Ten Tors and bluebells: a beautiful weekend on Dartmoor (and a long blog!)
It’s been a stunningly lovely weekend and I’ve managed to spend almost all of it outside! Yesterday saw me up at 4.45am and off to Okehampton Camp to watch the start of this year’s Ten Tors Challenge (more below). When I came home I decided to walk ‘the long way round’ to Moretonhampstead. Photo 1 (above) shows the footpath that winds its way across the lower slopes of Hingston Down en route to Pepperdon Common, from where there are pretty good views of Moreton and the north moor in one direction…
… and Haytor in the other!
From there I picked up the lane to Cossick Cross, the hedgebanks full of spring flowers. More good views towards the east end of Mardon Down, which stands above Doccombe.
I crossed the Exeter road and headed up to Mardon Down, turning left along its southern edge, then picked up the bridlepath to Yarningdale.
The descent to Moreton threads its way via narrow paths and wooded tracks…
… eventually reaching the Sentry (more lovely views towards Hingston) and St Andrews Church.
And so to Ten Tors, which took place this year in near-perfect weather conditions. Yesterday morning I watched as around 2400 teenagers, fully loaded in preparation for two days and one night camping on the moor, made their way to the start.
At precisely 7am (after prayers, a countdown and gunfire!) they set off, teams of six each following one of 28 routes, walking either 35, 45 or 55 miles. It’s an astonishing undertaking. We also watched the start of the Jubilee Challenge, a one-day expedition designed for young people with a range of physical, mental or educational challenges. A large crowd clapped and cheered the participants on their way.
Today I decided to walk from Belstone via Cullever Steps towards the Camp to see what happens at the end of the two-day challenge. I’ve been at the finish before, but never out on the moor in the immediate area. We set off from Belstone to Cullever Steps, above which stands an Okehampton/Belstone boundary stone.
Teams were heading down from the Oke Tor direction, so we steered clear of the track from Cullever Steps and headed up alongside the pretty little Black-a-ven Brook (photo taken looking back to the Belstone Tors).
At the top of the hill we met the military road, from where it was possible to spot tired TT teams coming from all directions. Several stopped at the hilltop to don costumes, pick up flags etc for the final descent to the finish at the Camp. We met one team of five who had lost their sixth member fairly early on, and saw another with one member carrying two rucksacks to help a struggling colleague. I take my hat off to the lot of them: what an amazing achievement.
Having wished them all well we headed back to Belstone, paying a quick visit to the Nine Maidens stone circle on the way.
Tea and cake at the Old School Tearoom made THE perfect end to a perfect weekend!
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?!).