Trenchford Rocks, The Lion's Paw
When the Trenchford Tors were first noted by Max Piper (MP) in December 2017, very little was known about their existence which is surprising seeing how close they are to the fringes of Trenchford Reservoir. There are two significant outcrops that lie fairly close to the public footpath and bridge that spans the north-west end of the lake, but they are well hidden. The larger of the two rockpiles is set in the trees and presents as a series of impressive but low-level jagged rocks that emerge from the wooded floor. Only the lower portion of what is a deceptively elongated outcrop can be glimpsed from the footpath below, and most certainly will go unnoticed by the majority of walkers because of its shadowy setting especially if they stick to the path. The scene on the slope is one where the conifers have mostly obscured the sunlight thereby creating a rather unfortunate gloomy atmosphere.
Despite their size the rocks here have been completely overlooked by previous commentators, including the normally reliable William Crossing who would have been writing at the time of the construction of the reservoir (which opened in 1907) when it is probable that the trees obscuring the tor today had yet to grow or be planted. It was once thought that the planting of conifers close to the banks of reservoirs helped with attracting water, which is why we see dense plantations around the earlier Burrator Reservoir (1898) as well as those surrounding Kennick (1884), Tottiford (1861) and Trenchford, but decades later after the construction of Fernworthy in 1942 it was realised that there were few benefits to be gained from this which explains why the areas around the newer reservoirs at both Avon Dam (1957) and Meldon (1972) remain clear of trees. Unfortunately, the proliferation of conifers at Trenchford has concealed and broken up many historic sites, including outcrops and the ruined farmstead of Mardon.
MP first described Trenchford Tor in a Dartmoor News article from 2021, observing that "The lowest part of the main outcrop culminates in a cave resembling a 'lion's paw' which is topped with a tree." To conclude his short description of Trenchford Tor, MP explains that "The name seems appropriate given Trenchford Stream flows below." The 'lion's paw' is easily the most conspicuous part of the tor at the greatest height above the pine-needle bed; further up the emergent tor breaches the slope at about a 45-degree angle to the gradient of the hill, resembling a shelf of rock that has slid down the slope, and as such is considered, by us, to be one of the strangest looking tors on the eastern side of Dartmoor. On its summit, there is a striking exposure of moss and baby clover plants.
Easily accessible, the low tor here is worth a visit because it feels very much detached from the celebrated reservoir and would have certainly been a prominent landmark before afforestation and industry took hold and enshrouded the rocks under a dense canopy of trees.