Raven Rock (Walkham)
This is a magnificent non-granite tor that is perched above the River Walkham on the south-eastern side of West Down. Mrs. Bray, when describing the River Walkham below Grenofen, was left spellbound by the fine scenery on offer, and wrote a compelling description of the crags further down the valley: "The noblest of these piles is called the Raven Rock; no doubt from the many birds of that tribe which harbour in it. This, when seen at twilight, with the river rolling and foaming but a few yards from its base, has an effect that acts powerfully on the imagination. In the days of superstition I can well believe it might have been deemed the haunt of pixies and spirits, that make their rings in the greensward at dusk, and lead poor travellers astray, laughing at their harms."
Although it may be dominated by loftier heights all around it, Raven Rock is nonetheless a true sentinel guarding the Walkham as it progresses through this beautiful gorge. When standing at its base, you are dwarfed by the magnitude, and the grotesque jointings in the Rock harbour a variety of plants and vegetation. The summit of Raven Rock is comparatively disappointing in comparison but presents as an appetiser for the gem to be found below, while offering fine views above the canopy.
The Lower Walkham Valley has a rich mining heritage that is marked by a number of copper mines. The nearest to Raven Rock is West Down Mine to the north-east that is most easily identifiable by its upstanding chimney stack beside the river and ruined buildings. Even at the Rock there was work carried out with a chimney stack embedded into the side of the hill. Rendell (1996) explains that it "has a square base and stands about 8 feet high" and recalls that "according to local knowledge, it was built to overcome air pollution problems in the valley caused by arsenic fumes being omitted from the chimney stack situated lower down the hillside..." Beneath this at the foot of the hill is a stone arch, this the entrance to the flue that once smelted arsenic through the aforementioned chimney stack.
The location of Raven Rock is a contentious one. In addition to Bray, William Crossing also mentioned the tor's position in his 'Guide to Dartmoor' (1909); "Overlooking the Walkham above the confluence are Buck Tor and the crag known as Raven Rock. Below the confluence is the Virtuous Lady Mine..." Both clearly place it above the confluence known as Double Waters, but the Ordnance Survey put it further to the west, and not on the River Walkham, but the River Tavy, a short distance past the Virtuous Lady Mine. Given that Ordnance Survey have a habit of misnomers on Dartmoor maps, we tend to regard this as a mistake and favour Bray and Crossing. However, it is entirely possible that there are two rocks named Raven because ravens are thought to make their nests within the crags in this valley and this name may well have been attached to more than one outcrop here.