After abandoning our exploration to the west of Princetown, Paul and I returned to main base camp (his parent’s house just off Dartmoor). We had always planned to pop in so I could do my tri-weekly injection (kindly being kept at room temperature in the house), but Paul was clearly unwell and he made the hard, but sensible, decision to call it a day and rest. My heart went out for Paul – his joy and love of Dartmoor is infectious, and the reason so many of us have re-discovered the moor, and he was clearly disappointed to lose time amongst his beloved tors. As my bivvy dried in the sunshine, he talked me through the route he had planned for the day, the horseshoe around Taw March, and I bid him farewell and set off to Belstone.
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…
I sat on a bench outside the Fox Tor Café enjoying the last of my coffee in the morning sunshine. Breakfast had been eaten and it was almost time to set off with Paul (@paulgbuck) on a ‘bagging’ odyssey. The planned route was my first concoction since I decided to copy Paul and visit (or ‘bag’) every single Tor and notable rock (and a few hills) in Dartmoor National Park – 425 at the last count. I had taken my OS map, drawn on (in pencil) each one to the east and south of Princetown, then played join the dots – the result was a 20 mile route with 19 of them to ‘bag’ (as an aside, Paul has written a brilliant article for Active Dartmoor on The Art of Tor Bagging)
It turns out that a lifetime of watching horror films does not mentally equip you for being alone in a bivvy (the hoop is no consolation) within the fog shrouded earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort. As I lay unable to sleep in the moonlit stillness, my mind drifted to thoughts of long dead warriors rising from the damp ground to extract their revenge on the person rudely sleeping on their graves! Not that I know anything about Cranbrook Castle, let alone what is buried underneath the ferns – the internet acknowledges its existence but that’s about it, but it was not history that brought me to this spooky place. It met an exacting set of criteria for my first wild camp of my week on Dartmoor: it is the nearest bit of Dartmoor to me where you can legally camp (the fact it is a short walk from a pub and a peak you can ‘bag’ on Social Hiking was just a bonus!).
Pew Tor is just south west of Merrivale on the western edge of Dartmoor National Park. I first visited it in 2011 at the end of a walk around some of the Western Tors (a route borrowed almost entirely from Backpackingbongos) and it was my favourite Tor of the day, with fantastic views south down the valley to Yelverton and Plymouth, east to Tavistock and beyond, and north across to the higher Great Staple Tor and Great Mis Tor. In my post from the walk, I describe Pew Tor as “like a ruined castle with lush grassy floors” and suggested it would make a great place to camp. As it happens Paul, who had joined myself and friends Neil and Kate for a weekend on Dartmoor, agreed and it was to be our ‘hotel’ for a night.
“How about another trip to Dartmoor?” suggested Neil, one of my best friends, during a rare (not even annual) phone call.
Dartmoor has always had a permanent grip on my soul. Every summer when I was a kid, my family and I would head down to Devon for our annual holiday – staying with my grandparents who lived on the edge of Plymouth Hoe. I do not remember many specific trips to Dartmoor exactly, although I am sure there were many, but the brooding mass of moors were ever-present looking down over Plymouth and the surrounding countryside.
Despite being only a short break, my recent family trip to Devon and Cornwall was certainly adventure packed. Although we were only away for 6 days, we managed to fit in: crabbing in Looe, watching stormy seas in Polperro, a visit to Plymouth Hoe, exploring rock pools on Seaton beach, walks, swimming and a wild camp on Dartmoor, body boarding in Salcombe and a visit to the largest waterfall in England. Here is a quick write up of some of the things we got up to.
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.
We left Bristol early on Saturday morning (fuelled by bacon sandwiches) to head down the M5 and A30 to Dartmoor in a convoy of three cars (6 people, 1 big dog and lots of car camping kit). During breakfast, I had been updated by @DanSantillo that the hills were still shrowded in mist, and I was a little nervous as the haze covered countryside flew past. Fortunately though, by the time we arrived at the tucked away Lane End carpark, the sun had done it’s job of burning away the mist leaving mostly blue skies and glorious sunshine.
Continue reading “Dartmoor – Fur Tor”
As a kid I used to attend an annual cadet camp in Devon as a cadet leader (the main influence on my present day outdoor interests). The aim of the week was to get the younger kids through part of their Duke of Edinburgh, so there were class room based map exercises, an accompanied hike and camp on Exmoor, a night military navigation exercise (the highlight – think flares, finding contacts on dunes and ex-army personnel ‘hunting’ you!) and the main DofE hike and camp (usually along the coast). During the main walk the cadet leaders, who already had their DofE awards, had to be kept busy, so we usually ended up on Dartmoor. I have fond memories of bogs, magnetic rocks upsetting the compasses and getting lost in the fog (I knew where we were but no one listened!) – all these memories came flooding back yesterday after spending a few happy hours in the local pub with my Dartmoor OS map (OL28) planning some routes for this weekend.