Hookney Tor & Grimspound Dartmoor - Map

Hookney Tor is a windswept rocky outcrop on Dartmoor at 414m / 1358ft ASL. It watches over the Grimspound, an intriguing bronze-age circular enclosure with the remains of 24 houses, some inhabited until medieval times. It will have a post in its own right in due course. We investigated both with our granddaughter Berry last August during a short holiday together (grandparental treat!) on Dartmoor.Hound Tor 8

Hound Tor 12Hound Tor 5

After exploring the Grimspound, there is no doubt about the next achievement to tackle: a steep stony path leads invitingly from the walls to the top of the Tor. As you climb, the Grimspound quickly gets smaller below you. Hound Tor 23Hound Tor 26Hound Tor 3

Berry was not the only wild creature on the moor…Hound Tor 22


As we climbed, we noticed that the rocks all around were embedded with fossils. Or so we believed. We took lots of photos of these amazing calcified creatures that by some strange process were to be found at nearly 1500ft. Only later, when we did a bit of research online, did we find out the disappointing truth: not fossils, but megacrysts. The technical explanation is as follows:

The main exposure at the Tor is of megacryst granite (also known as “Giant Granite” or “Big-Feldspar Granite”). It is probably from near the roof area of the batholith. The feldpars are of perthitic orthoclase that is porphyroblastic (later replacive crystals) in origin and not phenocrysts (large crystals that have developed in the magma). In some places the southwest England granite megacrysts have been seen to develop into aplite (fine-grained quartz-feldpar veins of late origin), which is possible for porphyroblasts (developing by replacement after the veins) but not for phenocrysts (early and which should be cut through by the veins).

 Hound Tor, Dartmoor. Fossils? No, Megacrysts Hound Tor, Dartmoor. Fossils? No, Megacrysts Hound Tor, Dartmoor. Fossils? No, Megacrysts


Tupperware at nearly 1500ft? The plastic rubbish left behind by some idle picnicker? But no… Berry spent some time exploring the crannies of the rockiest outcrops, and in the process made her next ‘Letterbox’ discovery… [The previous year’s find is HERE]

Hound Tor 6Hound Tor 13Hound Tor 20Hound Tor 30

Berry was not the first person to discover the box, which had been left by a girl from Surrey, with a message encouraging people to write in the notebook inside. This was already well-filled with the names, addresses, messages and drawings of previous explorers. There was also a strange mix of ‘souvenir’ items people had left – a car park ticket from Alton Towers, a ‘poppy day’ poppy, a couple of smoothed-out sweet wrappers, a button, and other such debris that walkers might find in their pockets… So Berry added a 1p coin, and added her contribution to the notebook. It may not have been an official Dartmoor Letterbox, but it was a lovely idea to have hidden it for others to enjoy.

Hound Tor 18Hound Tor 17Hound Tor 29Hound Tor 15Hound Tor 31

Credit: photos 4, 5, first megacryst, and all agile activity by Berry


Dartmoor Letterbox 2013-3
Somewhere in this wild landscape is a Dartmoor Letterbox

Summer 2013, and a 3-generation expedition to Dartmoor for a few days. I had vaguely heard about the – hobby? healthy outdoor activity? sport? – of GEOCACHING, the search for a concealed container in a (usually) remote place using clues. Or in some cases, coming across one by accident. However DARTMOOR LETTERBOXING was a variant new to me… Much the same principle, but on a smaller scale. Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor but has spread widely to many other places. As the official website puts it, Letterboxing is an outdoor pursuit with similarities to orienteering. A small pot (the letterbox) containing a stamp and visitors’ book is hidden on the moor, and a clue is written to lead others to its position. Clues may be as simple as a map reference and list of compass bearings, or may be more cryptic. When a letterbox is found, the letterboxer takes a copy of the stamp, as well as leaving their own personal print in the visitors’ book. Letterboxing began on Dartmoor but is now popular in areas all over the world.”

The quest originally began when Berry (then 7) was having a riding lesson on the moor. They reached a gateway and Adele said there was something interesting close by it. She was a bit mysterious about it, so at Berry’s suggestion we decided to investigate the next day…Dartmoor Letterbox 2013-4

This is the same gateway, set in a long dry stone wall (see header image). It looked a promising place to start the searchDartmoor Letterbox 2013-1

Berry is something of an expert at this sort of task, and worked her way methodically along the wall towards the gateway checking the crannies (avoiding a barbed wire fence). And there, almost entirely concealed in the stones at the side of the gate, was a Letterbox. It is shown here after discovery and retrieval – originally it was almost invisible. Inside was a small notebook to sign and date, and some tiny mementos that previous finders had left in the container. Then Berry replaced the Letterbox in its original position for someone else to discover…Dartmoor Letterbox 2013-2

The sun broke through the clouds, and after a major paddling session in a pool formed by a stone dam in a small stream, it was time for sustenance…. 

Chocolate Brownie Heaven… Choc Brownie Heaven, Dartmoor

I wouldn’t dream of giving away this location, but I think I can leave a broad clue: “Hound of the Baskervilles”. Part 2 will feature a rather more adventurous and fortuitous (i.e. no clues) Letterbox find at the top of a Tor on Dartmoor last summer.


Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 6

This is a simple 3-generation Dartmoor hill walk from a rustic car park just east of Dartmeet, the confluence of the West and East Dart rivers. Unchallenging. Great views. Interesting (pre?)historic trackway. Ponies. A grid of side-tracks to explore. Rocks and stones. Something for everyone. The ringed area below shows the track, which ultimately leads to a ruined village, now barely discernable. 

Dartmoor Walk, Dartmeet 1Dartmoor Track

I find in retrospect that my photos of the route  tended to concentrate overmuch on the  ‘agger and fossum’ aspect of the track. There’s a perfectly good natural track to walk up. It looks a fairly steep start, but I assure you it is easy walking…

Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 1 Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 2 Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 3Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 5

Looking back down the hill to the car park        Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 4

At the top are inviting side tracks leading off the main oneDartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 7Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 9

No walk here would be complete without at least one pony and foal pairDartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 8

There are fine views in all directions, especially from the east right round to the westDartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 10Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 11Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 12Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 13Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 14Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 15Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 16Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 17Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 18

Not much grows here except grass and the exceptionally hardy gorse and heatherDartmoor - GorseDartmoor - HeatherDartmoor - Heather & Gorse

Dartmoor - Dartmeet Walk 19

Photo credit: Berry (7), who loved the walk & took the more interesting photos


Dartmoor Sheep 1 Dartmoor Sheep 2 Dartmoor Sheep 3 Dartmoor Sheep 4 Dartmoor Sheep 5