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Steve Grigg and Frank Collinson
This post was inspired by the excellent article by Chris Walpole in the 2014 spring edition of the Dartmoor Magazine entitled “Ivy Tor Rifle Range” (a story of a late nineteenth-century shooting event). The range was built around 1890.
It seems inconceivable walking through Belstone Cleave today, surrounded by mature deciduous woodlands that this valley once echoed to the sound of gun fire.
Looking at a old map, the rifle range with target and 600 yards point clearly marked. Today, evidence of the target(s) and 100 & 400 shooting platforms remain and are shown in this post.
Looking down the valley, which runs E/W from Belstone Green. Rifle range, what rifle range ?
Pre WW2 postcard of Ivy Tor. A white flagpole is visible in the far left of tor ridge. Note the lack of trees in the valley
Footpath on north side of the valley, just after leaving Belstone village
A bit further east along the footpath, just before dropping down the hill to find the 400 yard shooting platform.
The 400 yard platform is a crudely built rectangular pile of rocks about 3m x 2m x 1m high
Another view of the 400 yard platform. Completely surrounded by trees at SX62403 93522
Onto the 100 yard platform, which is quite close to the river. It is approx 3m x 3m x 1m
100 yard platform can be found at SX62679 93539.
Cliff face not far from the 100 yard shooting platform at SX62720 93589
Crossing the Taw by a new bridge (the soldiers had a bridge upstream from this one, long since gone). SX62962 93735
Part of Ivy Tor
Target remains, believed to have been made by Bodley foundry in Exeter. This is a three sided “Mantlet”. Each part has incised markings. When operational the mantlet would have been vertical and the target operator would have stood up inside for protection ! This is at SX62766 93528
Target roundel incised markings on middle section
Target roundel incised markings on left section
Target roundel incised markings on right section
Other parts of targets
Location of target by path at SX62771 93530
Climbing out of the valley alongside Ivy Tor Water
Leaving the valley on the south side just up from Ivy Tor Water
Skaigh House, was built on the site of a ruin, sometimes known as “old castle”. At the time of the 1891 shooting competition (article in spring 2014, DM), it was known as Rockside. This is where the soldiers (D company 4th volunteer battalion, Devonshire Regimemt) from the shooting competition took refreshments after the event.
Another view of Skaigh House. A write up in Western Morning News, 15th May 1891, regarding the shooting competition makes fascinating reading, viz; “Mr J Byres Leake came to the range about noon, and invited all the competitors to Rockside to refreshment at the close of shooting, which kind offer was gladly accepted by the men. The shooting being over, the members repaired to Rockside, where the prizes were distributed by Mrs Byres Leake.” The article further states: “The men were then shown over Rockside, including the hot-houses, billiard room, stables etc. This done they all entered the conservatory, where refreshments were handed around. Before marching off the men gave Mr and Mrs Byres Leake three hearty good cheers”