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Explore the Dartmoor National Park with a Cicerone guidebook - Introduction

Cover of Walking on Dartmoor
Availability
Reprinted
Published
19 Jan 2015
ISBN
9781852843601
Edition
Second
Size
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.6cm
Weight
310g
Pages
256
No. Maps
44
No. Photos
77
1st Published
1 Dec 2002
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Walking on Dartmoor

National Park and surrounding areas

by John Earle
Book published by Cicerone Press

This guidebook contains route descriptions for 42 day walks in the Dartmoor National Park and its surrounding area. The walks all vary in length from 2 to 12 miles long and each route is graded by difficulty from easy to moderate or hard. Most of the walks are circular with a few longer routes that are linear and involve ascents of tors.

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Description

This guidebook, Walking on Dartmoor, contains 42 day walks in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon. The walks in this guidebook are grouped into four large areas of Dartmoor: South Moor, Widecombe Walks, North East Moor and North West Moor. Furthermore most of the walks in this guidebook are circular and are graded by length: long – 12km (7.5 miles) or more; medium – 4km to 12km (2.5 to 7.5 miles) and short – under 4km (2.5 miles).

Each walk is also classed as hard, moderate or easy, depending on the difficulty of the terrain, any necessary climbing and the map reading and navigation skills involved. With nearly all the routes in Walking on Dartmoor, it is possible to shorten them by cutting off corners and leading back onto the route at another place. It is also easy to link walks together in order to create a longer walk if you so wish, and this guidebook includes the itineraries to 5 long-distance walks.

Dartmoor has been called the last great wilderness in England largely due to the fact that it is possible to get further from roads and civilisation than anywhere else in the country. It is generally wild and lonely, with remote areas of uplands and mountains that even in holiday periods it’s possible to get away and walk all day without seeing a soul.

Unlike many upland areas, it is possible to walk anywhere you like on Dartmoor because it is still countryside. You don’t have to follow ridges or valleys like you would do in mountainous regions. However, Dartmoor is a deceptive country for walking because, as it isn’t a true mountainous region and looks like rolling undulating landscape, many people think it is easy to finish walks in a fast time. This is just not possible because walking on Dartmoor will take you over tussocks of grass, heather (bracken in the summer months), peat hags, marshy areas, gorse bushes, and rocky slopes all within a few miles of each other, which will inevitably slow you down.

  • Seasons
    Year-round walking, although extremely busy in peak summer months. Winter walking can require advanced navigation skills. Often boggy!
  • Centres
    Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Princetown, Dartmeet, Stepsbridge and Postbridge.
  • Difficulty
    Mainly easy to moderate walking, not technical. Often boggy, with grass tussocks. Mists can cause navigation difficulties.
  • Must See
    Rolling, sweeping horizons, prehistoric stone circles such as at Merrivale, wild remote 'tors', Dartmoor ponies.
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Contents

Contents
Introduction
Geology and formation of Dartmoor
Vegetation
Fauna
Man on Dartmoor
Legends of Dartmoor
Dartmoor today
Where to stay
Dartmoor weather
Clothing
Equipment
Maps and compasses
Dartmoor letterboxes
Climbing on Dartmoor
Walking on Dartmoor
Using the Guide
South Moor
1. Bel Tor Corner, Dr Blackall's Drive, new Bridge, Spitchwick, Leusdon
2. Sharp Tor, Rowbrook Farm, Double Dart Gorge, Dartmeet, Dartmeet Hill, The Coffin Stone
3. Michelcombe, Sandy Way, Holne Ridge, Hapstead Ford, Chalk Ford, Scorriton (or back to Michelcombe)
4. Scorriton, Chalk Ford, Hapstead Ford, Ryder's Hill, Snowdon, Pupers Hill, Lud Gate, Chalk Ford
5. Cross Furzes, Water Oak Corner, Huntingdon Cross, Huntingdon Warren, Lud Gate (Part of the Abbot's Way)
6. Shipley Bridge, Avon Dam, Eastern White Barrow, Western White Barrow, Crossways, Red Lake China Clay Works, Broad Falls, Huntingdon Warren House, Gripper's Hill, Dockwell Ridge, Shipley Tor
7. Shipley Bridge, Zeal, Ball Gate, Glasscombe Corner, Three Barrows, Two Moors Way via Redlake Mineral Railway Track (or Quickbeam Hill), Western White Barrow, Petre's Pits, Bala Brook
8. New Waste, Erme Valley, Piles Copse, Downing's House, The Dancers, Erme Plains, Erme Head, Langcombe Hill, Yealm Head, Yealm Steps, Stalldown Barrow, Hillson's House
9. Cadover Bridge, Trowlesworthy Warren House, Trowlesworthy Tors, Hen Tor, Shavercombe Head, Shell Top, Pen Beacon
10. Cadover Bridge, Trowlesworthy Warren House, Valley of the River Plym, Ditsworthy Warren House, Giants Basin, Plym Steps, Plym Ford, Eylesbarrow Mine, Scout Hut, Gutter Tor Legis Tor
11. Gutter Tor, Legis Tor, Meavy Pool, Ditsworthy Warren House
12. Ditsworthy Warren House, Giants Basin, (Plym Steps, Plym Ford), Eylesbarrow Mine, Scout Hut
13. Shaugh Bridge, West Down, North Wood, Dunstone, Cadover Bridge, Wigford Down, Dewerstone Rock
14. Norsworthy Bridge, Burrator Reservoir, Deancombe, Cuckoo Rock, Potato Cave, Eylesbarrow Tin Mine, Nun's Cross Farm, Siward's Cross, Stone Row, Down Tor
15. Norsworthy Bridge, Track (Newleycombe Lake), Older Bridge, Devonport Leat, Crazy Well Pool, Raddick Lane, Leather Tor Bridge, (Lower Cross)
16. Stanlake, Devonport Leat and Aqueduct, Raddick Hill, Cramber Tor, Cramber Pool, Hart Tor, Prehistoric and Tinners’ Remains on River Meavy, Black Tor
17. Routrundle, Disused Railway Track, Ingra Tor, Swelltor Quarries, King's Tor, Merrivale Prehistoric Remains, Yellowmeade Farm, Foggintor Quarries, Leeden Tor
18. Vixen Tor, Heckwood Tor, Pew Tor, Feather Tor, Windypost Cross
19. Nun's Cross Farm, Abbot's Way, Plym Ford, Great Gnats Head, Erme Pits, Grant's Pot, Phillpott's Cave, Duck's Pool, Black Lane, Fox Tor, Childe's Tomb, Whiteworks
20. Saddle Bridge, Horse Ford, O Brook, Hooten Wheals, The Henroost, Skir Ford, Skir Gut or Girt, Skir Hill, Horn's Cross, Combestone Tor
Widecombe Walks
21. Saddle Tor, Low Man, Hay Tor, Hay Tor Quarries, Granite Railway, Holwell Quarries, (Great Tor), Smallacombe Rocks, Grea Tor Rocks, Medieval Village, Hound Tor, (Chinkwell Tor, Bell Tor), Bonehill Rocks, Top Tor, Foale's Arrishes
22. Bonehill Rocks, Bell Tor, Chinkwell Tor, Honeybag Tor, Thornhill Lane
23. Cold East Cross, Rippon Tor, Newhouse, Foale's Arrishes, Tunhill Rocks, Blackslade Ford, Buckland Beacon
24. Bennett's Cross, Birch Tor, Headland Warren, Stone Row, Headland Warren Farm, Hookney Tor, King's Barrow, Grimspound, (Hameldown Tor), Headland Warren, Mines
25. Hameldown Beacon, Hameldown Tor, Grimspound, Headland Warren Farm, Mines, Soussons Forest, Cator Common
26. Prehistoric Remains, Bellever Tor, Laughter Tor, Huccaby, Brimpts, Babeny, (Dartmeet), Snaily House, Bellever
27. Corndon Down and Tor, Sherwell, Yar Tor
28. Visits to Bowerman's Nose, Jay's Grave, Dunnabridge Pound
North East Moor
29. Crockern Tor, Longaford Tor, White Tors, Brown's House, Flat Tor, Rough Tor, Wistman's Wood, Two Bridges
30. Drift Lane, Roundy Park, Valley of the East Dart, Waterfalls, Sandy Hole, (Cut Hill, Fur Tor), Statts House, Beehive Hut, The Sheepfold
31. Assycombe Hill, Chagford Common, Mine, King's Oven, Warren House Inn
32. Fernworthy Circle, Grey Wethers, Sittaford Tor, Quintin's Man, Whitehorse Hill, Hangingstone Hill, Watern Tor, Teignhead Farm
33. Kestor Rock, Shovel Down, Teign-e-ver Clapper bridge, Scorhill Down, Batworthy Corner
34. Cullever Steps, Oke Tor, Knack Mine, Steeperton Tor, Steeperton Gorge, Taw Marsh, Belstone, Nine Stones, Belstone Tor
North West Moor
35. Moor Gate, Black Down, Yes Tor, High Willhays, West Mill Tor
36. Meldon Reservoir, Black-a-Tor Copse, Sandy Ford, Valley of the West Okement River, Cranmere Pool
37. Brat Tor, Bleak House, (Great Links Tor), Rattlebook Peat Works, Corn Ridge, Branscombe's Loaf, Sourton Tors, Ice Works
38. The Lich Way, Lynch Tor, Fur Tor, Sandy Ford, Watern Oke, Tavy Cleave
39. Higher Godsworthy, The Longstone, White Tor, Stephens’ Grave, Wedlake
40. Staple Tors, Roos Tor, Cox Tor
41. Great Mis Tor, Langstone Moor Circle, Prehistoric and Tinners’ Remains in Walkham Valley
42. Beardown Tors, Foxholes, Crow Tor, Devil's Tor, Beardown Man, Broad Hole, Cowsic River Valley
Long Walks
The Abbot's Way
The Lich Way
Two Moors Way
The Perambulation of 1240
The Mariner's Way
 
Appendix A Route Summary Table
Appendix B Glossary of Dartmoor Terms
Appendix C Useful Contacts
Appendix D Bibliography

Introduction

Very often people have asked me when I return home after one of my expeditions to the Himalaya, Tierra del Fuego or Baffin Island, whether I do not find Dartmoor rather tame and unexciting after the great mountain ranges of the world. Settling down to write this guidebook to Dartmoor has made me pause, think and try to justify and back up my claim that I find Dartmoor a most exciting, interesting and intriguing corner of our varied world.

Dartmoor has been called, rather glibly, the last great wilderness in England. This, of course, is true for whatever that really means. It is indeed a huge, largely uninhabited, lonely area of moorland, of some 365 square miles. They also say that you can be, on Dartmoor, further from a road, and therefore I presume civilisation, than any other wild area of Britain south of the Scottish border. On the North Moor near Cut Hill and Fur Tor it is over 3 miles (2km) to a road, if you count the military road from Okehampton Camp, and on the South Moor, near Stringers Hill and Erme Pound, the nearest road is again over 3 miles away.

So that is one reason why I find Dartmoor attractive. I love the wild, lonely, remote areas of uplands and mountains. Even at crowded holiday periods you can still get away from the masses and walk all day without seeing a soul.

Then, even if I have only been away for a few days, when I return to my home near Widecombe-in-the-Moor, as I get out of the car I take a deep breath, for Dartmoor has a strange, indefinable scent that changes with the seasons. Sometimes the misty air is full of the smell of damp, peaty moorland, at others the pungent scent of gorse; in March when the farmers are swaling (burning the moor to improve the grass for grazing), the wind brings a waft of burnt heather and gorse or the smell of the smoke itself.

Meldon Reservior

Blacktor Falls, River Meavy

The rolling, sweeping horizon of Dartmoor with its huge skies always thrills me. Except for a few steep-sided valleys you are never shut in on the moor; you always have the feeling of distance and vast open spaces. Everywhere, except in prolonged summer drought, there is the presence of water; quaking bogs, small streams and the peaty, moorland rivers tumbling down over water-rounded granite boulders, while high overhead the skylarks pour out their own evocative liquid song.

Of course a lot of the landscape, certainly on the margins but also in some of the remote river valleys, where the tinners have been at work, has been fashioned and changed by man. Man has lived, hunted and worked on Dartmoor since prehistoric times and obviously has left his mark, from hut circles, stone rows and megaliths, to tinners’ spoil tips and blowing houses, to newtakes, peat cuttings and ancient fields, to china clay works, forestry and dams.

I find this history of man on Dartmoor, especially the prehistoric period, fascinating. I still feel a strange, prickling sensation in the scalp when I am alone in one of the areas of hut circles or stone rows. Almost I sense the spirits of the Bronze Age people of 4000 years ago. It is no wonder that Dartmoor has its share of legend and folklore and up in the deep peat hags of Cut Hill you could almost believe in the stories of pixies!

Sadly there are very few of the true, old Dartmoor farmers and their families left in our modern times. Men and women for whom a trip to Exeter or Plymouth was a once-a-year outing, who thought nothing of travelling to market in gig or cart, taking two or three hours there, and back again, whose slow, hard life revolved around the seasons and the harsh taskmaster Dartmoor.

Life and the old ways have changed from the days when every small village had its bakery and blacksmith, when the grocer, the butcher, even the fishmonger from Brixham, the haberdasher and tailor delivered to the door of remote farms by pony trap; when harvest suppers and whortleberry gathering parties were part of the year's major social events. Modern farmers on Dartmoor are a different breed, but just here and there are a few folk whose memories reach back into the old days and the ways of their fathers and grandfathers before them.

The wildlife on Dartmoor is not outstanding but when you do come in contact with the secret inhabitants, it is the more exciting. The buzzard, I suppose, with its moth-like wings and the mewing call, like a kitten, is the most common big bird on the margins of the moor and in many way epitomises Dartmoor with its soaring, wheeling freedom or sitting like a sentinel on a pole or bare tree surveying the world. Then there is the thrill as a couple of red grouse get up with a clatter and their loud ‘go back’ call, or the excitement or the brief glimpse of a reddy-black, arrogant hill fox loping off in no hurry. But it is the skylark, that minute speck in the blue summer sky, with its bubbling song, that brings back a surge of happy, childhood memories of walking or riding on hot, breathless days into the heart of the moor and I still scan the skies trying to find the little, soaring creature pouring out its ecstasy.

The Nine Stones lookng back to Cullever Steps with High Willhays beyond, Walk 34

I hope therefore to share with you, through this Guide, some of the magic and mystery of Dartmoor. I should like to show you places to visit that I think will interest and fascinate you, so that like me, you will become a person who loves and appreciates this lonely wilderness and will return to it again and again, for it has a haunting, almost hypnotic influence on those who walk there.

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