A spot of inadvertent Dartmoor tor-bagging...
When it comes to hills and mountains, I can’t really call myself a ‘bagger’.
I remember heading up to the summit of Ben Hope (the most northerly Munro) a year or so ago and someone asking me how many Munros I’d ticked off the list, and I couldn’t answer. If I had a think I would maybe get up to thirty, but that’s not what it’s about for me. I will happily revisit a hill on several occasions: and every time is different, depending on the weather, the company, my general mood.
Bagging the tors of Dartmoor brings with it a bit of a problem, in that there is no definitive list. And when is a tor not a tor? More than 150 of these rocky granite outcrops are marked on the OS Explorer map, but on the ground there are more than seven hundred tors and rocks waiting to be ‘bagged’ (take a look at the new website www.torsofdartmoor.co.uk). But last weekend I did ‘bag’ three new ones, and they were really special.
Every summer I get together with a bunch of like-minded walkers for three days to do some ‘big’ walking (such as the Perambulation of the Dartmoor Forest boundary, which we did last year in intense heat). This year we based ourselves at Dewerstone Cottage, tucked away in beautiful woodland above the River Meavy on the southwest side of the moor. Our first day, after weeks of dry weather, dawned wet and misty. We had a good day out – 14 miles, taking in Brisworthy, Ditsworthy Warren House, Higher Hartor Tor, Sheepstor and Meavy – but, as you can imagine, saw almost nothing and got extremely wet!
So drawing back the curtains on Saturday and seeing the sun glimpsing through the trees was a real tonic. We headed down the Meavy towards Shaugh Bridge, then took a narrow permissive path (which needs a bit of maintenance work) south along the Plym through Bickleigh Vale.
From there we headed up the wonderfully named Hollowgreep, crossed the Bowling Green and the open expanse of Shaugh Moor to reach the trig point on Saddlesborough. What views!
From there we skirted the old china clay works, then headed through damp valley mire full of bog asphodel to cross the Blacka Brook via a little clapper bridge.
A gentle ascent through the tumble-down remains of old farms and field boundaries took us to the ridge between Great and Little Trowlesworthy tors. It was all SO beautiful. The views north from Little Trowlesworthy take in the bulk of Sheepstor, with Leather Tor and Sharpitor beyond. It has to be one of the most picturesque parts of Dartmoor. The header photo captures something of a Dartmoor curiosity, too: an unused base for a flagpole that was destined for Devonport sometime in the 19th century and that never quite made it.
From there we headed northeast across the wide open expanse of Lee Moor – it felt almost prairie-like, populated by large numbers of sheep, cattle and ponies – with stunning views northwest across the valley of the upper Plym to the prehistoric landscape of Drizzlecombe and Ditsworthy Warren House (think War Horse – the film).
Next stop Hentor, again blessed with fantastic views. This area was once home to a large number of rabbit farms: take a look at the map and ‘warren’ and ‘pillow mounds’ appear repeatedly (at one time there were said to be as many as eighteen across the moor).
We reached beautiful steep-sided and tranquil Shavercombe – another first for me, then headed into the valley to find the River Plym, which we followed all the way back to Cadover Bridge (it would definitely be easier to do this when the bracken is less profilic).
Revived by ice cream at Cadover Bridge we followed the pipe track through the woods to Shaugh Bridge, passing the magnificent Dewerstone Rocks en route.
So a brilliant day out on the moor and 14 miles done, and three new tors ‘ticked off’. What different conditions from the previous day, too! But then – isn’t that all part of Dartmoor’s charm?!