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Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Thursday, 7 October 2010 09:40 UK
Dartmoor ramblers discover granite cross
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Ron's Ramblers with the King's Way Cross Dartmoor
Four members of the rambling group with the cross

Ron Johns has been rambling across Dartmoor with fellow dockyard drawing office workers since the 1950s.

But the discovery the group - all from Plymouth and now retired - made earlier in 2010 was the most unusual thing they had found in their decades of walking.

The five men found a previously unrecorded granite cross - thought to be a wayside cross marking an ancient route.

Dartmoor National Park Authority thinks it dates from the post-conquest era.

"I didn't think much of it at first to be honest," said Ron.

"We'd all stopped for a coffee when one of the blokes said 'Ron, we've found a cross' and I didn't really think it was that important.

"I realise it is now though."

The group - known as Ron's Ramblers - is made up of Ron, Mike Smith, Bill Furneaux, Ed Squires and Peter Hodges.

Granite cross on King's Way Dartmoor
The cross in situ close to Great Nodden near Bridestowe

They were enjoying one of their regular walks - "We do about 43 walks a year," said Ron - when they spotted the cross set into a corn ditch wall close to Great Nodden near Bridestowe on northern Dartmoor.

The lower part of the cross shaft had broken off - when complete it was probably more than two metres high.

"It is a long time since a new cross was discovered - this one was difficult to spot, it needed oblique sunlight shining on it to pick it out so we are full of admiration for Ron's Ramblers and their sharp eyes," said Jane Marchand, DNPA's archaeologist.

The route is known as the King Way - the Tavistock to Okehampton section of the old coaching route between London to Plymouth along which the King's Mail was taken.

"Its location close to the King Way is fascinating as there is the suggestion that the King Way, as well as being the old coaching route across the western part of the Moor, is also a much older route perhaps associated with the Abbey at Tavistock founded in AD961 and Lydford which has Saxon origins, and it could be that the cross actually marked this route," explained Jane.

Andrew Langdon, who is an expert on Cornish crosses, has looked at the cross and has concluded it is probably post-Conquest.

"It is an unusual design for Dartmoor, the majority of our crosses are either a piece of granite which has been cut into a cross shape, sometimes with only the suggestion of arms, or a simple Latin type cross inscribed onto the face of a piece of granite," said Jane.

The cross has been temporarily removed to DNPA's works yard while a new base is made for it by the authority's stonemason.

It will then be returned and re-erected on the spot where it was discovered - where Ron and his fellow walkers will be able to pass it once again on one of their regular walks.

"We just really enjoy it, the companionship and being outdoors," said Ron.

"Sometimes when the weather is not so good we'll do a coastal walk, but it's not quite the same as walking on Dartmoor."

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