Shilstone and the tors of North Teign River valley, Dartmoor
It is always nice to get a tor ‘bagged’ (the act of registering your visit to a tor on Social Hiking) on a walk before you have even had a chance to get out of breath. The tor in question, Shilstone Tor, could probably be classified as a ‘hillplodder tor’ (in other words, you could probably ‘bag it’ within the site’s margin of error without even getting out of the car) and it was immediately above the small layby Paul and I parked in ready to begin the day’s walk.
Paul on Shilstone Tor
For my first official hike as a Dartmoor resident (well almost – strictly speaking the house is just outside the park!), Paul had planned a jaunt to try and visit a few tors and rocks in The North Teign river valley before returning over the moorland of Buttern Hill. After Shilstone Tor, our next target was Gidleigh Tor, but rather than taking the direct route, Paul wanted to investigate the village of Wonson to see if the OS map marked pub still existed. I liked this thinking.
Not only does the pub, The Northmore Arms, exist, but there was a surprise to be found in the car-park – the slightly rusty remains of an artillery unit nestled in the overgrown hedge. It was too early for the pub to be open to go in and discover the story behind how the pub became weaponised so we retraced our steps and continued towards Gidleigh.
Artillery at The Northmore Arms
On route to Gidleigh followed The Mariners Way, a route created by sailors travelling between the ports of Bideford and Dartmoor, which on this leg followed some lovely and tranquil ancient lanes through the countryside. To find out more about the way, and to listen to the entertaining ‘We’re on the Mariner’s Way’ (which auto-plays), performed by ‘Mariners Away’, visit http://www.marinersaway.org.uk/html/mariners_way.html
Gidleigh Tor is strictly speaking on private land (managed forest owned by the nearby Gidleigh Hotel), however we were warmly greeted by forestry staff working in the area to clear diseased trees, so it seems hikers are welcomed. We took a break on the Tor enjoying the view across to Kestor and beyond. I was quite intrigued by the ruins of a small structure nearby which seems to be marked on the map but not named.
We returned to Gidleigh and set off down the road towards Murchington – the short cut via the exclusive Gidleigh Hotel clearly marked for guests only. We were glad we resisted temptation as we discovered, just where the rivers crosses the Blackaton Brook, a small unnamed tor nestling in the hedge. We turned off the road and onto an ancient lane which then dropped down a delightful moss-covered trench to the river.
Moss covered trench dropping down to North Teigh
Across the river were some large, irregular, slippery, and ‘gappy’ stepping stones. Benefiting from having long legs, I decided to risk a soaking and crossed via the stones – barely making it to the other side. Paul, seeing how difficult it was (and being ‘less lanky’), took the more sensible option of wading across alongside the stones.
Paul wading across North Teign
At Leigh Bridge, the South Teign and the North Teign combine forming the River Teign and just above this point sits Puggiestone… on which someone has built a house… a house for sale. Browsing through the sales brochure it sounded like my perfect house: plenty of bedrooms, an office space, good swimming in the river below, built on a notable rock… perhaps a little out of my price range at ‘offers in excess of £2m’ (the house seems to have been sold a few days later). Loitering by the gate is sufficient to trigger the ‘bag’ on Social Hiking – as close as we are going to get 🙁
As close as we are going to get to Puggiestone
Our disappointment was increased by confirming that nearby Coombe Tor is also out of reach – requiring friendship with the farm below it to obtain access. I also failed to see the restored cross marked on the map (although Legendary Dartmoor explains that it is sadly no longer there). Spirits were briefly lifted however by the discovery of a fairly decent sized unnamed Tor just off the roadside near Leigh Bridge. We really need to work out some classification rules on what is and is not a Tor!
Unnamed tor near Leigh Bridge
From the bridge we followed yet more lovely ancient lanes up past Teigncombe and onto Chagford Common. Our target was Little Kes Tor – a new Tor for Paul, which I visited with Colin (@colinastbury) earlier in the year (blog post pending!). Now back on the higher moor, we savored the views whilst devouring some tasty cake provided by Sarah (@pascallsarah).
Little Kes Tor looking towards Kestor
We dropped down to the road to investigate Round Pound before heading around Batworthy via Batworthy Corner. In ‘The Field Archaeology of Dartmoor’, I read about how some farms were on land ‘encroached’ (i.e. stolen) from the moor, and I wondered whether this was the case for Batworthy and how much work it must have taken to create green fields from moorland. After crossing the Teign-e-ver Clapper Bridge, we set off to find the Tolmen Stone.
Tolmen Stone, North Teign
There are many rites, ceremonies and faith cures associated with Tolmen Stone, a natural feature caused by small stones whirling around in the current. I can testify that sliding through the hole and standing on the ledge below does not cure Multiple Sclerosis, but I am now apparently free of rheumatism if the legends are to be believed! Crossing the leat, and taking on the horned demon (cow), we diverted to Scorhill Circle before following the leat to Scorhill Tor.
Scorhill Stone Circle
As we climbed up Buttern Hill (Buttern Tor), we watched a group of DofE students hesitate indecisively as they worked out which of the marshes of Gidleigh Common they wanted to get stuck in – I am sure they chose wisely! Keeping to the right of Whitemoor Marsh and to the left of the hut circles at Buttern we dropped down to the road and returned to the car. Before returning home for a quick turnaround from day pack to overnight pack, we decided to pop into The Northmore Arms, unfortunately discovering it was closed. Next time. Today’s walk has been as wonderful as it was varied – lush river valleys, ancient lanes trod by sailors through the ages, and beautiful desolate moorland.
Once re-packed I headed out for a wild camp on Scarey Tor, a swim below the Cullever Steps, and a foggy wander over Belstone Common.
Swimming in Okement, below Culliver Steps