Last week I paid a long overdue visit back to Black Tor (the one near Burrator – there are two others on Dartmoor), with a forecast of snow. I was looking forward to this, because the last time I was there, in January 2012, was in driving rain. This time I did see a little snow, but of the horizontal sleet variety: it didn’t stick, did a terrific job of falling right into the camera lens, and was gone within 10 minutes – still long enough to leave me soaked to the skin, just like in 2012.
Never mind. I wanted to spend time with the logan stone again, but I wasn’t sure why. For the uninformed, a logan stone is concisely defined by the wonderful Legendary Dartmoor site as follows:
“A logan is formed when a joint in a granite rock is eroded by the weather until it gets to a point when enough weathering has taken place to leave the stone balanced on a small pivot which enables the stone to rock or ‘logg’,”
Here’s a photo of the Black Tor logan from the 2012 visit (I was more into black and white than colour in those days):
Just how does that 3-piece granite chunk stay balanced on there? Anyway, the main outcrop of the tor is glimpsed in the centre, and in the mist. It’s difficult to convey just how wet this day was, but to give you a better idea, here’s another photograph from the same day, taken from the (un-named) stone row beneath the tor, and looking up:
Back to the logan stone. Aside from their remarkable balancing acts, I think the other reason for my fascination with these geological marvels, is just how their appearance can change from different angles: from some angles barely noticeable, from others, striking. The logan stone at Roos Tor, near Staple Tor, looks like this from the far side, looking toward Staple Tor:
That is a fairly straight photograph, but in those days (2011) I was rather fond of extreme wide angle lenses, and this is how the stone looked from the opposite direction, looking toward Brentor:
These days I’m less charmed by some of these extreme wide angle distortions, but there is no doubt that the stone looks quite different from this angle: rounder, more top-heavy – and this is the case without the lens’s exaggeration. (If you’re interested these two images were taken at around 12-13mm on my old Nikkor 12-24mm lens.)
Of course it isn’t only logan stones that look different from different angles. I recall as a teenager, walking with an old friend (now sadly departed and missed) in the Peak district admiring Shutlingsloe, near Macclesfield. Like Roseberry Topping on the edge of the North York Moors, it is readily identifiable from all angles, even though it looks quite different from all of them! On these lovely hills there are distinctive peaks and flats near the summits, which naturally change direction depending on where you’re viewing them from. But with logan stones, there are all sorts of angles changing their aspects from different viewpoints: the logan itself, the stone it stands on, the other stones in the tor all around it. And, at least in the case with my visits, the play of light and shade on stones which are wet and slippery.
The photograph below is the first I took when I arrived there last week, just as the sleet was doing its worst. To me, the light is gorgeous: subtle, understated, not dramatic, but very Dartmoor. It was taken from just beyond the stone, looking across to Sheeps Tor. In the original version (much larger than posted here, I’m afraid) the sleet is deliciously visible on the right of the frame.
Within a few minutes the sleet storm had completely passed over down to the valley, and left a powder blue sky! (This kind of rapid weather change is entirely normal on the moor, where the walker must take every conceivable type of clothing for a long walk.) Viewed from just below, though, the logan stone is lost within the mass of other granite outcrops on the tor:
Back up to the logan stone, and a little to one side of it, it almost takes on the appearance of a small excitable young dinosaur carrying a rucksack, riding a stone horse! (I know. Too many home made brownies tonight.) It looks much more distinctive and commanding from this point, separated a little from the other outcrops. The passing sleet storm is visible passing across the central hills here.
I took the opportunity, with the sun now shining directly onto the stone, to photograph it from just below, looking toward Princetown (to the right) and Great Mis Tor (to the left). From this angle the stone could (without my glasses) almost be Dr Who’s K9 – different again!
My personal favourite image from the day though was taken from a short walk up from the stone (and the tor), and puts it all into the context of the surrounding tors, Sheeps Tor, Sharpitor and Leather Tor. The logan looks quite at home surrounded by these much higher peaks. And just a little bit like Snoopy from here? Or is that just me!