It doesn’t seem like a week ago that I was on Dartmoor, but time has flown and I thought I’d better write up my trip. It was a trip of two halves. The first half was a two day walk from Ivybridge to near Okehampton. The next two days were spent on the north moor doing a navigation course with Nigel from New Forest Navigation. Hence I’ll split the report into two parts. This post will outline the walk from Ivybridge to Okehampton.
My original intention had been to walk up the western side of the moor. However, the firing schedules on the Merrivale and Willsworthy ranges put paid to that idea. I opted instead to repeat most of the walk I did last year over Ugborough Moor, Ryder’s Hill, Bellever Tor, up the East Dart River and then a slight variant via Sittaford Tor to Hangingstone Hill to East Okement Farm, where I had arranged to meet Nigel.
The trains worked perfectly and I arrived at Ivybridge at 15.20. Unfortunately, my arrival coincided with a very heavy shower, but I was able to avoid getting wet by using the passenger shelter. After a few minutes, the rain had passed and I was off to find the start of the Two Moors Way. The beauty of Ivybridge is that within about 1/2km you are on the moor with the minimum of tedious road walking. Once the lane had deposited me on the moor proper, I encountered some cows. Fortunately they didn’t seem very interested in me.
On to the moor
As I gained the tramway track, it started to spot with rain. Up on the ridge, the wind was quite strong. My original intention had been to camp at Left Lake, but the rain and the wind made this a rather unattractive option, so I decided to descend on the eastern side of the ridge to repeat my camp of last year, near Glaze Meet. The path next to Scad Brook was decidedly marshy. Just before the wood lot, I tracked back up the East Glaze, hoping to find the spot I used last year to camp. I found a patch of reasonably level ground and pitched the tent.
Camp at Glaze Meet
By the time I’d gathered some water, it was nearly six o’clock. With dusk at seven, I sorted out my dinner and finished my cup of tea as the light was fading. To combat the long evenings, I had brought my Kindle together with a natty little LED light to read by. Although the sun disappeared, a nearly full moon was revealed as the clouds dispersed.
I was up before dawn, as I knew I had a fairly long day ahead. The weather forecast was reasonable, although the scattered clouds reflecting red from the sun suggested otherwise.
Morning at Glaze Meet
I was packed and away by about 8.30. I was surprised by the number of cattle and sheep on the moor. I followed the brook towards the tramway, gaining the track just after Sharp Tor. By now my boots were quite wet, but encouragingly, my feet were still dry. The tramway provided an easy walk. Down in the valley I could see Piles Copse and made a mental note to camp there, next time I’m on Dartmoor.
I soon reached Left Lake. Looking at it again, I was pleased that I’d not used it to camp the previous night as it is nowhere near as attractive as Glaze Meet. Just past Left Lake I was passed by a mountain biker. There were good views up to Erme Plains, another place I’d like to explore on a future visit.
Just beyond Brown Heath, the tramway turns sharply towards the east before snaking back north to Red Lake spoil tip. At this juncture, the Two Moors Way continues east. Fortunately, this junction is marked by a stone sign, otherwise it would be easy to miss. Nonetheless, I managed to go marginally awry crossing the shoulder of the hill and had to trudge over some rough moorland to regain the track. The path down to the clapper bridge crossing the River Avon was steep and a bit boggy, but I managed to get down without mishap.
Clapper bridge over the Avon
By now, the clouds were building and there was an occasional spot of rain. I wondered whether the weather forecast would prove to be optimistic. The walk along the Avon to Huntingdon Cross was very wet and boggy in places, which slowed me down somewhat. When I reached the cross, the clouds were darken and threatening, so I decided to have a (very) early lunch. The wall provided a convenient windbreak and I used a loose stone for a seat.
Towards Snowdon Cairns
My fears about the weather proved unfounded. After a very brief, light shower the weather brightened. The climb up to Pupers Hill was even easier than I had remembered. Just before the summit, the path resumed a northward direction towards Snowdon Cairns. The track between Snowdon Cairns and Ryder’s Hill was very wet and boggy. About half way between, I met a girl who seemed a bit confused as to her whereabouts. She was taking photos of the various landmarks and was using a pencil sketched map to orientate herself. Luckily, the visibility was good.
From Ryder’s Hill, my route took me across Aune Head. Although I took a bearing, I got a bit confused as to the layout of the land and had to double check with the GPS to find my exact position. I worked my way across the rough ground to the mine workings above O Brook (strange name!). After crossing the clapper bridge, I gained the track leading to Hexworthy. At first the track is good, but as it descended the hillside it was shockingly churned up by cattle in places. I was glad to make it to the bottom.
At Hexworthy, I followed the road over the bridge to Huccaby and beyond to the main road. Although only a “B” road, the cars seemed to regard it as a racetrack. Mercifully, it was only a short walk until I was back on the moor ascending Huccaby Tor. Over the past hour or so, the weather had brightened considerably. As I reached a wall, I decided to have a bit of a rest. After a bit of food, I took off my socks to air them on the wall.
Suitably refreshed I began the climb up to Bellever Tor. On reaching the tor, I couldn’t be bothered to climb to the absolute top, so I continued down to the forest track. It was 16.30, and there was a degree of urgency as I had a fair way to go until my proposed camping spot. I motored through the forest and on down to Postbridge. I was going to get some refreshments in the post office but my arrival coincided with a coach party, so I decided to give it a miss.
After skirting round a field, the path follows the East Dart River. In places, the path is in very poor condition and I ploughed my way through a combination of heather and mud. My original intention had been to camp at the beehive hut. However, below Hartland Tor there is a kink in the river and an area of grass. This looked too good to pass up so, I pitched slightly short of my intended destination.
Camp below Hartland Tor
The only downside of the site was that there was a herd of ponies with two foals grazing. As I’m used to horses, I wasn’t too bothered, but before retiring to bed, I removed the side guys of the tent to prevent any accidents. The horses came and went during the evening. In the morning there was no sign of them, but the weather had closed in with some light rain. I knew from the forecast that there would be a band of rain about 9.00, so decided to have a late start. Indeed it did rain for about an hour but by 10.00 it had started to clear.
Sittaford Tor on the horizon
After a late start, I rejoined the battle with the East Dart footpath. It was pretty grim until I reached the beehive hut. From there on the path improved but I managed to get a bit enmeshed in the the bog before the Grey Wethers. I decided to give the Grey Wethers a miss and head up to Sittaford Tor. For half the ascent, I followed a pleasant green ride, but for the last few hundred metres, my progress was slowed by a sea of tussocky grass. Using an outcrop on the tor, I sheltered from the wind for a spot of lunch.
View from Sittaford Tor looking east
I texted Nigel with an ETA and then set off to Quintin’s Man. The path was surprisingly good and was a much better way to get to Whitehorse Hill than over Manga Hill. On Quintin’s Man there were some ponies grazing. By now the weather was closing in again. As I started to negotiate the bog between White Horse Hill and Hangingstone Hill it started to rain. Fortunately it was only a shower and it stopped raining as I reached the lee of the hut on Hangingstone Hill.
View north from Hangingstone Hill
From Hangingstone Hill, I followed the track around East Okement Head to below East Mill Tor and then on to East Okement Farm. While the track makes for good progress it is a bit boring and hard underfoot. Just before the farm, I met Nigel coming towards me. Finding a level place to pitch at the farm was a bit of a challenge but I managed to find a spot big enough for the Scarp, next to the farm track. The cool breeze precluded much socialising, so I indulged in a bit of reading, eagerly anticipating the next two days of navigation training.
Camp at East Okement Farm