My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 40

June 17, 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 28 – Hemsworthy Gate car park Loop

Time is running out to reach that critical requirement to walk 30 kilometres carrying 30 kilos! This is the last week to cover twenty-five kilometres and then take it to the next distance to try and hit thirty kilometres, then some overnight camps just to finish the training programme before the “off”!

I mapped out a twenty five kilometre route but also hoped that if I diverted a bit I might get closer to thirty. The day didn’t start well! Driving to the moor I may well have picked up a ticket as I drove along the road and overtaking a vehicle spotted a mobile traffic camera. I’m hoping I saw it in time to ensure I was not over the limit, didn’t think so but you can never tell!

I then turned off at Ashburton heading for Widecombe and then promptly missed the turning at the top of the moor and being forced to go via Buckland on the Moor. Good job the windows were closed, you may have heard me some miles off shouting at myself!

Having arrived and set out realised I hadn’t set the GPS units for the walk, back to the car, set the GPS and start again. Blimey, I wasn’t in the best of moods once I actually got going. I hope the day improves!

Starting at Hemsworthy car park my first target was Top tor and then across to Pil tor. The last time I was in this area I remembered heading onto Welstor rocks from Top tor and ending up crashing through the bracken and gorse to pick up a path, lesson learned and now look to walk away from Pil tor where a track is much easier to see and follow.

To head for Welstor rocks it’s pretty much a straight line walk to Blackslade ford so why the heck did I think it was a good idea to see if I could find another access point across the fields just before Whittaburrow. That crazy start just keeps giving!

Oh well, I’m in the area now and established a boundary wall basically runs from the ford all the way down to Blackslade farm with no accessible gates. I thought I saw one of those round walker badges/signs but turned out to be one of them indicating private land and don’t enter.

Let’s take twenty minutes out of the schedule to look around.

It is quite a nice area walking below Tunhill rocks following the tracks and gives a very different perspective to the area, well worth a revisit.

Back to walking and following the wall all the way back to where I should have been and veer left not right this time. The path will now take you down to the Blackslades ford. At last, back on the page! Let’s hope I have all the mess ups out of my system and I can get on with training.

From the ford there is a dirt track/metalled road that takes you up to the road leading to Cold East car park. Just dropping back about ten meters from a small layby there is a track that provides a straight line all the way to Buckland Beacon where the famous “Ten Commandment” stones are located. Take a left and over a style and head for the outcrop for Welstor rocks. The one marked on the OS map at least.

A fair bit of time had passed and really hadn’t covered the ground I expected but it was very hot and muggy so a break was definitely necessary. There was no sign of the weather changing so lots of water breaks were to become the action of the day.

Rippon tor next, surely, I can’t get this wrong, on a day when anything appeared possible. It’s a very long stretch of walking without claiming any tors, there will be many sections like this on the challenge. The long hill up to Rippon tor provides way too much time to think. There also seems to be a system with the gates on the way up. Part way up there is a gate on the left, if it’s open go through it and continue following the wall. When this is open the gate further up on the side you start walking on is locked, meaning you have to climb over it. It also works in reverse.

Not realising this immediately I stayed on the same side and had to climb over the locked gates, a double gate tied together. Needless energy spent on such a hot day.

By the time I reached Rippon tor I needed another break, water and some shade. I had the water but appears others had the same idea and the best shaded areas had already been taken. Hmm, a rest in the sun then.

Now this you do need to know.

Getting to Bag tor is easiest by dropping down from Rippon tor North, North East and finding a gate to walk through then following the wall. My previous visit I stayed inside the wall and it worked absolutely fine. Trouble is since my last visit and this walk the farmer has installed brand new fencing, with barbed wire at the top, along the whole of the wall and prevents crossing over at a broken piece of wall.

That meant climbing over two difficult wired-up gates and over and back on a wall dividing them. It’s possible but annoying and uses more energy that I don’t want to give up easily!

Take the easy option.

Eventually reaching the trees a left ninety degree turn down the hill following a very visible and easy track brings you to the stream near Bagtor cottages. You could get wet feet crossing this if you’re unlucky but with the dry weather again it was a simple crossing. A short walk up the track and you’re at Bag tor, another water stop and still not much shade around. Feels like it’s getting warmer every hour and definitely humid and sticky!

A straight line to Haytor rocks through the car park and up the hill through the middle of the rocks. I received some odd and condemning looks as I went through the car park, especially when then saw me head straight up the hill. I guess they were probably thinking what a nut job carrying that weight in this heat!  I have to say, that hill feels as steep as it looks. None the less, a well-earned breather was taken at the top.

At this point an unwitting detour from the plan as I decided to take a look at Haytor quarry rather than head for Saddle tor. It’s been a while since my last visit and on a bright sunny day it really is an idyllic place to visit and rest in the shade, yep, I finally found some shade.

I was also very surprised to see lots of tadpoles in the water, I thought they would have turned into frogs by June. Clearly not.


Back out into the sun, Holwell tor, Smallacombe rocks and Hole rock where easy to reach and tick off.

Next, down the steep hill into the valley and cross Becka Brook. It’s amazing how quickly the terrain changes between the weather patterns. A couple of weeks ago the paths were running like streams, now, totally dried out and solid underfoot. Another lovely place to explore if you have the time. Now up the other side and head for Greator rocks. This was a tough climb with the weight and the heat, it took a lot longer than anticipated and I was very happy when I reached the top.

You may find this interesting? If you want to walk from Greator rocks to East Lodge, I only recently found this, the best way is to follow the path to Greator rocks from the Becka Brook, stay to the right of the rocks and when you reach the end of the outcrop take a left turn and find a path that leads to a style to your right. The path is very visible. This style replaces the access point fifty meters to the right on the same wall.

Climb over the style and follow the wall up the hill to the original access point, the gate.

You can then follow a path (looks like a mowed grass path) through the fields where a number of “horse jumps” have been created to a gate at East Lodge and onto the road. It saves a lot of time walking around the field and coming back on the road.

Turning left and over a cattle grid turn immediate right and follow a path that tracks the boundary wall on your right. Reaching the corner there is a track that pulls away from the wall and leads to Honeybag tor. Don’t follow the tracks by the wall, you’ll end up in trouble especially when it’s wet! It’s then a pretty straight walk to Honeybag tor.

At this point and about seven hours walking the heat was getting the better of me, feeling very hot, shoulders aching and feet hurting I decided to make a push for Honeybag tor and find a rock providing shade and sit under it for half an hour, just to cool off and have a final break before heading toward the car.

I think the sheep had the same idea, not wanting to push them out, just fortunate they are skittish with people so very politely moved on and left the shade under a big rock overhang all for me.

It was very pleasant sitting there looking over the view in a gentle breeze with the sun still blazing down. I took advantage of the full thirty minutes before I pushed on.

Chinkwell tor was the last slope to climb before heading down hill past Bell tor and Bonehill rocks. Just a slight incline up and across back to Top tor and back to the car.

Typically, at Top tor the weather suddenly decided to considerably cool down as it clouded over a bit and the breeze picked up. I suspect ready for those predicted thunder storms, that actually never materialised. Pity it didn’t do that a bit earlier in the day.

 

The day did get better from the chaotic start but the heat really challenged my fitness levels and the body. Overall, I guess I should be pleased with the outcome, there’s a pattern developing here which probably means I could be walking anything up to eleven hours a day. An early start will be crucial on the challenge if I’m going to avoid some late camp spot arrivals!

 

Stats,

Total distance 25 km

Total trip time 9 hours duration

Average trip time 2.7 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 


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