Next morning I was up by 7.00. The sky was clear and there was a gentle breeze, which meant there was no dew or condensation on the tent. My target was to get to Okehampton before three o’clock to get the bus to Exeter.
Dawn looking towards Broad Down
I was away by 8.45, following an indistinct track northwards towards the Grey Wethers. The going was quite wet, especially just before reaching the stone circle. It was now obvious that soaking boots meant limited breathability and sweaty feet, doing no favours for the blister on my left heel and one underneath the ball of my right foot. While not incapacitating, it was certainly irritating.
The Grey Wethers
At the Grey Wethers, I could spot the trees of Teignhead Farm. Walking down the valley, the path didn’t seem to match entirely the one shown on the map. Nonetheless, I couldn’t get lost. Yet another clapper bridge, this time with a loose slab, provided a crossing over the river.
The clapper bridge near Teignhead Farm
I saw a path climbing Manga Hill in front of me. Originally I was going to ascend the ridge to the south of the farm to Whitehorse Hill. However, I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth so I took the track up the hill. This was a bit of a mistake because it took me too far east to a prominent cairn south of Watern Tor.
Walla Brook Head
I then had to turn west over the marshy ground of Walla Brook Head. The steeper solid ground of Hangingstone hill was a blessed relief. Hangingstone Hill has little to commend it other than the views. The army observation building is a real eyesore.
At the summit I met an older chap with his dog. He seemed to be taking a lot of photos and in radio contact with someone else. We exchanged greetings and I sat down with my back against the wall for brunch.
View north from Hangingstone Hill
I was now fairly confident that I would meet my deadline as it was downhill most of the way on defined tracks. However, I didn’t hang around and pushed on north along a track, down into Steeperton Gorge. I was slightly concerned about getting across the stream as I approached it, but there were some stepping stones, which weren’t visible from a distance.
It was a short pull up the other side to Oke Tor and yet another ugly observation post. Passing Higher Tor on my right, it really was downhill all the way now. The sun was glorious.
Down to the Tarka Trail
Descending the hillside, I joined the Tarka Trail, which follows the East Okement River valley. It was here that I passed a couple of day walkers. I greeted them with a cheery “good afternoon”. They looked back at me as though I was Wayne Rooney celebrating a goal. Oh well, I tried!
East Okement River
The Tarka Trail was a lovely end to my walk. Before crossing the river I had a rest and some more food. I left myself just over an hour to reach Okehampton. It was a pleasant, cool walk under the trees following the river as it gushed over small waterfalls.
The Tarka Trail near the A30
I started to panic that I wouldn’t reach the bus in time, so after going under the A30, I put on a spurt of speed. In the end, I shouldn’t have worried as I arrived with about 15 minutes to spare and time enough to buy a cold fruit juice from the shop next to the bus stop.
The bus was on time and deposited me at Exeter St David’s 10 minutes before my train arrived. I was worried that the train would be full, but there was plenty of room. It arrived back in London very marginally late but it didn’t matter. The Tube worked well and I was back home by 7.30, so just under four and a half hours from Okehampton. Not bad!
All in all it was a great trip. It’s a shame that having a day washed out meant that it wasn’t as leisurely as I had intended. I’ll certainly be back as Dartmoor is a brilliant place for backpacking with lots of places to wild camp (legally) and relatively modest hill climbs. The only shame is that it is quite small and that access is somewhat restricted in the north by army firing schedules. I’m already planning a circumnavigation!