My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 44

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 32 – Postbridge revisited Loop

There is no doubt, I had to banish those blues from the last training walk. It was a real struggle and only just kept inside some measure of walking stats that would get me round a full day on the challenge. This has to change!

The weather forecast was a little mixed and basically could deliver anything. Driving to Postbridge it was cloudy and misty on the hills so I was expecting to get wet and need to use bearings periodically. However, on arrival the weather had cleared a fair bit, the temperature was a little chilly to start but actually, perfect walking weather.

Just gaiters and jacket required.

All I had to do now was gear up and get my head straight! Due to the weather, I wasn’t expecting to see too many people and decided to try and stick to some kind of strict schedule and timing regime that would be required on the challenge itself. Me, not talking to anyone, what are the chances of that happening!

So, start outside the East Dart pub/hotel and pick up the path just to the right sign posted to Lydford house. This is a very easy path to walk and surprised more people don’t try it, you can’t go wrong on this section, straight ahead and there is only one track. Reaching Lydford house does present two options though, and depending where you want to end up you need to look for two different finger posts.

As you approach Lydford house a clear and obvious post marked bridal way points to the left through a gate. Take this if you want to short cut the path and go via Lower Merripit and come out on a road leading to Runnage farm, basically this keeps you off the main road running through Postbridge. You’ll ultimately end up at the same point but means some road walking is still required.

I want to go to Pizwell using the footpath. Initially it looks like you have to walk through the garden of the house which may make most people think they should tale the bridal path left! However, carry on straight ahead on your right there is a post labelled footpath that points dead ahead, you actually walk around the house to the right. 

This drops down toward the river and keeps going ahead with no deviations so you shouldn’t go wrong on this stretch. For reassurance, there is a small post about two feet high on the path with a new yellow arrow pointing the way. Continue to follow the path until you approach an open field, just before the opening there is another post pointing the way to avoid any possible left turn mistakes.

Once in the field you may be forgiven to hesitate as it suddenly becomes a little less clear (in my view). The post indicates straight on, the map shows a left turn and there are some gates you may think are part of the route.

A bit of micro navigation will reveal the mapped marked path follows the field boundary left and then swings right to a gate at the far end. Today the whole corner was occupied by a herd of cows and their young all sat down! I wasn’t going to disturb them.

Without any confirmation post signs I took a diagonal across the field to the far gate, it must be the right way. Through the gate and then it all came back to me, you enter an area with gates all over the place on your left and right, luckily these all have little round markers indicating no walking access to the field. I remember this because in the past I took a wrong turn into one of the fields without noticing the round markers, they are a bit old and faded.

With this confirmation I continued along the path, there is now only one direction to go. Continue until you reach a stream running across the path, another reminder from the past I was in the right place. This often gets flooded across the path and looks more like a ford, there is also a footbridge marked on the map but couldn’t see it on the ground.


Cross over the stream and continue on, you will then reach another post on your right. This provides an option to turn right toward Beliver although the path looks a little obscure, I haven’t tried this route yet. It also clearly indicates directions back to Postbridge and onto Pizwell farm. Another hundred meters or so and a further post confirms your route into and through the farm. A clue you’re almost there is a rather large tractor tyre propped up against the wall on your right. A short walk and you are walking through the farm with its typical old and character filled buildings.

Keeping left follow what becomes a road and stream on your right to a bridge, facing you across the road is Runnage farm. This is the point you reach if you take the option mentioned earlier via Lower Merripit. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic or in my case a quick water break.


The next target point is Soussons farm through the woods. There is a marked footpath on the map, look carefully for the small post low to the ground with its yellow arrow. Roughly ten meters on your left it points diagonally toward the wood, look for a gate which also has a round yellow badge with the arrow on it pointing you through the wood.

Woods can be difficult areas to navigate with roads, tracks all over the place, the one we need is a straight line all the way to Soussons. So, keep walking in a straight line and don’t be tempted to deviate! There are three forestry roads/tracks you will cross on the way, when you exit the woods to cross these a sign post is clear pointing you forward, across the road and a further post points you through the trees. Again, keep the faith, a couple of posts are now partially hidden by the trees but they are there.

At Soussons farm go through a gate into what is effectively a court yard area I would say and take the immediate gate on your left. There is a further post with very clear signage on directions. Take your pick!

My original route was via Challacombe and onto Headland Warren Farm, but in my own unfocused approach decided I knew better and went into auto mode and took a left up the hill back through some of the woods and toward Vitifer mine leat.

Again, fairly well marked but keep your eyes open for posts for directions, there is one point on the path at Gold Dagger Tin mine, if you’re unfamiliar, where a post only points toward Challacombe and Headland Warren which could be confusing as they are in opposite directions to where you would be standing looking at the post. Ignore this one and turn left, you will then see a much more meaningful sign post giving much better information.

Keep walking straight ahead, out of the trees and through the water running down the path, looks very brown due to the minerals I guess, and around the old tin workings. A little warning, if you stray off the path be really careful, the place is full of old mine shaft openings and sunken holes, most of the really dangerous ones are fenced off but care should be taken.

Follow the track into the open and uphill. Bennetts’s cross will eventually come into sight, head up to the road and the cross.

This route and section in my view is really pleasant with lots to keep you occupied. It would take roughly a couple of hours so a round trip is a good mornings or afternoons walk and achievable by most people.

So, two hours in and the weather was great for walking. Cloudy with some sunny spells keeping the temperature cool but not the rain the forecast suggested may turn up. Head and body were in the right place and the bag weight, well, heavy but not causing any problems yet.

The next section is pretty straight forward, opposite the car park there is a track, not marked in any way but it is visible and clearly marked on the map. It wanders around the contours and forms part of the Two Moors Way. Stay on the track and follow it all the way across the open section of the moor. About half way there is a very prominent standing stone and stone row that’s worth a look along with a hut circle and a cairn according to the map. Didn’t go looking on this occasion.

Stay on the track and keep the Metherall Brook on your left until you reach a corner of a wall with two trees right on the corner.

At this point I dropped down to the road and left toward Fernworthy reservoir, this was another water stop and a quick rest on the benches. Also, time for a quick check on my intended route. Oops I’ve done it again (there’s a song in there somewhere), auto mode, wasn’t meant to be by the reservoir. I was meant to continue on the Two Moors Way heading for Yardworthy! This time I needed to back track, no matter, it would add back in some distance I clipped off earlier.

I’ve never walked this section so needed to make sure I stayed on course. Walking back along the road continue to a down hill section until you reach the entrance to Yardworthy farm. Follow the road and track past the house on the right and through the gate. The direction of the post is a little off by the gate, you need to drop right and follow the field edge around to a further gate and continue ahead.

The path takes you down to the South Teign river. Over a style just before you drop down to the river, here there are what looks like two paths, one straight ahead and one slightly left. The one ahead looks the more used so I took that one that dropped to what looks like a ford with some stepping stones good enough to cross the river. Beware, this is not the right place to cross the river!

Use the path, but on close inspection of the map the path actually goes left to a “proper” footbridge. It’s a full-blown wooden bridge and offers easy access across the river.

Luckily for me I stopped at the river for lunch and during my break a couple of hikers crossed the river with ease drawing attention to the bridge. Who knows, would I have crossed the ford and continued up the wrong field? I guess we’ll never know now!

Anyway, over the bridge and up the other side. I took a quick picture of the hill, they never do justice to the slope, it wasn’t insignificant and took a couple of my mini breaks to get to the top. From here the path to Teignworthy was clear and easy to follow and then on toward Great Fenchbeer. Through some sheep pen gates placed across the path and out onto the road turning left up onto the open moor.

To add back in some distance, I decided to visit the following, Middle tor, Frenchbeer tor, Thornworthy tor and Kestor rock. All straight forward to walk around. If you ever wondered about walking between Frenchbeer and Thornworthy tors there is a gate that provides access after crossing a stream feeding the South Teign river. Follow a direct line between them, drop to the river and it’s in front of you. It gets very boggy when wet due to what looks like an area where cows congregate.

After bumping into another very nice person and putting the world right on the pandemic at Kestor rock the next section in terms of walking is very straight forward, but boy is it a long and arduous section of the walk. Good only for getting distance clocked up (if you’ve been there a few times before) it’s head down and just keep going.

First to the Three Boys standing stone, straight on and handrail the forest, over a style and Long Ridge. At this point I stopped for a snack top up and debated if I follow the original route to Grey Weathers stone circles or deviate up to Sittaford. As I was probably a bit short on distance and wanted to get around 27km in I decided to deviate up the hill.

 

Following the track down toward a stream another herd of cows were split across the path, only this time there was a huge bull with them. This was going to get interesting.

The cows scattered which was convenient, but the bull still on the track kept walking toward me as I continued walking toward him. Swaggering toward me, mouth streaming with saliva we were about 25 meters apart. Looked like I was taking a large detour, then he stopped looked me in the eye and turned away down the hill.

No idea why, but I didn’t feel particularly threatened but I was glad he moved first, no I wouldn’t have got any closer to confront him. Would have taken me down far too easy if he had the inclination!

Up the long hill to Sittaford and then follow the wall back down and right on the path to the stone circles.

The weather was still the same, cloudy, cool with the occasional sunny break through and still good for walking. Me, I was still feeling pretty good, I felt like I was walking well and at a good speed when moving. I could be onto something here and still no need for painkillers for the heels yet.

The final walk in was a continuation of the very long section from Kestor rock and by the time I was passing the beehive on the right lower down close to the river, mentally it suddenly started to get difficult to keep going. Determined not to take pain killers for my heels the head was down and kept going one step at a time.

Over a style, through some more cows, why on earth do they always sit themselves on and across the footpaths? Luckily again they dispersed ahead of me clearing the way with Hartland tor in sight.


 

The weather by now had finally decided to turn, a heavy mist started to drop across the hills bring some light rain on and off.

Just need to keep going and I should avoid getting too wet.

Down the hill from Hartland tor to the river and follow the track around the fields toward Postbridge bridge. With the car very close I was just starting to feel the day creeping up on me. One last shift of the bag, onto the road and left back to the car.

Done, that felt like a really good day’s walk. Now for the stats, I really wanted to be around 27km. I’d been walking for nine and a half hours so if I had been any where near 3km per hour then in theory I should be close to 28km.

Time to check!

Boom, back in the game, wow, 30.5 km. Now that is what I call a great result, the first time carrying 30 kilos and hit the challenge daily target of 30km per day. Yep, the aches and pains suddenly disappeared as I quietly congratulated myself. I needed to dispel the doldrums of the previous walk and this was just the response I needed.

Happy, you bet!

Stats,

Total distance 30.5 km

Total trip time 9.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.9 km per hour

 


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