My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 41

June 20, 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 29 – Combestone Tor Loop

This training walk was gearing up to possibly the most challenging so far, so was likely to be more about covering the distance rather than the time and averages. Dartmeet to Lucky tor and up to Sharp tor was going to hammer the stats!

 

Once again, Anton (must like the punishment of walking with me!) shared the walk and ensured I didn’t skip the hard bits. It’s very tempting sometimes to cut a corner off, but that will only be fooling myself!

Combestone tor car park was todays starting point with our first target point Dartmeet bridge.

There are two ways you can descend from Combestone tor using footpaths marked on the map.

  1. Turn right out of the car park and walk about twenty meters on the road to a footpath on your right. This is a very visible path and looks like it has recently been improved with a layer of stone and gravel, so walking this is very easy.

Follow this through a couple of gates and continue without turning off via Ash House. It’s a then a walk through an open grass area until you reach Dartmeet. But beware, you need to cross the river using stepping stones, if the weather is bad or heavy rain fall you will not be able to cross on the stepping stones. They disappear under water, completely!

  1. This is the route we took, Using the same starting path point continue to you reach the gate. Go through the gate and cross a small stream and then look for a footpath immediately left, the post does say footpath to Huccaby.

It’s not completely obvious at first but I can assure you it is there. We’re heading for Weak Ford so continue to follow the track all the way to the river. Stay alert as while the track is visible it is possible to drift off it!

At the ford you need to cross the stepping stones, a number of large, flat topped and evenly spaced boulders. Now that is what I call a decent stepping stone crossing. What I don’t know is if you can cross them in bad or heavy rain conditions. They may well go under water like those further upstream.

It’s then a simple case of following the track to Huccaby House.

Keep ahead straight and pass through another gate next to the house taking you across the fields. It was full of cows on this walk so if you’re not happy with cows you will need to turn left and take the road to Dartmeet bridge!

Follow the marker posts until you reach one of my favourites, a stony path down to the disused quarry area. You’re then faced with four gates! Three have round “stickers” that say no access, the fourth has one pointing the way. It’s obvious unless you are me and look at everything apart from the blinding obvious, I spotted the right way eventually, it had a style of course which for anyone else would be the dead giveaway!

Down through the fields heading for a house on your left and follow the path sign by the side of the house to the road.

You could turn right at the house before reaching the road and take a look at the stepping stones there, which is the end of the first option.

Well, that’s made it to Dartmeet bridge. A big description for about a 30 minute walk!

 

As you cross Dartmeet bridge take the path on the far-right hand side as you cross over and veer left to a gate, this is the start of the path that will take you all the way to Lucky tor. It’s very popular for camping and you’ll see why if you ever visit.

Now, a small but polite warning. While this route to reach Lucky tor is achievable it should be done with great care. It is sort of split into three sections. The path starts off with a really nice gentle stroll along the river bank and through the trees, don’t be fooled! The next section is a boulder scramble in places and negotiating exposed tree roots plus if raining or after rain the river levels may fill the holes and become very slippery. The last section is an easy track to follow along the river again, through the trees until you reach an opening. The impressive Lucky tor should present itself to you on your left.

Phew, made it! Hope that doesn’t put you off too much.

Break stop, I think we deserved it. There were times with a full bag weight scrambling was a bit of a test!

 

The next target point was Sharp tor. Towering 360 meters above the river that’s a climb of roughly 160 meters in just under a kilometre distance.  Between a one in four and one in five hill I think it works out at, which is pretty sizable. Made more challenging as the climb takes in woods and boulders from Lucky tor until you break through the tree line into the bracken, which is now high and thick bracken, down to a stream bed and up the tough side of Sharp tor.

Definitely time for a quick water stop! But what’s that, llamas on the tor?

I’ve heard of this “therapeutic” activity but never witnessed it. Have to say it was an odd sight at the top of Sharp tor. The couple leading the walk and own the llamas were really nice and engaging and were clearly delivering a great experience as their guests were thoroughly enjoying it. Something different and a great way to experience Dartmoor.

A quick snack as they walked away down the hill and checked our next target point.

A good easy stretch next with unbelievable views down into and across the Dart valley. Dropping down from Sharp tor to the road on your right follow the boundary wall off to your right until you reach a metalled path. On your left behind you by the car park is Bell tor and as you follow the path up on your right is Mel tor. While Mel tor is accessible and provides a fine set of outcrops looking over the valley, Bell tor is set in a field which is private land so afraid no access here to climb it.

The path is known as Dr Blackalls Drive and runs parallel with the river to Aish tor. You can find out more about the drive at this link https://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/blackalls_drive.htm

I would agree with the sentiment of building the drive with its superb views of the Dart.

Aish tor on the other hand is far from spectacular in my view. Found it simply enough from knowledge from a previous walk but appears to be little more than a pile of stones to mark the spot. I guess we’ll need to wait another hundred years and plenty of erosion before we see anything like a tor of a description that matches our understanding of a tor.

From Aish tor back down onto the path to the road, cross the road and next left through a small parking area to Leigh tor. A little more impressive and surrounded by trees and bracken. A favourite place for camping judging by the marks of camp fires in the area. A path then heads away from the tor and downhill, not a difficult path to follow to another road below along the river Dart. Which also strangely comes out right beside Spitchwick Manor, familiar if you read the link above.

From here cross the road and continue following a section of the Two Moors Way next to the river, this is a beautiful spot and attracts a lot of visitors. Just like the next point at New bridge just a few hundred meters further along the river.

If inclined to visit, there is a sizable car park there and usually an ice cream van. Temptation can be cruel on a hot day as we looked at each other tempted by the draw of a nice cold ice cream. But, believe it or not, I stood fast on my schedule and “diet” for the challenge and resisted. Possibly the toughest decision of the day! Not really sure if I was too mean and stopped Anton enjoying one, but I did give him the option!

The next section in effect followed the Two Moors Way, first into Holne, then into Scorriton, which also followed a very stony bridal way down a longish hill only to find we turned a corner and had to walk back up the hill to the hamlet of Scoriton. Following the road would have been so much easier!

From Scoriton there is then a very long stretch starting with a very easy metalled road, turning into a path to a ford over Snowdon Brook. Another great place for a picnic.

Oh, by the way, if you go looking for the finger post at Scoriton to pick up the Two Moors Way, walk past the benches/memorial on your left, turn immediate left, and dive into the hedge to reveal the post. It’s very well hidden by the overgrown hedge, take a pair of clippers with you, it may help someone following on behind you!

Still following the Two Moors Way position yourself above Ludgate and then find a track to walk straight up the hill to land on Pupers Hill. It has the main outcrop an “inner” smaller one (the first one you come across) and an outer one.

From here there is a visible track that then takes you to Snowden. There is a reasonable size cairn there as a marker but not much else. Continue along the track to Ryder’s Hill.

There’s a little more of interest here, a boundary stone, a trig point and Petre’s bound stone. It also offers a commanding three sixty view point.

Not far from making it back to Combestone car park but I have to say the legs and shoulders were beginning to feel the day. Walking felt like it was slowing down a bit so I was really hoping the final distance would be over twenty-five kilometres. At this point a group of walkers approached as we surveyed the area. As one not to miss an opportunity for a break and a chat, I was a little surprised when they announced they knew who I was. How come I thought, obvious really as I’m posting myself all over Facebook at the moment. But it was still great to know they were reading the blogs and following my progress!

The next and final section was to loop around left of Holne ridge and pick up the track to the restored Horn’s cross and back to the car park. Now here’s the thing, we could have followed the boundary stones to the top of the stream feeding the O Brook and take a right for the restored cross. This was the intention however, visibility was good and we didn’t need a bearing, did we. We spotted a track that headed off in the right direction but slowly veered off to the left, unknowingly easy to the unsuspecting or those that were aimlessly walking without checking the real direction of travel!

Passing Sandy Way Path which was expected there was nothing at that point to raise any real suspicion of a deviation. However, the further we went the more we were “sandwiched between the two streams into the O Brook, now the alarm went off, the brakes on to consolidate.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad, we had gone a couple hundred meters to the left and hadn’t dropped past the head of the stream on the right. As adding distance on the training walks is never an issue it wasn’t a problem.  Additionally, there didn’t appear to be any really visible track beyond the one we took anyway.

The punishment, a slow, hard twenty minute picking our way through some horrible grass tufts, deep holes and a couple of, what is best describe as a “mini gert”.

 

Having now spotted a clear sheep track through the bracken and across to an open area, dropping down to the car park was much easier. We didn’t bother to go all the way across to the cross as this was now the end of the walk and really didn’t serve any particular purpose.

Made it!

Overall, it was a pretty good and varied walk. Lanes, tracks, open moor, villages, streams, stepping stones and bridges. Some very level easy walking, some very steep and leg sapping climbing, some very tricky and very time-consuming boulder hopping. All culminating in a tired but still functioning body!

Time to hold my breath, have I achieved a longer distance and time but kept within my target stats?

 

Stats,

Total distance 27 km

Total trip time 10.5 hours duration

Average trip time 2.5 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.3 km per hour

 

Hmm, I’m pretty happy with that considering the amount of stop/talking time added in, the terrain which I knew would slow the averages down. So, to be within an hour and a half (easily could remove an hour for chatting) and 0.4 km per hour of moving time average., I would call that a positive result.

Now to drive home and see if England can deliver the goods in the Euro’s.

 


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