Sunday, 29 May 2011

Dartmoor: Cosdon from South Zeal

Public Bridlepath to the Moor
Bridlepath to the Moor

Not going to take any credit for the route of this walk, it must go firmly with a new book I picked up this weekend; "Walk! Dartmoor". A first for me to explore this side of the mighty "bear back" that is Cosdon Hill. For a copy of the book and other areas in the series, go to the Discovery Walking Guides Website.

Bridleway to the moor below Cosdon Hill
Bridleway to the moor below Cosdon Hill

So to today's foray; a late start due to a quick trip into Exeter to purchase a new jacket, and my first Paramo! Keen to try it out in anger, I hot footed it back to the moor to make the most of the inclement weather. Typical isn't it? the one occasion when you want the heavens to open, you find yourself greeted with sunshine. I was no more than 800 yards out of the car park at South Zeal when I had to remove the jacket, and even though I wore it later, it wasn't really needed.

This was my first real view of the countryside on the east of Cosdon Hill; when you are on the summit, the dome is expansive and you fail to see its base. What I was now enjoying were some tree shaded ancient lanes, a welcome respite from the sun as you ascended steadily to the open moor, replaced by a patch work of steep fields bordered by impressive granite walls.

Farm wall below Cosdon
Countryside below Cosdon

An hour into the walk, I had reached the open moor and took a  bearing for the Cosdon Stone Row, or "The Cemetery" as it is also known. It is a well preserved bronze age triple row with a double cist (burial chamber)  at one end. Worth the climb alone!

Cosdon Triple Stone Row
Cosdon Triple Stone Row
Cosdon Triple Stone Row
Also known as "The Cemetary"

From there, it was a matter of continuing in a southerly direction along an obvious old peat cutters track, a deep scar that skirts Cosdon Hill, gently climbing to a boggy area known as Raybarrow Pool. As I looked south, I was amazed to see the massive granite domes of Hay Tor far away in the distance, a far cry from the mist and rain I had been expecting this afternoon.

Old peat cutters track to Raybarrow Pool
Old Peat Cutters Track to Raybarrow Pool
Sheep enroute to White Moor Stone Circle
Looking towards Kennon Hill

Today, the boggy area was a minor irritation, due to the lack of rainfall over the month, but I could see it would be impenetrable on another day. Once past the pool, the track contours around Little Hound Tor before you are met with the next Bronze Age treat, the White Moor Stone Circle.

White Moor Stone Circle
White Moor Stone Circle

I was now on familiar terrain, this now being a part of the Dartmoor Perambulation. Here you can look across to some of the most impressive of the tors on the north moor, Watern Tor, Steeperton Tor, Oke Tor and further in the distance, Yes Tor, easily seen despite some low mist.

Steeperton Tor
Steeperton Tor


cloud descending on Cosdon
Cloud descending Cosdon Hill

The wide ridge brought a promising nip in the air and some advancing cloud had me reaching for my new jacket with excited anticipation. I marched on to Cosdon Beacon confidently, but despite the promise, the rain never came. Passed the trig point and down the northern side, the wind speed dropped and the jacket went away again for another day. So, instead I had to content myself with some wonderful views of North Devon for the duration of the descent.

New jacket on Cosdon.
Cosdon Beacon
Flank of Steeperton in the cloud
Steeperton Tor

Eventually, the open moor ends, and the final stretch back to South Zeal found me in another ancient lane full of young foliage and blossoming wildflowers, and a joy to discover.

Sunken Lane back to South Zeal
Beautiful sunken lanes back to South Zeal
Fox Glove
Fox Glove
Young oak
Young Oak


Date: 29/05/11
Region: Dartmoor National Park
Description: South Zeal – Ramsey Hill – Nine Stones – Cosdon Stone Row – Raybarrow Pool – White Moor Stone Circle – Little Hound Tor – Cosdon Hill – Old Drove Road – South Zeal – Sunny Spells, breezy, 12km, 4hrs