Vixen Tor. A public inquiry will open next week. Photo: Paul Englefield CC-BY-2.0

Vixen Tor. A public inquiry will open next week. Photo: Paul Englefield [CC-2.0]

Walkers and climbers will unite to fight for access to one of Dartmoor’s most spectacular landmarks.

Vixen Tor, a sphinx-like granite outcrop near the hamlet of Merrivale in Devon, has been a subject of folklore and legend for centuries and was a popular climbing venue and walkers’ haunt until its present owner bought it in 2003.

Barbed wire and ‘keep out’ signs were erected by Mary Alford and even the efforts of UN commander Colonel Bob Stewart couldn’t resolve the dispute.

The land around the tor had been excluded from Countryside and Rights of Way Act open access land and, despite walkers and climbers saying they had visited the site for at least a century, Mrs Alford continued to bar access.

Devon County Council accepted evidence from the Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council of use of paths to the outcrop, and dedicated a right of way to the site. But the landowner objected and the matter will be dealt with at a public hearing on 23 November.

Ramblers’ chief executive Tom Franklin said access was halted in 2003 when ownership of the land around the granite crags changed. “Walkers and climbers found their way barred,” he said. “In our view access had already become public long before that, through use since time immemorial.”

Dave Turnbull, chief executive of the British Mountaineering Council, said: “The BMC believes there is an excellent case for renewed access to Vixen Tor. Given the strong body of user evidence over the past 60 years, the BMC hopes that the inquiry finds in favour of the hundreds of climbers and walkers who have enjoyed visiting this iconic corner of Dartmoor.”

And John Skinner of Devon Ramblers said: “Devon Ramblers have pressed for the last seven years to have public access to Vixen Tor restored but neither the right of access nor negotiations by Dartmoor national park with the landowner have yet produced the result that climbers, walkers and the wider public desire.

“The claim for footpaths is a further step in the direction of public access to Vixen Tor.”

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