Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

FERNWORTHY FOREST FARMS

Steve Grigg and Frank Collinson

This 2020 exploration was inspired by information taken from the Dartmoor Historic Environment Record (HER) and the plans of farmsteads surveyed by Dr Phil Newman in his archaeological survey of 2013. The farmsteads visited were Higher Lowton, Lowton, Fernworthy and Assycombe plus and unknown building a few hundred metres south of Assycombe.

Fernworthy Forest Map
This sketch shows the relative locations of the farmsteads in this post. All are easily accessed via forest tracks or the modern tarmac road around Fernworthy Reservoir
Higher Lowton Map
Higher Lowton Farm – a very simplified sketch. The farm is just a few hundred metres from the tarmac road and about 30 metres from a forest track. The farmstead was first shown on 19th century OS maps but is believed to have dated from a much earlier period
HL1
Higher Lowton is a two roomed building, which has overgrown since the 2013. There are conifer saplings abound the whole site and it is a little uneven. The photograph shows Room A in relation to the forest track below. Room A is rectangular and is approximately 9m x 4m.
HL2
Room B is uphill (East) from Room A and is a more square shape and is approx. 4m x 4m
HL3
From the south the land on which the farm building was constructed can be seen to be on quite a slope
HL4
Reading the survey from 2013, a yard and lane were depicted, which were depicted in an early OS Map
HL5
A lone stone in the corner of Room A has been identified as the location of a probable fireplace.
HL7
Fireplace stone close up
HL8
This section of wall in Room A looks (to the author) like a possible storage niche. To add however, this is not an official part of the professional archaeological survey.
HL9
The yard can be depicted (just)
HL10
The lane can also be depicted.
LL1
This farmstead is difficult to explore despite being adjacent to the main tarmac road. The farmstead, as with Higher Lowton, was first shown on 19th century OS maps. The forestry commission (I assume), have placed a fence topped with barbed wire in the way. There is no stile access.
Field walls
Sandeman
Sandeman Bridge crosses the South Teign near the end of the tarmac road
Fernworthy map 1
19th century map of Fernworthy. From Dartmoor HER record (MDV6630); “The mention of Fernworthie Hedges in a Dartmoor Perambulation of 1609 is suggestive of a settlement here at that time and earlier documentary references to Fernworthy or Vernaworthy in the 14th and 16th century may suggest that the farm had much earlier origins. Worth considered the suffix ‘worthy’ to possible indicate a Saxon origin.”
Fernworthy Map 2
Overlaying the modern OS map on the 19th century map, it can be appreciated the extent of the waters of the reservoir (from 1940s) in relation to the farm. The thumbnail picture was taken on 22nd September 1934 and is part of the Dartmoor Archive (link below). The location of where the photographer stood, is most likely as indicated above, is now underwater.

https://dartmoortrust.org/archive/record/571

F1
The remaining building at Fernworthy. All buildings were destroyed when the dam and reservoir were constructed except this one, which to the author looks like a small barn.
F2
Another view (from the south) of the one remaining building at Fernworthy.
F3
Gate within the Fernworthy enclosures
F4
Lots of moss covered walls
F5
Another wall within the Fernworthy enclosures
F6
The walls are very wide
F7
Top end of the west side lane leading to Fernworthy.
Robin
En-route to Assycombe Farm from Fernworthy Farm, saw this little chap
Jay
A rare sighting of a Jay, just a few hundred metres from Assycombe Farm ruins.
Assycombe Map
19th century map of Assycombe Farm, the unknown building in relation to the double stone row. Mentioned in Dartmoor HER (ref SDV351784), viz: The placename is first documented in 1488 and it is possible that a small farmstead was established here by that time.
Assycombe Plan
A very simplified plan of the Assycombe Farm building (aka Assacombe). It was a three roomed dwelling and is around 40m from the forest track. It is orientated approx. W-E. The building is approx 12m x 4.5m.
Ass1
The most striking part of the ruins in 2020 are the uprights between Room A and Room B. Room A is the largest of the three at around 5m long.
Ass2
Room B is uphill (East) of Room A.
Ass3
Next (south) of the farm looks like an old lane. Uphill is what is assumed to be the field enclosure shown on the 19th century map.
Ass 4
Another view of Room A, showing how close the farm is to the Forest Track
Ass5
Room A looking East (into Rooms B and C)
Ass6
Looking south from the farm building
Ass7
The top building (most easterly) contains a fireplace. It is believed Rooms B and C were interconnected.
Ass8
Another view of Room B
Ass9
Room C, looking from the south
Ass10
An interesting recumbent stone with a slot adjacent to Room B
Ass11
Next to the recumbent stone with the slot is an upright with an iron hanger still in situ.
Ass17
Ass12
Looking East into Room B
Ass13
The iron hanger on the Room B upright
Ass14
The iron hanger upright
Ass15
View of Assycombe Farm building from the South. This is taken from a similar location to one found on the Dartmoor Archive from 29th May 1894 (Burnard collection). Each of the three rooms had an entrance on the south side, which clearly can be seen from the 1894 picture. The uprights still extant in 2020 can still be made out in the 1894 picture.

https://dartmoortrust.org/archive/record/3489

Ass16
The fireplace stones in Room A
Ass18
South East(ish) is a possible field enclosure. It is believed that the walls of the enclosures were maintained until the 19th century. They have been disturbed by forestry activity in places and may also have been the victims of stone robbing in the early 19th century.
Ass19
From the field enclosure looking North-West(ish) over the farm building towards the forest track. The enclosure is at SX65940 82782
Ass 20
Between the enclosure and the farm
Ass 21
Enclosure walls, looking north.
UB1
South of Assycombe lies an unknown building shown on the 19th century map. It is at SX65910 82629
UB2
The building ruins
UB3
A small L-shaped inner yard is built against the south-east corner of the house.
UB4
Attached to the eastern end of the yard at a slightly higher level is a roughly rectangular enclosure, 11m by 9m which is likely to have been a garden plot.
ASR1
A visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the wonderful Assycombe double stone row. This is the east end with a terminal stone
ASR2
Climbing the hill
ASR3
Hut Circle adjacent to the stone row, as can be seen on the 19th century map
ARS4
Looking up the row (East)
ASR5
Top end (East) of the stone row
ASR6
Cairn at eastern end of the stone row (also shown on 19th century map)

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