Old Crockern and other Dartmoor tales

THE great West Country moors – Dartmoor in Devon, Exmoor in Devon and Somerset, and Bodmin in Cornwall – are steeped in history and myths. One significant area of Dartmoor is Crockern Tor, once home to the Stannary Parliament, and now the inspiration for a series of story walks, organised by Devon’s Villages in Action, in July and August.

Over the centuries all three moors have inspired stories, songs and folk tales – Lorna Doone, Jamaica Inn and The Hound of the Baskervilles, among others. For thousands of years man has left his mark on the moors and the moors have carried these memories and personal connections to new generations.

But, asks Villages in Action, what does Dartmoor mean to you? Through a series of community events the Chasing Crockern project is hunting for stories of the moor from those who live, work or visit here today.

Crockern Tor itself has a significance in the history of the moor. Its location more or less in the middle of the moor made it an ideal venue for the Stannary Parliament, where administrative decisions were made about the management of the collection of tin. There were stannary towns in Devon and Cornwall. The word stannary comes from the Latin word for tin, stannum. The Devon towns were Plympton, Tavistock, Ashburton and Chagford

This historic connection is one of the reasons that Crockern Tor became an important place on Dartmoor. But it has legendary importamce as well – the tor is said to be the home of the ancient pagan God of Dartmoor – Old Crockern.

The 17th century antiquarian Tristram Risdon, the author of Survey of the County of Devon, listed Crockern tor as one of the three remarkable things on Dartmoor: “A high rock called Crockern Torr, where the parliament for stannary causes is kept; where there is a table and seats of moorstone, hewn out of the rocks, lying in the force of all weather, no house or refuge being near it.”

As well as Chasing Crockern community events during June, the Crockern story walks will be a wonderful opportunity to experience live storytelling of traditional Dartmoor folk tales in the part of the moor from where they came. They will be led by Gillian Healey from Dartmoor Walking Tours alongside Dartmoor-based professional storytellers Lisa Schneidau and Sara Hurley.

The tales will feature naughty pixies and shapeshifting creatures and the world premiere of The White Rock and The Black Dog, a new story created by children from Princetown Community Primary School. There will also be crafts and activities about Dartmoor’s nature and a whole lot of Dartmoor fun for children and parents.

Chasing Crockern explores the area’s roots, celebrating the enduring legacy of Dartmoor’s folk tales and re-imagining them in ways that resonate with modern life. Villages in Action has an ongoing programme of events, walks, talks, radio features and exhibitions over the next 18 months. The project will culminate in a new storytelling performance in 2025, toured from Crockern Tor to all four quarters of the moor.

The walks are on Sunday 14th July, from 2-5pm, starting at the Two Bridges Hotel, and taking in Crockern Tor and the edge of Wistman’s Wood; Thursday 1st August, from 10am- to 1pm around Burrator; Sunday 11th August, from 10am to 2pm, a five or six mile walk around Okehampton, meeting at the town station; and Tuesday 13th August, from 10am to 1pm, from Hound Tor, to the medieval village and Becka Brook.