The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

       

Cox Tor

Cairn(s)

Nearest Town:Tavistock (5km WSW)
OS Ref (GB):   SX530761 / Sheets: 191, 201
Latitude:50° 33' 55.9" N
Longitude:   4° 4' 33.19" W

Added by GLADMAN


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Fieldnotes

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The concluding afternoon of a fortnight's deliberations in the far west country duly arrives... and with it, that curious, emotional juxtaposition of muted acceptance of the party's imminent end with the warm, still glowing embers of time well spent. Such ambiguous, inconclusive moods perhaps should not be conducive to rousing finales, even accepting that sitting around upon hill tops doing, frankly, not a lot, could be considered 'rousing' by most. However, as chance would have it, Cox Tor plays host to just such an event today. For me. Well, it's a personal thing.

The portents are not good when, following a memorable morning at the isolated Ingra Tor my megalithic antennae, fine tuned by a fortnight in the field, duly overload upon arrival at what can only be described as a massive, and furthermore full car park below and to the south of the tor; that is, at the point where the B3357 begins a steep descent toward Tavistock. What is this all about, then? Bemused, I watch punters of all shapes and sizes, seemingly attired for the pleasantries of the beach, disgorge from vehicles to head northwards across the gently undulating hillside toward the unseen summit above and beyond. Subconsciously looking for a reason to opt out, not to join the merry throng, I check the map once more, only to reaffirm that, according to the wondrous OS people anyway, Cox Tor is indeed crowned by several 'Cairns' depicted in that beguiling, 'antiquarian' typeface. Guess it would be rude not to, then.

To call the ascent short and straightforward is pretty much like saying, "come to think of it, the bloke with the moustache and hat in Frankie didn't do a lot, did he?" Consequently it's positively affirming to find that, upon arrival, the summit of Cox Tor is a wild, rock strewn, uncompromisingly brutal place. With extra wind and cold to send my poorly clad fellow punters heading back to their cars in short order. Dartmoor-esque, you might call it. In fact there is so much loose rock surrounding the summit outcrop that, at first, the penny doesn't drop that here we have another fine example of perhaps that most enigmatic of West Country prehistoric monuments... the tor cairn. OK, I know the stone row is Dartmoor's signature feature; but, for me, there is just something SO primeval about (apparently) venerating the living rock itself.

As it is, however, the sight of a fine, round cairn a little way to the immediate north has me hurrying away to take a look and, concurrently, take in the wider views. It is a pretty hefty stone pile, perched upon the northern edge of another, lesser outcrop and with expansive views to all point of the compass save the south, that being reserved, as you would expect, for the ever more intriguing summit. Looking north-east the landscape is vintage Dartmoor, seemingly desolate, featureless moor... but in reality packed with prehistoric treasures, tangible reminders of the people who once called Langstone Moor and its environs 'home': a stone circle, numerous cairns, cists, monoliths... hey, even a hill fort crowning White Tor. Looking west the visitor has no need to attempt to reconcile such apparent ambiguities, a series of patchwork fields leading the eye toward Cornwall and the mysterious, rolling hills of Bodmin Moor. But that's another, wondrous story.

After sitting out a brief, yet violent weather front, I check out another, apparently less well defined cairn a little further to the approx north to find it appears to be a pretty substantial ring cairn - as opposed to robbed round cairn? Perhaps not. An extended walkabout highlights at least one additional small cairn before, gazing across to White Tor and its tor cairns, I - finally - make the connection. Returning to the summit crags, now in brilliant sunshine, the surrounding girdle of shattered rock is obvious, in retrospect. Duh! The summit area is way, way too small to have been a habitable defended enclosure, so I have no doubt that something rather splendidly incomprehensible to my modern thinking - for better or worse - was going on back in the day.

Yeah, clearly Cox Tor was a significant member of the canon of Dartmoor's upland sites back then. What is also certain is that it is the perfect locale to end a fortnight in the west. When something promising so little ends up delivering so much one can only shrug one's shoulders and go with the flow...
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
1st October 2017ce
Edited 2nd October 2017ce