The Egyptian Sphinx, The Sphinx Rock, The Lion's Head
For those that are familiar with the struggle to walk over public pathways that cross Private Land in the United Kingdom, the plight of Vixen Tor on Dartmoor will be well known. Previously frequented by all who wished to until 2003, when a change in ownership saw access to the tor completely closed off, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2001 made no difference, as was hoped, and the fight to have access restored was taken up by many individuals and groups, including The Ramblers and British Mountaineering Council. Although its neighbouring tors bring immense enjoyment to their visitors, sadly the most striking of them all now sits in solitary confinement, courtesy of the current landowner. This jewel in the South Dartmoor crown is inaccessible to the public but it is hardly surprising given its history. Numerous recent headline making incidents on Dartmoor of the public disrespecting, ruining and littering the moorland landscape do little to strengthen the case against decisions to close off the land here. But for Vixen Tor this is not a modern day issue; successive landowners have been dealing with the detritus of unscrupulous visitors for a long time. Quotes from "The Forest of Dartmoor" by Rev H. Hugh Breton, written way back in 1932 illustrate the point; "Visitors to Vixen Tor please don't strew the ground with paper and broken bottles which gives great annoyance to the owner." and in the same work; "Of late years much trouble has been given by thoughtless people who strew the ground around the tor with paper and broken bottles that closing the tor to visitors and picnic parties has been under consideration."
Since 2003 the fight for the right to access Vixen Tor has been a long and emotive journey. Repeated attempts to gain the right to roam within the shadows of Dartmoor's highest freestanding granite outcrop, have met with frustration. In March 2009, there were high hopes that a corner had been 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 enough, despite 59 people supplying evidence, and the decision went in favour of the landowner in September 2011.
As for the tor itself, it is a huge outcrop, one of the most dramatic on the moor. It has a legend as the home of a witch named Vixana. Before the road was made, in the 1770s, a track led across the moor from Tavistock to Ashburton still marked in places by various T/A stones. Vixen Tor was an important landmark on that path. Just west of Vixen Tor the path twisted through a bog, and Vixana lurked there waiting for travellers. By her spells she is said to have created mists, which swirled around her victims until they were disorientated and lost before being sucked down into the bog. Her death came about when a young moorman tricked her into following him to the tor where he pushed her off the edge of the rocks.