Over and Down


Denbury Down has two prominent mounds in the middle of the woods at its summit.  These may be tumuli or burial mounds, possibly of Bronze Age date (Victoria History of the County of Devon) though W.G.Hoskins suggests, in his very readable history of Devon, that the site may belong to two distinct periods.  This part of the Down has an atmospheric, some say almost spooky quality.

The Down exists because the grey-green Nordon Slate of the immediate countryside is capped here by a dense-grained volcanic rock called Spilite.
If you've ever used a bar of Imperial Leather soap (the one with the label), you'll probably have noticed that, after the soap has been used for a while, the bit with the label on it stands proud of the rest of the bar on a shouldered bump of soap.  Denbury Down is exactly like that: as the more crumbly Slate has been eroded away, like the soap, so the Spilite cap has resisted, like the label, giving us the shape we see today.

Over the Edge

Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest in these woods and can be heard drumming early in the year.  Carry on along the path which leads off the top to the north side of the Down and follow the slope through the gate into the lovely, pillared beech wood.  This is the best place to see the bluebells in early summer.

North Slope Gate

There are one or two information boards which show reconstructions of the hillfort in its heyday.  The fort has an upper ramparted area with a lower flat compound on the west side.  Plunge down the slope and emerge opposite Norden Farm.  You will see a children's rope swing tied up into the giddy heights of the trees.  One or two childish adults have taken their turn here!  A track leads away to the right which would take you back to the path you climbed up by.  Black Ants abound in the leaf litter and can be found everywhere in the Denbury area.

Exit to Norden

The older spelling "Nordon" survives on some maps and in the Geological Survey's descriptions of the area.  The road which runs across your line of sight at the foot of the hill was used by cattle drovers bringing their stock from the hinterland of Dartmoor to the markets and very substantial annual fair held annually on the "Vigil, Feast and Morrow" of St Mary the Virgin; 7th,8th 9th September.  Both of these were granted by Edward I in 1285 to the Abbot of Tavistock who owned Denbury at that time.  Go over the stile and emerge into daylight as you cross the field to the road leading back to Denbury.

Bernie Duggan