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

 


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!

 


My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 42

June 22, 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 30 – Dartmoor Inn Loop

There are some days you wake up and think, do I really want to do this today?

Today was one of those days, knowing what was coming and listening to the rain pour down while eating breakfast, I could have easily stayed at home and deferred to another day!

A quick mail update, wow, another three donations providing a good jump forward in the overall figure.

Well, that’s it then, I just have to get my self out there and get on with it. It’s no longer just about me anymore!

The planned route was just shy of 25 km and with the weather forecast of 90% rain most of the day with a growing wind, this should be a suitable test.

The layby just past the Dartmoor Inn this time had plenty of space. The weather on the way out was very variable as I sat in the car pondering if I should gear up with a full set of waterproofs ready for the forecasted onslaught of weather.

Enough, stop trying to delay the inevitable, gear up, bag on and go!

 

Walking up a small section of the road back toward Tavistock and opposite a farm shop there is a track big enough for a car that leads you up to and through a gate and past a car park on the right. The moor sits right in front of you, Brat tor with Widgery Cross towering above you, taunting you to test your stamina on the climb up the hill.

Today however, I’m walking the track toward Arms tor but turning left just before you reach the end of the wall on your left, a style, probably one of the better built ones gets you over the wall and the finger post directs you diagonally across the field to the left corner of the field. Again, if you are wary of cows check before you climb, very often this filed is full of them!

Once at the other side go through the gate and immediately turn right and go through another gate back onto the open access land.

You can if you want to avoid any cows continue to the stream and turn left following the wall and the stream (don’t cross the stream) until you reach the same gate mentioned above.

Right in front of you is some sort of covered area, not sure what it is, I guess someone will know. Turn left and follow a well defined and easy to walk path. This does split just as you approach Great Nodden, I walked up and over the hill previously so this time I decided to veer left and follow the path that skirted around the bottom left of the hill.

The weather at this point was frustrating really, not the down pour forecast but enough rain to get you wet without waterproofs on. My new leggings ready for a good test rustled as I approached a herd of cows looking up wondering what the rustling (no not the stealing kind of rustling!) was all about! Not interested they carried on walking away from me eating as they went, ideal.

The path is very clear for a fair distance but then changes between Coombe and Lake Down to a grass track, this veers left and heads for Sourton tors. With good visibility just head for the top of the hill. In poor weather a bearing where the stone/gravel path runs out to Sourton is advisable.

Following the now grass track you cross a sort of gert or long extended ditch heading down the hill, once over this a straight line to the top is straight forward.

By now the rain had increased, the mist was dropping in and the wind was picking up. Nearly every time I visit Sourton tors the weather is poor, today was no exception. At least the wind wasn’t blowing me over this time. A quick water break and snack before I went head on to Branscombe’s Loaf at the top of Corn Ridge. As the weather was very indecisive at this point, I took a bearing as a safety net, the mist intermittently hiding the hill like it was playing hide and seek!

Gren tor next, I had thought there was a track of some sort between the “Loaf” and Gren tor, clearly mistaken, a stomp across the grass tufts and other vegetation was the only way forward. Gren tor in sight and a track appeared heading toward the river Lyd. Clearly cows are not entirely daft, the wide boggy area and the start of the river wouldn’t be easy or even possible to cross as their track took a right angle right and followed the river all the way to the stone path leading toward Great Links tor. A short piece of the path walked take a left and Gren tor is done.

The weather still not improving meant a quick bearing check and straight onto Hunt tor, a tor I know has some shelter for a water and snack top up.

Once on the right bearing it is relatively straight forward, follow the long “ditch” for about two hundred meters, cross over and look for a track, there is one there and if you find it, along with a bearing check you will drop directly onto Hunt tor. It also looked like the military where out navigating as I spotted the yellow flag marker, which is what I believe they use.

At this point things are going pretty well, not sure if the weather is a distraction but body and bag weight were coping well.
Next target, the Dunna Goat tors. You need to aim for the gravel path that sits in direct line of sight with Great Links tor and about four hundred meters away. No tracks as such to follow so find the best sheep track and follow it. You’ll reach a bank, which just below it has in wet weather a very boggy area so pick out the best way around it to try and keep your feet dry! Up onto the path turn right and look out for a track, about one hundred meters to your left. Follow the path as it winds around until you see Bleak house on the left and roughly one hundred meters in front. Find the best tracks and start climbing up the hill at roughly forty-five degrees until you see the Dunna Goats tors. Then just walk until you reach them!

Nothing to difficult so far and certainly nothing unsurprising or threatening to share.

The next target is Chat tor, (which, unlike I thought previously I had bagged all the tors) was in fact the last tor I needed to visit before claiming I had visited every tor!

It’s not huge and at a certain angle looks like a miniature Branscombe’s Loaf! There is a bit more to it than that so could be worth a revisit.

From here a simple job of bagging a line of tors overlooking or close to Tavy Cleave (not the ones directly looking into the cleave which are not marked on the map and could easily confuse the novice!)

Sharp tor, Hare tor Ger tor and Nat tor.

Reaching Sharp tor is definitely easier from Chat tor rather than approaching from Doe tor with the huge hill to climb. The wind was gusting a bit now and with the legs beginning to feel a bit tired, walking across the rocks to get around the side of the tor had to done with care. What is impressive though are the views from each of the tors and the walk between them, on a bright sunny day they would be far reaching from all directions.

Reaching Nat tor from Ger tor wasn’t particularly exciting, rather than drop West and find a stretch without rocks all over the place I kept a straight line. This meant a slow and time-consuming picking my way through what often look like grass bumps but in fact had stones and rocks close under the surface along with those exposed rocks. Very tedious, would have been better to add a few more minutes and divert around them.


None the less I arrived at Nat tor and decided another break was required! The rain almost looked like it may be finally clearing but still frustratingly stayed wet enough to prevent removing the waterproofs. Although it was still grey, at least there were little signs of any mist dropping and now providing a nice view toward Willsworthy.

Willsworthy camp was the next target point. A descent stretch and easy to reach following the leat, crossing the footbridge at Willsworthy Brook, up the hill to the firing range. At the end of the firing range on the left and when you cross a concrete section of the path bridging a part of the Wheal Jewell Leat take a ninety degree turn right and follow the path toward Willsworthy camp. Here you reach what appears to be a corner of a boundary wall, to the right a path heads out toward Doe tor and continues to follow the wall. After a few hundred yards there is a building on the left at the end of the field system, continue on the path around the side of the building. Reach two gates, the left is the access gate, you need to follow the path dead ahead in order to reach a further gate to exit the fenced area. Don’t lose faith, you don’t see the second gate until you almost reach it but it is there.

This now allows you to go up the hill to Doe tor. I’ve only been here a couple of times but it is a tor I have on my list to revisit, with many others in that area. It could be one of the most densely populated areas with accessible tors?

Regardless, they all have plenty to offer in many different ways and a great area to bag a good number in a single day.

On to Brat tor and crossing the Doe tor brook. Currently the water levels are pretty low making the crossing very easy on this trip, however, I think even if the levels were higher crossing with care could still be achieved, just find the right spot.

Once over the brook the climb up to Brat tor is sizable with a full pack. At this stage on other days, I would normally be beginning to slow down and struggle a bit, but today, maybe as it was a lot cooler, I seamed to still have a decent amount of energy and the bag weight while still heavy wasn’t causing me a massive amount of pain. Just a couple of “mini stops”.

Finally, the last ascent completed, the wind appeared to have picked up again, it was very windy as I walked over the top and around Widgery Cross. Now this is a place for a good view, you can see for miles on a good day.

So, all that’s left is to walk down that big hill, cross the river, either by the footbridge or stepping stones and follow the track back to the car.

Overall, I actually felt I had walked pretty well despite the weather and keeping those dreadful waterproofs on all day. By the way, how did those new waterproof trousers perform? Spot on, I know it’s only one outing but they kept me completely dry, the first pair to do what the marketing says. Plenty of beading and where they did “wet out” the rain didn’t run through to the inside. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform in torrential rain over a few walks.

While I still expect to feel tired and ache a bit, I still felt I could walk on if required. So, the question is, how far and long would I need to continue based on today’s performance.

Stats,

Total distance 26 km

Total trip time 8.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 

Wow, I was sort of expecting around 26 km but what really surprised me was the average trip times. Really didn’t think I would get over 3 km per hour or maintain the moving average speed. This was more aligned to carrying 2.4 kilos!

I’m definitely and absolutely delighted with that result and could see myself hitting 30km a day at this rate. Confidence took a huge leap forward so let’s hope the next set of walks can be achieved in similar fashion.

 


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.

 


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