Man’s fingerprints on Dartmoor

In a sense this is “part 2” of my previous post here.  The images were all taken on the same day and, while showing quite a wild part of the UK, also indicate some of  the ways the moors have been used over centuries.  The work of man can be seen clearly from the above however there is some history here.  The building is known as John Bishop’s house.  John Bishop was a moorman in the nineteenth century and lived in a house on this site which, in turn may well have been built on the foundations of a far older longhouse.  The current building dates from 1912 and was actually called Swincombe farm – it is very close to the river called the Swincombe.

The track here is close to John Bishop’s house and just above the ford on the Swincombe.  It is part of an ancient packhorse route between Tavistock and Ashburton.  It was probably regularly used from the Middle Ages until 1792 when a turnpike road was opened.  There are quite a few ancient tracks across the moors dating from very early times.  In some places they are very obvious such as here and in others far less so.

The track reaches this ford on the Swincombe close to John Bishop’s house.  It crosses the river from the small opening on the right of the river to the bottom left of the image.

Taken from just below the ford on the Swincombe, this shows the current (relatively modern) foot bridge across the river at this point.  Just below it and slightly upstream stepping stones can be seen with the ford seen in the image above just upstream of the stones.  This has obviously been an important crossing point on the river for centuries.

A short distance downstream of the above are some beehives which can be seen here.  I’m not certain of the current owners but for many years these belonged to the monks at Buckfast Abbey.

Moving from the current era to far older times this hut circle is set above the valley of the Swincombe.  This will probably date from at least 3000 years ago.  While this one is not easy to see it is similar to the ones at Grimspound which are larger and better know (largely because they are far more accessible).

As can be seen it was a cold and frosty day.  There was plenty of ice around even where water was flowing.  This is the result of draining ground further up via a pipe which leads water down towards the Swincombe.  As such the hand of man over many centuries can be seen even in quite remote & beautiful parts of Dartmoor.


  1. It was a long time since I visited your blog, and I am truly happy to enjoy your new images and comments. I have especially noticed the photograph with the hut circle, because I love this kind of landscape, wide but marked out by human activity; then, in the post below, the reservoir (that blue with two touchs of orange!) and also, below below, the cracking thin ice lighted up by the morning sun. Merci pour la balade !

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