My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 45

June 30, 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 33 – Clearbrook Loop

So, I managed to smash out those blues and deliver the best performance so far on my last training walk, can I repeat it or was it just a flash in the pan?

As is becoming the case, many areas are being repeated to enable loops to be created with the distance required. So today was part the actual challenge route plus some open moor and roads/lanes to complete a target distance of 27km from and back to Clearbrook.

 

First target point, Hawk’s tor.

On the challenge itself I will be walking from Yelverton along the West Devon Way until I reach an exit point onto the road toward Shaugh Prior. What I don’t want to do is walk up to Clearbrook from Hoo Meavy, across the moor and back down to the road, just using unnecessary energy. So, walking down from Clearbrook to pick up the West Devon Way puts me where I want to be on this walk.

A walk down to Hoo Meavy takes me to the bridge over the river Meavy surprisingly. Just before the bridge on your right there is a new style and finger post pointing across a field, usually with horses in it. This has in the past been covered up and partially blocked so it’s great to see the creation of the Dartmoor Way properly reinstate this piece of footpath.

It’s a straight walk through a few fields, over a couple of styles when the path gets close to the river and out through a gate onto a road that goes to Goodameavy.

Take a right turn under the bridge and immediate left. This is the point where you leave the path and follow the road.

Heading up a reasonable slope to Leighbeer the road goes over the tunnel below on the disused railway and then heads down toward Shaugh bridge. If you haven’t been in this area, why not?

It is a typically stunning area of river and woodland with plenty of tracks and paths to follow. It also has the well-known Dewerstone rock, popular with rock climbers who can often be seen climbing, practising or training there.

But we haven’t got time to stop and stare, there’s a schedule to keep!

Over the river and follow the road. Avoiding any right turns going up the hill or other footpaths, the road will take you straight through Shaugh Prior. If you want a coffee stop there’s a bench in the church yard, just thought I would mention it!

The road up to Shaugh Prior is steep and it takes an effort to keep going. This is a “day one” section so I will have a full packed weight and the hill seems to go on for a long time!

Just for today I decided to leave Shaugh Prior via Brag Lane, curious to see if this could be any easier than continuing to follow the road. No is the answer, it just carried on up hill to add to the strain. I’ll take the more direct road to Beatland corner on the day I think.

Once at the “T” junction a simple route 45 degrees across the moor terrain to Hawk’s tor. There’s plenty of tracks to follow to get you there. It’s a small tor but an interesting one and has some fantastic views back down the valley and out to Plymouth on a clear day. There are some pretty good tracks in this area and worth a wander.

With the clay pits on your left, find a track and follow the boundary of the clay pits around roughly 400 meters and Collard tor will appear in front of you. In my view this is a pretty unimpressive tor and resembles not much more than a pile of rocks and clitter with remains of a quarry just below and to the right of the tor. It does however like Hawk’s tor have some pretty impressive views.

Now find a track leading toward Wotter below, as you approach Collard tor the path is pretty much directly opposite and found by walking straight through the clitter. Don’t worry if you miss it, you can easily descend the hill into the village. Once in the village turn left and follow the road down to the main road, turn left and continue to follow the road. There is a footpath on the left about 500 meters ahead and a nice little walk off the road if you prefer, however, I wanted the quickest route to Blackalder tor so simply follow the road until you reach a bus stop shelter on the left side of the road. A track leads away up hill just after the shelter and on your left. Walk to the top turn immediate left for 100 meters and Blackalder tor is on your right. Hidden mostly be bracken and trees it’s more impressive than first appears and better viewed early spring.

From here retrace steps back to the road and safely cross to the other side and continue along the verge or the footpath just the other side of the barrier (recommended!). Keep going until you reach a wide junction and the road leading toward Hemerdon, cross over and continue until you see a car park area. Close by on the right is Whitehill tor. A better view can be obtained by walking up and around away from the road. It looks pretty well hidden by trees from the road.

Past Whitehill and keep following the road until you reach a gate and a footpath sign pointing right across the fields. Following the direction of the signs and you’ll pass a house ruin on your left as you swing right over a wall you will approach Crownhill tor on your left.

Now, in my opinion, this really doesn’t look much like a tor at all and wonder why it has been given a title with tor in it!

Mostly buried under the earth and grass it resembles more a hill than a tor, but it’s on the map so must be visited. Well, actually is it on the map? Border line I would say, it effectively is on the overlap between two different OS maps so technically I could leave it off the list. However, as it is so close, I decided to leave it in, especially as it occurs on the day one route.

Rook tor next and this is a fair distance away. Retrace your steps back to the road, I do hate retracing steps, it seems such a waste of energy but as there is little choice the quicker it’s done the better!

Cross the road and directly opposite there is a footpath sign at Tolchmoor Gate, that directs you along a really nice footpath running parallel with the road, why wouldn’t you use it?

Follow this to Quick bridge turn left and look for a new iron “kissing gate” on your right about ten meters down the path. Follow this all the way through Newpark Wood and Sheraleers Wood until you come to an open field in Heathfield Down. Keep left until you reach the road opposite and turn left.

The nice thing walking in this direction is the path is all down hill making it easy to take time to enjoy the woods. The open area is another popular spot for dog walkers and families to walk.

Now we head uphill from Robert’s break past Middle Rook and on to West Rook Gate. The weather not mentioned so far had been pretty reasonable, cloudy with a cooling breeze to start but with sunny intervals. It was when those sunny intervals came out the temperature seemed to rise making it very warm and humid, there was plenty of water being drunk!

The hill to West Rook Gate is pretty steep and long. Our speed felt pretty good up to now and with a focused push it wasn’t too long before we reached the gate entrance to the moor.  The rocks the other side of the gate were fortunately covered in shade, the perfect spot for lunch before we launched ourselves up the hill to Penn Beacon.

It looks a long way up does Penn Beacon! I found in the past walking to the right roughly half way between West and East Rook gate there is a very clear path left that turns into a track. Following this takes you all the way up the hill to the top, but it is a long haul with a full pack, so required a few mini stops. Just before we set off up the hill, can’t remember why I actually checked the GPS. Just out of curiosity you understand. At that point we had been walking with an average trip speed of 3.6 km per hour and walking average of 5.4 km per hour, wow, that’s amazing and clearly the best timing to date. That said I also knew that average would be cut down to size over the second half of the route.

Penn Beacon and it felt like the top of the world, water break required and took advantage of some of the time we had acquired. Incidentally, the path followed and confirmed on the map when back home, took us directly over the point marked on the map of Rook tor. I know, Rook tor is further down and where the disused quarry sits! The next target Shell Top has a clear path leading to it and despite going down and then up, the hill is not difficult to walk.

Trowlesworthy tors next, a straight line looked very tempting as the terrain wasn’t too badly affected by large grass tufts and holes. I also knew the streams in that area can make the area extremely boggy and difficult to pass. Despite the recent heavy rain, we took the gamble. Hmm, it wasn’t a complete disaster but it was very wet and some places very boggy. Very carefully picking our way around and sometimes through the wet stuff it was clear a route around would have been better and if the weather had been worse surely would have been safer. As it was, knowing what to expect we made some conscious decisions and made our way through. Testing the ground, very spongy, would it take mine and the bag weight? I think so, go for it but don’t stand still. It was almost fun bog hopping but I wouldn’t do it on my own, just in case.


Up to the Trowlesworthy tors and the walk from West Rook Gate was starting to tell on the legs a bit. A quick water break and onward down to the leat, over the footbridge and past Trowlesworthy Warren House. The path winds itself down to the road with the Plym on your right all the way to Cadover Bridge. Possibly one of the most visited places on the moor, take a visit and you’ll see what I mean.

In terms of route, it’s all very straight forward now as we turn right over Cadover bridge and then take the next left into a car park with fishing lakes on the right. We’re heading for Dewerstone Rock, there are tracks along the way so just pick one and handrail the boundary wall on the left. There are a couple of outcrops, not marked on the map (I think they are named and most likely listed in the Tors of Dartmoor) that are worth having a look at. Overlooking the valley below where the Plym continues its way to the sea there are some excellent views as well as the opportunity to get some great pictures.

Skirting Wigford Down the Dewerstone comes into sight and provides another spectacular position. It’s worth taking some time out here to take it all in. On a warm sunny day, you could spend hours there. But we’re still on a mission and half an eye on our time, Anton checked his fancy techy watch that told us we were still keeping an average trip time of 3.1 km per hour, and walking an average of around 5 km per hour, still very happy with that.

The next target was Goodameavy. We needed to reach the road by Furzmoor but also needed to avoid what I knew was a boggy area in the last quarter between the Dewerstone and Furzmoor. Picking up tracks as we found them, there was no straight single track we could see, we started ok but really should have gone the long way round. The really smart move would have been to continue North until we intersected a clear path but we decided to follow the wall and then divert North to manoeuvre around the boggy section. We just didn’t divert wide enough, yep, you guessed it, our second round of bog hopping commenced.

Adding more time on and reducing the averages we finally made it to the road. From here at least we shouldn’t go wrong. Follow the road down to Lower Goodameavy, it’s a pretty steep bit of road and plays havoc on the knees (if you’re over a certain age!), to a bridge over the road at the “T” junction.

Here there are three choices, you can turn right over the style and follow the footpath to Hoo Meavy and up to Clearbrook, or, go under the bridge and turn left to pick up the dismantled railway track, or, you can go under the bridge and turn right following the road back.

As it turned out we took the third option which was probably, particularly at the end of the day, the steepest and most challenging of them. Skirting Leighbeer Plantations it’s a steep road to the top and turns from steep to a small upward incline until you reach the bridge over the leat overlooking Clearbrook. At last, we were at the top and a simple stroll down the hill to the car was all that was left.

 

Now this in terms of performance it was an interesting day. A very energetic start maintaining a really good speed and keeping the stopping and breaks to a minimum. We saw no one most of the day which also reduced “talking” time. We lost time climbing the hills and bog hopping but still felt we made good progress, recovering some time on the roads.

So, how did we do?

The challenge was to deliver at least 27km and aim to deliver an average trip time of 3 km per hour.

Well, the evidence was as clear as the smile on my face, what a day. The last walk was no fluke after all as we clocked up 32 km in just over ten and a quarter hours.

This challenge is suddenly starting to look like it can be done. Now let’s see if this can be maintain this form across harder terrain and worsening weather. The final test.

Stats,

Total distance 32. km

Total trip time 10 hours 15 mins duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 


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