Route planning for a trip to Dartmoor this weekend
As a kid I used to attend an annual cadet camp in Devon as a cadet leader (the main influence on my present day outdoor interests). The aim of the week was to get the younger kids through part of their Duke of Edinburgh, so there were class room based map exercises, an accompanied hike and camp on Exmoor, a night military navigation exercise (the highlight – think flares, finding contacts on dunes and ex-army personnel ‘hunting’ you!) and the main DofE hike and camp (usually along the coast). During the main walk the cadet leaders, who already had their DofE awards, had to be kept busy, so we usually ended up on Dartmoor. I have fond memories of bogs, magnetic rocks upsetting the compasses and getting lost in the fog (I knew where we were but no one listened!) – all these memories came flooding back yesterday after spending a few happy hours in the local pub with my Dartmoor OS map (OL28) planning some routes for this weekend.
The trip to Dartmoor was inspired after reading the walk write ups from BackpackingBongos blog after his recent trip – I have not been camping this year and really fancied a few days on the moor. I initially invited a friend, who lives in Bristol, to join me, but thanks to a Facebook post, there is now a total of six of us. As I am yet to quite have the kit together for wild camping, we are staying at the Langstone Manor Caravan and Camping park right on the edge of the moor in Moortown near Tavistock.
Day 1 – Fur Tor
After a chat with @groovy_nut on Twitter, I really wanted to visit Fur Tor – apparently the remotest tor on Dartmoor standing at 1776ft.
Fur Tor is one of the most remote places in North Dartmoor. It is perhaps the grandest of Dartmoor tors as it looks down from its height onto the Amicombe stream and the moor beyond. The views over North Dartmoor are absolutely fantastic. Nowhere else in Dartmoor do you get such an impressive feel of majesty and isolation. Fur Tor (or Vwr – the great tor, or Feor – the far distant tor) is not an easy place to get to. It is placed in the centremost part of the northern moor and is largely surrounded by difficult terrain, especially the peat hags around South Tavy head.
After doing a bit of searching on the web and chatting to former local @DanSantillo on Twitter, I ended up with three possible routes to Fur Tor. Dan’s route is an epic 17 mile route starting near Lydford (view route on OS map). The route follows the footpath from Lydford to Bleak House, then to Green Tor, then taking a compass bearing and heading across the moor to Fur Tor. The return route is via Great Kneeset, Lints Tor, Dinger Tor, High Willhays and Yes Tor, before returning back to Lydford. I like Dan’s route, but it is probably too long for this trip (especially with another walk the following day), and I have been warned away from High Willhays.
Another suggested route is from go4awalk.com (view route on OS map). This one starts at Linehead car park and follows the River Tavy to Sandy Ford, from there heading East to Fur Tor. The return route is South to Lynch Tor and then following a footpath back to the car park. On the map, the return route looks boggy and the last few miles are through farmland, so it is probably not ideal.
The final route is taken from Dartmoor Walks (view route on OS map). This starts at Postbridge, and approaches Fur Tor from the East via Broad Down and Cut Hill. For the return route, I have taken it South to Rough Tor (hopefully skirting the bogs) and then back to Postbridge (again avoiding the bogs).
Looking at all three routes, I think the best plan is combining the best bits of Dan’s route with the part of the go4awalk route which goes along the River Tavy.
The route starts at Lane End car park, and follows the River Tavy before cutting East across to Fur Tor. From here it follows part of Dan’s route to Little Kneeset, Great Kneeset and Lints Tor, but then cutting across to Kitty Tor before heading South to Green Tor and Bleak House. Connecting the route together takes in Chat Tor, Sharp Tor, Hare Tor and Ger Tor.
Day 2 – Western Moors and Tors of Dartmoor
As the camp site is just off one of the routes Backpackingbongos did, it makes for a perfect second day route to follow in his footsteps – it also has the added bonus of having a pub towards the end.
The route goes from the camp site to Feather Tor, then North to Cox Tor, Staple Tor, and past Roos Tor. After crossing the River Walkham (hopefully it will be dry enough to cross easily), the route climbs to Great Mis Tor, then heads South, past Little Mis Tor, and crossing the road to King’s Tor. After a brief (?) stop in the pub in Merrivale, the route returns to the campsite skirting around Vixen Tor (angry-face) and via Pew Tor.
It should be an enjoyable trip! I am not sure what the weather will be like though (although part of me wants to be able to test out my new North Face Apex Bionic Soft Shell jacket!) Both walks (on the Saturday and Sunday) will be on Social Hiking live (although maybe not many photos until I get back, as my phone has stopped taking half-decent photos!)