Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A couple of Dartmoor circulars

I’ve always thought of the east side of Dartmoor as being a little too popular for my tastes; some of the iconic tors, such as Hay and Hound are well trodden thanks to the car parks at the foot of each, and so I have shied away from them. However, on my previous visit, as I drove across from Ashburton to Princetown, via the village of Widecombe in the Moor, I had chanced upon a beautiful day and the whole scene had me thinking of giving it a go.
Fast forward to last weekend. Starting from a small car park near Harefoot Cross, above Widecombe, I headed north in a biting wind, and, within a matter of minutes, the rain. Fortunately, it lasted no more than half an hour, but the showers stayed close for the day; countless rainbows spotted throughout the walk were testament to that.
Across Bonehill Rocks, where school kids were being instructed in some climbing, on to Bell and Chinkwell Tors respectively. I took a look at Honeybag Tor, some 500 metres away, but, still yet to find a second wind, I turned back and headed east, then north across Houndtor Down, to the famous Hound Tor.
Hound Tor is a well known climbing location, and even on a mixed bag like today, there were plenty of ropes dangling from the tops of the granite walls.
I moved on, down to a medieval settlement, nicely sheltered from a south westerly in a re-entrant with Hound Tor and Greator Rocks either side.
The track then fell away, some 80 metres, into woodland either side of Becka Brook.
A steady climb up out of the valley, I came to Smallacombe Rocks, and before me,  a kilometre and a half away, lay Haytor Rocks; quite possibly the most photographed of all the tors on Dartmoor. As you near the giant granite outcrops, you get a sense of the size by the people clambering onto their tops.
Arriving at these tors from the north is much preferable, as you get a more remote feel to the whole scene, because once passed through the two lumps, you can see the bustling car park some thirty metres below.
I avoided the throngs, and set off to the quarries to the west, and then Saddle Tor, before hitting the road for a short stretch and an easy ascent of Top Tor. From here, it was a few minutes to the car.
The Stats:
Sunday, and back to the north; a quick excursion from Meldon Reservoir to High Willhays, and back. I couldn’t believe my luck with the weather. The Reservoir was stunning on a perfect morning with a cloudless sky. A far cry from the downpour overnight.
I followed the reservoir path to the base of Homerton Hill; as the track climbed, I decided to take a feint higher route, that had me climbing steeply on, thankfully, well drained grass.
By now, any semblance of a path had now disappeared. Reaching the top of the hill, I was thrilled to find an unmarked cist, and a very well preserved one at that!
Looking back at the view, it must have been a person of high esteem that had been buried here, overlooking what 3500 years ago would have been a wonderful valley, and not a man made reservoir. Mind you, the view is still pretty good!
I’ve always know that the route to Black Tor and higher was a boggy affair, but on this occasion, the ground was saturated more than normal.
By the time I had reached Fordsland Ledge, my boots had succumbed to the water. It actually took me two whole days to finally get them dry.
I took a quick break at High Willhays to polish of a bar of chocolate and enjoy the views.
and then on to Yes Tor..
Both high points of Devon ticked off, I picked my way through the clitter on its east flank, making a beeline straight for Longstone Hill. The clitter was little trouble, but the grass here was sodden, and I must have aqua planed at least half a dozen times before I hit the comfort of an actual track.
Round Longstone Hill, and back to the car park in only a few hours, I was off to my mum’s for a well earnt Sunday roast!
Bloody hell, it was good to get back out there, and here’s hoping it has helped me in time for a trek next week in Majorca on a stretch of the GR221 - Dry Stone Way.
The stats;

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