Sea Views at Trowlesworthy 1

WPHJ DSCF4261View from the south east of the row.  The hillside is littered with substantial blocks of granite but the builders of the row selected smaller more manageable stones.

Master map

The double stone alignment at Trowlesworthy includes two roughly parallel lines of stones aligned north east to south west leading for 127.5m from a kerbed cairn (SX 57644 63985) on the lower slopes of Great Trowlesworthy Tor.   The alignment is far from straight and several minor shifts in its orientation give it the sinuous character found at many rows. The row is built mainly from medium sized orthostats (average 0.37m high) although at least one more substantial stone (now recumbent) lies a short distance above the Old Bottlehill Mine Leat which cuts the row in two. There is no blocking stone at the south western end and it may therefore have originally been longer. A detailed plan of the row together with details and discussion is available the “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume 3” by Jeremy Butler.  A second row is situated to the north of this one and will be considered fully at a later date. At this stage it is perhaps worth noting that the second row includes a single line of stones and despite its close proximity has no views to the sea, a situation paralleled by the second row at Hart Tor. Analysis of sea views from the Trowlesworthy rows is to some extent hampered by the nearby china clay works at Lee Moor which have undoubtedly altered the local topography, but despite this the character of the sea views is still obvious and have not been significantly altered.

The Trowlesworthy double stone alignment in common with many Dartmoor stone rows is built across the sea view/no sea view interface. This means that views to the sea are visible from parts of the row but not from others.  In this instance the sea is visible from the upper part of the row and not from the lower length.  The largest stone (now recumbent) together with a significant shift in alignment denotes the point at which the sea view appears and disappears depending on the direction of travel. The presence of the largest orthostat and alignment shift suggests that this was a significant point along the journey denoted by the row and its precise correlation with the sea/no sea view interface is consistent with the familiar pattern being found at many stone rows. The observation first made at Bancbryn of a close and measurable visual link with the sea is one that is repeated time and time again. The construction of rows across the sea/no sea view interface is too common to be a coincidence and strongly supports the hypotheses that the siting of many rows was influenced by a need to acknowledge this phenomenon. A programme of statistical analysis is underway to establish and quantify the precise character of this relationship and demonstrate the degree of correlation between the Dartmoor rows and the types of sea view that exist.  An initial pilot has suggested that the distribution of Dartmoor rows correlates with particular views towards the sea but also that other types of view and reveal are of significance. Cumulatively the evidence that is being gathered illustrates that the rows were erected in particular locations to enable particular types of view and reveals to be “experienced” by those walking along them and it would therefore be surprising if these experiences were not reflected in the activities being carried out.
PlanSimplified plan showing the row and cairn. Views to the sea exist from the stones coloured  black, but no sea views are available from the part of the row coloured red.

WPHJ P1090384The cairn at the top of the stone alignment. Note the way in which the row’s orientation shifts to ensure that it reaches the kerbed cairn. The orthostats denoting the cairn are larger than those used to build the row.

WPImage1The sinuous form of this row is obvious when viewed along its length from the south west. The large stones at the top of the photograph surround the cairn. The form of the row strongly suggests that perhaps it was an established path that was subsequently denoted by stones. The large recumbent stone is indicated by a red arrow. This is the point where the sea becomes visible for the first time as you walk up the row.

WPHJ P1090402The lower length of the row has no views to the sea. View from south west.

Views from the alignment
Three images derived from Google Earth are presented below to illustrate the character of the reveal. As you walk up the hill towards Great Trowlesworthy Tor a view to the sea appears at the point where the largest stone once stood.


From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by rising ground. Only a modern china clay tip is visible beyond the immediate horizon.

The site inspection confirmed the accuracy of the Google Earth image.

Large stone above leat

The sea is suddenly revealed when you reach the largest stone.


Although now partly obscured by a china clay tip originally a thin slither of sea would have been visible from the cairn at the top of the row.

View towards the sea from the top of the stone row.

The sea is visible between the dumps from the top of the row.  Clearly the view would have been different in prehistoric times, but it is very likely that the sea would have been visible.

Sea view between the dumps. Whilst the sea view would have been very different it is likely that the sea would have been seen from the upper length of the row before the china clay industry altered the form of the landscape.

Master map with arc

Map showing the arc of visibility from the upper (north eastern) end of the alignment.  The view to the sea is most impressive in the middle of the day during the winter months.


Butler, J., 1994, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume Three – The South-West, 169-71 and 205.

First Published: 22nd February 2016

Last Updated: 11th October 2019

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