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Wheels within wheels – Yellowmead, Dartmoor 7 August 2010

A day trip to Dartmoor to fill a gap left in an earlier visit. On my previous outing I had thought it possible to incorporate Yellowmead circles into a Down TorEylesbarrowDrizzlecombeRingmoorBrisworthy walk, but had to abandon it as far too ambitious to do justice to the sites (and too far to walk!). So I figure I'll treat Yellowmead to a trip all of its own. I'm fascinated by the prospect of the multiple circles, unlike any other site I've visited.

Plymouth is rain swept when I arrive, with no let-up accompanying the bus to the attractive village of Yelverton. I loiter in the Co-op, on the pretext of buying provisions, until the rain stops and I set off. A short walk along quiet lanes then takes me Meavy, where a sharp but very hard downpour forces shelter in the church porch for a donning of full waterproofs. The rain continues as I reach the southern end of Yennandon Down, the first taste of Dartmoor proper. From here the rocky shape of Sheeps Tor appears over to the east, the obvious pointer towards my objective for the day. Back off the Down, I skirt the Burrator Reservoir, a grey sheet of water under an equally grey sky. But the rain has passed over and I continue on, too hot now in my waterproofs.

St Leonard's Well — Fieldnotes

The next village reached is Sheepstor, little more than a hamlet really, with a square-towered granite church and medieval cross at its centre and a quintessential Dartmoor leat running along the roadside. Of interest is an old well-head, standing outside the eastern wall of the churchyard. Constructed of bits of gothic tracery, the water in the well itself is clear.

St Leonard's Well — Images

<b>St Leonard's Well</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>St Leonard's Well</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

I carry on along lanes until I come to the edge of open access land, where Sheeps Tor now dominates my view. It beckons, asking to be climbed in the way that these rocky highspots do. But its scale is deceptive and it's not until I see a tiny looking rock-climber swinging from a rope on the east face, that I realise it would actually involve a greater detour than I need. The circles are calling, and I choose to press on around the south of the Tor. The ground is uneven and overgrown with ferns, making the business of picking a path without an ankle-twisting encounter with hidden granite enough to focus the mind. The bracken turns to open grass and easier progress as Sheeps Tor falls behind me. A number of upright stones, maybe three feet high, are scattered about here. They don't look natural (too thin and standing stone-y) but there's no obvious pattern or purpose to them. Possibly the remains of field walls or long-gone settlement. And then, looking south-east, Yellowmead circles come into view. From here, at an elevation on the lower slopes of the Tor, their layout is readily visible and my anticipation levels are cranked up another notch.
<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle — Fieldnotes

The walk from here to the circles is longer than it looks, dropping down into boggier, then muddier, ground. I pass an uninterested group of wild horses, then a rather more nosey herd of cattle, before reaching the circles themselves. I have them to myself, despite the large number of people I can see on Gutter Tor away to the south.

According to Burl, this site was heavily restored in the 1920s by the Rev. Breton. There has been much speculation about it since, including the possibility that it is actually the remains of a round cairn, which would not be out of the question when compared with the construction of the terminal ring cairns at nearby Drizzlecombe. There are a host of features to look at here. Slightly uphill to the ENE, the remains of a much smaller cairn circle overlook the main site. The visible stones of this are small, little more than stumps breaking clear of the cropped grass. In the opposite direction, downhill and the west of the circles, are the remains of a short avenue. A possible continuation extends over the other side of a nearby leat. Again these are small stones, size-wise comparable with the stones of the avenues at Cerrig Duon in South Wales.

The real draw is of course the four circles themselves. Not quite concentric, only two share the same centre and only one (the central) is a true circle. The outermost circle contains the biggest stones, especially to the SE. Even so, none of the stones is over five feet tall and there are a lot of smaller stones in between. The next two rings are comprised of much smaller stones. The central circle is beautifully constructed, the stones virtually touching on the southern arc, making a closed ring surrounding a central space with a diameter a little less than 22 feet. If there was a central cairn, it is gone.

The nearby Tors dominate the landscape of the circles, particularly Sheeps Tor to the NW. The position suggests very strongly that these surrounding features were of paramount importance in the siting of the monument, for it has no extensive views or commanding altitude of its own. Like many of the stone circles of England (West Cornwall and The Peaks, as well as nearby Brisworthy), the presence of a nearby rocky hilltop seems likely to have had significance to the builders.

I spend an hour or so here, watching another band of black rain cloud approach over Sheeps Tor, but passing on its way without delivering its cargo at Yellowmead. It is very peaceful, not a soul comes this way while I'm here. This little site enthralls me. I have no idea whether it is true to its original layout or a restorer's fantasy. I'm not sure it matters at all. Like Belas Knapp, in my opinion we are richer in having it restored in this way, than we would be if it was left as found in the 1920s.
<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead Multiple Stone Circle</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Yellowmead SE cairn — Fieldnotes

At length I head off, pausing to have a quick look at Yellowmead SE cairn. Doughnut-shaped from digging, there's not a great deal left of this cairn to see, although it must have been a pretty fair size when built. The Yellowmead circles are not visible from it.

Yellowmead SE cairn — Images

<b>Yellowmead SE cairn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead SE cairn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Yellowmead SE cairn</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Taking a route via Marchant's Cross and the picture postcard Meavy ford, I head back to Meavy village where a rather lovely pub looks over the village green and provides a suitable place to cool down (and de-waterproof myself). Yellowmead definitely deserved this trip all of its own.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
19th December 2010ce
Edited 19th December 2010ce

Comments (3)

Ooh - I look forward to reading this one! :)

G x
goffik Posted by goffik
20th December 2010ce
Cheers Goff - it was a little difficult to cast my mind back to sunny August when we're almost snowed in! thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
20th December 2010ce
Ha! Absolutely!

I bloody love Yellowmead, me... Dartmoor generally! You've inspired me - as I've not been out exploring much this year, I might stick some fieldnotes up from previous visits that I've not had the chance to add!

We went to Yellowmead as the snow was melting some years back... Amazing place. Took several visits till I realised it can be seen from teh road! Nice view from the tor (of which I don't remember the name right now) just by the car park. Surprisingly close to Drizzlecombe as well! Oh, man - I gotta get back there this year!!! Next year. Yes. Too late for 2010. :)

G x
goffik Posted by goffik
21st December 2010ce
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