Editor's Blog

A review of 2019 on Dartmoor – Part One

It’s dark and a bit damp and dismal, and it’s Christmas Day tomorrow – so a good opportunity to combine my ‘Happy Christmas and all the best for 2020 and thank you so much for supporting Dartmoor Magazine!’ message with a look back at sunnier and brighter times! It’s encouraging – having had unusually wet weather over the last few weeks – to look back over my photographs and remind myself what fantastic weather we had earlier in the year (and no doubt will again). The header photo was taken in February on a pretty perfect winter’s day. Part One of this blog overs January to June 2019; I’ll go through the rest of 2019 in a week or two.

JANUARY and a wonderful walk from Georgeham in North Devon and out to Baggy Point on a commission for Exmoor Magazine.

FEBRUARY Exmoor Magazine again – and a circular route from Barnstaple which explored the historic village of Pilton. I remember the wind was absolutely freezing! The Haytor image was taken on a walk with Dr Phil Newman to look at granite features in the quarry and along the Granite Tramway. The third photo (it’s February – and people are wearing T-shirts! – was on the Plymouth Search & Rescue Group‘s fundraising Postbridge Challenge walk, heading for Longaford Tor.

MARCH I started my involvement with the Dartmoor Way walking route, which has now been signed and will be launched at the end of May 2020 (I’ll be writing the guidebook in 2020 too). The first photo shows Blackaton Cross (Shaugh Bridge to Ivybridge section) and the next the route heading towards Sourton church (Okehampton to Lydford). It’s going to be a fabulous walk (108 miles around the edge of the moor, with a High Moor link). The third photo is St Pancras church, Widecombe – I’d gone to take photos of Anthony (Tony) Beard’s grave for the book about his life we published in September (written by his wife Wendy, with help from me).

APRIL At the end of April some of my Scottish hillwalking friends descended on Dartmoor! We did a couple of long walks – I try to defeat them with mileage, since I can’t compete in terms of ascent – the first of which (from home) took us up to Hunter’s Tor and above Lustleigh Cleave. Fabulous bluebells, as usual. The third photo was taken on the Dartmoor Way High Moor link, looking back to Sharp Tor above the Dart valley.

MAY So much happened this month! Firstly there was Lustleigh May Day – Cogs & Wheels Ladies’ Morris in full flow. Next is a photo of the River Dart at Hembury Woods – you’ll find the circular walk in the spring 2020 issue of Dartmoor Magazine. Then there was the Ten Tors Challenge, which enjoyed great weather (we’ll be marking 6o years of the event in the spring issue). We also went out on the final day to watch the teams coming in – the fourth photo was taken by Black-a-ven Brook, looking back to the Belstone Tors. We ended that walk at the lovely Old School Tearoom in Belstone (final photo). And the other photo was taken at Cranmere Pool, and shows two descendants of James Perrott signing and stamping and creating memories (for the full story see the winter issue of DM).

JUNE On the first weekend in June we took the Dartmoor Magazine gazebo to the lovely Coombe Trenchard English Country Garden Festival – the first of our shows in 2019. The next photo was taken during the Dartmoor Access Forum (I’m a member) trip to Corringdon Farm. We went out on the moor to look at increasing vegetation coverage, and the effect on access – I can’t remember what the DNPA’s Kevin Bishop was saying at the time this photo was taken, but it would make a good caption competition! The final photo is here just because it’s lovely – looking towards Meldon Hill – and reminds me that warm, light and sunny weather will soon be back again.

So to finish let me repeat my opening comments – Happy Christmas, Happy New Year, and many, many thanks for your continued support.

Sunny days on Dartmoor (if you're lucky)

Well – what weather! I’ve spent today listening to the rain hammering down outside and on the computer working on News words and pix for the winter issue. Tomorrow the forecast looks a little better so I’ll be digging out my boots again and heading for Exmoor. I’ve been doing a load of revision work for Crimson Publishing recently, rewalking and updating routes in my Short Walks Dartmoor and Cornwall books, and the Exmoor Pathfinder Guide. My boots are struggling to dry out…

To be fair, Exmoor hasn’t been too bad. A week or so ago I had a wonderful sunny day on a 3-mile walk from Kilve on the north coast, which circles inland to visit the pretty hamlet of East Quantoxhead with its duckpond, 17th-century mansion and 14th-century church. The geology of this part of the Somerset coast is fascinating, too.

On the same trip I checked out part of a walk which starts at County Gate on the border of Devon and Somerset – fantastic views over Ashton Cleave! – where Exmoor ponies are being used for conservation grazing.

Day Two involved working out how to extend a route which explores the high coastal hills east of Lynmouth (Countisbury Common). The current route in the Exmoor Pathfinder utilises a permissive path, which has been removed, making the walk too short for its slot in the book… so I wondered about starting the walk in Lynmouth and heading east on the coast path up to Countisbury. Bad idea – it’s an enormous climb and it made the walk too long! We also got caught in torrential rain on the coast path (about 30mins after the photo below was taken) and had to pack it in. So that’s why I’m off to Exmoor again tomorrow.

But if I thought the weather was bad on that occasion it was nothing compared to what was to come! I’ve done four routes in Cornwall in the last 10 days: Coverack, Trevone, Port Quin and Tintagel. The photo below shows the sea off Lowland Point near Coverack in the middle of a 6-mile circular walk (getting out of the car and into all my waterproof gear was a bit tricky in incredibly strong wind and heavy rain).

Last Saturday I failed even to start the walk at Tintagel for the same reason: and when we did manage to do it a day later a brief spell of sunshine enabled me to take a photo of the new bridge accessing the island (wanted for the revised edition of the book). Ten minutes later, however, it was pouring again. But the photo of me at St Materiana’s church on the clifftop at Tintagel would seem to indicate that I was enjoying myself (new Paramo jacket being put to the test)!

So back to good old Dartmoor. I’ve done three of the four walks on the list: a circular from Okehampton (East and West Okement), Norsworthy Bridge and Crazywell Pool, and Shipley Bridge and Rider’s Rings. As you can see from the photos below I managed to pick some decent weather for a change. These three photos show the Devonport Leat near Crazywell Pool and near the aqueduct over the Meavy, and the Meavy near Norsworthy Bridge. Following the leat through Stanlake Plantation is much lovelier than it used to be due to the fact that patches of woodland have been cleared, opening up some lovely views towards Down Tor and Sheepstor.

This week I rewalked the Shipley Bridge/Avon Dam/Rider’s Rings/Black Tor route. I had forgotten quite how lovely it is there, particularly in autumn colours and with the River Avon in full flow.

I’ve got one more Dartmoor walk to do: Wistman’s Wood, then up to cross the West Dart at the take-off point of the Devonport Leat and back along the slopes of Beardown Hill. I’ve been putting it off because I need to be sure of getting across the river at or near the weir: wish me luck!