It all started so well. The drive down to Belstone was as good as I’ve ever known. It was beautifully sunny as I parked the car. After a bit of faffing around with gear, I was off to Taw Marsh for my first night.
I’ve been this way before a couple of times, so there was no need for any map navigation. Instead of the track, I took the parallel path, which was mainly grass.
Rather than camp right by the ford at Taw Marsh, I carried on up the track, where I knew there were some pleasant grassy spots to camp.
It’s good camping away from the ford, which is a major thoroughfare. Just 300 metres further, it was nice and secluded. There was hardly any wind and by late afternoon, hardly any clouds. It was very still overnight and there was a fair amount of condensation on the Trailstar.
I woke to hazy sunshine and it quickly became quite warm, so I tried the Trailstar in sunshine mode. I could see the cloud building to the north, which was strange as I thought the bad weather was forecast to come from the south.
After taking a ridiculously long time over breakfast and packing, I followed the track along the flank of Cosdon Hill, parallel with Small Brook. Just before Metheral Hill, I spied a possible camping spot, so I descended to investigate. Indeed, by the ford across Small Brook, there was a nice area of almost flat ground.
I crossed the ford and climbed Metherall Hill and on to Hound Tor. From Hound Tor, there was a clear path to Wild Tor. The weather was still quite pleasant, although the wind had freshened. From Wild Tor it was a simple stroll to Hangingstone Hill.
Hangingstone Hill has possibly the ugliest army observation post in the whole of Dartmoor, which is saying something. Its one saving grace is that it can provide shelter from the wind. However, I was denied even this small comfort by some strategically positioned cow pats.
The weather looked a bit ominous to the south, so I decided an early lunch might be a good idea. As I ate, I could see the rain getting closer. Finishing eating, it was on with the waterproofs. Superb timing! Just as I pulled my hood up, it started to rain. After a bit of bog hopping, I reached the peat pass at Whitehorse Hill. Although it was raining, the wind had dropped. It was ideal weather to deploy my umbrella! What a difference it makes walking beneath an umbrella rather than being wrapped in a hood.
At Whitehorse Hill, I ditched my original plan to go to Cut Hill and follow the East Dart downstream. Instead I would cut off the corner and head for one of the best camping spots on Dartmoor: South Teign Head. I trundled on to Quintin’s Man and then down into Little Varracombe. Near the bottom, the path had become more like a stream, so some diversions were called for. It was a bit of a slog up Sittaford Tor, but at least the visibility was reasonable.
From Sittaford Tor I descended to the Grey Wethers, a stone circle (actually two stone circles). I was tempted to head cross country but instead followed the path up to Fernworthy Forest, turning south as I got to the forest edge. From there it was a short step to Arcadia.
Remarkably, entering paradise, the rain stopped and the sun shone. A truly magical moment. I took a bit of time erecting the Trailstar and fiddling about with the pitch. I knew from the forecast it would get windy from the South West and there was the possibility of heavy rain over night. I spent a lazy afternoon drinking tea and soaking up the sun.