The prospect of a fine and sunny Easter weekend had resulted in plans to take G/F to the Brecon Beacons, until Network Rail's maintenance programme put paid to that. But Saturday is St George's Day, so we turn our sights to Merrie England instead, and to Dartmoor. As we set off, G/F informs me that she has never been to Dartmoor in anything other than sunny conditions, and today promises to maintain that rather enviable tradition (certainly not one that tallies with my solo visits anyway).
Rather than taking the Nine Stones bridleway mentioned in other fieldnotes, we get off the bus at Ramsley, where an alternative bridleway heads due west then south and provides a slightly more gradual climb up onto the moor. The trees along the route also provide welcome shelter, as the temperature is skyrocketing as we head off (it turns out to be the hottest April day for 60 years or so). The path wanders generally south, always climbing, between drystone walls and over terrain that would be pretty muddy and horrible in other weather but is passable enough today. Eventually we make it up onto the moor, following a stone-paved track rather narrower than the drystone walls either side - my money is on this being a very much older drove route.
This northeastern edge of the moor is pretty remote, with no roads crossing it and only bridleways and tracks even climbing up onto it. Which is great, as it makes for a nice solitary visit. We see a large party of walkers from a distance, but otherwise are left to our own devices as we reach the first site on today's route.
Hitting the row at its eastern end, at first it appears to be a double row, with no obvious terminals at this end. There are two stones together, before a drainage gulley cuts across the row. Its small and sporadic stones limp on a little further, before suddenly turning into a triple row wonder. Boy, this is a good row - much clearer visually than the similar multiple row we visited last year at Corringdon Ball. The northern row contains larger and heavier stones than the other two.
After maybe 100m, the rows terminate with three larger upright slabs, placed perpendicularly to the rows themselves. Rather oddly, the three terminal stones are completely out of line with each other, especially the northern row's stone, which is set much further west than the others.
The terminal cairn is a ruin, but contains the remains of not one but two separate cists. It is also surrounded by the scant remains of a small free-standing stone circle, but only five stumpy stones, a foot or so high, remain of it. Seen from this end, the row clearly meanders along its length, appearing to curve southwards then returning to an eastwards direction at its far end.
An excellent start to the day and one that has already taken care of the majority of uphill walking we will do, mercifully given the heat. We head off south, to brave Raybarrow Pool on our way to White Moor stone circle.
Cosdon Hill (28.2.05) loomed large as we started our climb to the stone rows, following the bridle path sign posted Nine stones, the start of our second day on the moor tested the resolve and stiff muscles of our group with this ever increasing gradient. As the 3 stone rows finally came into view, the hill levelled out (slightly) as if to welcome us.
Walking along the rows from the east, many of the stones are missing or have sunk into the peat, but crossing a small gully that cuts through them; the rows seemed to gain vigour as they rise in abundance from the soil (Many thanks to the 1897 restoration). Standing at the terminal stones and looking out over the valley below, it was easy to understand why this would have been such an appealing site for the rows constructors, selecting as they did the row's approximate orientation of 100/280 deg (consideration for the slight wandering of the rows courses). The Left Ts* measures 2ft1", Centre Ts* 1ft 6 ¾" and Right Ts* 3ft 1 ½" inches (*Ts: Terminal Stone).
The circle (W end of rows) has a diameter of 18ft 5" with 5 stones standing of a possible 17, these surround a ruined kerbed cairn with a diameter of 15ft.
Setting our course to White Moor stone circle we left Cosdon Hill, feeling energised as if enriched for spending time in this wonderful place.