Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dartmoor Christmas pt.2 or “Vixen Tor: lest we forget”

Boxing Day, and a trip to the south moor. The weather was much more inviting than the mizzle to the north, and it gave me a chance to visit a tor I had never been to before. I don’t know why I don’t visit the south more often. Yes, it is more accessible and therefore busier, but it has plenty of great spots.

Pew TorPew Tor is a short walk between a choice of a couple of car parks, and so, visited frequently. It is an impressive circle of granite towers, creating a natural amphitheatre. Whichever the direction of wind, there is somewhere to shelter, making it a pleasant picnic stop.

View from Pew Tor

It commands some great views of the surrounding landscape, including Cornwall and Bodmin Moor to the south-west, and the church at Brentor (below) to the north-west.

Brentor in the distance

I took lunch here, watching the comings and goings of people enjoying the access, open to the public as everything within a national park should be. A marked contrast to this sits a mere half a kilometre away; the controversial Vixen Tor.

The beautiful but inaccessible Vixen Tor

Those familiar with the struggle for public access across the United Kingdom will be more than aware of this particular beauty spot. Whilst it’s neighbouring tors bring immense enjoyment to their visitors, perhaps the most striking of them all sits in solitary confinement, imprisoned within a ring of barbed wire, thanks to the selfish act of a bitter landowner.

Vixen Tor out of reach

Once frequented by all who wished to, a change in ownership saw access to the tor closed off. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2001 made no difference, as was hoped, and the fight was taken up by many, including The Ramblers and British Mountaineering Council. Repeated attempts to gain the right to roam within the shadows of Dartmoor’s highest freestanding granite outcrop, have been met with frustration.

In March 2009, we all had high hopes a corner was turned when Devon County Council recommended two rights of way across the land. However, it could not be proved that the paths had been used frequently, despite 59 people supplying evidence, and the decision went in favour of the landowner in September 2011.

Since the decision, all has gone quiet on the matter. I hope the fight hasn’t been lost, and that work is afoot behind the scenes, but it does seem as though no further action is being taken. For more information on the history of Vixen Tor, and some details of the dodgy evidence that went against the campaign, visit Legendary Dartmoor.


  1. I wonder what would happen if we just went and camped under the tor? Arrive mid afternoon, so the landowner would be well aware of our presence and not leave until 24 hours later.
    To trespass, don't you need to damage stuff?
    I'm not sure of the law here - does anyone know?

  2. I've seen forums, on Facebook etc., promoting similar to that Alan, but they have never amounted to anything. There have been mass trespasses in the past, but not heard of any since the decision. I believe plenty of people still visit, anyway.

    As to the law, I'm also not up with how it works, but it's a pretty secure site and to access means climbing the perimeter wall, so dislodging any part of that wall could be construed as criminal damage.

    Scouring the web, it seems the common consensus is that the only solution is for England and Wales to get access legislation similar to Scotland. If anyone knows different, I'd be interested to find out.