My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 31

May 24, 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.

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 19 – Manaton Loop Revisited

I’ve mentioned before that it is inevitable that parts of the moor will get revisited in order to create circular routes to maintain a decent distance. Manaton is one such starting place, it also happens to be a good central spot to explore a fair bit of the moor.

This route is extended and also captures some of the areas previously dropped off from the last walk!

Once again, I head off from the car park with the church on the left following the steep road down to Foxworthy bridge. It’s actually a challenge going down the hill, it’s pretty steep and the knees do take some impact. As always, I think going down hill is often worse than going up!

Keep your eyes open for the slightly hidden access point to the path to the bridge which ultimately leads you into Lustleigh Cleave.

This whole area either side of the river Bovey is a beautiful area to explore. You can easily spend many days exploring the it.

Once into the cleave simply follow the footpath to Hammerslake. If you follow it all the way it winds through the hill past Raven’s tor and brings you around to an exit point onto a road near Waye Farm, if you continue to follow the path around the boundary wall you will find Hammerslake, a house with a path to the road, which I’m unsure if it is private or not. Continue on and you’ll reach a cluster of rocks and tors among them Sharpitor, the only one marked on the OS map in that cluster.

There’s a lot to investigate.

Still continue to follow the path and you will come across Harton Chest. Not sure why the name, maybe I’ll check it out one day.

Despite having taken the route above previously I walked past and below Raven tor, this one is very difficult to actually get to from above or below. I’ve got close from the path below but with a full pack which will be day two of my challenge it will be one of those tors with the “safety” caveat applied.

About fifteen minutes later there is a footpath post, one directs you down toward the river and the other to continue to Hammerslake. However. There is also a track that leads directly up. My curiosity once again taking over I decided to check it out and establish if it would save a long return walk and back from Hammerslake. It’s a short sharp climb and brought me out very close to Harton’s Chest. It was so much easier to walk onto Sharpitor and back to pick up the path to Hunter’s tor. I’ve decided this will now be my route on the day!

Did I mention the weather?

The forecast wasn’t great and it was living up to it. The minute I got out of the car the rain was coming down and the wind was blowing hard. By the time I reached the ridge of the cleave it was pouring down and the wind was, well, huge. It must have been gusting around 50 mph or maybe even more. Walking in a straight line was impossible and at times the head wind was bringing me to a standstill.

I desperately wanted to get off the top and down into the section of road and lane walking. From Hunters tor an easy path down past Peck Farm to the road, past Barnecourt and onto Barne Cross. It was still blowing hard down through the lanes and the rain was still torrential, filling some sections of the road with water for several meters. But not as bad as the top of the cleave.

From here while on a sunny day it would be really nice walking through the lanes to Bovey Cross, skirting round North Bovey, past Bovey Castle to Week Cross, then to Hele Cross and onto Canna Park. The walking was repetitive with my head down to cut through the wind and stop the rain dripping down my neck as it drove horizontal into my face.

Even the cows had the sense to abandon their continual grazing and huddled together in the field under cover of the tress and protected by the wall. Bar one who was determined to carry on, sounds familiar as I was the only person around walking it seemed!

West Combe was the next target, walked before so I knew what was coming. A long walk from Canna Park up what seemed a very steep track leading out onto the open moor and a track eventually up to Hookney tor. With the weather appearing to get worse rather than better this was going to be one of the hardest sections to walk today.

It was also around lunch time and I needed some shelter to stop. There was no way sitting in the open today was going to work or be anything like comfortable.

As I approached West Combe the farmer was out moving his cows around, with the weather even they were having trouble. I waited for several minutes while they attempted to round them up and move from one field to another. The cows were having none of it so they gave up and let me pass before they gave it another try.

Though the gate and onto the path, there are houses tucked away along the hill so the path is reasonable and good enough to take a Land Rover. Even better, half way up the track there was an old decaying barn with enough shelter to get out of the wind and rain. I won’t say try to dry off, this wasn’t going to happen. A wet and soggy lunch, and time to check out how well the kit was coping.

This was my first trip out with my new Arcteryx, it replaced my previous ten-year-old jacket that finally succumbed to the elements. Yep, it was doing a great job, totally dry where it was zipped up preventing the rain getting in.

New Meindl Bhutan boots to replace the previous four-year-old boots that had been walked to the point of wearing out. Interesting that my feet felt like they could be wet but decided it was probably the cold that was most likely so currently gave them the thumbs up but will monitor their performance.

Berghaus leggings, well, they were cheap by comparison to the other items and despite their marketing claim, “guaranteed to keep you dry”, from the waist down to my ankles were just proper wet. They really were not coping at all well. The only possibly good thing was they helped keep me warmer than without them but small consolation. Research required as a decent pair for my challenge will be essential.

Lunch over, kit back on and the trek up to the open moor, I was bracing myself for what was going to hit me.

And it did!

The minute I popped out onto the moor the wind hit me like a brick wall, it was ridiculous. Blowing, gusting and swirling, it was coming from all angles making walking up a challenging hill even harder, at times impossible.

If I had leant any further into the wind I would have been on my hands and knees, it really was that bad. There were times when I just couldn’t walk forward and decided to stop and walk between the gusts. Even that was a challenge as the wind started to blow me backward. It was a very long and hard walk to the top.

Hookney tor didn’t come soon enough and surprisingly there was no one else to be seen! Just the one nut job on the moor today then. Down into Grimspound where I hoped for some sort of shelter from the wind. Nope, it was blowing straight through the valley.

Following the tracks laid down by the cattle and head down still leaning into the wind, step by step I slowly marched on to Natsworthy Manor.

I was getting tired and decided to take a break. At the path/road junction there is an area that drops into a “mini valley” and offered a small amount of relief from the wind and rain, yep, it was still dumping it down. The trees creaking and cracking in the wind it sounded like they could come down anytime, a short stop then before I got too chilly and hit by a falling branch!

Across the road and onto the path leading to Jay’s grave, onward to Hound tor and down to Greator rocks. By now the wind was getting a bit tiresome but still no escape while on the open moor. Every where I went the cows, sheep and horses all had the sense to hunker down and shelter from the wind and rain. I winder what they thought as I struggle past them to my next target point. Always wondered just how much they do think!

Down to Becka Brook and at this point I looked up toward Smallacombe rocks and Hole rock, my next target point. I never really appreciated how big the hill was. Toward the end of a tiring battle against the wind this looked a tough climb.

Across the river and through what is a lovely area, even in the rain, where lots of cows had assembled. Not surprising really, they had the sense to drop low and shelter.

I have to say the climb up looking from Greator rocks looked worse than it actually was. OK, it wasn’t a stroll, but to my surprise, it wasn’t hugely difficult and it wasn’t long before I was at the top and exposed to yet more wind and rain.

At this point I was hugely tempted to follow my previous route and head over Black Hill and follow the road down back to Manaton. Where would the fun be in that? So, I took a bearing this time to ensure I headed off in the right direction, the rain blotted out most of any view of Haytor rocks.

Picked up the Templer Way and followed it to the car park skirting past the quarry on the right.

It was now a simple job of following the road back to Manaton. Because this was so simple and should cause no issues at all, I just followed the road. Concentration broken and a sharp moment of doubt threw itself at my brain!

Hang on I don’t remember that house (it was actually North Lodge), for a moment I went into a moment of serious doubt. I must be on the right road, there’s only one route in, but then, I don’t remember this. The map reference looked right but for some reason I couldn’t reconcile it.


I always say to myself, trust in the map and compass. I continued along the road trying to recognise the smallest details to convince my self I was right. It just seemed that Black Hill was so far round, but then I spotted a familiar land mark, a bridal path that eventually if taken would take you back to the river below Hole rock and a little further on a cattle grid.

Of course, I knew where I was!

Lesson, when you’re getting tired you need to concentrate and stay focused even more than normal, I will certainly remember North Lodge now that’s for sure.

From here it now was a simple task of following the road, albeit a sharp hill down that killed my knees and feet at this point. Over Beckaford bridge, through Freeland and on to Manaton.


Done, and I was!

Day two of the three-day consecutive walk. The weather was harsh but a taster of what Dartmoor has to offer and it felt like it had taken an age to complete. It wasn’t util I looked at the stats on the GPS I realised I had actually done really well. I drove home feeling damp but satisfied I had conquered!

Dartmoor 0 - Chris Bunney 2


Total distance 32.5 km

Total trip time 9.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.4 km per hour

Average moving speed 4 km per hour



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