Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dartmoor: A Fur Tor Adventure

Perfecting my Bombay Potato
Perfecting my bombay potato
A two night foray into the heart of Dartmoor. Jim and Marcus got down to Devon early Friday afternoon. Later, we parked at the Fox and Hounds car park and headed off to Nodden Gate, where the moor begins.

Across the ford of the River Lyd, we made our way up to Bray Tor and the impressive Widgery Cross. A short break, we continued towards Sharp Tor, where we ran into a particularly nasty area of clitter and the hidden danger of vegetation covered, knee deep holes. I found the first one, and at another point, when trying to escape the area, got stranded on a rock surrounded by suspicious ground! Clitter behind us, we all met up at Hare Tor for the first brew.

Campsite set up at Sandy Ford with Fur Tor in the background.
The path down from Hare Tor to the Rattlebrook is a simple one, but the ground becomes boggier along the banks. We crossed at the same point Catherine had taken a dunking three years ago on the Perambulation, and then joined the River Tavy. We pushed on east, over, at first, a boulder strewn riverbank, and then some level grassland, before we reached Sandy Ford. On the horizon, we could see the bulk of our objective, although the most impressive granite outcrop of Fur Tor was out of sight.

Mindful of the fresh wind, we decided to set up camp in the relative cover of the valley, close to where the Tavy meets Amicombe Brook, below The Meads.

We were promised, by those serial liars in the BBC Weather Department, that we were in for a clear night, and so we looked forward to a spectacular night watching the Perseid meteor shower but, true to form, the clouds remained.

Instead, we had to be content with just a mug of red wine and a pretty good meal of bombay potato with chopped sausage! Apart from Marcus, that is, who has this "self sufficiency" fixation that sees him make his own meals. Even the prospect of spaghetti without a sauce, which he had forgotten, failed to break his resolve!

Saturday morning wasn't a good one. After breakfast, we started to break camp, but this delayed us due to the heavens opening. We were in no hurry. We sat in Marcus's porch until there was a break in the weather and we were finally heading up to Fur Tor by midday.

We dumped our packs halfway up, at a place where we would be returning, and climbed up to the top, in a short downpour. Jim, however, was showing signs of grump, and chose not to climb to the top.

My first time on Fur Tor, and the "Maiden of the Moor" is magnificent! It has a 360 degree panorama of the north moor. Brilliant! I'll definitely be returning on a day trip next time.

Once we had retrieved our rucksacks, we headed into the valley, attempting to follow a tributary of the Amicombe Brook northwards, to the left of Great Kneeset. This is tricky; the ground is marshy, uneven, and tough work, especially when the rain wasn't abating!

Jim's temperament had plumetted and he was having a serious sense of humour failure. He kept saying how much he was hating it. His boots had a leak and his feet were soaked through so I could understand it. When he lost his leg in a clitter trap, as we approached Kneeset Nose, it only exacerbated his misery.

We trudged on, no choice but to do so. The ground is not suitable for any sort of camping, and it would have meant a long walk out on Sunday, anyway. Despite this, Marcus and I remarked to each other how much we were enjoying the challenge walking in the rain, and into the wind. After all, this is what Dartmoor is all about!

We tried to stay reasonably high out of the mire, on the lower level of Amicombe Hill, but eventually we had to head down to cross the West Okement beneath Lints Tor where the terrain looked easier.

Black Tor from our camping spot on the West Okement.
Passing the path that climbs to Fordsland Ledge and High Willhays beyond, we continued along the bank of the West Okement, the path now more visible and less of an ordeal. Through Black-a-Tor Copse, we finally reached our next camping spot beneath the impressive Black Tor.

Despite Jim wanting to walk back to the car, we set up camp, in a brief respite from the rain. As soon as the flysheet was on, another shower came, and we dived for cover. The evening faired better. Jim had a brew, got his boots off, his mood lightened and he was eventually glad we didn't decide to return to the car.

Apart from a slight bit of drizzle, typically as we were cooking dinner, the night stayed dry. For dinner, a large helping of penne with Spicy Chilli Tomato Sauce and chopped sausage.

Sunday morning was a totally different kettle of fish! A slight mist up the valley towards the higher ground, but mercifully dry for breaking camp.

We descended down the river to the weir crossing before Meldon Reservoir, and then turned left up a narrow path beside Vellake Brook to an amphitheatre dominated by the high Corn Ridge. We climbed up through an old quarry, before hitting a visible track leading from it. The track eventually hit the more prominent disused railway that used to service the Rattlebrook Peat Works.

The weather had brightened, the sun had broken through and the views of West Devon were good, if a little hazy. Around the large bulk of Great Nodden, we descended to Nodden Gate, and eventually the car.

A top weekend! Anyone for an Olympic Breakfast at the Little Chef?

Finally, the route: