Dartmoor April 2011 part 2

Wednesday

I got up just before sunrise. Outside, I was greeted by the orange and red glow of the sun below the horizon and the silhouette of the copse opposite. Down in the valley and in places on the ridge above there was some mist, but above was blue sky. It was very atmospheric and made me glad to be alive.

Glasscombe Corner Copse

I knew it was going to be a long day, so I had breakfast and got sorted as quickly as I could, pausing only to take a few photos. As the sun rose above the horizon, the only thing to spoil the beauty of the place was the faint noise of traffic on the A38.

Looking towards Piles Hill

I was away just after half past eight. I climbed the ridge due west over some rough ground to regain the railway track at Piles Hill. I headed past Sharp Tor and made a detour to Three Barrows. The slope back down to the track was a bit awkward with clitter partially covered with grass. The spoil heap of Left Lake came into view. Passing the foundations of some ruined buildings, I paused on the bridge to see whether I could have camped there on Monday evening. There are some flat pitches on either side and I could have found some shelter from the wind. However, it wouldn’t have been as picturesque.

Left Lake and Quickbeam Hill from Three Barrows

I made speedy progress along the track taking a large curve eastwards along the side of Quickbeam Hill. Just before Brown Heath, I decided to cut the corner of the Two Moors Way, heading northeast. I passed some settling pits, which I presume were for the china clay pit at Red Lake. I rejoined the path just after the spur that leads to Red Lake. The conical spoil tip was a strangely artificial and alien form in the landscape but somehow adds to the character of the place.

Red Lake spoil heap from Quickbeam Hill

A wide grassy track now led me to the River Avon. A steep descent led to the clapper bridge across the river. I followed the surprisingly rough path along the river to Huntingdon Cross. At Huntingdon Cross, there is a nice flat patch of land with the potential for a pitch in the future. On the left I could see the field system of the abandoned Huntingdon Warren.

River Avon clapper bridge

I followed the prescribed path until Hickaton Hill and then cut north directly to Pupers Hill over rough moorland. Thus far the conditions under foot had been reasonably dry. At Pupers Hill I rejoined the path towards the three cairns on Snowdon. From here on the conditions under foot deteriorated and became wetter. I passed a small herd of Dartmoor ponies, one with a beautiful foal.

Ponies near Pupers Hill

At Ryder’s Hill, there is a welcome patch of firm grass with a trig point and two standing stones. As it is the highest point in the area, the views are extensive. In the distance I could make out Bellever Tor. The track down to O Brook was unpleasantly wet, but improved as I reached some old mine workings.

Ryder’s Hill looking north

On reaching O Brook, there were some pleasant patches of grass and some trees, so I decided to stop for lunch. By this time the hazy clouds had largely disappeared and the sun was shining strongly.

I didn’t linger too long over lunch as I knew I still had a lot of ground to cover. I followed the brook down to the road to Hexworthy. I was in two minds whether to follow the leat which siphons water to the Venford Reservoir, but decided the following the brook was shorter and likely to be more picturesque.

O Brook

Then I walked a couple of miles on minor roads through Hexworthy, crossing the bridge over the West Dart River and followed the river for a short distance. At Huccaby Cottage it was back on to the moor. Climbing up to Huccaby Tor, There were patches of burnt gorse, still giving off an acrid smell.

Huccaby Tor looking at Bellever Tor (left) and Laughter Tor (right)

I could now see Laughter Tor and Bellever Tor. Although it was hot, there was a pleasant cooling breeze. However, my feet were getting decidedly sweaty and the heel on my right foot was starting to get sore. While it is not far to Bellever Tor, it seemed to take an age to get there.

Bellever Tor looking west

Bellever was the most impressive tor so far. There was a simple scramble to gain the top and extensive views all around. After a few pictures, I had a snack and pushed on. My target had been to get to Postbridge by 4 o’clock. Rather than take the more interesting westerly path past some prehistoric remains, I used the more utilitarian forest road. At Postbridge, the Post Office was open and I bought a can of Lilt, sitting down on the bench outside to slake my thirst.

Postbridge

I couldn’t stop too long as I still had a way to go. At this stage I was still intent on pushing on to Teignhead Farm. I crossed the East Dart via the incredibly impressive clapper bridge along side the road bridge. It must have been some feat to get the enormous slabs of stone on to the piers.

Postbridge clapper bridge

I thought I would make rapid progress up the East Dart valley. However, after a field of rough pasture, it was slow going. The path either pushed through dense gorse bushes or followed boggy ground down by the river. Although it was very scenic, the gorse bashing detracted from my enjoyment. My feet were also hurting.

East Dart near beehive hut

At the beehive hut, the East Dart turns west. On the outside of the curve there is a lovely patch of grass by the river. Slightly above this there is another patch of flat ground, but with rough grass and slightly damper.

It was half past five and I felt I had had enough. While it would leave me a slightly longer walk on the next day, I felt to go on further would drain me too much. My guesstimate at the start of the day had been for a 16 mile day, but measuring it when I returned home suggested that it had been 18 miles.

The end of the day above the East Dart looking south

Instead of pitching on the attractive short grass, I decided that the noise of the river might be too much and so I pitched on the higher ground. I was glad I did as when the wind dropped later in the evening, the midges swarmed down by the river.

It was beautifully warm in the evening sun and I took the opportunity to dry out my socks and air my boots. Once the sun dropped below the hills, it became chilly, so I started arranging things for bedtime.

Once it was nearly dark, I spotted a couple of head torches on the other bank. Then the hillsides came alive with other lights. My first thought was that there must be a DoE or an Outward Bound exercise. However, they wandered around and around. Finally three guys passed near my tent and I asked what was going on. Apparently it was some night rescue exercise. Phew! I was worried that my idyllic spot would be invaded by other tents.

After about half an hour the torches disappeared. However, not long afterwards there were popping sounds. It was a live firing exercise on the Merrivale range a couple of miles away. This carried on intermittently for about two hours. Then I was able to go to sleep.

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9 thoughts on “Dartmoor April 2011 part 2”

  1. Ah so that is what Bellever Tor actually looks like. I stood on the summit and saw….nothing at all! At least you got to have a nice sunny wild camp which makes up for the day before.

    1. I couldn’t go that way (although it might have been more interesting) as I knew there was live firing night and day on the Merrivale range. I want to go back when there is no firing so I can do a complete circuit.

  2. thats a great first shot of the copse Robin – beautiful. shall backtrack and read the first post when i’ve a chance, nice quiet feel to this one

  3. Funny how the least promising conditions lead to an atmospheric photo – I agree, that first one is great. Looks like a nice pitch too.
    A night rescue exercise – you never know what you’ll come across on Dartmoor it seems!.

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