Dartmoor wander April 2013 part 2

As evening fell, mist started to form in the hollow of South Teign Head. When I last looked, the weather forecast suggested a misty morning for the next day with some improvement in the afternoon. This seemed to be a foretaste of the next day. There was little breeze, so I left both doors on the flysheet open, partly to ventilate the tent to reduce the condensation and partly to keep an eye on the weather. When I woke later in the night, the mist had gone and a full moon lit the hollow with a surprising intensity. Unfortunately, by early morning the mist had returned and the tent was covered in condensation and dew.

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Packed and ready to go

I decided to shorten my intended day’s walk by starting a bit later to give the mist a chance to clear. By mid morning, it was still thick, so I decided to pack and go. Climbing up to White Ridge I encountered a few forlorn ponies taking shelter by the wall of the forest. At the top of the rise, it was time to strike out towards the East Dart River. I took a bearing for the “beehive hut” and trudged off into the mist. Walking along the flat ridge in low visibility was quite disorientating, but eventually I descended below the cloud base not too far from where I had intended to be.

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The East Dart River near the beehive hut

It was relatively easy to cross the tributary stream that flows from the Grey Wethers to the East Dart. My original plan had been to follow the East Dart on the southern bank, where a path is marked on the OS map. However, there seemed to be a better path on the northern bank, somewhat above the level of the river, so I elected to follow that rather than attempt to cross the river. It proved to be a good choice as the next mile or so is one of the most delightful in all Dartmoor. Even though the light was not good for photography, the following pictures give you an idea.

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I was beginning to have some concerns as to how I would cross the river, as I needed to be on the other bank to get to Cut Hill. Fortunately, above the last waterfall, there’s an easy crossing (shown in the last picture). By midday, I reached Sandy Hole Pass. Above the ford, it was reasonably sheltered from the wind, so I decided to have a spot of lunch.

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Sandy Hole Pass

There was the odd spot of rain in the air, which discouraged me from staying too long. The path leading to the small ravine at Sandy Hole was easy to follow. Emerging from the defile, the full majesty and bleakness of the moor around Cut Hill was revealed. This area is about as far away from a road as you can get on Dartmoor and is quite awe inspiring.

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Upper East Dart

To be honest, I’d expected the conditions under foot to be a lot tougher. Here and there it was a bit squelchy, but the path was reasonable until it reached Cut Hill itself. Last year, I’d walked from Sandy Hole to Statts House and Sittaford Tor, and the conditions were a lot worse.

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Looking back to the East Dart from Cut Hill

Before climbing Cut Hill, I saw a dead badger ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . It seemed a strange place for a badger to be. At Cut Hill I came across the boundary markers for the Merrivale Firing Range, so I followed them to the top of the hill. From the top, the true desolation of the central moor is revealed in all its glory.

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View south east from Cut Hill

At the summit, Fur Tor, the Queen of the Moor, came into view. Unfortunately, the mist was building again and by the time I reached Fur Tor, visibility had dropped markedly. I had intended to camp on Fur Tor, but didn’t fancy being blanketed in mist. I also knew that the forecast was for even thicker mist, the next day, so I decided to push on, with a view to camping at Sandy Ford.

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Fur Tor

After a quick look around the summit tor, I descended on the northern side into the valley of Cut Combe Water. From the map, I could see the next section north along Amicombe Brook could be a bit tricky with two river crossings and probably marshy ground. I followed Cut Combe Water westwards, looking for a place to cross. Not far from the confluence with Amicombe Brook, I found a place to jump across.

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Confluence between Cut Combe Water and Amicombe Brook

Striking north, the next barrier was Black Ridge Brook. Fortunately the path leads to a small ford where it is possible to cross. From here the full horrors of Amicombe were unleashed. Visibility was reduced to a hundred metres or so; the wind had dropped, making it surprisingly warm and humid. This encouraged some insects to swarm, so I had to keep moving. Underfoot, it was very marshy and tough going. A little way up the valley, I picked up a track along the eastern flank, which was somewhat drier.

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West Okement looking towards Sandy Ford and Lints Tor

As I crossed the watershed between Amicombe and the West Okement, the mist began to lift. Descending the slope opposite Kneeset Nose, it began to spot with rain again. On reaching the West Okement River, I couldn’t see a place to cross so I followed the river upstream until I came to a small island where it was possible to cross. A short way downstream on the northern bank, I spotted a small flattish patch where I could pitch my tent. By now the weather had improved markedly.

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Pitch below Kneeset Nose

The late afternoon sun provided a chance to air my base layer, fleece and socks. For a while I luxuriated in the warmth. However, by mid evening, as the sun went down the mist returned.

To my surprise, when I woke next morning there was blue sky. Could the weather forecast be wrong? Unfortunately, not. After breakfast, the mist suddenly rolled up the valley and within twenty minutes I was enveloped again. Today’s forecast was for more persistent fog than the previous day.

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Dinger Tor

I packed and took a bearing for Dinger Tor. It was quite a trudge, but my direction and timing were spot on and the tor loomed out of the mist right on schedule. Rather cut across the moor, I decided to follow the tracks and roads back to Belstone. It wasn’t very exciting, but it was a pleasant enough walk. The photos below show the story.

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I was back at the car park just after midday. The moor was still under dense fog. I changed clothes and drove home. After only about five miles, I was in bright sunshine!

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17 thoughts on “Dartmoor wander April 2013 part 2”

  1. Nice trip, Robin. Shame about the badger. Any grazing of cattle up there? If not then unlikely to be any sinister cause of death.

    Lovely terrain. Really do fancy getting down there.

    Looks close to wilderness.

    Cheers.

    1. No cattle. Don’t think it was suspicious. Miles away from farm. Surprised to see a badger in that kind of habitat. Can’t have been dead that long as it wasn’t decayed.

    1. I have seen a few foxes on Dartmoor especially closer to the edge of the moor, never a badger. It’s a great area to explore and often overlooked even by people who live close enough to get to it.

    2. It were lovely. Didn’t speak to anyone for two and a half days. Hardly saw anyone and didn’t meet anyone. It wasn’t as wet underfoot as I anticipated. Shame it wasn’t a warm up for the Challenge but it might have been for the best. Should be ok for next year ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Bugger, that was probably the badger I saw in the distance below Fur Tor! Shame. It was in my last video I think. Just not enough food I guess. But I too wondered how it got there!

  3. Great write up as usual Robin. Sounds a good trip. Wearing my Ecco Biom Mid Boots tomorrow on the Shropshire Hills for the first time on a proper walk. Hope I get on with them as well as you do.

    1. Look forward to a full report ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps we shouldn’t blog about Dartmoor, then we can keep it to ourselves ๐Ÿ˜‰

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