The Dewerstone

© james mann

You can hardly blame Nick White, for his beloved South Devon & Dartmoor Guide is brimful of demons and goblins, but its pages did shape my expectations of The Dewerstone. The Devil's Rock, Raven Buttress and route names like 'Leviathan', all gave it a certain foreboding. The crag name itself derives from a bit of typical Dartmoor folklore, Dewer being olde Devonshire for Devil - and the legend tells that He would use his hounds to drive folk to their doom off the top of the towering cliffs. 

Adam Hill and Jen on Fly on the Wall - Dewerstone  © james mann
Adam Hill and Jen on Fly on the Wall - Dewerstone
© james mann, Feb 2016

Over the years, this perception couldn't have been further removed from how I came to feel about Dartmoor's most extensive crag. But then the Dewerstone doesn't typify Dartmoor climbing at all really. The grey, sharp granite of the higher Moor Tors is by and large quite abrasive and its very best climbing is (probably) its bouldering, although the razor-esque character of the feldspars do promote an unusual static style (you quickly learn that slapping cheese-grater slopers doesn't really foster longevity in a session). The trad on the high Moor is mostly a bit...well...awkward, too much slightly insecure slopeyness and fiddly wonky gear for my liking, plus, it's all exposed to the worst of any weather.

In contrast, the Dewerstone granite is distinctly different: rising directly from the fairyland banks of the River Plym, and by its upper pitches, gazing regally above the tree canopy of the wooded valley below. The rock is browner in hue, softer and kinder than the grey stuff, and imbued with the kind of jugs that almost shake you by the hand. Under your touch it feels more heavily weathered, but it is afforded some protection from the elements amongst the trees. It's more akin in style and substance to the pinky, golden, Cornish granite of West Penwith. The best of the climbing is low to middle grade, including Devon's only Classic Rock selection: Climbers Club Ordinary. On this occasion Mr. Wilson got it wrong - it's not even in the best five routes on the buttress, never mind the pick of the crag or county.

A few years ago I used The Stone to practise soloing for an upcoming trip. Lots of Dartmoor climbing is highball - micro-route territory, and to be honest, you only get a few seconds to practise soloing on some of those crags. The bigger cliffs, Haytor for example, just feel a bit…


The multi-pitch nature of The Dewerstone, coupled with the relatively easy grades, made it an obvious choice. Steep and tall enough to be airy, but never in a threatening or intimidating way. There's a security in the holds and angles that make it welcoming and kind, whilst the noise of the tumbling Plym has a meditative quality. Being above the trees is a very pretty place to be too. It's not an astonishing, jaw-dropping view, but it is wonderful in a gentle Devon way. 

The Dewerstone valley.  © _m.cox_
The Dewerstone valley.
© _m.cox_, Jul 2010

This soloing circuit has been something of a unique experience in my personal climbing, inasmuch as I keep going back to it. Ordinarily I tend not to repeat too many routes (unless they're spellbinding, why waste a perfectly good weather day doing things you've done before?), but for some reason I've never wearied of The Dewerstone. 

Nick White described the Devil's Rock as "...majestic...gorged (almost to bursting) with middle grade gems - this is the premier arena of the crag." As so often, he was bang on the money, and it was my mistake to perceive the crag as intimidating, because it's not - it's homely. For the vast majority of climbers who operate in the low to middle grades (which is to say, the vast majority of us) this is the best crag in Devon. It has a hint of the magical too (the river path in particular has that 'might see a pixie' ambience about it).

On my last visit I asked someone setting off up Central Groove if they'd done it before? Smiling: "A few dozen times, yeah."

It's like seeing an old friend.

UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Mark Bullock

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22 Oct, 2021

A beautiful place with some lovely climbs, has a real "middle earth" feel to it. We stopped off there on the way to Cornwall on my third ever trad trip; we didn't have a guide book but someone suggested I try leading what turned out to be Central Groove. I had only led 5 or 6 single pitch climbs before and wasn't confident about doing a multi pitch-belay so I led it in 1 pitch on a single rope. Luckily it was a 75 metre rope so was long enough but, at the top I could barely move because of the drag. Was worth it for the lovely view over the forest though.

22 Oct, 2021

I disagree about CC Ordinary; an absolutely fantastic climb. Also, wasn't it one of if not the first thing climbed there? CR is about the history as well, you know!

I've only been once and climbed Leviathan, Central Groove and CC Ordinary and thought the latter was the best. Amazing positions and climbing, even if the first pitch traverse feels a bit scrappy.

22 Oct, 2021

Sorry, but have to disagree, the former two climbs are far superior! The ticks from the logbooks will bear this out.

CG 2892 ascents, L 1508 ascents, and CCO 957 ascents.

22 Oct, 2021

I haven’t done it but just from the line it probably suffers in comparison with CC Direct, which is brilliant.

It is a great crag though, must get back down there, definitely a CR tick I’ve missed.

CC Direct really is incredible isn't it?! It's been years since I did it, but the rose tinted time goggles remember it being a real outing, with that feisty crack to start, then a whole lot of line left to come afterwards.

Central Groove is an absolute classic and is (at least in my opinion) the one that should have gone into Classic Rock.

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