Dartmoor again part 3: dances with insects

It rained heavily in the night, but eased by first light. It was still raining intermittently until about 7 o’clock, when it suddenly cleared. We felt very fortunate that the only real rain we encountered had been overnight. As I ate breakfast, the clouds began to break and blue sky appeared.

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Beehive hut (invisible) on the East Dart

As we had walked further the previous day than planned, there was no hurry to set off. We packed and left by 9:30am, by which time we were in glorious sunshine with a fresh, cooling breeze. We climbed the slope of White Ridge towards Fernworthy Forest. At times, it was a bit tussocky and damp underfoot, but not too bad.

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East Dart River from White Ridge

After encountering yet another herd of cattle, we followed the track that runs parallel with the Fernworthy Forest boundary. The Grey Wethers stone circle was visible in the distance under Sittaford Tor.

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South Teign Head

Our path took us into the hollow that defines the source of the South Teign River. This is a lovely little dell where I had camped earlier in the year. It was no less delightful second time around. After a short, sharp pull up the other side of the valley, Teignhead Farm and Manga Hill came into view.

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Teignhead Farm

At the clapper bridge we took a few photos, before heading up to the farm for a snack and a drink. It’s a lovely place but tinged with an air of sadness. It must have been a tough life here and it’s sad to see the tumbledown walls of the fields and the farm. Unusually, there were no cattle or ponies in evidence.

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View from Manga Hill looking east

As we finished our snacks, it became more cloudy hinting at rain. We climbed the slope north of the farm, picking up a track that followed and old wall and ditch. A bit further on we encountered the dry stone wall that runs on eastern flank of Whitehorse Hill, crossing a stile and following the path to Wattern Tor

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Wattern Tor

Nearly every tor is different in character. Wattern Tor is notable for the way the granite has been weathered in thin horizontal lines, looking rather like a pack of cheese slices. After a bit of photography, we descended to Walla Brook. Before crossing the brook we sat down for a bite of lunch.

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Walla Brook

A couple of walkers followed us down and were confounded by the prospect of crossing the brook (which looked quite easy to us). Good Samaritan Andy leapt into action with the offer of one of his trekking poles. The effect was somewhat spoilt by the fact that Andy crossed the stream twice without the aid of the pole to aid the lady šŸ˜‰

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Wild Tor

After lunch, it was onwards and upwards to Wild Tor. Actually, we skirted Wild Tor rather than going to the very top. From there, it was an easy walk to Hound Top and Little Hound Tor. While neither was especially memorable as tors, they did provide extensive views.

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Stone Circle at Little Hound Tor

At Little Hound Tor we took a short detour to visit the stone circle. We then resumed our climb to Cosdon Hill, which seemed to go on for ever. However, encouragingly, the weather began to brighten. At the top of Cosdon Hill we met a couple who had come up from South Zeal, who were in the area visiting a folk festival.

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View from Cosdon Hill looking west

After a short rest on Cosdon Hill, we headed west to Taw Marsh. We followed an intermittent path down. From a distance, I could see a number of people at the ford and was concerned that a group might be camping there. When we arrived, it was just a group of youngsters sunbathing and playing in the river. There was plenty of flat ground on the eastern side of the ford, so we pitched there.

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Camping at Taw Marsh

Andy fired up his DAB radio and told me that England weren’t doing very well in the cricket. While he lazed around in camp, I decided to explore a little way up the track heading south. I was surprised at how many places there were to potentially pitch a tent. Next time I visit, I might use one of these more discreet spots rather than by the ford. I reached as far as Small Brook, which looked cleaner for water than the Taw so I retraced my steps to get some water containers. At dusk, the wind dropped and, not surprisingly a few insects came out, so we retired to out tents.

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Morning at Taw Marsh

After a calm night, the morning dawned with mainly blue sky. After breakfast, Andy informed me that his tent had become a moth hotel during the night. Clearly his affinity for insects extends beyond midges and horse flies šŸ™‚

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The Taw near Belstone

After breakfast we packed and followed the track to Belstone passing a horse rider and a dog walker along the way. At Belstone, Andy located the pub, but it wasn’t open. From Belstone we took the track over Watchet Hill to the steep sided valley of the East Okement River. After crossing the bridge, the path down the East Okement follows a delightful wooded gorge.

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East Okement River

Andy said that it reminded him of the “Blue Door” walk along the Esk in Scotland. It really is a lovely walk. On our walk into Okehampton, we stayed on the path on the southern side of the river, which runs parallel with the railway. We decided to investigate the station and were pleased to find that the station buffet was open.

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Okehampton Station

Unfortunately, trains only run on Sunday, but it seems to be a bit of a tourist attraction on other days. Andy ordered tea and scones, while I decided something more substantial was required and had ham, egg and chips. While we were eating our repast, Andy leapt up from the table cursing. A wasp had crawled up his shorts. In the act of removing said wasp, it stung him twice on his fingers. I promise I didn’t laugh šŸ˜‰ I’m not sure what Andy’s attraction is to insects, but he’s a good man to have along as the insects all seem to bother him rather than me.

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Andy’s new vehicular transport

On the way to the bus stop, Andy was telling me about his trials and tribulations with cars, when I spotted a suitable replacement. After a somewhat circuitous bus ride, we reached Exeter St David’s. After a bit of a wait, we were on the train and on our way home. All in all, we had a great time and were blessed with good weather and stunning countryside.

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14 thoughts on “Dartmoor again part 3: dances with insects”

  1. A great trip overall. I notice from this one and the previous blog entry that you guys were doing lunch. I haven’t been doing it up until now, but energy issues in the afternoon of recent trips is making me reconsider. What kind of food do you guys normally eat for lunch? I’m guessing something different from gorp?

    1. I always have something for lunch. Currently I eat oatcakes with Primula cheese spread, peanuts, raisins, chunky KitKat bar (or similar). Sometimes I’ll have a crunch bar as well. I also tend to have a quick snack mid-morning. If I don’t keep fed, I get tired more quickly. Some hikers don’t bother with lunch but keep snacking throughout the day. Whatever suits, but keep eating (and have a good breakfast)!

      1. Thanks for the tip. I think oatcakes and cheese spread is a great idea, especially as it does not require any cooking. I’m going to give it a try on my next walk šŸ™‚

      2. Oatcakes are useful because they have a decent shelf life compared to bread and are compact. They are a bit dry, which is why cheese spread is a good idea. Primula is in a tube so it’s easy to pack without spoiling.

  2. Sounds like a good trip, Robin. And you were lucky with the weather, too. I have only day walked on Dartmoor and really must get there again, preferably with a tent next time.

  3. Really enjoy reading your experiences on Dartmoor. Another vote here for oatcakes and Primula. I have a friend who gets me military ration oatcakes and they are substantial to say the least.

  4. Sounds like you had a great weekend pity about the insects.Not hiked there yet maybe in the future.

  5. I’ve enjoyed your Dartmoor wanders, Robin. The stone circle is impressive – there’s an archaeological dig in Rovaniemi now where they have found 3000 year old settlement remains, but I don’t know of any circles (perhaps I should ask Julian Cope) or more structural remain outside Norway.

    1. Thanks. The Grey Wethers beneath Sittaford Tor is even more impressive. There’s lots of archaeology on Dartmoor.

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