Last week we took a short winter’s walk up to Bowerman’s Nose, one of the most iconic locations on the moor. There are a handful of photos that every self-respecting Dartmoor guide and website should feature – the church at Brentor, Haytor Rocks, the clapper bridge at Postbridge, Grey Wethers stone circle – and the lonely stone figure of Bowerman, standing proud over the landscape, is as iconic as any of them.
The story of how Bowerman got to be here is one of the most famous in Dartmoor folklore. Bowerman was a Norman hunter whose prey once disturbed a witches coven; in revenge, the witches tricked and trapped the hunter and turned him and his pack of dogs to stone. I would attempt a full retelling myself but the National Park have an excellent version called ‘The Legend of Bowermans Nose‘ and on Legendary Dartmoor there is a more animated version of the tale, either of which is already far better than my prose. According to some versions of the tale, the rocks of nearby Hound Tor are the remains of the dogs, but I think this is a conflation of two stories.
This gives me an opportunity to drop in a track from one of my favourite musicians, Buckland Maonchorum’s finest Seth Lakeman. Seth’s 2004 album Kitty Jay features a wonderful song called The White Hare, which is about a similar legend. The singer warns of a white hare who should be avoided at all costs:
Careful you don’t catch her‘The White Hare’ Seth Lakeman
Or give her right of way.
For she will look upon you
Steal your soul away
I digress, considerably. Bowerman’s Nose is an easy target for a short family walk and there are plenty of ways you can approach it. We parked at Swallerton Gate near Hound Tor and walked along the road to Hayne Down; the more energetic can take in nearby Jays Grave as well. You can also approach from Manaton to the north, where you can catch glimpses of the stack on the skyline as you walk up, and have the added benefit of being able to finish with a pint at the excellent Kestor Inn.