Walking on Dartmoor
National Park and surrounding areas
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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.
- Year-round walking, although extremely busy in peak summer months. Winter walking can require advanced navigation skills. Often boggy!
- Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Princetown, Dartmeet, Stepsbridge and Postbridge.
- 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.
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.
Geology and formation of Dartmoor
Man on Dartmoor
Legends of Dartmoor
Where to stay
Maps and compasses
Climbing on Dartmoor
Walking on Dartmoor
Using the Guide
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
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
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
Maps and Compasses
For your safety and for you to get the maximum enjoyment from walking on Dartmoor it is wise to be proficient at understanding how to use your map and compass which are, of course, probably the most important bits of equipment you should have with you.
It does not take long to master elementary mapreading but I hope you will want to take it all a step further, for maps can tell you a vast number of interesting and important things about an area. More than anything else you have to be aware of the limitations of maps because they represent the three-dimensional features of our earth on a flat sheet of paper, but with practice this soon becomes no problem. I am fascinated by maps and spend hours just pouring over them and imagining the countryside they portray.
First you need to consider the scale. The Landranger Series of Great Britain have a scale of 2cm to 1km (1:50,000) or about 1.25 inches to the mile. You will need two sheets for the whole of Dartmoor: Sheet 191, Okehampton and North Dartmoor, and Sheet 202, Torbay and South Dartmoor. The Ordnance Survey has a Dartmoor map in its Outdoor Leisure series, Sheet 28. This is a marvellous map for detail as the scale is 4cm to 1km (1:25,000) or 2.5 inches to the mile, but as it covers the whole of Dartmoor it is a huge sheet and printed on both sides. The problems of folding and getting the relevant section that you want to use visible are enormous on windy, rainy days. Even if you prepare the map before you set off you are bound to want a section that is hidden!
You can of course buy smaller individual sheets of the 1:25,000 maps for both First and Second Series but you will need quite a few of them to cover longer walks. However, this scale is ideal for Dartmoor as many more details are shown as well as walls and small differences in height, both important when navigating on the moor.
Finally, Harvey Map Services has two Dartmoor maps (north and south Dartmoor) in its Mountain Recreation Series with a scale of 2.5cm to 1km (1:40,000). They use an orienteering style of presentation with different colours to indicate vegetation. The physical features of the moor are all important on this map and there are very few place names printed; the result is a very clear and uncluttered map.
Next you will need to consider the conventional signs; the shorthand of maps. Most sheets have the conventional signs printed on them. I was taught to repeat like a parrot that contours are imaginary lines joining all places of equal height. This may be so, but more important is to be able to read the contours so that you can see if you are going up or down or if it is a steep slope or a gentle slope and where there are valleys and gullies. It does not take long to get the feel of the land from them.
The parallel lines printed on all the maps that you are likely to use are the grid lines. Each line has a number to identify it. The numbers of the lines that run up and down the sheet increase as they move toward the right or east and the lines are called eastings. The ones that run across the map increase as they move up the sheet or north. They are called northings. Each of the squares created by the grid lines is 1km by 1km. The diagonal across the square from corner to corner is 1. 5km. Once you know this it is very quick and easy to estimate distance. Regardless of the scale of the map the grid squares are always 1km by 1km. Obviously the larger the scale of the map the larger the square will be on the map.
The other more important use of the grid lines is to give grid references and I shall be using these in the Guide to pinpoint places. You must always give the eastings first and than the northings. So to give the position of a large area such as a village you need only give a four figure reference to indicate the square. For example, the village of Holne lies in the square 70 eastings and 69 northings, in other words SX 7069. However, it is usual to give six figure references and to do this you will have to subdivide each square into tenths. You give the main number of the easting square followed by the tenths eastward followed by the main northing square and the tenths northward. For example, the reference for Dartmeet would be 672 eastings and 732 northings, given as just SX 672732. It must be remembered, though, that this actually represents a square 100m by 100m on the ground and if you want to become really accurate then eight figure references are better but to be honest it is almost impossible to work them out correctly. You should always prefix your grid reference with the grid letters as similar references recur at intervals of 100km. For Dartmoor these letters are SX but as I am only referring to Dartmoor I have not included them.
A lot of your navigation will be done visually and to do this you must orientate your map. I assume that you know where you are when you start! So to orientate your map you identify some features in the countryside such as a tor, a forest boundary or a building and you turn your map until the features are lined up with their representations on the map and everything else will fit into place.
Now you need to consider the compass. There are many different makes on the market ranging from simple ones costing £7.00 to £15.00 to the more sophisticated costing up to £60. You will need a proper navigating compass as the small button compasses you can buy are no use. They should have a clear plastic base like a protractor with a swivelling capsule and at least a luminous needle – other luminous points are useful for night navigation.
You can now orientate your map using the compass. The top of the map is always true north and for all intents and purposes the easting grid lines point to true north.
First place your compass on the map with the rotating capsule turned so that the north arrow on the compass card or dial is in its correct position at 0 (or 360) degrees, and with the whole compass pointing to the top of the map (north). You can use the grid lines to help you do this. Slowly rotate the map, and yourself if needs be, keeping the compass firmly in place pointing to the top of the map (north) until the compass needle itself swings and points to magnetic north which is just 2.75 degrees in 2002, to the west of true north, in other words 357.25 degrees. Your map is now set and you should be able to identify features.
This last operation mentioned that the compass needle points to what is called magnetic north, located to the north of Hudson Bay in Canada, rather than true north and this must always be taken into consideration when navigating and especially in the next stage of compass work. By the way this magnetic variation decreases 0.50 degrees every four years.
There will be occasions where the moor is featureless or you are in thick mist or even at night when you will not be able to navigate visually either by lining up features or walking towards known points identified both on the map and on the ground. It is then that you will have to rely on your compass by taking and using compass bearings. To do this place the edge of the clear protractor part of your compass along what is called the line or direction of travel; in other words from where you are to where you want to go.
Now turn the capsule until N (north), usually shown by an arrow engraved in the bottom of the dial, points to the true north (the top of the map). Once again the parallel grid lines will help you do this. Pick up the compass and ADD, by gently rotating the capsule, what is called the magnetic variation (the difference between magnetic north and true north) which as I mentioned is 2.75 degrees in 2002. (This does decrease over the years and you should check with your map which will give the information.)
Now hold the compass in front of you and turn you body until the red (north) end of the swinging compass needle points to the north on the compass dial: this is the arrow engraved on the bottom of the capsule. The larger direction- of-travel arrow on the front, longer end of the compass, will now point at where you wish to go. Choose a landmark or a feature on this line (not a sheep or a cow!) within the limits of the visibility and walk to it without looking at the compass except perhaps for a brief check. When you arrive choose another new landmark and repeat the procedure until you arrive at your destination.
With this brief information you should be able to find your way around on Dartmoor but navigation is a fascinating subject and well worth following up and it is just as well to have more than one person in your party who is competent with a map and compass.
One final bit of advice. I should get a good large, waterproof, clear plastic map case or cover for your map, or spray it with one of the waterproofing fluids that are available. Wet, windy days on Dartmoor can quickly destroy a map!
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Walk 8 - New Waste & the Erme Valley:
This walk should start at grid ref 625611 but permissive access through gate was withdrawn in June 2014 so alternative carpark near to walk is Harford Moor Gate which is about 2 miles to the east of the proper start.
(Thanks to Phil Oliver for this update)
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John Earle is an experienced mountaineer, TV film maker and trek-leader. He runs a successful outdoor education centre on Dartmoor and is well known for his films about Cornwall and Dartmoor. He is also author of Cicerone guide to Cornwall and Exmoor and the Quantocks.View Guidebooks by John Earle
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