West Okement Walk

west okement tinners hut dtrg lunch break

Leader M. Oates

The weather was OK but the NW wind was strong and cold and the grey cloud at times brought some light rain. Our small group, now having gathered at Meldon car park, I was keen to get going so we set off, up the steep incline of Longstone Hill to head to Black-a-tor-Copse where our first stop was. This first lag was the longest and least interesting, especially in the poor weather. On approaching the hill top I pointed out some small cairns of a scattered group and then a larger, dominant, one (SX 5691 9052). At last we reached the edge of the wood, sheltered here in the river valley and stopped for a break whilst looking at the first POI – a possible tinners’ cache (SX 5630 8946). It consists of a large boulder forming one side of a circular wall of stones heaped up against it. It sits inside an area defined by a possible tinners’ scarp, although tin streaming activity is more obvious on the opposite side of the West Okement.

After our break we entered the enchanting Black-a-tor-Copse, leaves just starting to appear. From this point the going became more difficult because of clitter. Halfway along the edge of the wood I pointed out another possible cache, quite ruined and not as large (SX 5642 8931). However I must admit that, with DTRG members present, it no longer looked like the remains of a cache. From here it wasn’t long until we reached the next POI which was the first of two Tinners’ Huts. Before we reached this Helen had noticed an unusual straightness to the river course and pointed it out (SX 5695 8855). We had a look and saw that the banks seemed to have been lined with rectangular blocks of moorstone. Robert suggested that this had been done to lower the water level to aid the recovery of tin ore up river.

We sat around on the foundation walls of the Tinners’ Hut and ate lunch (SX 5717 8844). This hut is well hidden by the clitter and easily missed. Except for a nicely chosen door pillar and the huge earth fast boulder utilised for the opposite end wall all but the foundation walls are left. One wonders what happened to the rubble or maybe the building was never completed? Next we headed to Lints Tor Brook where there are clear indications of stream working. Near a group of small prehistoric hut circles we looked at a pair of small, stony, cache-like structures (SX 5796 8799 & SX 5798 8795) and by the bank the much ruined remains of a Tinners’ Hut (SX 5796 8785). Like the previous one this too utilises a large earth fast boulder. However unlike it, it consists of many rubble stones and has a court yard.

Due to the poor weather and difficult going we decided to go no further and turned back. Our route to the car park went via the small Victorian Reservoir (SX 5604 8978) near the “Island of Rocks” (a Victorian “beauty spot”) and skirted around the modern Meldon reservoir. We arrived back, though somewhat weary (except for Robert – who went off to explore the remains of glass works at Meldon Quarry!), in good time.