Editor's Blog

Autumnal 'work walking' in Mid Devon and on Dartmoor

As many of you will know, as well as being editor of Dartmoor Magazine I’m also the author of a number of walking and guidebooks. I’ve recently been commissioned to update my last book – The Two Moors Way – Devon’s Coast to Coast walk for the publishers Cicerone Press. It won’t be out until late next year, but it’s an opportunity to walk the whole 117 miles across Devon (with a section in Somerset too) again, in both directions! I’ve also got to write up the new low level route between Ivybridge and Scoriton, and check out the various alternative route options along the way. All good fun.

So my friend Emma and I have been enjoying some wonderful days out lately. We started checking the route in Mid Devon, walking from Morchard Road towards Down St Mary and then south past Clannaborough Barton.

That’s where you start to pick up some fantastic views of Dartmoor’s northern slopes (see the header image too). We turned around just west of Yeoford, and on the way back stopped for coffee at the recently opened and very lovely Paschoe House Hotel – a little spot of luxury and a nice break from ploughing through the muddy red fields of Devon’s heartland!

Our next jaunt saw us walking north from Morchard Road through the rolling fields and woodland tracks to Morchard Bishop, where we had an obligatory stop (and shop – coffee and cake) at the wonderful Church Street Stores (at the halfway mark on the 102-mile Two Moors Way).

The trouble with these shorter days is that we invariably get back to the car in the dark!

This week saw us back on Dartmoor. On yet another beautiful autumn day we walked from Widecombe (a short way off the official route, but we just had to stop at The Cafe on the Green…) via Dunstone Down to Jordan, then along the pretty West Webburn river to the ford at Ponsworthy. Then up across the moor towards Bel Tor Corner, via the lovely hedgebank beeches at Primm Cottage.

The next section of the route – along Dr Blackall’s Drive above the wooded Dart Valley – is stunning at any time of year, but I’m starting to think that autumn may be my favourite season in which to walk it.

We stopped for a bite to eat at Leigh Tor –so much more extensive than it appears at first sight, and with great views towards Buckland Beacon – before dropping steeply downhill to the Dart. The fallen autumn leaves caught in calm spots on the surface of the crystal-clear water were just beautiful.

We followed the bank of the river and crossed the green sward at Deeper Marsh – no one there for once! – to New Bridge, where we watched a group of kayakers for a while before turning round and retracing our steps back to Widecombe. What a glorious day to be out on Dartmoor – one of those really ‘good to be alive’ ones!

PS And yes – we did get back in the ‘almost dark’ – yet again!

 

'Extra-curricular' activity for the editor of Dartmoor Magazine

Alongside my role with Dartmoor Magazine I’m involved with various Dartmoor-related committees and organisations, two of which – the Dartmoor Local Access Forum and the Moor than meets the eye community stakeholder group – have held training days recently (the above photo was taken from Buckland Beacon on the MTMTE day out in late September – more of that below).

In July I went on the annual Dartmoor Local Access Forum (DAF) day out, this time joined by members of the Devon LAF. We visited Fingle Woods to take a look at developments since the woods were purchased by the National Trust and Woodland Trust in 2013. We were shown around by NT area ranger Tom Wood, and  WT Community Engagement Officer Eleanor Lewis (seen below – note the new and highly informative information board, found just over Fingle Bridge).

Among other works a variety of circular and linear trails have been devised, and a multi-use trail developed alongside the River Teign.

We looked at various items of path furniture (for example a tree-trunk bench, in sympathy with its surroundings) and issues such as bank erosion along heavily used stretches of the multi-use trail.

After  lunch at the perfectly located Fingle Bridge Inn we spent the afternoon listening to presentations on (and discussing issues related to) the Dartmoor Way (cycle route, with plans in hand for a revised walking route),  the recently relaunched  Two Moors Way, the new long-distance bridleway (Cookworthy Forest to Meldon, north Dartmoor) the Pegasus Trail, and the Wray Valley Trail (a multi-use trail which, when complete, will run from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead). A very interesting and rounded day, looking at many aspects of user access on and around Dartmoor.

Last week three members of the Moor than meets the eye Landscape Partnership Community Stakeholders Group (honestly!) enjoyed a day out with scheme manager Mark Allott. Our day started somewhere I have always wanted to visit – DNPA’s Conservation Works HQ at the former station yard in Bovey Tracey. Here we met Head of Conservation Works Jon Stones and his two apprentices, Ben and Leo (part funded by the MTMTE scheme). The next intake of DNPA apprentices is due at the end of the year.

As a great lover of all things ‘signposty’ it was good to see Leo midway through creating a new fingerpost – and many finished ones propped up in the yard, waiting to be installed! The team covers a vast range of work on the Dartmoor – ‘everything from re-puttying windows to strimming banks to making signposts and felling trees’ – and it was good to be able to chat to two enthusiastic apprentices who are clearly enjoying their training and gaining a great range of skills to set them up for future employment.

Next we stopped at the middle Trendlebeare Down car park, with its stunning views over the wooded Bovey Valley. Here work has been carried out to prevent the encroachment of parking on the open moor (bunds have been established around the car park perimeter): a practical solution to managing problems associated with increasing numbers of visitors to the moor’s most popular spots.

Opposite the car park a new access path is being constructed by MTMTE volunteers into the top of Yarner Wood, to link with a new multi-use trail leading to the reservoir (clearly visible on OS OL28) and new bird hide, providing opportunities to watch species in a different habitat from the rest of the NNR at Yarner.

A lovely walk across the common took us to our next destination, Buckland Beacon, to view the newly restored Ten Commandments Stones, originally carved in 1928 under instruction of the Lord of Buckland, Mr William Whitely of Wellstor. Here we met Guy and Annie Hillhouse from Buckland-in-the-Moor, who lead the restoration initiative within the MTMTE Parishscapes project (with funding too from the DNP Communities Fund). The perfect spot for a picnic on a warm and sunny autumn day – and oh! so much delicious cake!

We then dropped down to Widecombe to meet David Ashman from the Widecombe History Group, who showed us a number of new informative interpretation panels that have been installed around the village and inside St Pancras Church, linking with a new leaflet about the village. This falls within the ‘Discover the Dartmoor story’ Parishscapes initiative. David told us about plans to install a ‘rubbing’ trail around the village (seven posts bearing an embossed motif on the top, for people – in particular children – to collect).

Our last stop of the day was the DNP Visitor Centre at Haytor, where MTMTE’s Chrissy Mason updated us on plans to develop a wildlife hub there, with interpretation panels on local wildlife and birds, focusing on an area of rhos pasture that lies just behind the centre. And Fiona Freshney, MTMTE’s new Moorland Bird Advisor, talked to us about some early indications regarding species health and population density derived this summer’s moorland bird survey. She also – very interestingly – talked about the relative merits of cattle and ponies as conservation grazers – it was good to hear that ponies come out on top!

I ended the day suffering from a degree of information overload, and it’s been a useful (if lengthy!) exercise writing this blog post and trying to get my thoughts in some sort of order! Thanks to Mark and members of the MTMTE team for a fascinating day out.

 

Dartmoor summer walking: from Watern Tor to Shipley Bridge!

July has been an excellent walking month! I’ve had lots of ‘walking work’ to do, and even managed a couple of non-work walks – just going out onto the moor with a friend, a sandwich and a map – and seeing where the mood takes us.

Early July saw me down on the South Devon coast revising a walk from Short Walks South Devon (Crimson Publishing). It was the most beautiful hot day: the image shows the mouth of the Yealm, just downriver from Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo. Good to get off the moor for a change!

Emma and I had a lovely Sunday walk from Kestor: out across the North Teign to Watern Tor, then back via Scorhill and the Wallabrook/Teign clapper bridges. Didn’t see anyone until we got to Scorhill stone circle. All so good for the soul!

Next it was time to work out summer 2018’s ‘Walk & Eat’ walk for the magazine: focusing on the Forest Inn at Hexworthy. A really lovely circular walk – only about 4.5 miles, but so pretty. We went through Sherberton and out onto the common, then dropped down through the old fields and buildings at Swincombe and crossed Fairy Bridge. You so quickly feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere…

In the middle of the month I took part (with two friends) in the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (Plymouth) Midnight Madness walk: over 11 miles along tracks, starting at Princetown: South Hessary, Older Bridge, Leather Tor Bridge, Cross Gate, then the old railway line past Ingra Tor back to Princetown. No photos obviously, but we were treated to a cracking sunset over North Hessary as we headed south.

My last main ‘outing’ this month has been trying to work out an alternative Two Moors Way route between Ivybridge and Scorriton. That 13-mile section is the most difficult of the whole 117-mile Devon coast to coast (particularly if the weather is bad) and some people struggle to follow the route. So I’ve been thinking about coming up with a lower level option and this week spent two days walking from Holne to the Avon Dam (Day 1) and then Ivybridge to Shipley Bridge (Day 2). If you add the 1.5 mile section from Shiply Bridge to the Avon Dam the alternative route comes to just over 15 miles: all quite possible, but some fine-tuning required! It’s a really pretty route too, as the following photos show.

If you want to know more about the Two Moors Way/Devon’s Coast to Coast walk click on the link above. I’m currently working on a new edition of my Two Moors Way book, published by Cicerone Press – another great excuse to get out there and explore!

 

Crossing Dartmoor on foot… from Cawsand to Shipley Bridge

Last weekend saw our annual Dartmoor Magazine/Spirit of Adventure ‘big walk’ – this year ‘The Postman’s Round’, from north to south, visiting the only two permanent letterboxes on the moor. Every spring John Diplock (from Spirit) and I have great fun working out a new theme for a two- or three-day walk, and to date (luckily!) they have all been really successful.

After a comfortable night at the Spirit bunkhouse at Powdermills we were minibussed to South Zeal, from where we headed up to the triple stone row on the slopes of Cawsand (a first for some of the group).

From there it was up to the Cawsand trig point, then south towards Little Hound (and stone circle) and then Hound Tor under increasingly gloomy skies…

 

Weatherwise things started to get pretty nasty around Wild Tor (views to Watern Tor below), and by the time we got to Hanginstone Hill it was chucking it down and blowing hard. We sheltered from the wind behind the stable and ranger’s hut, but it was impossible to get out of the driving rain.

A brief window of sunshine around Taw Head raised our spirits…

… but it wasn’t to last! We made our wet and soggy way to the letterbox at Cranmere Pool, originally set up by Dartmoor Guide James Perrott of Chagford in 1854. From there we went due south for around 7km in heavy rain and poor visibility, eventually bearing SE towards Longaford Tor and onto Powdermills for the night… when of course the sun came out again! Today’s tally: 13.5 miles and 7.5 hours walking (all bar 1.5 hours in heavy rain – but overall it was great!).

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, and – much refreshed  – we set off across Muddilake towards the lovely clumps of beech that mark the drive to Prince Hall Hotel.

Dartmoor looked stunningly beautiful the whole day. We crossed the West Dart river (view downstream below), and then the Swincombe via Fairy Bridge.

 

From there we climbed up to Ter Hill, adorned with two crosses: a replica of the medieval one which was damaged, removed and restored, and can now be seen in the Dartmoor Conservation Garden at Princetown; and a memorial dating from the 1990s.

We lunched in Fox Tor Girt, then passed the post at Cater’s Beam (see header photo), which was replaced last year (we reported on this in the News in a recent issue of Dartmoor Magazine so it was nice to see it in ‘person’!). Then it was on to the letterbox at Duck’s Pool (placed here in 1938 to commemorate the Dartmoor author William Crossing), where the visitor book was signed.

 

We then headed SE towards the spoil heap at Red Lake… something of a trudge… it was great when the peak peeped over the horizon!

Down the old Redlake Railway, then across the line of the Two Moors Way to pick up the line of the old Zeal Tramway, constructed to carry peat off the moor to a naphtha works at Shipley Bridge. You can still see some of the granite set into the ground. It makes a lovely path today (a first for me).

An finally – in complete contrast to the vast majority of the walk – the brilliant greens and soft landscapes around South Brent and the South Hams beyond came into view, drawing us on to the minibus at Shipley Bridge (thank you Mr Dell!).

Today’s tally: 13 miles (and I forgot to look at the time). One of the best things about these long walks (apart from the company, obviously!) is how they help me to make sense of the Dartmoor landscape, and how they help me join up all the bits and pieces I already know – and also introduce me to new places and sights and experiences. Thank you John for organising the weekend and leading it so efficiently, and to everyone who came along. It was just fabulous.

 

Spring walking on Dartmoor

The last two weekends have seen some stunning weather here on Dartmoor, and I’ve managed to get out on the moor two or three times. One of my favourite short walks is a circuit from Meldon Reservoir and up the West Okement river to Black-a-tor Copse and Black Tor, then over Longstone Hill and back to the car park. I first wrote the route up back in 2000 for 50 Walks in Devon, and each time I go back and do it again it’s just as good as that first time: tranquil reservoir, tumbling river, ‘ancient’ oak woodland, magnificent tor (Black Tor, above), open common and views of Dartmoor’s highest ground. And all this within a stone’s throw of the A30.

The walk starts from the car park at Meldon Reservoir, from where you cross the impressive dam (1970–2) with its view towards the 150ft-high Meldon Viaduct, towering over the West Okement river. The structure dates from 1874 when the L&SW railway line was extended to Lydford (from Exeter). A narrow path is followed along the southeast bank of the reservoir. The little island at the far end of the reservoir seems to be home to a colony of Canada geese.

From Vellake Corner the beautiful West Okement river is followed upstream.

Black Tor and Black-a-tor Copse (NNR) come into view, the latter one of three remaining areas of ancient high-altitude oak woodland on the moor (the others being Wistman’s Wood and Piles Copse). The views upriver and across the water to Corn Ridge are magical.

A steep climb up the valley side past the outcrops of Black Tor is rewarded with a lovely level track that runs over Homerton and then Longstone hills: Dartmoor’s loftiest tops, High Willhays and Yes Tor, rise above the route to the east.

The views all around are still stunning, especially when looking up the valley of the Red-a-ven Brook towards Row Tor and West Mill Tor.

All in all it’s a fabulous walk – I never tire of it. And what a wonderful day to be out on Dartmoor!

My walking year continued… June to September 2016

I’ve been stuck inside most of the time recently working on the spring issue of Dartmoor Magazine, so it’s a welcome relief to get back to looking at some of last year’s walk photos. Picking up where I left off at the end of the last blog post: this is Watern Tor on the north moor, looking north towards Cawsand, and visited on our Dartmoor Perambulation with Spirit of Adventure in June. It has to be one of the most photogenic tors on the whole moor! I love it.

In late June/July I had some more revision work for Crimson, publishers of the Pathfinder guides. A lovely bit of rewalking routes on the moor north of Ivybridge and here, around Burrator – photo taken from the slopes of Sheepstor, overlooking Burrator, with Leather Tor and Sharpitor beyond in the distance.

This was one of those ‘magic moments’: coming off Sheepstor en route to the lane that leads to Sheepstor village. Just beautiful (we’ve had some Dartmoor Magazine notelets made, using eight different photos – this is one of them).

July: I’m a member of the Dartmoor Access Forum, and we have an annual day out looking at various access issues and proposals around the moor. Last year we were based at Postbridge, looking into plans for a range of walking and multi-access routes under the ‘Moor than meets the eye’ landscape partnership scheme. I should have taken this from a different angle to ‘separate’ the bridges!

July: two or three walking commissions in North Devon were a good excuse for a weekend away, staying at Countisbury, high above Lynmouth. The Valley of Rocks came into a route I did for Exmoor Magazine back in January last year (for their winter 2016 issue), but which I had to go and do again because I didn’t understand my own notes!

July: Morte Point, seen from Mortehoe on the north Devon coast. Working out a walk for the summer 2017 issue of Exmoor Magazine (as you will have realised that magazine has a pretty broad geographical remit).

During July and August I did a lot of walking in the Chagford area, working on a walks leaflet for the Three Crowns Hotel. I found new footpaths and rights of way, and linked up lots of places I already knew with new (to me) routes. A really enjoyable commission (and some wonderful weather too).

August: and the rowans already laden with berries. This was taken on a lovely circular walk from South Brent, which I will write up for the summer 2017 Walk & Eat feature in Dartmoor Magazine. View from Brent Fore Hill towards Brent Hill.

 

 

In September I decided I should walk the Two Moors Way/Devon’s Coast to Coast again, but this time from north to south (for my Cicerone Press book I walked it south to north). So far I’ve got as far as Widecombe, so not much further to go – but this photo was taken on our first day, when we walked for 18 miles from Lynmouth to Withypool. This is the beautiful Barle valley south of Simonsbath, one of the loveliest places on the whole route.

And here’s the Barle valley again, looking downstream towards Birchcleave Wood and Simonsbath. This was the day the route was officially relaunched to National Park officials, press and guests with a presentation and cream tea at Simonsbath House Hotel, then a walk along the route to Wheal Eliza. If you want to know more about the route take a look at www.twomoorsway.org

 

And just to prove that I do other things too – this was taken on an evening visit to RHS Rosemoor at Torrington in September, for a private view. I love these colours!

So an update on progress: the spring issue of the magazine is nearly all at page proof stage, and I have today sent all the News items over to Emily to layout. The Diary is also ready to go. So now it’s proofreading, then Emily and I will spend two days making corrections and changes before we go to print in mid February. I also need to firm up what’s going to go in the summer issue, and start the flat plans for 2018’s magazines too. So that’s why I am having to trawl through ‘old’ photos for the occasional blog post – no time to get out and do much else at the moment!

My walking year – Dartmoor, Exmoor and a spot of R(h)um – Part One

Over Christmas someone asked me (thank you Leslie!) how many miles I’d walked this year. I’ve never counted, but during 2016 I have got through yet another pair of expensive walking boots, so it must be quite a few! So I thought for my final blog of the year I’d look back through my walks photos and remind myself what I’ve been getting up to. So here’s Part One – January to May 2016. The header photo shows Eastern Whitebarrow on the south moor, visited on the Dartmoor Perambulation with Spirit of Adventure in early June. (I was going to include June, but there are too many photos!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
January – The Valley of Rocks, Lynton, Exmoor. A walk for the spring 2017 issue of Exmoor the country magazine (I’ve been writing walks for the magazine since around 2008).

January – a gorgeous day in the Quantocks, remeasuring and reworking a route for the spring 2016 issue of Exmoor the country magazine. It’s always quite nice to have the excuse to do them again!

January – a distant view of Haytor from the River Teign meadows near Teigngrace. I was revising some walks for Crimson’s Pathfinder Guide South Devon & Dartmoor.

February – Trenchford Reservoir, photographed while working out the Walk & Eat route for the winter 2016 issue of Dartmoor Magazine.

February – a non-work walk! A beautiful bright, sunny, cold day, perfect for a wander along the old railway line from Princetown to Ingra Tor with a couple of friends.

February – the Postbridge Challenge, in aid of Dartmoor Search & Rescue. It’s happening again this year, on Sunday 19 February. Well worth supporting, and a lovely day out.

March – a bunch of us walked from a friend’s house by the Teign in Chagford back to Moretonhampstead, via the Teign Gorge, Fingle Bridge and Butterdon.

March – a change of scene and signs of spring! This was taken near Parracombe on Exmoor, while revising a route from the Exmoor & Quantocks Pathfinder Guide.

April – a wander alongside the West Webburn and East Dart rivers near Babeny, and a cream at Badger’s Holt at Dartmeet. Just for fun.

April – five days on Lundy, during which I celebrated my birthday (this is the graveyard and Old Light). It’s amazing how many miles you can clock up on a lump of granite measuring 3 miles by half a mile!

April – another walk in aid of Dartmoor Search & Rescue – this time the Templer Way, 18 miles from Haytor to Shaldon. Here’s the granite tramroad running through Yarner Wood.

May – just a gorgeous walk in Exe Valley meadows and woodlands with a friend… spring flowers everywhere.

May – this was a Friday evening ‘let’s go somewhere different’ trip to Kingston and Wonnell Beach (photo is the view up the River Erme) in the South Hams, and fish and chips at a pub in Modbury.

May – Halstock Wood near Okehampton, walked when writing a route for the magazine’s spring 2017 Walk & Eat feature. This is one I had to do twice since I went too early and there weren’t enough bluebells! OK on the second visit, however…

May – the River Parrett in north Somerset, and Brent Knoll in the distance. I was asked to write a route based on the new section of the West Somerset Coast Path… I didn’t know that the sea wall further up this path had recently been breached to create the Steart Marshes Reserve, and so I had to backtrack and work it all out again on another day. What a beautiful day to be out walking, though.

May – and to finish a photo taken on the Isle of Rum (it started as Rum, was changed to Rhum, and is now Rum again!) with views towards the Cuillin on Skye. A long weekend with a group of hillwalking friends from the Glasgow area, with whom I am lucky enough to be able to go exploring north of the border.

I hope there’s been enough Dartmoor content in this – this is supposed to the Dartmoor Magazine editor’s blog, after all – but it’s been fun for me to look back over the year and see where I’ve been walking. More to come in Part Two – sometime!

 

 

Happy Christmas from Dartmoor Magazine!

A very happy (dull and blustery) Christmas and a happy New Year to all our contributors, writers, photographers, subscribers, advertisers, sales outlets, magazine purchasers and supporters… and everyone else who I might have forgotten (but hopefully haven’t!). Thank you all for your valued support throughout 2016 – and we’re looking forward to bringing you more news and stories about ‘all things Dartmoor’ throughout 2017.

PS If I was cleverer I would have added some words to this snowy photo of the Belstone Tors – I’ve tried but failed – something to put on my ‘must learn how to’ list for the new year!

A spot of Dartmoor netwalking

A couple of weeks ago I indulged in a very pleasant day of what can only be described as ‘netwalking’. Some may look on it as a day off (surely not!) but actually it was a day walk with three friends, all of whom work in the outdoors on Dartmoor, nearly always with groups, and who felt like spending a day walking from Scorriton to Powdermills without that added responsibility. And for me it was the chance to go for a good walk across the South Moor without having to think about where to turn right, or left, or how to get the route directions down on paper!

We parked near the Tradesmans Arms and set off from Scorriton at about 10.15am, then dropped downhill to the pretty little hamlet of Michelcombe.

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From there we passed one of the lovely old signposts giving directions to the moor – there are so few of these left these days (hopefully someone will think about restoring them before they fall apart completely).

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We ascended towards the moor via the pretty little combe that lies between Great Combe and Michel Combe, emerging into the open and crossing Wheal Emma Leat, with stunning views to the southeast.

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We sheltered in some old tin workings on Holne Moor and grabbed a bite to eat before picking up the Sandy Way and heading east. Simon found a piece of brilliant yellow ‘brain fungus’…

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We trudged on into the middle of nowhere. Michael wanted to find a small building marked on the OS OL28 map, which turned out to be the ruins of a tinner’s hut near Aune Head… and where we found a lump of the curious substance known as star jelly!

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From there we headed north across Ter Hill, then descended steadily towards the River Swincombe with far-reaching views towards Great Mis Tor and Longaford Tor (more familiar ground for me).

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We crossed the Swincombe via the Fairy Bridge (complete with fairy – if you know where to look!).

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On we went to cross the West Dart below Moorlands Farm. The time was getting on now, and the late afternoon light getting stronger, giving us some fabulous views of Bellever Tor and of the stone-walled fields near Prince Hall.

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The final leg saw us crossing the rough ground of Muddilake in the dimpsey (I always lose the path when going from south to north) for our finish at Powdermills.

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A lovely route – a little over 11 miles – and a great day ‘off’ (for me at least – there – I said it!) in the company of three valued colleagues: John Diplock from Spirit of Adventure, Simon Dell of Moorland Guides, and DoE instructor Michael Owen. Thank you for letting me tag along!

A Dartmoor walk with a difference… on the Delicious Drake's Trail

I’ve been doing a lot of walking this month. A three-day then a two-day stint (Lynmouth to Widecombe completed so far) on the Two Moors Way/Devon Coast to Coast route; and last Sunday 12 miles on the South Moor from Powdermills to Duck’s Pool to our finish near Nun’s Cross. It’s a bit addictive – but what better way to explore this beautiful area during this stunning autumn?

And at the start of the month I took part in the Delicious Drake’s Trail event, when more than 250 people ran (a few, including me, walked!) from Tavistock to the Moorland Garden Hotel, enjoying samples of delicious local food and drink en route – and raising more than £3000 for the CHICKS charity, based at Brentor. We published a feature about this wonderfully organised initiative in our autumn (current) issue, and I wanted to experience it for myself. The day surpassed all my expectations.

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Pre-race treats were enjoyed at Tavistock Sports Centre, courtesy of Riverford Home Delivery, Midfields Granola, Trewithen Dairy and Plymouth Tea. A lovely run/walk along the canal took us to the Bedford Hotel and Buck’s Fizz and lemon drizzle cake: not bad for 9.45am!

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From there we trotted along to Whitchurch Down for more refreshment courtesy of the Royal Oak Meavy’s mobile ‘Moor Bars’. Next came the Whitchurch Inn, after which we picked up the Drake’s Trail multi-use route, from which we diverted for a mini cream tea at Drake’s Cafe at Grenofen. I should add (for those who are wondering) that the dressing-up theme for this year’s event was ‘Your favourite Olympic sporting hero’… (hence Scottish caber tossers below).

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On along the Drake’s Trail and over Gem Bridge, then up onto Roborough Down (beautiful in the autumn sunshine) for a pop-up cafe provided by Moor T @ Long Ash Garden Centre.

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From there we took a lovely route to the Garden House where we enjoyed both lavender biscuits and the wonderful herbaceous borders… then on to the Drake Manor Inn at Buckland Monachorum. The penultimate stop was for apple cake at Buckland Abbey, before we dropped down into Milton Coombe to find The Who’d Have Thought It (where several participants ‘cracked’ and downed a swift pint or two – see header photo!).

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The final pull was the toughest: uphill via fields and some pretty muddy ground  to the Moorland Garden Hotel, where a food festival was in full swing.

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Kate Treleaven is the inspiration behind DDT ‘where trail running and food festivals collide’. It’s a fantastic way for people to get out into a beautiful part of Devon, explore new paths, enjoy samples of excellent local food and drink and have fun – and raise money for a very worthy cause. Congratulations to everyone involved in putting on this year’s event, and to all venues and producers who took part. I walked 11 miles in the company of a very nice couple from West Somerset (he dressed as a member of the England women’s hockey team, naturally) and found some new linking paths which will help in future route planning.

I’m already looking forward to next year and planning what to wear… and in terms of Dartmoor Magazine blog posts about walking, normal service will be resumed next time!

Dartmoor and Exmoor celebrate the Two Moors Way!

On a beautiful sunny day last week representatives from Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks, Devon County Council, the Two Moors Way Association, the press and invited guests gathered at Simonsbath House Hotel on Exmoor to mark the 40th anniversary of the Two Moors Way, inaugurated on 29 May 1976 and linking Ivybridge on Dartmoor with Lynmouth on the north Exmoor coast, a distance of 102 miles. In 2005 a further 15 miles was added to the southern end to the coast at Wembury, giving a Devon coast to coast route of around 117 miles.

The celebratory cake (sadly the extension to Wembury on the south coast got left out!)

The celebratory cake (sadly the extension to Wembury on the south coast got left out!)

Over the last 18 months the Two Moors Way Association has been revived and has worked in partnership with both National Parks and Devon CC to reinvigorate the route. There have been path improvements, a new pocket guide, and a new website with accommodation listing has been launched (parts still under development). It should now be much easier for anyone wanting to tackle the whole walk to get all the information they need regarding how to do it (in one go? in sections? can my luggage be carried? where can I stay? what about public transport?) and so on. There are plans for business engagement workshops along the route in 2017 to encourage local businesses to ‘come on board’ too.

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Presentations were given by John Howell (chair Two Moors Way Association) on the history of the route, Sue Viccars (TMWA and author of the Cicerone guidebook to the route, who gave an illustrated whistle-stop tour across Devon) and Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager for Exmoor National Park. Afterwards all enjoyed a delicious cream tea and slice of cake, which was cut by the two National Park chairs: Andrea Davis (Exmoor) and Bill Hitchins) Dartmoor (photo courtesy Steve Guscott).

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A number of guests then accompanied Dan Barnett, Access & Recreation Manager ENPA, on a short walk along an improved section of the TMW along the beautiful Barle Valley to remains of Wheal Eliza, a mid-19th century copper mine.

Dan Barnett (ENPA), with Simon Dell of Dartmoor's Moorland Guides

Dan Barnett (ENPA), with Simon Dell of Dartmoor’s Moorland Guides

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The return to Simonsbath along the Barle Valley is one of the loveliest stretches on the whole coast-to-coast walk.

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There is still work to be done: a video is being made for the website, a newsletter is proposed, there are plans to revive the stamp and passport system which used to exist at certain places along the route, and produce a certificate for ‘completers’. For more information visit www.twomoorsway.org (still under development).

The photo below shows Bill Hitchins and Andrea Davis and the walkers on the Two Moors Way on the edge of Birchcleave Wood, Simonsbath (photo Steve Guscott).

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Dartmoor late summer ramblings

I’ve had some good excuses to go walking over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been making the most of some glorious late summer sunshine. It’s always good to get out on the moor when the latest issue has gone to print and there is a small ‘lull’ in magazine demands before the stock arrives and has to be distributed to our 65+ outlets across the moor (happening as I write).

I’m writing a walks leaflet for the Three Crowns Hotel (said to be haunted by the ghost of Royalist Sidney Godolphin, who died here of musket wounds in 1643 during the Civil War) in Chagford: five circular walks from the door of this historic building . I’ve been doing this in the late afternoon when the light is good for photos (Hamel Down from Nattadon Common above).

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I’ve been working out routes that take in the River Teign (easy and level), Nattadon (seen above from Padley Common) and Meldon (a little hillier and more taxing), and there’ll be a longer one that follow the Two Moors Way from Chagford Bridge to Teigncombe, then south to Yardworthy, and back over Meldon Hill.

I’ve also been working on next summer’s Walk & Eat route for the magazine. I try to spread these out across the moor, i.e. make sure that I give each corner of the moor fair coverage. So next summer the walk will be from South Brent: a circuit of Aish Ridge, Corringdon Ball, along the edge of Brent Fore Hill to Shipley Bridge, and back through the pretty woodlands of the Avon valley. The photos below shows Brent Hill, seen from Corringdon Ball, and a hut circle on top of the latter (the triangular stone a handy point of reference when trying to give clear directions!).

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It’s a beautiful walk. I did it earlier in the summer too, and it’s interesting to see how the colours of the landscape have changed over just a few weeks. It is very obviously ‘late’ summer here on the moor: the heather and gorse are in full bloom (see later photos), and on the South Brent walk the rowan trees were heavily laden with brilliant red-orange berries.

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The outward and return route both encounter pretty Lydia Bridge across the River Avon (Aune), and pass close to St Petroc’s church, dating back to Norman times but heavily ‘restored’ in 1870. The church has recently received nearly £200,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for repairs and lighting (more details in the winter issue of Dartmoor Magazine).

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Finally I went out earlier in the week to check up on the Highland cattle that can regularly be seen in the Shapley Common/Warren House/Challacombe area of the moor: looking particularly photogenic at the moment against a background of golden gorse and purple ling and bell heather!

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While talking about landscape colour I’m pleased to say that the autumn issue of Dartmoor Magazine is on its way to subscribers and is starting to appear in the shops. We are really pleased with this striking cover image by Guy Richardson (www.guyrichardson.com): the view towards Gutter and Hen tors, from Sheeps Tor on a brilliant November day. I hope you think so too!

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