My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 23

May 04, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 11 – Yelverton Rock Loop

Roughly half of this loop was going to take in a section of my challenge walk, the other half made up to complete a circular walk back to the car.

Starting point, Roborough Rock at Yelverton. The expectation is this should be roughly 30km and take my usual 10 hours to complete.

As with a few sections of the challenge it will involve tracks and road to navigate around private land and fields. Sometimes there is just no other way to get around to the target points.

First up would be Chub Tor, or at least as close to it as I could get. One caveat during the challenge is there are roughly a dozen tors on private land and it will not be possible to get right on top of them. So, the longest and closest route around them has been planned. Sort of compensating for not being able to access them by adding some distance to make me feel better!

Crossing the road from Roborough Rock and over a footbridge brings you immediately onto the West Devon Way. A few hundred meters and a left downward turn toward Elford Town Farm sets you up for a long and easy walk all the way down to Hoo Meavey.

Nothing difficult here, you think, but for kissing gates at two points along the path. Make sure your bag is not too “fat” as you’ll never get around the space provided! It’s a good job one of the bars were missing so my tent fitted nicely into the gap while I breathed in and just squeezed through the swinging gate!

It’s also not far before you reach the point at which access to Chub Tor appears, but you need to know what you are looking for. You need to be aware this is on private land, which also means I can’t actually get on this tor to bag it. So, respecting the fact it’s on private land a snap of the access point and time to move on.

Callisham tor next, after a fairly long steep hill up from Hoo Meavey follow the road left and look for a footpath taking you across the fields to Callisham tor. Again, not difficult to get to however, another tor inaccessible to climb as it is fenced off. Clearly due to safety reasons as this is what looks like an old quarry site and not a good idea to start crawling all over it!

Still being forced to follow the roads it’s a straight forward walk to Ringmore cottage, down into Sheepstor village and follow the footpath up to the top of Sheeps tor. Once on the path on the West side you have a choice, you can walk around the foot of the tor and approach from the long but less steep slope on the East side or you can attack it from the West and head straight up the hill. It’s a lot quicker but takes some effort to climb it in my view.

Apart from that getting to the top there are very few issues to contend with. Once at the top, take some time to take in the views. They are quite literally stunning.

After nosing around for a while, drop down the West side and follow the leat to the “scout hut”. At this point the sky went very grey and the temperature suddenly dropped. I could feel the change in temperature on my face as the hail started to pour down. Just a brief shower or will it last? I carried on and eventually decided I was getting too wet and went for the full water proofs. Yep, you guessed it, 5 minutes later it was all over. Despite that it still looked threatening over the hill so kept them on and kept walking toward Eylesbarrow.

Now why I have never noticed this before I don’t know as I trudged up one of those flipping horrible stony paths again. On the left a set of boundary stones or water board markers, nothing marked on the map so assume the latter. Anyway, there was a clear line of a path, or clearing between the grass and gorse all the way up following the stones. Brilliant, this makes walking a whole lot more comfortable.

So far, all very straight forward and simple to follow and nothing too exciting to mention. Well, at the top as I prepared to head down and across to Down tor via the stone row it did decide to throw another weather wobbly with another session of hail stones. More prolonged this time so I was glad I kept the water proofs on. It all felt very weird with a strange sort of colour to the sky, the hail settling on the ground, the temperature dropping. It almost, dare I say, felt a little bit like Christmas!!

The next leg was also pretty straight forward. A bearing to the right of the girt and follow the tracks to the stone row and onward to Down tor.

Everything was going pretty well, bag weight was manageable, feet or rather the heels were holding up and the legs were feeling very strong at this point.

Oh, did I mention the cows?

So far, I have hardly seen many cows during walks and training walks but in the last two trips I’ve had to negotiate them. This time about thirty all on the move like a migrating herd of Wilderbeast. The younger ones jumping and frolicking about which is for me at least a sign to keep an eye on them!

We both had the same target point it seemed and they were moving quickly as I took a slightly wide birth and speeding up to try and get to the stone row before them.

All good as they seemed not to notice me and then almost like an alarm bell went off, they all stopped looked up at me and just stood there starring. Then starting moving on mass toward me, hmm, what to do?

Keep walking I thought, so I did and managed to get ahead by roughly a hundred meters. Past the stone row as they seemed to be speeding up behind me. Ah stop panicking I told myself, it’s only a herd of cows for goodness sake, I cautiously turned my back on them and quickly went down the hill to Down tor.

Looking back, they clearly were happy getting past the stone row to eat the grass between Down tor and Combshead tor as that’s where they stayed. Like I said, what’s the problem!

I’m now heading down to Norsworthy bridge car park where I stopped for coffee sat on the floor. I got some strange looks by people driving by. There was no one there surprisingly as the now rain continued to fall. Then up the stone and gravel path past Leather tor bridge and all the way out to a left turn past the cross and up to Devonport leat. The progress continued to be good with no issues as I dropped down the steep side of Raddick Hill following the aqueduct up the other side swinging left and skirting the Stanlake plantation to reach Sharpitor.

At this point the distance and weight started to show signs of impact. Walking up to Sharpitor and across to Peek Hill I suddenly started to feel tired. At this point I must have been walking around eight hours so roughly twenty-five kilometres. I guess I was entitled to feel a little jaded so Peek Hill would be my last coffee stop before the finish. It was a great place to sip coffee and look out over Burrator. With the light dripping across the landscape, it looked fantastic. It would have made the perfect finish to the day. But no, I had parked at Yelverton!

Dropping down to the road wrapping around Burrator was a simple task of hanging right and handrailing the wall down the slope and then following the road to the dam itself. From here just past the old toilet block take a left down the footpath. Instead of going straight ahead turn back on yourself and follow the path as it winds down to a lower path. This is the one to follow all the way to Meavy, with the occasional jumping and ducking over and under fallen trees across the path.

Walking through Meavy it was great to see the pub with some life as people were sat outside enjoying the end of the sunny day sipping their drinks.

 

Now just the simple job of walking from Meavy to Yelverton to pick up the car. Now, I’ve driven this road countless times and I’ve never really noticed how long this road actually is. I had also overlooked the fact that it drops a fair height down to a river and then up the other side. It was, at the end of the day, a bit of a final challenge to keep focused and moving as the last push to get up the hill and into Yelverton and finish the last few hundred meters across Roborough Down to the waiting car.

 

The good thing at least, I had covered a total of 34km over ten hours with an average trip speed of 3.3km per hour and an average walking speed of 4.9km per hour. I was tired I can’t deny and ready to get home but with the satisfaction I had probably clocked up my best training distance versus time so far.

I was happy!

 


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