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Snow ‘fun’ from Princetown, Dartmoor

.. continued from ‘Exploring the Tors and antiquities of Walkhampton Common’

With snow falling outside, we (Matt, Paul, Rich and Neil) gathered around a table in the warm Plume of Feathers pub in Princetown, stuffed from a hearty dinner and with Dartmoor Brewery ales in hand, to discuss the following day. The original plan, before snow was forecast, was to walk around Fenworthy forest and reservoir, bagging a good yield of tors in the process, however, with more snow forecast, we decided driving was not an option and planned an alternative, more local, route instead.

Whilst there had been a dusting of snow overnight, it was the vicious cold wind I most noticed in the morning as I crossed from the pub to the Fox Tor cafe for breakfast. It was even more noticeable as we climbed out of Princetown towards North Hessary Tor – it had started snowing again and the strong wind whipped the icy snow into our faces.

Matt sheltering by North Hessary Tor

A few of us bravely climbed to the trig point on top of the tor to experience the snow being driven horizontally into us by the bitingly cold strong winds. After taking a moment to shelter behind the rock, we continued, first to Herne Hole Tor and then to Rundlestone Tor, where again we sheltered as best we could.

Matt and Paul trying to find shelter on Rundlestone Tor

After passing nearby Hollow Tor (Rundlestone), which Paul and I previously concluded (on a much nicer day) is also Billys Tor, we dropped down to the road (passable by cars with caution) before joining the track which steady climbs up towards Great Mis Tor. As we neared Little Mis Tor, Dartmoor rewarded our determination, and the weather broke. The clouds, previously obscuring the surrounding hills and tors, disappeared and, as we munched on Matt’s hob nobs, we looked out across Merrivale and the Walkham valley (including Vixen and Pew tors).

Me and Neil by Little Mis Tor [photo by Moorlandwalker]

It was only a brief respite. By the time we had reached Great Mis Tor, the fierce wind had reappeared, this time joined by the ice snow! After a slightly worryingly moment  where we split up to explore the expansive tor and nearly failed to find each other again, we regrouped in the shelter of the range observation hut. Despite the increasingly foul conditions (this brief video gives a glimpse of the conditions), spirits were high and we covered up all exposed flesh and stepped back into the wind to head towards Clay Tor.

Great Mis Tor

Initially we followed a rough path over the snowy ground, but as we turned Northeast towards the river and Clay Tor the terrain under foot became much more difficult with snow covered grassy tussocks. There were a few small rock formations on the south bank of the River Walkham which could have been Clay Tor, but it quickly became obvious the tor was a more prominent rock formation on the north bank. Matt investigated crossing the river, but it seemed impassable – a tor for another day!

Clay Tor on the wrong side of Walkham River

The terrain got no better as we headed towards Black Dunghill. What had started as a slight discomfort in my achilles tendon worsened thanks to the lethal combination of grass tussocks and snow, and I was soon limping. I was also getting cold – my new ‘waterproof’ Sealskinz turned out to be neither waterproof or very warm and I started struggling to warm my hands. My spirits dropped further when, as we reached the road from Holming Beam, we discovered that Fenworthy, our original ‘fair weather’ plan, had received little snow over the last few days.

Looking across to Fenworthy – not covered in snow 

The final leg along the road to Princetown did little to improve my worsening injury. Despite ‘resting’ in the pub for the evening, it was still worryingly sore in the morning. I took the sensible decision and pull out of Sunday’s walk. Still I had plenty more fun on Dartmoor to come……

Neil, Rich, Paul and Matt setting off on Sunday

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