The Dartmoor Perambulation 2016
Over the last weekend in June we teamed up with Spirit of Adventure at Powdermills to run the Dartmoor Perambulation: a tough walk of more than fifty miles following the boundary of the historic Royal Forest boundary, said to have been defined by 12 knights sent to ride its length by King Henry III in 1240. Although several variations to the route have been recorded over succeeding generations – and even if you don’t visit every point recorded on that first Perambulation – walking that distance through the wilds of the moor is a real treat (especially when you are dropped off each morning/picked up each evening and taken back to the Powdermills bunkhouse for food, drink and a good night’s sleep!).
The following photos record some of the route (the afternoon of Day Two saw low visibility, high winds and driving rain on the long trudge north from Erme Pits to Princetown via Plym Ford and Nun’s Cross, so no photos there).
We were dropped off on the military road near Cullever Steps before 8am, from where we crossed the Taw and started the ascent of Cosdon Beacon (Hogam be Cossdonne) from where the knights are said to have started their clockwise ride.
We headed towards Watern Tor (opening photo), one of my favourites, and originally recorded as the Thirlstane.
The Long Stone (Langestone) on Shovel Down marks the Forest’s boundary with Chagford and Gidleigh (near Thornworthy Tor, where we stopped for lunch).
By Fernworthy Forest (the 1240 route passes through what is now Fernworthy reservoir) we paused to look at the Heath Stone (uncertain as a boundary marker).
The route crosses Chagford Common and then the B3212 at King’s Oven (Furnum Regis). We trudged on through Soussons, then along the old track leading to the stepping stones crossing the brook at the ancient tenement of Pizwell.
The sun came out and we ended our day near Bellever Forest in beautiful conditions. Day One: just under 17 miles and I can’t remember how many hours of walking but all 13 (plus one leader) survived unscathed!
Day Two dawned grey and damp with the promise of rain late morning and for the rest of the day. First stop after Bellever and Riddon Ridge was Dartmeet.
Beyond Hexworthy we followed the boundary up the O Brook for a while then headed for the top of Ryder’s Hill (Battyshull) under increasingly lowering skies.
We crossed the Avon (Aune) via the Huntingdon clapper bridge then headed off for Eastern White Barrow (Ester Whyteburghe), the most southerly point on the Perambulation where you are allowed to turn round and head for Redlake (Redelake), Eylesbarrow (Elysburghe), Nun’s/Siward’s Cross (Crucem Sywardi) and home! Day Two: 21 miles, 13 walkers and 1 leader, all unscathed.
Next day started off dull (I can always remember the name of Mis Tor/Mystor since I have never been there in anything other then MISerable conditions). By the time we reached White Barrow (Mewyburghe) and headed towards Lynch Tor things were really picking up.
We crossed the Amicombe Brook and Amicombe Hill – rough ground, much of it thick with cotton grass – and finally reached Stenga Tor (la Westolle) above the West Okement river which we crossed at Sandy Ford, before the long climb up to Fordsland Ledge, then High Willhays.
And finally – Yes Tor (Ernestorre)!
Day Three: 15.25 miles, 7 walkers, 1 guide (the other walkers dropped out of doing the whole route due to work commitments).
A fantastic three days and congratulations to all those who took part, and especially the ‘completers’ – and thanks to John Diplock of Spirit of Adventure www.spirit-of-adventure.co.uk and our guide Peter Challis. We’ll be running the Perambulation again in 2018 and will be producing a checklist of all known points around the boundary that we can tick off as we go. Nearer the time keep an eye out for more information in Dartmoor Magazine!
PS Thanks to Deborah Martin for her article on the Perambulation in DM105, from where I gleaned the original names of the places mentioned. There’s also a new book out about the Perambulation which will be reviewed in DM124, autumn 2016.