Feeling suitable reinvigorated from the cider and scampi at the aptly named The Tors pub after my hellish descent to Ivy Tor (part 4), I retreated to Fox Tor Café in Princetown to plan my next move (and charge my phone!). I wanted a pub dinner for my last night on the moor, and the Dartmoor Inn in Merrivale seemed an obvious choice. Previously, the inn’s owners have been happy for customers to leave cars in their car park overnight and I quite fancied a night on Great Mis Tor, which towers over the pub. As I had a few hours to kill, I would also have time to finally track down the illusive Prowtytown Rocks, accessible from a car park just down the road from the pub. First though, I had more immediate concerns… I stank. It is perhaps testament to the quality and professionalism of the staff at the Fox Tor Café that no one had mentioned it, but I was definitely omitting an odour. Before dinner at the pub, I needed a bath.
I headed down the Tavistock road and parked up at the top of the track to Foggintor Quarry. I was conscious that, as the quarry is a mobile signal black spot and I was on my own, there was a potential health risk of having a bath in the quarry (and my mum does worry so!). To mitigate some of the risk, as I retraced our steps from a few days before, I liaised with Paul (who was feeling slightly better after a few days rest) so he knew what I was doing and I arranged to check back in with him when I was out of the quarry safe and sound. At the quarry, I waited for a group of young people to leave before (carefully) entering my bath and getting clean. Perhaps clean is not the right word – I had forgotten to bring my eco-friendly soap (minty as it doubles up as toothpaste!) and I am not sure how clean you can get in a large still pond, but I certainly came out feeling fresher! As I left the quarry, I let Paul know I was safe and sound before returning to the car.
Having a bath in Foggerton Quarry – taken 2 days before (photo by Paul Buck)
Prowtytown Rocks has proven to be very illusive. It should be on Whitchurch Common (allegedly – part of me was starting to think it does not exist and is just Ken’s little joke), the bit of Dartmoor I have walked numerous times visiting Pew Tor, which is my favourite tor. Previously in the week I had even made the effort to try and find it, but with no luck. The photo in Ken’s book suggests an obvious outcrop, but I found nothing but a few rocks in the alleged location. I set off from the car park beneath Cox Tor – GPS and Ken’s book in hand to find it. In my defense, the location on Social Hiking was out and, unless you are following the fence line along the common, Prowtytown Rocks is barely noticeable. Only when you are standing on top of it (or underneath it) can you see it is a more significant outcrop.
Pesky Prowtytown Rocks
If you are ever on Dartmoor, I would recommend the Dartmoor Inn in Merrivale. The friendly owner was in no rush to take my food order, which suited me just fine as I supped my beer listening to talk of unsavory characters seen in the area earlier in the day. There was a meeting of Dartmoor Pony owners to discuss the upcoming Dartmoor Pony Drift, and I people watched as they greeted each other, before chatting to a couple on the next door table who come to Dartmoor every year for their holiday. This was when things started to go awry – my plan was to get to the top of Great Mis Tor before it got dark, but already the light was fading. The final nail in the coffin was the pint waiting for me when I returned from grabbing the Mountain Warehouse dog bowl I was donating to the couple’s dog, and it was almost dark when I finally left the pub.
Rather than sensibly following the road to the easy to follow track up the hill, I diverted off track onto rough terrain to visit Over Tor and Church Rock. Thankfully the moon was full and bright, but it was still not perhaps the best route after a few pints in the dark – even less so when I realised my GPS was not tracking, so I would have to revisit them in the morning anyway! I made it onto the track and slogged up the hill to Great Mis Tor. In the dark, I had no chance of finding my intended spot – a shelf on one of the outcrops I remembered from a previous trip, so instead I climbed up the main outcrop and found a ‘person-sized’ slither of grass for my bivvy.
Bivvy spot on Great Mis Tor (taken the following morning)
Within minutes of arriving, the bivvy was up and I was sitting on a nearby outcrop with a bottle of Dartmoor Ale. I could not have asked for a better final night – the bright full moon shone off the rocks around me as bats flapped over my head. It was utterly stunning and blissful, and I went to bed completely content.
In the morning, Dartmoor gave me the parting gift of a fantastic sunrise, watched from the comfort of my sleeping bag.
Sunrise from bivvy on Great Mis Tor
I packed up camp, made my way past the other major outcrops that make up this fantastic tor, and started making my way through the hillside clitter heading down to River Walkham. I watched a couple of young foxes playing hide and seek amongst the rocks. Perhaps not playing – a few minutes later I heard the sound of a hunting horn from beyond the hill. I crossed the river and headed back uphill to try and find Little Roos Tor. It was hard to tell which of the multitude of small outcrops would be classed as the most prominent, so I sat on the most likely candidate to catch my breath before resuming up the hill to Roos Tor.
The range flag was flying from Roos Tor, which is a tor I have often considered for a wild camp – perhaps looking out on potential military pyrotechnics in the range below. From the tor, I could see the hunt making its way over the neighbouring hillside (away from the foxes seen earlier). I wondered idly whether it was to herd livestock off the range in case they were used for target practice! From Roo Tor, I made my way to Great Staple Tor, then dropped down past Middle Staple Tor and Little Staple Tor, to follow the road back to the pub.
Pew Tor from Little Staple Tor
I was not finished yet though – now my GPS was working again I retraced my steps from the night before to Over Tor (and Church Rock). I sat on the tor in the sunshine looking at the tors around me – Kings Tor, Vixen Tor, Pew Tor, the Staple Tors and the Miss Tors behind me, and felt sad to be leaving. I had nothing to complain about – over the last week I had walked over 60 miles, visited 67 tors and rocks, had 5 wild camps and 3 wild swims, but Dartmoor… may our time apart be brief.
Over Tor, with Kings Tor in the distance