Brentor – The Western Gateway to Dartmoor

The Western Gateway to Dartmoor

Brentor village nestles on the eastern side of the river Burn valley. This is small a village with little in the way of facilities for the visitor.
The parish has two churches, one is situated within the village itself and is dedicated as “Christ’s Church”, the other is located some 1/2 mile away on top of Brent Tor.

Brentor is approximately 4 miles from the ancient market and stannary town of Tavistock. There is a regular bus service from Tavistock to Brentor via Mary Tavy.
It should be on the list of anyone who enjoys rambling and wishes their route to take them along picturesque country lanes and occasional stretches of open moorland. Local guide books will help to ensure an enjoyable walk.

Of particular note is the tiny church of St. Michael Du Rupe.
This tiny church sits atop of Brent Tor where it dominates the countryside for miles around. The tor is in fact all that remains of a volcano. The outer parts of the volcano have weathered away and the core plug remains.

 St. Michael D’Rupe, Brentor.
The church is 37ft long and just under 15ft wide, and has a belfry.
The tower was struck by lightning in 1995 and extensive repairs have been carried out.

This quaint little church atop the tor is a must for tourists, whether on foot or by car. The views from the summit, which is just a gentle climb of short duration, are magnificent. See for yourself! There is a steep way up for those who like to climb!

One legend associated with the church is that the devil threw down the stones when the builders began construction at the top. In the end the builders decided to build at the foot of the tor. The devil, being very contrary, threw the stones to the top where they formed themselves into the church!
It is also reputed to have been built by a sailor who promised to build a church on the first point of land he saw after a bad storm at sea!

The church is also said to be located on very important ley lines and is just the place for those who enjoy dowsing these magical lines of force. Lots of people try it here!

The book “The Sun and the Serpent” gives lots of details about the ley lines at this site. It is here that one can detect the ley line that runs across country to Glastonbury.
There are also signs of prehistoric hut circles and old trial workings for minerals nearby. Ochre was once produced at Brentor.

Old photographs of Brentor

Mary Tavy – Another aspect of Dartmoor

Mary Tavy

Mary Tavy village nestles on the eastern side of the valley leading to the River Tavy. Once a thriving mining community in the 1800s, it is now just a small rural village with a population just short of 900 people.

It is somewhat like the curate’s egg – good in parts – with many things of interest (if you know where to look!) to encourage the curious tourist. It is approximately 3 miles from the ancient market and the stannary town of Tavistock.

Find out what it is really like by exploring these pages. Not all page links are obvious! You really will have to explore.

The tiny hamlet of Horndon is just one and a half miles away. It is here that you find the true feeling of being in the countryside. There are rare slipper orchids to be seen in the graveyard of the local Methodist Chapel, and shady lanes to wander along, leading down to Hill Bridge and the river Tavy in the valley below. Leftward is the way to Black Hill, across the moorland, and to the Wheal Jewell Reservoir area, and ‘Ring O’ Bells’.
Ask anyone the way to the river at Hillbridge and they will point you in the right direction.orkid
Rare Slipper Orchid – Horndon

For those who want to follow the county road to Lane End (marked Lane Head on the maps!) – the way is easy. From the moor gate, you will enter on to the moor and go up towards the steep sided hills before you. On reaching the leat (watercourse or canal – not the river!) bear right and continue along its banks. Soon you will come to Tavy Cleave, the steep-sided valley to the left of you, and its majestic jumbled clitters of rocks and crystal clear babbling waters.

Perhaps on the return journey, you will stop at the ‘Elephant’s Nest’ pub for a drink. It was once the home of my mother, and in those days it was called ‘The New Inn’.
The ‘older inn’ must have been ‘The Black Lion’ located opposite the Methodist Chapel, Horndon, at Black Lion Hill. A refreshment spot for the miners of Wheal Jewell.

Mary Tavy is eminently suited to those who either want to visit Dartmoor and its surrounding attractions by car or to use it as a starting point to explore the area at a more leisurely pace. It is ideally situated to begin a backpacking trip or trek across Dartmoor.

It has a beautifully furnished Anglo Catholic church which lies in the old part of the village, well away from the main road. The key to the church is usually held at “Homer” (ask anyone locally for that location) and it can be obtained from there for viewing outside normal service times – or at least used to be!
Some village records.
There is a very recently restored peal of 5 bells (I was Secretary to the fund-raising committee). The beautiful stained-glass windows are by the noted stained glass artist, Kemp, of Soho, London. There is a delightful rood screen (carved by the accomplished Misses Penwell) surmounted by a large crucifix and statues from Oberammergau, Germany, in painted linden wood. The ornate reredos above the altar completes the picture.

sml_whealBetsyThe famous mines of the Wheal Friendship complex within the village are now only really visible to the enthusiasts’ eye, being overgrown or dismantled.
This mine was taken over and managed by that great mining engineer, John Taylor who came from Norfolk in 1854 at the tender age of 19 years.
At one time Wheal Friendship was the most productive deep copper mine in the world. In 1853, because of the influx of miners, the population stood at 1,500+ souls – but there were only 66 houses!
There is hardly any trace of Mary Tavy’s mining industry of the 18th and 19th centuries except for the well preserved engine house (pictured right) which is adjacent to the A386 in the moorland valley as one approaches the village from a northerly direction. This is the site of the lead/silver mine of Wheal Betsy, or, as it was also once named, Prince Arthur Consuls.

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