Wild daffodils and an access problem

Last Sunday I went for a walk to Cod Wood to see how the wild daffodils were doing. I parked up at Steps Bridge and took the permissive path along the river to Cod Wood.

Wild daffodils - Cod Wood 1
A lot of daffodils are now in flower – I reckon next weekend will see the peak

Wild daffodils - Cod Wood 2
Quite a few plants not yet in flower

Wild daffodils - Cod Wood 3
 Through to the canopy

Cod Wood 1
There was a strange mist in the conifer blocks

Cod Wood - access
It might have been the last time I do this walk as this sign was on the gate by the Steps Bridge car park

This is not the first time that this situation has arisen. The Dartmoor National Park Authority pay the landowner to allow access through the woods so that the National Trust and Woodland Trust woods beyond can be reached. This sign appears to suggest that no agreement for the future has yet been reached and therefore the gate will be locked on April Fool’s Day.

In the times of austerity the DNPA has a lot less money than it used to have and therefore reaching agreements like this and being able to pay for them is much more difficult.

UPDATE: I have now been contacted by three reader of my blog who have told me that the reason that the access agreement is ending is not as a result of financial wranglings between the owner and the DNPA. Apparently the owner is fed up with anti-social behaviour by a minority of people using the permissive path (e.g. dog fouling, littering, abusive comments etc). As a result he has had enough and who can blame him.

I wonder whether there might be another solution.

Access map

The area hatched in red is the piece of woodland where the access agreement is in place – beyond the red area the woods are owned by the National Trust. The National Trust also owns the woodland to the north of the River Teign – marked as ‘Meadhaydown  Wood (Nature Reserve)’ and known as Dunsford Nature Reserve.  It leases this to the Devon Wildlife Trust. There is a well used track through the nature reserve by the river. Perhaps a long term solution might be to build a footbridge across the Teign from the Dunsford Nature Reserve into Cod Wood? It would be expensive in the short term but would solve the access problem once and for all. There of course might be very good reasons why this is a bad idea (e.g. impact on wildlife, impact on Dunsford Nature Reserve and aesthetics) but perhaps it is worth exploring.

A walk on Belstone Common

Yesterday the weather was fabulous so I decided to go for walk on Belstone Common and take some photographs. I have decided to write it up in some detail and provide a map as the walk makes an ideal introduction to high Dartmoor walking. My route is around 7km long – it does go up and down a bit but it isn’t that strenuous or that boggy. As ever my advice is to wear walking boots, proper clothing and take a compass and map. Pick a clear dry day with a good forecast and you should be fine. If you do get lost just head north and you should end up funnelled back to Belstone.

Belstone Walk
It is a circular route starting from the car park just outside Belstone which is situated on the north side of the moor between Sticklepath and Okehampton on the old A30 which now seems to be called the B3260. Walk into the village and past the old red telephone box (which now contains a defibrillator and not a phone) and walk up the hill past the Water Treatment Works onto the moor. Walk along the enclosure wall on your right and when that kinks to the west keep going for a couple of hundred yards looking for a small track / path going to the left. You should then see the first stop on the walk – the Nine Maidens stone circle.

Nine Maidens
The Nine Maidens with Rowtor, West Mill Tor and Yes Tor on the skyline in the haze.

It is in fact a cairn circle – at the centre there would have been a burial chamber known on Dartmoor as a kistaven. This is therefore a burial spot – earth would have been piled over the circle to cover the burial chamber. The kistaven has long been pillaged and all the remains now is the stone circle. Myths and legends abound around the Nine Maidens (marked on the OS Map as the Nine Stones). A very detailed account of these can be found on the excellent Legendary Dartmoor site – see here. In summary nine maidens were dancing on the Sabbath and as a result were turned to stone, unfortunately there are 17 stones in the circle …. so it is sometimes called the 17 brothers who came to a similar fate as the maidens. There are also tales of witches and the moon. Take your pick.

Hawthorn and Belstone TorJust on from the Nine Maidens you can see the first bit of Belstone Tor along with a rather lonely hawthorn which hopefully in a few weeks time will make an excellent perch for a cuckoo surveying the ground for meadow pipits

Belstone Tor 1
Belstone Tor is rather confusing as it is made up of at least three summits which could each in their own right be called a Tor. They all run along the ridge running south. On the second ‘tor’ looking back to the first

Belstone Tor 2
Another of the Belstone Tor outcrops – beautifully jointed.

Feather and Tare
Belstone Tor is littered with granite boulders along its flanks and in the past attracted the attention of granite masons – here is a rock which has been split by a process  known as feather and tare. It was then never removed (reason unknown)

The Logan Stone

Moving further south you reach a dilapidated wall known as Irishman’s Wall – in the middle of the picture is a solitary granite outcrop which is a logan stone i.e. the top bit ‘rocks’ on the lower piece (see here for more details of how they were formed).

Irishman's Wall
Another view of Irishman’s Wall – this wall was indeed built by Irish workers who were trying to enclose the land and therefore steal it from the local Commoners – full story here. The Commoners were having none of it and pushed sections of it down. The project was then abandoned.

Higher Tor
On from the logan stone and the Wall you quickly reach Higher Tor

Higher Tor 2
Again fabulous jointing

Herdwick Sheep

Belstone Common is currently home to a flock of Herdwick sheep – the sheep of the Lake District recently made very famous by James Rebanks in his excellent book ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ – definitely worth a read – see here.

Irishman's Wall 2
You then walk down off the ridge towards Cullever Steps – look back up the hill and you can see Irishman’s Wall again.

Scary Tor
Finally head over to Scary Tor near the Steps before picking up the obvious track which will take you back to Belstone.

After you have done the walk why not drop into The Tors public house for a pint!


Kestor and Scorhill

Spent a great day up on the high moor yesterday checkpointing our 10 Tors training teams

Kes Tor1
Started off at Kestor high above Chagford – you can see the snow on the ridge leading up to Watern Tor

Kes Tor
The Legendary Dartmoor website recently posted a piece about Kestor and the possible derivation of its name – see here. Over the years it has been known as Kestor, Kestor Rocks, Kes Tor, Castor – all of which might have been a mis-spelling of the local dialect – maybe it is in fact Cats Tor – a reference to a long gone past when wild cats used to live in the area…. another lost and forgotten Dartmoor species which I call ghosts in the landscape

Despite all the effort that has gone into building and the maintaining that stone wall …

This is the clapper bridge over the North Teign river

The point where the Teign really starts to descent from the moor

Just around the corner is Scorhill – a brilliant stone circle

Again the Legendary Dartmoor website throws some light onto the many theories, myths and legends surrounding Scorhill – see here – the adder anecdote is very interesting……

Ponies 2
And finally back to Kestor looking south over Fernworthy Forest

Ponies 1
With Thornworthy Tor in the foreground

A great day out – although the temperature was low there wasn’t much of a wind so fortunately it didn’t fell cold.



Digital maps from the Ordnance Survey

When you buy an Ordnance Survey Map now it also comes with a free mobile download of the same map

OS map 1

It is easy to download from the OS site you just need to set up an account (free of charge) and then enter the code that comes with the map and then download it to your phone – either and iPhone or an Android.

OS map 2
And then you have a 1:25,000 map on your iPhone with full GPS functionality – i.e. your phone will show you exactly where you are. You can also plot routes to follow are record exactly where you have been.


The Tors of the NT’s Upper Plym property

If you park your car past Cadover Bridge near to where the Blacka Brook joins the River Plym (SX563644) you can start a walk which takes you around the National Trust’s 3300 acre Upper Plym property – its a good 10 mile walk on the high moor so you need a compass, map, walking boots and warm waterproof clothes. It isn’t a beginner’s walk and it will take you at least 4 hours. If you do do it though you will be rewarded with some of Dartmoor’s fabulous but lesser known Tors. Here are some photographs of those Tors which I taken over the years and have now turned into ‘screen print images’ via Photoshop.

Hexton Tor
Hexton Tor near to Trowlesworthy Farm with Little and Great Trowlesworthy Tors on the skyline. It is not named on the OS 1:25,000 map – its grid reference is SX566649 – all the other Tors I mention are.

Little Trowlesworthy Tor
Little Trowlesworthy Tor with the abandoned worked granite flagpole base in the foreground

Greater Trowlesworthy Tor-cutoutPart of Great Trowlesworthy Tor near the quarry

Shell Top
Up the hill from there to the east is Shell Top

Hen Tor cutout
Back down the slope to the north west is Hen Tor

Shavercomber Tor
Go north again and you will get to Shavercombe Tor

Calverslake Tor
To the north east is Calverslake Tor near the source of the Plym (you make recognise this photo from my blog header!)

Quickest way back is to follow the Plym south (downstream)  all the way back to the Blacka Brook.

Alternatively you could start at Peat Cot (c2 miles SE of Princetown near Whiteworks) and walk past Nunn’s Cross and then do the Tors the other way round. A longer walk and one that needs more advanced navigation skills.

We regularly take our 10 Tors training walks on both these routes – they are character building too!

(All the images are my copyright)

Smart new Welcome Signs at Fingle and Parke

The National Trust is introducing new Welcome Signs at all of its most visited outdoors sites. The idea of them is to welcome visitors to our places, orientate them, give them a little information about the site and give information on things that are going on. We have just received our first two signs for Parke and Fingle Bridge. More will follow soon!

The sign at Parke in the car park

At Fingle Bridge we also have these ‘boundary’ markers telling you that you have arrived

The sign at Fingle Bridge also introduces our partnership with the Woodland Trust at Fingle Woods

Out to Cranmere Pool

Had a cracking walk yesterday on the north moor – the weather was fabulous and the views were brilliant. It was the National Trust’s Wild Tribe first outing of the year with Torquay Boys Grammar School in preparation for next year’s 10 Tors campaign. This was a short walk of around 15km – the idea was to introduce new walkers to the art of navigation using a map and compass.

Cranmere Pool3
We had around 50 students and 10 adult helpers – we started at Rowtor and walked initially down the military road. This is the view back showing Fordslands Ledge on the left, High Willhays in the middle and Yes Tor on the right.

Cranmere Pool9
We then headed from the Military Road up the Taw Valley and stopped at the Ted Hughes memorial stone.

Cranmere Pool10
I have written about this stone before – see here

Cranmere Pool4
From there we headed out onto the blanket bog – in the spring this is the home of the dunlin – one of Dartmoor’s rarest birds – it is a wet and boggy place but yesterday was quite benign

Cranmere Pool1
Then onto Cranmere Pool with its famous letter boxing ‘hut’ – the pool as you can see is rather small! My job on the walk was checkpointing – a task I did with Dennis and Carey – we walked ahead of the students and then saw them safely through Cranmere Pool

Cranmere Pool11
A couple of groups arrive

Cranmere Pool2
A close up of the Cranmere Pool letterbox container

Cranmere Pool7
This contains a visitor book (which we signed) along with a couple of Letterboxing Stamps – I stamped our route card!

Cranmere Pool5
On the blanket bog we found some sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) growing on the Sphagnum moss

Cranmere Pool6
On the way back we dropped in at Ockerton Pool

Cranmere Pool8
The black line on the map indicates our route for the day. A great walk but you do need walking boots, gaiters, a map and compass especially when you leave the Military Roads. The X in a circle marks the location of the Ted Hughes Stone. (The scribblings in red are the remains of a previous walk).