Jan 132024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Deckless clapper bridge at Bellever 1 Bellever Tor Laughter Man standing stone Granite rocks of Bellever Tor 1 Granite rocks of Bellever Tor 2 Granite rocks of Bellever Tor 3 Deckless clapper bridge at Bellever 2 Stone circle on Lakehead Hill Kraps Ring ancient settlement Granite rocks of Bellever Tor 4 Deckless clapper bridge at Bellever 3 Deckless clapper bridge at Bellever 5 Deckless clapper bridge at Bellever 4

Postbridge lies more or less in the middle of Dartmoor, its main attraction the medieval clapper bridge that crosses the East Dart River. Early on this brisk morning I had the bridge with its great granite slabs and piled supports to myself.

Out on the open moor a broad grassy bridlepath ran south through pale wiry grass. All round the long skyline of the moor swelled, its smooth undulations broken by the hard outlines of granite tors.

Down in a sheltered hollow the white cottages of Bellever lay cradled in dark forestry. The village has its own clapper bridge; the central slab is missing, and it would be a brave leaper who dared the jump.

A gravel roadway led through the conifers of Bellever forest to where Laughter Hole Farm lay silent and derelict among ancient trees trailing long green beards of usnea lichen. Beyond the farm the track headed on across the moor, wide open country all round, low ridges and hidden valleys, stunted thorns and willows dotting the coarse grass.

I turned off along a green track to pass the Laughter Man, a 10-ft tall standing stone on the slope of Laughter Tor. From here Bellever Tor stood tall on the western skyline, a jumble of granite that resolved itself as I got nearer into piles of flat wind-sculpted rocks stacked like grey pancakes. Near the top Dartmoor ponies grazed, glancing at me from under their rock star fringes.

It might have been the arresting profile of Bellever Tor that caused our ancient ancestors to construct their sacred sites across the slopes of Lakehead Hill. I followed a rough path through the tussocks, stumbling upon stone circles, a cist burial under a flat capstone, and a row of twelve tooth-like stones carefully aligned with the rising and setting of the sun.

There was something about these obscure monuments half buried in the moor grass that made me linger in their presence far longer than I’d intended to. Walking on at last, I thought of Tom White of Postbridge, a lovelorn suitor who dallied too long with his girlfriend. The pixies of Bellever Tor caught him on the way home and taught him a lesson by making him dance from midnight till dawn.

How hard is it? 5¾ miles; moderate; rough moorland paths. No recommended in mist.

Start: Bellever Forest car park, Postbridge PL20 6TH (OS ref SX 647786)

Getting there: Bus 98 (Tavistock-Yelverton)
Road – Postbridge is on B3212 between Moretonhampstead and Two Bridges

Walk (OS Explorer OL28): From car park, follow signs to clapper bridge (649788). Just before bridge, turn south off road (‘Bridleway’); up steps onto moor. In ⅔ mile at gate (652778) cross track; bridleway descends into Bellever. At road, left (656773) to clapper bridge (659773). Return along road; left through forest car park; follow track past Laughter Hole Farm (659759). On up hill (‘Country Road B3157’ fingerpost). At gate leave trees (658755); ahead (‘Dunnabridge Pound’). In 500m at cross-tracks (654752), right past Laughter Man standing stone (653753); on towards Bellever Tor. In ½ mile through/over gate (646758); right on grassy track to Bellever Tor summit (645764). Down broad path towards forest; in 400m, fork left (646767) on path up right flank of tussocky Lakehead Hill between forestry blocks. Follow it for 1 mile past cairn circle and cist (644774), stone row (644776) and stone circle (644777) to Kraps Ring settlement (645781). Path through trees beyond (post ‘5A’); in 200m, right on track, then left to Postbridge.

Lunch/Accommodation: East Dart Inn, Postbridge PL20 6TJ (01822-880213)

Info: Visitor Centre, Postbridge (01822-880272, dartmoor.gov.uk)

 Posted by at 03:34

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