Tag Archives: Dartmoor

Dartmoor Running Festival Detritus

On my recent trip to Dartmoor I came across these discarded signs between Pupers Hill and Ryder’s Hill from a running event held on the previous weekend (not obvious from sign, but I looked up their website). Being a good Womble I picked them up and deposited them in a bin at Postbridge. Subsequently I reported this to the Dartmoor National Park Authority. The NPA has replied saying that I’m not the first to report an issue with this event.

If you’re on Dartmoor, please be on the lookout for further detritus from this event and remove it if appropriate. I’d also encourage you to report it to the NPA. Hopefully Something Wild will take more care in the future. I’m certainly not against these running events, but I think more care needs to be taken to leave no trace.

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Dartmoor July 2018 gear

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the gear I used on my trip on Dartmoor:

Trailstar/Oookstar nest. I’ve not used the Trailstar for a while. It was nice to have the space that the Trailstar provides. The only real drawback is the constant bending down is a bit of a strain on my back.

Tramplite pack. Superb. Very comfortable. Quite simply one of the best packs out there.

MSR Guardian water filter. I was glad I took the Guardian as the cattle were out on the moor and the water sources at the beehive hut and Taw Marsh both had cattle dung at the water’s edge. I dare say a Sawyer would’ve been adequate but it was nice to have the peace of mind with the Guardian. I also had to filter water for my friend, so it was a lot quicker than a Sawyer.

Railriders Ecomesh trousers. Really nice trousers for summer. The long vents make them a lot cooler than conventional trousers in the heat. Thin but tough material and very comfortable to wear. They look quite smart too. I love them. I bought a second pair. It’s a shame you have to order them from the US, which puts up the cost considerably.

Rab Interval T and Long sleeve shirt. I love these. Thin and silky, they wick sweat quickly and don’t smell. I use the long sleeve around camp and to sleep in at night. The only drawback is being very thin, they are a bit delicate and I caught a thread on the T.

The rest of my gear was all stuff I’ve used regularly for some time.

Dartmoor July 2018

Last week I had a lovely time on Dartmoor. I walked from Ivybridge to Okehampton, accompanied by an old school friend who wanted to try backpacking again. I followed a similar route to the walk I did in 2011. We were very lucky with the weather, which was generally fair but not too hot. Rather than do a detailed trip report, I’ve put together a slide show on YouTube.

Day 1: Ivybridge to Piles Copse, 5 miles
Day2: Piles Copse to the beehive hut on the East Dart River, 18 miles
Day 3: Beehive hut to Taw Marsh, 9 miles
Day 4: Taw Marsh to Okehampton, 5 miles.

The one surprise was how wet underfoot it was between Pupers Hill and Ryder’s Hill and around Statts House. All in all it was a great trip.

A strange weekend on Dartmoor

Last weekend I was on Dartmoor.It was my first opportunity to do a bit of walking and wild camping since early June.

I parked at Belstone and was soon on the moor. Although there had been some rain, it was starting to clear as I walked towards Taw Marsh. The ford over the River Taw was a bit higher than normal so I used my waders to cross. The great thing about Taw Marsh is there are plenty of places to camp.

I selected a nice spot just off the track to pitch my tent. The only drawback was that there were a lot of cows with calves grazing. I don’t mind cows but calves tend to be a bit inquisitive. Fortunately, the ones near me moved off around dusk.

The next day I was packed in good time. I followed the path up to Small Brook, skirting around more cows and their offspring. From Small Brook I cut up to a path and then cross-country up to the ridge leading to Hound Tor.

Instead of going up Wild Tor, I used a path skirting its slopes keeping clear of Gallaven Mire before crossing Walla Brook and climbing up Wattern Tor. As I crossed the brook, it  started to rain, so it was on with the waterproofs.

From Wattern Tor, I tramped along the wet path to the large cairn marked on the OS map. By this time, the rain had virtually stopped but there were heavy showers circling around.

From the cairn, I made my way down to a dry stone wall and stile and then along the path which leads to Teignhead Farm. I’m not sure why this path isn’t marked on the map as it’s very clear. It was very wet underfoot, and boggy in places.

It was nearing lunchtime by the time I reached the ruins of the farm. I crossed the clapper bridge and climbed to the edge of Fernworthy Forest. To the North, it looked like another heavy shower was approaching, so I sheltered in the trees to take lunch.

In the end, it didn’t rain much. The path to South Teign Head was extremely boggy and wet.

However, my destination wasn’t very far and soon I had arrived at my intended camping spot. This is a lovely secluded place, well sheltered from winds, but with a nice flat, if slightly sloping, spot to camp.

After putting up the tent, I collected some water. Just as I got inside, it started to rain. Perfect timing! It must have rained for about an hour or so. I spent a lazy afternoon and evening in the tent, luxuriating in my peaceful surroundings.

This is where it all went horribly wrong! About 11:30, I woke up to some distant voices. Then there was the sound of a generator. Bang on midnight, all hell let loose. There was the deafening sound of some electro dub rave music. When I say deafening, it was unbelievably loud. I remember reading on a forum about Fernworthy Reservoir being used as a site for illegal rave parties.

If I had taken a powerful head torch I would have packed up and gone somewhere else but I only had a Petzl E+Lite. The rest of the night was spent with one ear jammed against my pillow and a finger jammed in the other ear to try to block out the noise. As you can imagine, it was a pretty horrible night.

They were still going full blast when I got up for breakfast. It was quite surreal to be eating accompanied by deafening music. I packed as soon as I could and headed up towards the Grey Wethers to get away from the “music” as quickly as possible.

Evan at the stone circle, the music was loud! As I dropped down into the valley the noise abated. However, as I climbed Manga Hill on the other side, I could still hear it. It only finally disappeared when I was above Hew Down. What a night!

As I climbed up to Wattern Tor, the weather started to improve. However, I was half inclined to go home, as my trip had been thoroughly spoilt by the noise.

From Wattern Tor, I decided to go back to Taw Marsh via Metheral Hill. By this time, the weather was beginning to brighten.

It was bright sunshine by the time I was down at Taw Marsh and my mood was beginning to improve. After a quick bite to eat, I was back at the car in Belstone. After a chat with my wife, I decided to go back to the ford at Taw Marsh to camp and have a quiet afternoon to relax.

The only disadvantage of an early camp at the ford was that several families were out for a Sunday walk, but after the trauma of the previous night, it was nice to chill out for a while. Mercifully, I had a restful night. The next morning, I had a leisurely breakfast. I was visited by some cows and their calves, but they kept their distance. It was only a short distance back to the car and home.

Dartmoor Tramping (part three)

DSC00172About fifteen hours after it started, the rain finally let up at around one o’clock in the morning. At dawn, we were greeted with what looked a perfect day: glorious sunshine. The contrast with the previous day was stunning.

River Walkham

DSC00176We were packed by nine o’clock and headed up to Cocks Hill and then to White Barrow to meet the path leading down to Willsworthy. At the Barrow, we met a couple of Ten Tors leaders who informed us we were likely to see several groups practicing for the event. A few minutes later, their group arrived and we left them to it.

Path to Brousentor Farm

DSC00180We took the path down to Brousentor Farm. At first we walked on moorland, reaching a lane further down. When we reached the River Tavy, we turned north towards a footbridge marked on the map. We were treated a beautiful, short walk along the river amongst trees.

River Tavy

DSC00186We made a brief stop at the bridge for a bite to eat before continuing along some lanes to the car park below Ger Tor. Originally my plan had been to walk up Tavy Cleave, but we decided to go up Ger Tor instead on the basis that it might be a bit drier.

Ger Tor

DSC00187While the path was OK, it was quite boggy in places. However, we were compensated by the extensive views westwards.  At the top we also had a good view of Tavy Cleave. Some day I’m actually going to walk up the Cleave!

Tavy Cleave

DSC00190From Ger Tor we made our way to Hare Tor. On the northern side there are some boulders which made convenient seats and a good spot for lunch, sheltered from the wind. There was also a splendid view of Fur Tor and Cut Hill.

Fur Tor

DSC00193After lunch, next stop was Chat Tor.

Chat Tor with Great Links Tor in the background

DSC00198As time was getting on, we skipped going to Great Links Tor and headed to Dunna Goat and then down to the trackway which leads to some old mine workings near Bleak House.

Bleak House

DSC00201The path up to Kitty Tor was quite tricky with numerous pools and boggy patches to negotiate. Although some places had stepping-stones from the masonry of the mine, other stretches required diversions and a few jumps across peaty pools.

Ponies

DSC00207On the way down to Sandy Ford we encountered some Dartmoor ponies. Initially they were a bit camera-shy, but eventually we managed to catch them. The path down was quite rough and we were glad to reach the ford. Alan decided to swap to trainers to cross. Fortunately, I’d packed my trusty waders, although I probably could have got across with just gaiters.

Wading Sandy Ford

DSC00210On the other side, Alan suggested that time was getting on and that we might as well camp here rather than pressing on. Who was I to disagree? It’s a lovely place to camp.

Camping at Sandy Ford

DSC00213We knew the forecast for the next day was poor, but it was a surprise that it started raining at around two o’clock. There were some very brief breaks as it got light, but we had to pack in the rain. The wind was quite strong, so rather than go over the tops, we decided to walk down the West Okement River.

West Okement River

IMG_1827In other circumstances, it would have been a pleasant walk, but the strong wind and driving rain made it a bit of a trial. The only saving grace was that the wind was at our backs. At Vellake Corner, we crossed the bridge over the weir and made for the ridge along South Down. The wind was ferocious, but at least the lane gave a modicum of shelter. We felt the true force of the wind at the Meldon Viaduct.

Cake at Meldon Viaduct

IMG_1828At the far side of the viaduct, we decided to make use of the buffet in a disused rail carriage. Although the rain abated a bit, the wind rocked the carriage. After a bite to eat and some tea, it was onwards via the cycle track to Okehampton Station. Despite some shelter from the wind, it started to rain harder. At Okehampton station, we switched to the footpath which took us to the East Okement River. At least we were sheltered by the trees.

However, crossing the bridge over the river, we had to climb up to the open ridge, where we were assaulted afresh by almost hurricane force wind and rain. It was unpleasant mile or so to the car park. Getting changed to drive home in the rain was fun (not)!

Despite the weather, we had a good trip. The rain and wind came on the right days for us and at least we had two good days of walking and enjoyed some good camping.

Dartmoor Tramping (part two)

IMG_1817Overnight the wind had swung round to a more westerly direction, but it wasn’t raining yet, despite an early touch of hill fog. After breakfast the cloud base lifted a bit and we packed away. Before leaving, I did a bit of Wombling, clearing some orange peel and tea bags which had been dumped by a rock.

East Dart River

DSC00165After crossing the stream, we made our way up the East Dart River towards Sandy Hole Pass. This was a delightful walk, despite the gloomy weather.

Looking down the East Dart River

DSC00168All too soon we reached our crossing point at the waterfall marked on the map. As we got to the far side, it began to spot with rain, so it was on with the overtrousers.

East Dart waterfall

DSC00169As we walked up Broad Down we were exposed to the full force of the freshening wind. When we crested the rise, it started to rain in earnest.

Lower and Higher White Tor

IMG_1819Although it was a bit of a slog to Lower White Tor, the conditions underfoot weren’t too bad and we managed to pick up a few tracks. The path over Lower and Higher White Tors is more heavily used and consequently more boggy. By now, the wind was quite strong and cold, so I had to put some gloves on.

Despite the deteriorating weather, the cloud base was still above the tops and the walk to Longaford and Littaford Tors was enjoyable. The descent to Two Bridges offered a modicum of shelter. Nevertheless we were glad to make our lunch stop at the Two Bridges Hotel.

Lunch at the Two Bridges Hotel

IMG_1823The Two Bridges Hotel is a fine establishment and is very welcoming to walkers (a sign outside states “muddy boots welcome”). The staff weren’t fazed by two dripping wet backpackers. We had a superb lunch and I’m definitely going to include the hotel on future walks on Dartmoor.

As you can imagine, it was difficult to get going again. However, we struggled back into our wet weather gear. By this time, the rain had intensified and the cloud base had lowered. Originally, I had planned to go over Beardown Tors, but had also plotted a more sheltered route in case the weather was poor.

Given the conditions we took the easy route. After a short walk up the B3357, we turned north up a newly tarmacked track. Unfortunately the shelter belt of trees which would have given us some protection from the wind had been largely cut down.

At Holming Beam, we turned onto the path leading to the delightfully named Black Dunghill. The track was badly churned up, presumably by squaddies on exercise.

Somewhere near Black Dunghill

IMG_1824We made our way across Blackbrook Head to the River Walkham and then to our intended camping spot opposite Greena Ball. Unfortunately, because it was so misty, I couldn’t spot the grassy terrace where I had intended us to camp. Fortunately, Alan spotted a reasonable alternative near the old settlements marked on the map.

The wind and rain were now ferocious and it was quite a struggle to put up the Duomid, especially as the ground was a bit uneven. Eventually, I got a reasonable pitch. I filled my Platypus water bladders and collapsed into the tent.

One final indignity was my freeze-dried dinner (Mountain Trails Beef Risotto), which was totally tasteless. The rain and wind continued until about one o’clock in the morning, but the Duomid stayed firm. At least I was dry and warm and the forecast for the next day was much better.

Dartmoor Tramping (part one)

I didn’t manage to go backpacking on Dartmoor last year. So I thought I’d put that right with the first trip of this year. The biggest issue with walking any distance on Dartmoor is coordinating it with the Army firing schedules on the North Moor. I spotted that the week before Easter, there was no firing scheduled, so a plan was hatched for a four day walk from Belstone to Two Bridges and back.

Dartmoor March 2016

I invited Alan Sloman along for a bit of company, so on the Tuesday before Good Friday, we rolled into Belstone.

Belstone

DSC00111After parking the car, we made our way towards Taw Marsh. Before leaving the road to get onto the moor, we spotted a couple of derelict tractors.

One for Alan Rayner!

DSC00114Although the weather was a bit murky , it was dry. A big advantage of Belstone is that you get onto the moor very quickly.

The path to Taw Marsh

DSC00116We spotted a group of around ten walkers near the ford across the River Taw. I was slightly concerned about how deep the ford might be, but it was quite low. However, I did put some gaiters on just in case.

Camp by Small Brook

DSC00118There are lots of places to camp at Taw Marsh. There are some good spots by the ford, but we decided to explore a bit further. We walked a little way up Small Brook and found an excellent spot on the bluff.

Looking to Steeperton Tor

DSC00124It was a pretty cold night and we woke up to frost. The sky was clear, so hopes were for a good day. However, the clouds soon started to build and the sun disappeared. We enjoyed a fairly leisurely start as we only about 15km to cover.

Walking up Small Brook

DSC00128Our route took us up Small Brook to Little Hound Tor, where we had a poke around the stone circle. Although the weather was slightly murky, it did make the scenery quite atmospheric.

Great Hound Tor

DSC00135At Great Hound Tor we sat down to enjoy the views. As we lightened our packs by eating some of the contents of excessively large food bags, the weather began to brighten. Next stop was the impressive rocks on Wild Tor

Wild Tor

DSC00143By now, there were some decent patches of blue sky. From Wild Tor we headed to Hangingstone Tor. Although Hangingstone Hill has possibly the ugliest Army observation post in Dartmoor, the views are wonderful.

View north from Hangingstone Hill

DSC00146Alan wanted lunch on Whitehorse Hill, but there’s no shelter, so I persuaded him that Quintin’s Man was a better spot. Having been this way before, we avoided the boggy peat channels by staying to the eastern side of the hill. We passed the peat pass and gained the path to Quintin’s Man, where we had lunch in the lee of the stone shelter.

Sittaford Tor

DSC00152After lunch we followed the path and wall to Sittaford Tor. This is a pretty easy stroll. So far we had been surprised at how dry it had been underfoot. Even the streams in Little Varracombe were easy to cross.

Little Varracombe from Sittaford Tor

DSC00154Although the cloud seemed to be building again, we still had extensive views from Sittaford Tor. From there we headed north-east to Teignhead Farm. Along the way we bumped into another walker racing down from the tor who asked us if we had seen a walking pole that he had lost at the top. Unfortunately not.

Teignhead Farm

IMG_1813After crossing the river, we dropped our packs and headed to the ruined farm for a look around. It’s sad to see the desolation of what once must have been quite a substantial farmstead. Even now, the gate posts and walls show the effort that must have been taken to build it. The wood lot at the rear has suffered badly from fallen trees as well. Although it’s a great place to camp, we had decided that the beehive hut on the East Dart was a better place for us.

The Grey Wethers

DSC00156After retrieving our packs we climbed up to the Grey Wethers stone circle (actually two circles).  On the way down we met a lady with the most gorgeous collie, Kes. Her husband was thinking of doing the Cape Wrath Trail, so Alan gave her a few tips about the route. She told us that the bottom of the valley was quite boggy but there was a good path on the eastern flank.

Kes

DSC00159We followed the path along the eastern side of the valley, before dropping down to the East Dart River near the beehive hut.

Dropping down to the East Dart River

DSC00161Just below the beehive hut, there’s a lovely shelf above a tributary stream. I’ve camped there a couple of times before. It’s an almost perfect pitch. We were just in time, as a small party of hikers rounded the corner and looked disappointed that we had nabbed the best pitch. There are other places to pitch but they walked on. Feeling a bit guilty, I caught up with them and told them about an excellent place to camp by Fernworthy Forest.

Camp near the beehive hut

DSC00162By now, we could feel the weather starting to change. The wind had picked up and the clouds had thickened. We knew the forecast was poor for the next day. We hoped that the rain would hold off until we had packed.