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.

Around Cuckoo Rock

On Sunday we were check pointing our 10 Tors teams at Norsworthy Bridge at the eastern end of Burrator Reservoir. We had a bit of time on our hands so we went for a short walk up to Cuckoo Rock.

Cuckoo Rock
Cuckoo Rock is a large boulder below Combshead Tor – its name is shrouded in mystery – some say the top of the rock looks like a cuckoo. Maybe. The area around the rock however is very suitable for cuckoos with lots of ‘perching’ trees and a lot of meadow pipit habitat. I have seen and heard cuckoos here in the past (they will be back within a month!) Cuckoo Rock in the past was said to be a place where smuggled goods were hidden and today it is a popular place for bouldering – a form of technical low level climbing. See here for more stories about Cuckoo Rock.

Cuckoo Rock panorama
From Cuckoo Rock there are some great views of Dartmoor – looking west with Sheeps Tor poking out above the trees

Narrator Brook 1
Looking east up the Narrator Brook

Narrator Brook 2
A lovely wooded valley as it approaches Burrator Reservoir

Leather Tor
Great views of Leather Tor in the foreground the Sharpitor behind

Burrator Res
On the way back to Princetown we stopped so I could photograph Burrator Reservoir

The walk to Cuckoo Rock from Norsworthy Bridge is an easy one – it is around 2 miles out and back along an obviously defined path. There is a car park at Norsworthy Bridge and the track starts on the eastern edge.

Grey and cold but dry

The past weekend saw our penultimate training walk for this year’s 10 Tor’s Expedition. It was a cold and grey weekend but fortunately it stayed dry for both days. National Trust Wild Tribe had all our 35, 45 and 55 mile teams out with Torquay Boys Grammar School’s team – seven in total. Our role as moorland leaders for the groups is now to shadow and checkpoint them, i.e. we are not now walking directly with them we are keeping an eye on them to make sure all is well.

Hen Tor
My first task with Pete Davies was to check point Trig 492 in the south west of the moor on the edge of the National Trust’s Upper Plym Estate – a bleak, exposed and remote place. This involved a 1200 foot climb up from the Blackabrook across acres of tussocky Molinia grassland. We went via Little Trowlseworthy Tor pictured above with Hen Tor in the background. Luckily we weren’t there for long as all the groups were making good progress but we did have to bring down a team member who was unwell.

Pink granite
Here is a piece of ‘pink’ granite at Little Trowlesworthy Tor – rare and much sought over in the past  – the reason for the quarry there.

Wild campingWe wild camped near the O Brook not far from Combstone Tor – of course we missed the rugby ….. but we did survive the bitter night

Combestone TorCombestone Tor west of Venford Reservoir

Fox Tor Cafe

Next morning after seeing the teams off some of us had an early breakfast in the Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown – it was very busy at 8am – full of 10 Tors leaders and managers – there were 250 10 Tors teams out on the moor practicing over the weekend! (Those who were checking pointing first thing got a late breakfast once we had taken over their duties)

South Hessary 2
Heading up to South Hessary

South Hessary
where we met all our 45 and 55 mile teams.

Overall a very successful weekend – all the teams got some big miles into their legs and gained lots of confidence.


Mend Dartmoor

The British Mountaining Council (BMC) has launched a campaign to raise £100,000 to repair various footpaths in national parks around the country. One of the projects is on Dartmoor – the footpath and bridleway that runs from Princetown down to Ditsworthy Warren. The track is well used by walkers and mountain bikers. The section from Nunn’s Cross south is in a particularly poor condition.

Here is a video about the project that has been produced by the Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Nunns Cross FarmThis is part of the track in question at Nunn’s Cross Farm

Nunns Cross Farm 1

The track is widely used by people training for 10 Tors and I can certainly confirm that parts are very difficult to walk now and as a result most people walk off the track creating erosion in new areas.

I will support this as that will help make the DNPA’s money go further – here is the link if you want to help too.