Coombe Tor is on private land. It is not a minor transgression from a footpath or a harmless hop over a gate; it is half a kilometre from the nearest right of way, within dense woodland left to encourage wildlife, and surrounded by a patchwork of fields. The responsible course of action is to seek the kind permission of the landowner.
I had sent out letters to landowners of those known tors I had still to bag, and waited patiently for a response. Of the six, I had, to date, received three replies; two did not actually own the land but provided me with contact numbers, whilst the owner of Coombe Tor rang and agreed a date for my diary. I was particularly keen on this one as it had a little extra.
I parked in Chagford on the Sunday morning of the August bank holiday weekend, deciding to walk up Waye Hill. It was already getting busy in town, the day was hotting up and I soon rued the decision, perspiring in the sun as I laboured up Manor Road, constantly having to lean into the hedges when nervous tourists drove by, religiously obeying their Sat Navs through the narrow byways.
Still, it wasn’t all hard work, with plenty of gates providing good sight of Meldon Hill and Nattadon Common.
I arrived early at Waye Barton. I waited in the shade for ten minutes before knocking and it wasn’t long before the landowner was escorting me through equestrian fields, surrounded by classic Dartmoor vistas such as Meldon Hill, Kestor Rock, Cawsand, Gidleigh Park and Castle Drogo. A beautiful estate.
I asked how often they got requests to visit and was surprised to learn that it was one in ten years; on that assumption, Mike Kitchener, who has pointed out quite a few tors to me through this blog, had probably been the last to visit! Obviously, my preoccupation with tor bagging is not as popular as I thought!
Entering the woods, it was overgrown. The first site of the tor straight before me was a tease, turning right I was met by a huge exposed lump of granite perched on smaller rocks to create an arch. A promising start!
We stepped up beside the arch, making our way through tangled branches to a clearing on the relatively flat upper summit where there were stunning views over to Kestor Rock.
Here, I noticed a small rock basin but what took centre stage was the tall lichen covered cross which makes this tor even more interesting.
The owner pointed out the inscription low on its front face, explaining that the initials were for Mary Ann Liggins Clampitt, who loved it here.
When searching for information on the Ancestry website I was thrown when all I could find was a death in Bootle, Lancashire. Further digging turned up an entry from the Index of Wills and Administration, which revealed; “CLAMPITT Mary Ann Liggins of Bootle Lancashire (wife of Richard Vooght Clampitt) died 4 February 1908 Probate Liverpool 16 March to the said Richard Vooght Clampitt surgeon. Effects £14022 13s. 1d.“.
This was increasingly feeling like a case of mistaken identity.
Eventually, the Devon connection was revealed when I discovered that the couple were buried in London Road Cemetary, in Coventry. The headstone read; “In loving memory of Mary Ann Liggins, the wife of Richard Vooght Clampitt of Coombe, Chagford… who departed this life February 4th 1908 Aged 70 Years. – Also of the above named Richard Vooght Clampitt of Coombe, Chagford, Devon who departed this life March 20th 1911 Aged 67 Years. United.”
Census records show they resided in Bootle, where Richard was a surgeon, but I found out that he also owned Thorn Cottages and Coombe, which sit below Coombe Tor.
When they would visit, Mary would climb the tor to sit in quiet contemplation. Some time after Mary died, Dr. Clampitt placed the cross on the summit, in her memory.
The summit being flat, the more aesthetically pleasing outcrops are back the way we ascended. These piles had more character; weathered, rounded, tinged green with moss.
One last look back at the cross, I descended to rejoin the waiting owner. We left the woods, retracing our steps, to the house. I thanked the owner for access and for taking the time to show me round, then passed on the details of this blog and left, a very satisfied tor bagger.