My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 43

June 27, 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 31 – Norsworthy Car Park Loop

There couldn’t have been a bigger contrast between two training days.

Once again joined by Anton to make sure I was getting the time and distance in!

Getting out of the car despite the forecast suggesting it was going to be a cooler day the air felt decidedly warm as I bagged up and got ready to set off.

Down tor first, I’ve talked a lot about this tor in previous blogs and with the sun out I think this is potentially one of the best tors to sit at the top and absorb the view. Nothing has changed my mind and the views remain very special.

Walking up was surprisingly warm and tiring today for some reason. Maybe it was the hill to the top and came straight at the beginning of the walk before the legs were warmed up. By the time we reached the top I was already starting to overheat so a very early quick water break was required.

A little easier was the walk across to Combshead tor. Never really noticed before but there is a false sense of achievement just before you reach the tor itself. Just as you reach the brow of the hill it looks like the tor is in front of you but as you get closer it quickly becomes apparent it’s an outcrop and the tor is a few hundred meters further on.

Combshead tor also has some excellent views although we didn’t on this occasion climb to the top and take them in. Not quite as good as Down tor in my view but pretty good offering a different perspective. It also sits above Cuckoo rock where the first cuckoo is alleged to be heard each year. It’s not where I heard the first cuckoo and this year there seems to be a significant number of them in the area. They’ve been very vocal and frequent.

Eylesbarrow is the next target point and because it’s not visible positive points from which to take a bearing would be required for those not familiar with the area. So, first point is slightly back tracking to the stone circle and stone row between Comshead and Down to and to the East, this is clearly marked on the map.

Walking to the end of the stone row a bearing to the edge of the girt to your right. This is very clear on the map and the ground. The start of the girt is distinctive and has a sharp drop so finding the end point is not difficult unlike some others. From here a bearing to Eylesbarrow and you’re done.

Having said all of that, I’ve walked this a few times now and established a fairly fixed route up the hill. Providing visibility is good enough (if not the above approach would be used) walk to the stone row and half way along look toward the gert, there is a very identifiable muddy wide track leading out of the gert on the far side, probably made by many cattle passing through over a few years. Find a cattle track, there are a couple if you have a keen eye and head toward it. You will on arrival see a clear route down, across and out of the gert, but beware, due to the geographic nature of this area in wet weather it will become very boggy and full of water. While it can still be passed just watch out where you place your feet. What looks like solid ground will easily suck your feet into feet of bog and water!

But, today is a dry day and getting across the void was straight forward.

Looking up the hill there are a couple of clearings, easy to spot I think as they are simply big green areas amongst the bracken and clitter in the area. Again, there are some clear cattle tracks if you survey the area and look closely, easier outside the summer months as the vegetation growth makes it a little more difficult to spot. Picking your way along the tracks, using my motto, find a track and follow the poo, you will reach what looks like an old boundary wall made up of an earth and grass ridge peppered with granite.

Follow this all the way up the hill and as you approach over the brow of the hill Eylesbarrow will welcome you dead ahead.

In the fog a straight-line bearing is likely to be required and from experience this is achievable but will involve of slowly picking your way through the vegetation to keep a straight line to reach the top. Not an enjoyable approach but will get you there.

A clear confirmation of arrival is the piece of iron work stuck in the top of a block of granite.

The Hartor tors next.

A couple of a ways to get there in terms of qualified bearings/position. Make your way to the disused tin mine workings and the associated building ruins, this involves navigating around the spoil heaps and almost impossible to take a straight line. Not difficult to do, just wandering around the spoils until you drop down to the path.

Or, you could take a more easterly direction reach the path and walk west to reach the same point mentioned above.

This “point” should be easily identified as it is where two paths meet, with the building ruins by the side of the path. In any fog this should provide a positive position to make it to Higher Hartor tor. It’s not far and easy to reach along a track and quickly comes into view as you approach.

Had a chat with a very nice couple, probably didn’t do the stats much good but it was great to swap a couple of stories and canvas my challenge!

Lower Hartor tor is close and set just below and toward the Plym river. We reached this quickly and took a snack break.

So far reasonably good, but for what ever reason I wasn’t feeling the Dartmoor love on this trip. Can’t explain it but I just seemed to be struggling more than usual, oh well, just got to keep going!

Rather than go back up to the path and drop back down to Plym Ford we decided to go straight for the ford. The terrain was ok but if the weather was bad or had been wet this is not a route I would recommend. Take the extra few hundred meters back onto the path, it is so much easier!

Crossing the Plym ford at this time wasn’t difficult with the water levels really low, lower than I was expecting.

 

Over the river and now heading for Calveslake. I quite like this tor, probably underrated but it does have some fabulous open views back across the Plym, with the sun out it’s usually a quite place to sit and contemplate the world.

Previously I had approached from Great Gnat’s Head, from there cattle tracks are visible down to the tor that cuts across the Abbot’s Way, I’ll come back to the Abbot’s Way!

Approaching from the ford it was a slightly more difficult challenge as there didn’t appear to be any obvious visible or half descent tracks to choose from. Pretty unusual as I tend to find at least one to follow. This meant a slow and careful picking our way through the grass tufts, trying to avoid deep holes between them while looking for an easier option.

In hindsight it would have been easier to follow the Abbot’s Way and then drop across but you know me, too daft to think of the obvious when your head is down and in auto walk mode!

There is a small stream feeding the Plym to cross, which needs some care, it’s not hugely difficult but not straight forward with a full pack. Then just a short walk up the hill.

Now to go back up to reach the Abbot’s Way to walk to Broad rock, a rock I have never located. The Abbot’s Way, hmm, I was sure when I was last in the area there was a very visible path, but as it seems, not on this occasion. I took a bearing and a direction plus the distance. The idea was to walk the bearing and pace it out, that should drop us right on the track/path.

Attempt one, paces reached but nothing remotely looking like the Abbot’s Way path. After some deliberation I decided that with such a big pack my steps were shorter than I would normally walk, plus we crossed a large, let’s say ditch that would have skewed the paces a bit.

Some applied logic and decided a further one hundred meters were required to reach the path.

Paces reached and still no sign of any distinguishable path, ok, I was now really beginning to doubt my navigating, not something I need just before a huge challenge!

Rather than waste time I decided, not to cheat, but to take the sensible action. A quick look on the GPS, after all that’s the point of a safety net, isn’t it?

Well, knock me sideways, on checking, incredibly we were absolutely bang on the Abbot’s Way, unbelievable, but not without a little bit of logical luck! In a fog I may well have back tracked to the ford and followed the track from there on a bearing.

But the point is, just because it’s clearly marked on the map, don’t expect it to appear on the ground.

With a bearing now to Broad Rock, we went on our merry way, but with me still pondering why that section caused so much of a problem, despite ultimately getting it right.

On reaching the area of Broad rock I can see why I have never found it, it’s totally underwhelming.

Another couple of chats to canvass the challenge with some more very supportive people. A group were discussing Braid rock which made it easy for us to locate but have to say without a GPS I doubt if I would have found it. Now I have I probably won’t bother again!

 

The next target was the Erme head to allow us to go on the hunt for the line of boundary stones finishing at a trig point above Shavercombe tor. I know from several attempts these are particularly difficult to land on, being only a foot tall and buried in the tall grass they hide themselves really well.

Following a bearing and picking our way between a multitude of tracks and skipping over the grass tufts we finally located the first boundary stone, that in its self was pretty good. Now the next one.

At this point there appeared to be a pretty well-defined track and could be seen to provide a route all the way toward the trig point.

Again, measuring and pacing we followed the track. I also remember the next stone was in amongst the grass tufts so on reaching the number of paces started looking left. Nothing, still adjusting pacing due to bag weight walked a bit further while scanning our left side. Bingo, just visible about twenty meters off the track was the next stone. This was more like it.

After that the decision to forget the remaining stones and head straight for the trig point following this now visible track come path.

Half way along this long stretch, time for lunch. The walk across this terrain was taking its toll, wet and spongy it was leg sapping for me at least. Anton appeared to be doing pretty well though which made me feel even worse!

Made all the worse when we checked and realised, we were already two hours behind the target schedule. Blimey, I was really feeling it today, just can’t get into any rhythm and starting to feel every kilometre.

Lunch over and the trudging started again. Finally, we reached the trig point, the good news at least was the path led straight up to the trig point, now we once again have a very positive bearing point.

 

At this point time was really starting to tick away so some sensible decisions had to be made. Shavercombe was dropped from the route and we diverted away from Hen tor to pull back some time. While we approached Hen tor, we just cut it short and turned toward the Trowlesworthy tors aiming to keep high and above the streams.

The Trowlesworthy’s seemed to take an age to get there, a real signal I was feeling the heat on this trip, normally this section would be a breeze for me.

Anyway, we headed for Lower Trowlesworthy, again to try and save a bit more time and then down across the leat to the Plym. Last time I was able to very carefully cross the Plym, but that was with nothing like the bag weight I had this time.

We found a spot most likely to offer the nearest chance of getting across, Anton with his stick got across pretty well. Me on the other hand, well, it was like slow motion with careful choreographed balancing in between. Let’s just say I got across, but I was impressed with my ability to pose and balance while finding my footing on some tricky rocks and boulders.

 

Some how unless we have a really dry spell, I can’t see me getting across the Plym on the challenge which will mean a sizeable detour via Cadover bridge to make Legis tor, our next target.

Once across the river a slow walk up the hill to Legis tor, a quick water break and straight on toward Gutter tor. While this is a straight but longish path, it is very easy to walk and despite my struggling made good time to reach the trig point.

 

A short walk and over the style and we were on Gutter tor, walking round to the right and down to the path toward the small car park below.

Time was still beating us and frankly for the first time I just wanted to get back to the car. I was done!

Eastern tor was the next victim for the chop so along the path, past the car park area and up to the leat past the “Scout hut” also used by the Army.

Following the leat was relatively straight forward all the way to the right-side edge of Roughtor plantation. A final water stop before the last push back to the car. What was really nice while resting was some horses and their fouls decided to walk down to the stream just meters away for a drink, why I didn’t get the phone out and grab a video clip I’ll never know. It was a special moment.

Pressing on, my body was willing me to reach the car. Following the footpath around the edge of the plantation, downhill into Deancombe and crossing the Narrator brook. As mentioned previously, the area by the stone footbridge is a really nice place to stop, particularly if it is hot as it offers plenty of shade.

But not today, pressing onward there was a sudden last surge of energy to reach the car!

The path is easy to walk and follow and it wasn’t too long before we arrived back at the car park. Boot opened and the bag dumped in it, wow, it felt cracking to get the bag off my shoulders, bliss!

Now for the pending but expected disappointment of the stats.

Stats,

Total distance 24 km

Total trip time 9.5 hours duration

Average trip time 2.5 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.3 km per hour

Actually, it wasn’t too bad after all, taking out the slightly longer stops taken, we ended up being roughly four kilometres behind the target schedule which is roughly about ninety minutes in time. That would account for the dip in the overall average trip speed. With an average moving speed of 4.3 kilometres per hour, I’ll take that considering how I felt most of the way round.

So, the moral of todays trip and story is, cut down the stop times and I could probably make the schedule I’ve set myself, keeping 30 km per day a real possibility.

Let’s see how I fair on the next training day, plenty to think about still!

 


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