing feeling to stand amid the ruins of such an ancient site that must have carried a great deal of significance to the people that built it  some four thousand years ago.

As we headed up the slope of Higher Hartor Tor from the complex, the view back over the ground we had walked from Ditsworthy Warren House displayed the expanse of Dartmoor with the Plym and Drizzle Combe bisecting the valley below.

The view from the slope of Higher Hartor Tor, with the Ceremonial Complex and the courses of the River Plym (left) and Drizzle Combe (right) cutting across the valley below.

We had planned originally to walk up to the summit of Higher Hartor Tor befor cutting across to the ruins of the Eylesbarrow Tin Mine (see map above), but with a fish and chip supper booked for picking up on our way home and over an hours drive to get back we decided to cut across to the military track just below the ruins and our walk back to the car park.

Ruins of the stamping mill of the Eylesbarrow Tin Mine

The military track leads back across the moor providing easy walking on our last leg as we made our way back to the car looking forward to the fish and chips that evening.

As you will see from the pictures the weather was stunning for our wedding anniversary walk and all that fresh air meant we were hungry after it.

Dartmoor is such a special place to walk and I am looking forward to sharing more of its amazing vistas and history in future visits.


  1. Congrats on your anniversary, and thank you for sharing your trek.

    It is mind boggling to consider 4000 years of human history since the site was built.

    1. Hi irishserb and thank you.

      Absolutely,the passage of time is readily captured when gazing at these monuments now standing in the middle of nowhere but obviously significant to the people who occupied the area in the bronze age and with numerous remains of their settlements nearby indicating the thriving communities that existed back then.


  2. What a great way to celebrate your anniversary - congratulations on 32 years. Lovely scenery and a nice planned route to make the most of it.

    1. Cheers Greg, we had a great day out in a beautiful part of the moor.

  3. Happy anniversary, although belated. Nice post, I'm always humbled at my place in the world when I come across historical areas such as this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Adam,
      Thank you, I would have posted nearer the time if Blogger wasn't being messed about with and still is sadly.

      The UK is rich is historical and ancient sites and sometimes its easy to take them for granted, but these places serve as a reminder that our time here is relatively short and a mere second in the grand scheme of things, and its great to enjoy a sunny day walking among them contemplating that aspect and it's a pleasure to share.

      All the best