Dartmoor April 2012 part 2

Overnight, in the tent my thermometer measured minus 2c, so it was no surprise to find the outer tent encrusted in frost and ice. Fortunately, my sleeping bag and sleeping mat had kept me nice and cosy.  However, the sky was blue, with the promise of a better day.

Looking west towards Tavy Cleave

I was packed and away before nine o’clock and made my way past Watern Oke on the north bank. It was quite tricky picking my way through the boulders, so I took my time.

Near Watern Oke

As the valley widened out I looked for a crossing place. The ford looked a bit deep and the boulders to use as stepping stones were covered in wet black moss. I decided to walk a bit further upstream to find a better crossing point. This was incredibly frustrating as I had to go almost 1km before finding a safe place to cross. I then tracked all the way back to the ford to pick up the track heading south to Lynch Tor.

Boggy path to Lynch Tor

Although the path was easy to follow, it was extremely boggy in places, which meant a few detours to avoid the worst. The weather was still fine, but the wind was cold. Progress even when the ground flattened out was quite slow. I bypassed Lynch Tor and headed towards Cocks Hill. I was pleased that my navigation took me to exactly the the barrow on the Lich Way. Across the valley I could see Great Mis Tor and beyond that the radio mast of North Hessary Tor.

Great Mis Tor

As I descended into the Walkham river valley, I came upon the most amazing grass terrace. It was almost like a bowling green. By now it was close to lunch time. I was faced with a choice. Either I could stop here or have a very long walk to Piles Copse, my intended stop for the night. I walked up the other side of the valley so I could get a phone signal. I checked the firing schedule, finding that none was due the next day. That sealed it, I would have another short day and camp at this idyllic spot.

Camp near River Walkham

I spent a very lazy afternoon soaking up the sunshine and generally marvelling at such a perfect camping spot. I also spent some time re-plotting the next day’s walk. I decided that I’d go back to the Lich Way and follow it to Postbridge and then strike north up the East Dart valley. As evening arrived it started to get quite chilly. The night time temperature was even lower than the previous night but the wind prevented a frost from forming.

In the morning

Morning dawned sunny but with high clouds and a cold wind. I was packed again by nine o’clock and on my way. I followed the Walkham north until it intersected the Lich Way. Fortunately the crossing over the river was easy. The Lich Way was easy to follow and I went up over the ridge and then down into the delightfully named Cowsic River valley. It is actually quite a pleasant place. Again the river crossing was not a problem.

Lich Way leading to the Cowsic River

I headed towards Lydford Tor, where the path became indistinct. I walked on a bearing rather than try to follow any path. The next valley was the West Dart and contained the famous Wistman’s Wood. I was concerned about how to get across the river, but figured the path down must lead to a crossing, and indeed it did. It was an easy hop over a couple of boulders and on to the other bank. The wood itself never came fully into view as I made my way to Longaford Tor.

Looking west from Longaford Tor, Wistman’s Wood just visible

At Longaford Tor I left my pack at the bottom of the tor and climbed to the top. By this time the wind had freshened further. I knew that the weather forecast was for heavy rain during the night. As I was eating lunch, I decided that rather than walk up the East Dart to near the beehive hut, I would cut across and head towards Teignhead Farm, in the hope that I could camp there and shorten the next day. It also gave me the option of going to Okehampton and going home a day early if I felt like it.

Lower White Tor heading north

My revised route was to walk virtually due north to Sandy Hole Pass via Great White Tor, then towards Sittaford Tor and down to Teignhead Farm. Despite going slightly awry at one point (corrected by my Satmap 10), I reached Sandy Hole Pass easily. The river was relatively low, so crossing with gaiters kept me dry. Amongst the long grass I spotted a pony lying down. As I passed, it was obviously dead. It was a moment of sadness and a reminder of the harsh life on the moors. I hoped it hadn’t suffered.

On the way to Statts Ho

Onward and upward towards Statts Ho, the ground became very boggy and I was dodging around pools trying to find a dry route. It was all quite time consuming. In the east, the clouds were very black, but it was still sunny on the moors. The walk to Sittaford was very wet most of the way, even when there was a recognisable path. I was glad to reach Sittaford and descend on a much better path to the North Teign valley.

Path down to Teignhead Farm

As I approached the farm there appeared to be some lush green patches of grass, although I was unsure as to whether there was anywhere flat enough to pitch. Just before the clapper bridge, the peace was disturbed by a helicopter passing over head. As I reached the farm, I was hailed by another walker descending from Manga Hill. He was a local out for the day and we had a pleasant conversation for quarter of an hour.

Teignhead Farm

Dartmoor had saved the best camping spot for the last. I pitched on wonderfully short grass near a stream, but well protected from flooding (which proved to be a good thing). I shared my site with some ponies and sheep. The weather forecast made me a bit apprehensive of what might come overnight. However, I was in a reasonably sheltered spot and as far as I could see there was little danger of flooding.

My makeshift splash screen

What a night it was! About 11pm the storm really got going. About then, I discovered my cuben Duomid had a small leak. Just below the seam for the vent small droplets of water appeared. With the flapping of the material it flicked drops through the mesh of the inner. At first I just put my Cypher smock over the end of the sleeping bag. After a while, I had a brainwave and rigged up a splash screen from my windproof, a dry bag and some clothes pegs. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective. The net effect, however, was very little sleep that night.

Flooded track, but not tent!

A hour or so after first light, the rain began to relent, although the wind was still gusting. When I got out to explore, I was gratified to find that my pitch was well drained, while the track at the bottom was flooded and little tributary streams had spring up all over the place. Although the weather generally brightened, there were a coule of fierce short showers before I packed and left.

Sad remains at Teignhead Farm

I headed north west towards Whitehorse Hill. The going was pretty tough and wet until I got past the peat pass. From there I walked to Hangingstone Hill into the teeth of a ferocious wind. By now the clouds had darkened again and I could see showers developing. I knew the weather forecast was poor overnight and for the next day. I didn’t fancy another night in a leaking tent, so I decided to go home a day early. I was assaulted by several heavy showers on the way down to Okehampton. On arrival I made my way to the bus stop. Next to it is a bakery, so I popped in to buy a restorative Cornish pasty and fruit drink.There were delays on the bus and the train, but, hey I’d had a great time.

A stormy end

In case you’re wondering, I think I’ve cured the leak by seam sealing all the threads on the ventilation cowl. I think the problem was water being wicked by a thread to the inside of the tent.

8 thoughts on “Dartmoor April 2012 part 2”

  1. Lovely trip, vast wild country and broad views and skies without the hordes of Tor challengers too.
    I think I remember that ideal spot by the River Walkham from last year, of course it didn’t occur at the right time of day for a pitch, they very seldom do!.

    1. Cheers. Had I known about the Walkham pitch I probably would have continued on the first day, rather than pitch early.

  2. The duomid looks like the main panel (corner) seams are catenary cut e.g. Teignhead Farm photo. Is that how it’s meant to be or could it have been pitched a bit taller? What height had you got the trekking pole set to?

    1. I pitch it to 155-160cm. It can be pitched taller, but there will be a gap at the bottom (see photo in previous post). In anticipation of bad weather, I pitched it low at the back, although there is also a slope from back to front, which affects the pitch.

  3. Enjoyed those reports Robin, I used to visit Dartmoor when I was a kid but I’ve never walked there. I’m a fan of granite tors and moors so you’ve given me some ideas for a few trips out as Dartmor isn’t all that far from where I live in Herefordshire

  4. Robin, good trip report. It is years since I have walked on Dartmoor- a very special place. Those bogs are amazing on some areas with the ground rippling beneath you feet as you walk on them !! BTW all the very best for the TGOC.

  5. I once bought a pasty from okehampton station…I spent the next 24 hours firmly anchored to the toilet.

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