Walking the Dartmoor Way
Over the last two or three weeks the project officer for the Dartmoor Way walking route has done a recce of the 102+ mile circular route, which runs around the moorland edge. It was set up several years ago (along with the cycle route), but whereas the latter was waymarked the walking route never has been – until now! Funding has been secured and the route will be waymarked this year, and officially (re)launched in spring 2020.
I joined the recce-ing party (identifying where waymarks are needed and can be installed, and looking at route options) for two days: 17km from Shaugh Bridge to Ivybridge (a new section: the original route left out the SW corner of the moor) and 16km from Okehampton to Lydford. Two wonderful and very different sections, as can be seen from the following photos (in very different weather conditions too).
We set off from Shaugh Bridge and followed the ‘pipe track’ (along which china clay was carried in suspension to settling tanks at Shaugh Bridge) across West Down and through North Wood, enjoying lovely views across the Plym valley to the Dewerstone crags.
This stretch of the Plym is so beautiful…
From Cadover Bridge the Dartmoor Way heads along the lane towards the china clay works, with good views towards Great Trowlesworthy Tor. Blackaton Cross is passed, then ‘Big Pond’ on the edge of more workings (all new ground for me: many’s the time I’ve looked at the OS map and wondered how the DW might negotiate this corner of the moor).
It was pretty bleak on the day, and the rain soon set in. Below Penn Beacon the ground became boggy, raising a few ‘what’s the best way through here?’ questions… repeated when the proposed route off the moor towards Cornwood turned out to be permanent watercourse rather than footpath!
Quiet lanes carry the DW on through Tor towards Harford Bridge, before which a lovely path heading south through the wooded Erme valley takes it down to Ivybridge.
My second day out on the DW dawned bright and sunny, and I have to say that the route from Okehampton to Lydford is stunning. Easy to follow, non-taxing, along a variety of field and woodland paths, moorland edge and quiet lanes – with wonderful views towards Dartmoor’s highest ground.
First stop Okehampton’s Norman castle (Devon’s largest), just visible through the bare branches, then across the golf course and through Meldon woods (amazing at bluebell time!) to the spectacular viaduct, built in 1874 when the LSWR railway was extended to Lydford.
We crossed the viaduct on the Granite Way, then picked up the Two Castles Trail/West Devon Way heading southwest across South Down and Prewley Moor, with fabulous views of Yes Tor and High Willhays (header photo).
Below the Sourton Tors we dropped off the moor at Sourton, with its beautiful 14th-century church.
From there the DW runs through fields and along green lanes west of the A386. We got a stunning view of Lake Viaduct and Corn Ridge.
After 16 blissful kilometres we ended up in Lydford: always a treat (once home to a mint, an infamous gaol, a stannary court, and the end of the Lych Way from Postbridge…). A refreshing cuppa (it was only 4pm!) at the Castle Inn made the perfect to a perfect day. I can’t wait to walk the whole thing – and just think of what great walking options it will open up (a huge Dartmoor figure-of-eight, employing the Two Moors Way for the S–N stretch, perhaps?!).
Here we go again... Dartmoor Magazine's summer show schedule!
It may seem a little early in the year to be posting a photo of Uncle Tom Cobley at Widecombe Fair, but as soon as each new year hits we have to start thinking about which shows we’d like to attend with the DM gazebo.
This year we kick off with the two-day English Country Garden Festival at Coombe Trenchard, just to the west of the moor, on the weekend of 1 and 2 June. It’s an absolutely lovely event, and a delight to be able to spend two days in such beautiful surroundings (no mud!). And for those who might be interested there is currently ‘A chat with the editor of Dartmoor Magazine’ to be found on their website, in which I talk about my role with the magazine, and how it all ties so neatly in with my other work (writing walking books and articles across the South West).
August is the busiest month (we also go to print with the autumn issue in the middle of August, so there’s a lot to fit in). First call is the Dartmoor Folk Festival (9–11 August) in South Zeal (above). DM has a very long association with the event, and it’s always a great weekend. You can find us in the Craft Marquee, usually next to the Dartmoor Preservation Association table (we are good friends – honest!).
In the middle of August (15th) we’ll be at Chagford Show, in its glorious location on the banks of the Teign below Castle Drogo. Two days later comes Moretonhampstead Carnival Food Festival, on Saturday 17 August (below). The event was held in its current form for the first time last summer, and was a real success. (It’s also less than a mile up the road from home, so really easy for us to set up!)
On August Bank Holiday Monday we’ll be back at Lustleigh Show, after missing it for the last couple of years. It’s a great family day out – and the entries in the children’s classes always wonderful to see.
This year’s Nourish Festival (food, crafts and music over Friday evening and Saturday) in Bovey Tracey is scheduled for Saturday 31 August, finishing off a packed month for us. If you’ve never been to the event, do go – it is fantastic, and very, very busy!
Finally – at the moment – we close with Widecombe Fair in its traditional spot of the second Tuesday in September (10th). (And then – perhaps – a spot of time off?!).