Our 10 Tors Christmas Walk

Yesterday was our last 10 Tors  training walk of the year – not a long walk just around 4 hours which culminated in our traditional Christmas lunch in the car park below Great Staple Tor.

Earlier in the day we had been over to Fice’s Well to checkpoint our 45 and 55 mile teams. As the morning progressed the wind picked up and it was bitterly cold.

horse-shoe
A horse shoe on a granite wall on the way down from Great Mis Tor

great-mis-tor-posterI used this photo in my blog yesterday – I’ve had a play in Photoshop and I quite like this version too.

xmas-pastyIn total there were nearly 80 of us out yesterday and at the end of the walk we had warm pasties, warm mince pies and hot ‘mulled’ fruit juice. A feat of hard, work, timing and improvisation – thanks Karrie

xmas-treeWe even had a Christmas tree!

vixen-torLooking down from the car park is Vixen Tor – one of the very few on Dartmoor you can’t visit.

pew-torAnd looking across to the west is Pew Tor with a herd of galloway grazing the Common below

 

Mist and mizzle at the top of Dartmoor

Yesterday I was up on high Dartmoor as part of our 10 Tors training – we had around 60 young people and a dozen adult helpers. It was the kind of day that unless you had to go out onto the moors you probably wouldn’t have. The visibility was pretty poor, there was either constant mizzle  or wind driven rain. It was a day for navigating via a compass and not using landmarks. All in all a good day for practicing various 10 Tors skills and testing your clothing and equipment.

okehampton-common
On Okehampton Common looking into the Red-a-ven brook

okehampton-common-2

Between West Mill Tor and Rowtor (which were invisible in the mist) back down to Anthony Stile

dinger-tor-1
Up at Dinger Tor

dinger-tor-2
At Dinger Tor – wet, windy, cold and misty

lichens
A Cladonia lichen brightens up the day – close to High Willhays

pool-at-high-willhay
A pool close to High Willhays

ian-and-tony-at-high-willhay
Ian and Tony at High Willhays, the highest point on Dartmoor (and south England) at 621 metres.

high-willhay
Various teams of walkers pass through High Willhays

On the right hand side of this picture you can see a single individual on top of the Cairn – rather oddly and worryingly he appeared out of the mist wearing a pair of trainers and a non waterproof coat carrying a supermarket carrier bag and asked us which Tor he was at, stating that he didn’t have a map! We told him he was at High Willhays and he seemed very pleased to have found it. He then sat on the cairn for 30 minutes – he must have got soaked. We asked if he wanted help getting back but he said he knew the back and was fine ……. One walk away from disaster.

meldon
Back down at Meldon Reservoir (look how low the water level is) you can see the mist and rain on the high moor

meldon-dam
Looking down over the dam

routeHere’s the route I took yesterday starting at the car park at Meldon reservoir – it is around 10.5 miles in length and on a day with good visibility is a great high Dartmoor walk. If you do decide to do it  – please wear good walking boots, waterproof clothing and take a map and compass …….

A walk from Haytor

Whilst I like reading and writing about Dartmoor you can’t beat the experience of getting out into Dartmoor. Yesterday the annual 10 Tors cycle began again. We were out on the moor training the new prospective students how to read maps, navigate and walk on Dartmoor. We had six groups of students walking various routes from Haytor to Hound Tor and back.

route
This is the route I took – it is about 8km long and is a good introductory walk on Dartmoor – it does go up and down and requires walking boots, a compass, map and a coat but nevertheless is an achievable walk which visits a number of interesting places. It starts at the lower Haytor Car Park.

becca-brookThe Becca Brook below Holwell Tor with the recently installed new clapper bridge

greator-rocksGreator Rocks between Holwell Lawn and Houndtor Down

haytor-and-quarriesLooking back to Haytor with its quarries and Holwell Tor in the foreground

hound-torUp to Hound Tor – the Rowan or Mountain Ash trees were covered in their blood red berries

hound-tor-2The south west corner of Hound Tor

black-hillBack across the Becca Brook and up the slope to Black Hill with Haytor again in the background

black-hill-cairnThe Cairn on the summit of Black Hill with the Bovey Valley in the background.

tramwayPart of the ancient tramway on Haytor Down

haytor-quarryThe famous quarry to the northeast of Haytor itself

home-farm-cafeBack down to the car park for a cup of tea and a piece of flapjack with my old friends from Home Farm Cafe.

A very blustery day up on the moor yesterday but we missed out on the rain! I can recommend this walk if you want to recharge your batteries and burn a few calories. The area is rich in archaeology and moor itself is well managed by the Commoners and is  great for wildlife.

Perfect.

A walk to High Willhays

I went for a walk yesterday with a friend up to High Willhays – the highest point on Dartmoor. It was around a 7 mile walk and took 4 hours including a lunch stop and included a climb of about 340 metres.

High Willhays 12
We started at the car park by Meldon Reservoir and then walked along the southern boundary of the reservoir, up the West Okement River, through the ancient oak wood called Black-a-tor Copse, on to Sandy Ford, then up to Fordsland Ledge, up to High Willhays, on to Yes Tor and then back down to Meldon via Okehampton Common and Longstone Hill. It is one of my favourite walks on Dartmoor – here are a few photographs from the day.

High Willhays 1Melton Reservoir from the dam

High Willhays 2Down to the viaduct from the dam

High Willhays 3By the West Okement looking up to Black Tor

High Willhays 4Into Black-a-tor Copse one of three of Dartmoor’s high altitude oak woods (see here and here for more details).

High Willhays 5Emerging from the other side

High Willhays 6At Fordsland Ledge looking south along the West Okement River with Lint’s Tor on the left

High Willhays 7Approaching High Willhays – the little rock on the left with the cairn on it. High Willhays is something of an optical illusion – wherever  you stand and look at it on Dartmoor there always appears to be a tor which is higher than it! However it is the highest point at 621m.

High Willhays 8At the summit – with Yes Tor behind (looking taller)

High Willhays 9Up to Yes Tor (619m)

High Willhays 10At the trig point on Yes Tor looking back to High Willhays

High Willhays 11Back down to Meldon Reservoir with Sourton Tor above the end of the water

High Dartmoor at its best – highly recommended

 

Emsworthy’s bluebell lawns

The bluebells at Emsworthy are coming into full flower – it is an impressive and joyous sight.

Emsworthy bluebells 4
Emsworthy is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust – see here for location and details

Emsworthy bluebells 1
It is located west of Haytor and Saddle Tor on the road to Widecombe

Emsworthy bluebells 2
Look out for the orange barn – that is where you need to head

Emsworthy bluebells 3
The spectacle is all the more enhanced by the calling of the cuckoo – zoology and botany hail our spring

Wild Swimming Walks – Dartmoor and South Devon

A new book on wild swimming and walking on Dartmoor has just been published – Wild Swimming Walks Dartmoor and South Devon by Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury. It gives details of 28 lake, river and beach days out. It costs £14.99

I have done a bit of wild swimming but to be honest it is not really my thing however this little book is excellent – all the walks are between 4 and 7 miles in length and include a wild swim.

Wild Swimming Devon 1
I have been to most of the the places detailed in the book on Dartmoor as part of my 10 Tors training walk but this book gives everyone easy access to some of Dartmoor and south Devon’s special places.

Wild Swimming Devon 2
Walk number 12 is around the Plym Valley and includes the magical Shavercombe Valley and its little waterfall, you could follow the instructions for this walk to get to a lovely remote place and you could then treat the two swims / dips in this walk as optional or compulsory as is your want.

Wild Swimming Devon 3Another walk up the East Dart to Sandy Hole Pass and its waterfall.

I can really recommend this book either as a short walks guide or as a walk / swim guide – either way it takes you to some brilliant places. None of the walks are that long either and as they focus on rivers and lakes don’t involve lots of climbing.

I will certainly be using the book to explore some of the places I haven’t been to yet.

You can order the book from Amazon here.

From Scilly to Dartmoor – gigs to Tors

I’ve been really lucky!

I have been involved with two of the largest mass participation outdoor sporting events in the south west. Last week I competed in the Isles of Scilly World Gig Rowing Championships (see here, here and here) and today I’m off to the 2016 Ten Tors Challenge event.

I’m the Team Manager for the National Trust on Dartmoor (I’m now a volunteer but was previously the NT’s General Manager on the Moor). We have three teams – 35, 45 and 55 milers. We have been training for the last nine months with Torquay Boys Grammar School preparing 18 young people for the challenge. Yesterday teams of staff and volunteers from the NT and TBGS prepared the base camp (there was even a cuckoo urging everyone on). Today we have a day of briefing and preparation. The main event starts at 7am on Saturday morning.

Training has been tough this year – we have been out torrential amber warning rain and winds – see here and cold nights – see here. The teams are therefore ready to go and amazingly the weather forecast looks very good i.e. not raining and cold. Yippee.

TT pass
I collected my car pass from Okehampton Camp today after having collected the teams and volunteers ‘event’ hoodies.

Wild Tribe 55
Here is National Trust Wild Tribe 55 mile last year mid event with the Brigadier and a helicopter! How cool is that.

10 Tors 24-Jan 1
Sunset during a training walk – what a time to be on the moor

10 Tors is brilliant for young people – it teaches them two sets of life skills:-

  1. A love of the outdoors, nature and landscapes – it gets them away from their ‘screens’ for while.
  2. It also gives them fitness, grit and determination, teaches them teamwork and encourages leadership and achievement.

Just what the National Trust is trying to encourage by its support of the Wild Network.

Thank you Torquay Boys Grammar School (and Dr. Roy Colvile and Tony Owen in particular) without you the National Trust couldn’t do 10 Tors.