Dartmoor: Western Moors and Tors

Great Staple Tor

After successfully tackling Fur Tor and the wilder parts of Dartmoor the previous day, the plan for the Sunday was to explore the more popular Western moors and Tors (a route lifted almost entirely from Backpackingbongos). We were camping at Langstone Manor, a lovely quiet campsite (with it’s own bar serving pretty decent meals!) tucked on the edge of the moor, so, after consuming some bacon sandwiches, we left the campsite and began the gradual climb onto Whitchurch Common.

View all the photos (please excuse the smudge on the camera lens btw…)

Dartmoor: Western Moors and Tors

Date 24th April 2011
Length 11.2 miles
Time Taken 6 hours
Average Speed 1.4 mph
Max Height 1946 ft
Min Height 830 ft
Height Gain 2113 ft
Height Loss 1946 ft

The sun was shining, although it was slightly cloudier with a stronger wind blowing than the previous day. As we followed the track up the hill between the gorse, we finally encountered some Dartmoor ponies (and a newborn fowl) – they were fairly unbothered by our presence nor the dog (who thankfully was on her best behaviour) and continued munching at the grass. They all looked either very pregnant or very fat from gorging on the spring grass!

Dartmoor Ponies

We continued climbing the hill until we joined the path running along the top of the hill at a stream marked by one of the many old ancient crosses dotted across Dartmoor. The dog provided light entertainment as she jumped into the stream to “kill” the white water where the mini waterfalls were hitting the rocks – I have no idea where she got this habit, but she does the same to waves as they crash on the beach and hosepipes. Stupid dog!

Dartmoor Cross

We headed North, watching a kite flyer making the most of the brisker winds, across the fairly busy car park (disappointingly there was no icecream van) and began the ascent up Cox Tor. The Tor has a fairly flat grass covered top (strewn with rocks and boulders), which was the temporary home of another herd of ponies grazing and chilling in the sunshine. After a few photos by the trig point, we found some shelter from the wind to brew up some tea!

Me and dog by Cox Tor trig point

Compared to the remote wastes of Fur Tor, these Tors were practically heaving – there were plenty of hikers in a variety of practical, and in some case impractical, clothing and footwear enjoying the sunny weather. From Cox Tor we headed East to Great Staple Tor. The Tors of Dartmoor really highlight how desceptive height can be – from the foot of Cox Tor, the path between Cox Tor and Great Staple Tor seems almost flat, but from the top of Cox Tor it looks like a sharp drop down and a steep climb back up. In reality it was just a fairly gentle climb to the top of Great Staple Tor.

Kate (@DiveSciDiva) on Great Staple Tor

From Great Staple Tor we turned north and followed the well worn path, past Roos Tor, towards Langstone Moor and a stone circle, before dropping down into the valley carved out by the River Walkham (passing the remains of a settlement). At the river edge, and sheltered by the Tors around us, we found a lovely spot in the sunshine to have lunch. Despite all the busy Tors around us, it was tranqil and peaceful – it would make a great place to wild camp!

Lunch spot on River Walkham

Eventually we dragged ourselves away and made the climb up Great Miss Tor, where we clambered about exploring the various rock formations. From here, the original plan was to cross the road and head up Kings Tor before looping back to Merrivale (and the pub) – as Backpackingbongos mentions on his blog, he added this extension as he wanted to spent a bit longer on the moor, but as it was mid afternoon already, we decided to follow the track from Little Miss Tor down to the road, and then follow alongside it to the pub.

Great Miss Tor

We were quite lucky with the pub (The Dartmoor Inn) – they were officially closed, but were happy for us to order drinks as long as we stayed in the beer garden. I supped on my cider, enjoying the sunshine and good company. As tempting as it was to stay for the rest of the afternoon, we continued up the road to join the footpath heading around Vixen Tor (passing yet another herd of unbothered fat ponies). The tale of Vixen Tor is ready sad – it is probably one of the prettiest Tors encountered on this trip and a favourite of climbers, but the current owner greedily refuses access unless she is paid a ridiculous fee by the Dartmoor National Park Association (full details of this issue). As Backpackingbongos says, “hang your head in shame Mrs Alford” (I have just realised one of my walking companions shares her name – no relative I hope @DiveSciDiva)

Vixen Tor

Forbidden Vixen Tor

From Vixen Tor (#sadangryface) we climbed up to Heckwood Tor, followed by Pew Tor. When I win the lottery (albeit unlikely as I do not buy tickets), I want to buy Pewtor Cottage – isolated in moorland, with an awesome looking walled garden and Pew Tor for company, it is idilic! Although I didn’t get much of a chance to explore it, Pew Tor was my favourite – it almost felt like a ruined castle with lush grassy floors – I would love to spend a night there! From Pew Tor we dropped back down the hill, on the way distrubing a hare who just about escaped the jaws of the dog (thankfully limited by her lead), and followed the road back to the campsite.

Dartmoor…. I will be back! 🙂


4 Replies to “Dartmoor: Western Moors and Tors”

  1. I think that loads of people should visit Vixen Tor with a set of bolt cutters each to remove all that barbed wire. A big sign should then be erected saying, ‘walkers welcome’. Perhaps on a bank holiday so it gets loads of visitors…………..

  2. It was pretty heartbreaking seeing such a wonderful Tor locked away behind so much barbed wire. Thanks for a great route by the way – we all really enjoyed it!

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