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Exploring West of Princetown and Foggintor wild camp [Dartmoor Trip – Part 3]

It has might have been four months since the last installment of my trip report of a week on Dartmoor (and six months since the actual trip!), but some of the excitement, joy and pleasure from the trip still remains despite the subsequent months of ‘indoor time’ (albeit topped up with two subsequent weekends on Dartmoor). In the last part, Paul and I had returned to the Fox Tor café for refreshments after an enjoyable wild camp on Lower Hartor Tor…

Having taken a big dent out of the Tors (and hills, dull or otherwise) to the East and South of Princetown, the plan for our next adventure was to ‘bag’ the Tors to the West of Princetown in the North part of Walkhampton Common. Leaving base camp (the Fox Tor Café), we cut through the national park carpark, past the Dartmoor Brewery and started making the ascent up North Hessary Tor. Despite being September, the weather was once again fantastic, and the sunny hazy views across the moor started opening out in front of us as we climbed up towards the TV mast next to the Tor. On the approach we passed through a large herd of ponies, perhaps gathering in preparation for the annual Dartmoor Drift occurring later in the month where the ponies are herded together for sale or re-release back on the moor. At the Tor, I climbed up to the trig point on top to admire the view (only slightly marred by the mast’s support cables).

Trig point on North Hessary Tor

From North Hessary Tor, there were several Tors in quick succession – first a quick diversion over the nearby stile to little Herne Hole Tor, then Rundlestone Tor, then across to Hollow Tor. At Hollow Tor, my favourite of the three, we got a good view across to King’s Tor, our destination later in the afternoon, as well as across to familiar friends Great / Little Mis Tors, and Lower / Middle / Great Staple Tors.

Hollow Tor

Our next objective was to try and resolve a bit of Tor controversy (surprisingly common in the world of Tor bagging!) by finding Billys Tor – this Tor is mentioned in various sources as being on the hillside below Hollow Tor, although Ken (author of our bible ‘Dartmoor Tors & Rocks’) suggests it is just another name for Hollow Tor. Armed with a GPS, Paul and I wandered the hillside trying to find signs of a Tor among the clitter and former quarry works. Whilst Paul was standing on a possible candidate (no more than a rock, but as that counts as a Tor elsewhere you can never be sure!) he was accosted by a quite anxious cow (demon) so we made a hasty retreat to watch her re-join her calf we had not seen above us. As we continued towards the remains of Foggintor Quarry we made the executive decision to accept Ken’s view on Billys Tor and remove it from the Social Hiking list.

Foggintor Quarry (in Foggin Tor)

Foggintor Quarry is stunning. The quarry is actually beneath what was Foggin Tor, although only a few small outcrops remain above. At the stage in our walk we were just popping in to reccy it, as Paul had pick it out as a candidate for tonight’s wild camp and swim. Once you have clambered into the quarry, there are several flat areas suitable for camping (albeit with the tell-tale signs of being a popular spot with bits of rubbish and scorch marks on the grass L) and the quarry water looked very welcoming. I was particularly taken by a bivvy sized slice of flat grass just above the water (from where the photo above was taken).  Before we could settle however we had the small matter of a few more Tors to visit.

Paul checking out his camping spot in Foggintor Quarry

First up was Swell Tor, another former quarry with only partial bits of Tor left, and then we climbed up to Kings Tor. Kings Tor has been a prominent sight on many of my walks on Dartmoor, but this was the first time I had visited. There are lovely views down to the antiquities of Merrivale and across to the Staples, Misses and Roo Tors, and on the other side over Vixen Tor across to Pew Tor (still my favourite!). From Kings Tor we crossed the former railway to Little Kings Tor.

Kings Tor down to Little King’s Tor with Pew Tor in the distance

At this point, Paul began to struggle – the unexpected heat and humidity had led to his back becoming badly chaffed. For a bit of respite, we abandoned our rucksacks at Little Kings Tor whilst we headed further downhill to find Hucken Tor. With ferns and dense undergrowth, we struggled at first to find the main outcrop, but Paul, GPS in hand, eventually found something to sate us. Subsequently, Paul has revisited the Tor during winter and found more impressive outcrops, so once again this will be a Tor to revisit in the future (perhaps as part of a wander in the Walkham Valley with a bonus visit to Pew!)

Hucken Tor looking across to Vixen Tor

We returned to Kings Tor (and our packs), then followed the old quarry railway around Kings Tor and back to Foggintor Quarry. One of the reasons Paul had suggested this spot was because of the opportunity for a wild swim. With his injuries (or at least that is what he said!), Paul decided to give it a miss and supervised from the bank as I plucked up the courage to gentle sink into the water. Compared to the freezing waters of the River Dart the previous day, the quarry was comparatively warm from a day of sunshine. I floated about a bit attempting to take a ‘selfie’ before having a little swim to wash away the ‘hiking grim’ from the day.

Having a bath in Foggintor Quarry

Feeling suitable invigorated, I re-joined Paul to cook dinner – I had opted for a tin of curry, boil in the bag rice and a bottle of Dartmoor ale, whilst Paul went for a freeze dried meal.  Unfortunately Paul’s meal turned out to be off and inedible, and the only rations left was a fairly low calorie mug pasta. Whilst I had a lovely night in my bivvy looking out across the lake, Paul suffered from the lack of energy, the nauseous after taste of the bad food, and his back and slept little. In the morning we decided to abandon the rest of the planned route and returned to Princetown via the direct old railway line. Concern for Paul came above any disappointment for missing out a few Tors – they will be there for another time!

These Tors can wait!

Read Paul’s write up of the trip at: http://www.moorlandwalks.co.uk/2014/10/wild-camp-at-foggintor-quarry.html

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