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Cleft Rock

Cleft Tor

Set in the private land of Ausewell Wood the magnificent Cleft Rock was until 1860 associated with the copper mining industry of Dartmoor. The area is said to be the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'Cleft Tor' in his classic 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. The extract reads:

When they were gone, we looked out of the window again. Sir Henry had flung it open, and the cold night wind beat in upon our faces. Far away in the black distance there still glowed that one tiny point of yellow light.
'I wonder he dares' said Sir Henry 'It may be so placed as to be only visible from here'
'Very likely how far do you think it is?'
'Out by the Cleft Tor I think'
'Not more than a mile or two off'
'Hardly that'
'Well, it cannot be far if Barrymore had to carry out the food to it' And he is waiting, this villain, beside that candle. By thunder Watson I am going out to take that man!'

It is certainly an intimidating place that would inspire many a gruesome tale.

Briefly mentioned by Crossing when viewed from opposite, the summit rocks afford tremendous views over Holne Chase to the west and below this point is hidden a fantastic gunnis with a path leading through the cliff face. The walls here are still coated in a dark orange dust reminding the visitor of its mining heritage. The mine was known as both Hazwell and Hazel Mine, according to; "Two parallel lodes of iron and copper extend through and alongside the rock and were developed here by open cast working and underground mining. The Cleft Rock itself (which appears is on current Ordnance Survey maps by this name) is a deep gunnis splitting the rock in two. Locally pronounced as 'Azel', the mine, then idle, was advertised for sale as Haswell Mine in 1763 and two years later, in 1765, appears on a map as the Hazel Mine. Workings at this time were from adit and shaft."

Whereas Ausewell Wood is now accessible thanks to a collaboration between The National Trust and The Woodland Trust, Cleft Rock and its neighbour to the north Raven Rock are off limits, between the beginning of March and the end of July, restrictions imposed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, due it to being in close proximity to sensitive species of wildlife. The sites here are being monitored with trail cameras and/or CCTV so you are advised to respect any closures that are in place.

Currently, as at 2021, there is no public access to Cleft Rock due to concerns over the hazardous mine shafts, steep drops and unstable ground that are potentially dangerous, and a perimeter fence is the closest you can get. Should you wish to visit we would urge you contact the Woodland Trust.

Cleft Rock
The map above is not a navigation tool and we recommend that the grid reference shown below is used in conjunction with an Ordnance Survey map and that training in its use with a compass is advised.
Grid Ref:
SX 7268 7091
Tor Classification:
Valley Side
Private (seek permission)
Rock Type:
William Crossing
Hamilton Jenkin
William Crossing (1909): Guide to Dartmoor
Hamilton Jenkin, A.K. (1981): The Mines of Devon: North & East of Dartmoor Cleft Rock (Haswell Mine; Hazel Mine)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902): The Hound of the Baskervilles

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