Friday, 29 August 2014

Dartmoor: The Tors east of Peter Tavy

Little Combe Tor
Little Combe Tor
Familiar ground today, with the added spice of taking more time to stop and really appreciate the surroundings. What I am learning from this Tor Bagging malarkey is that it isn't all about tick lists and targets; it slows your pace, encourages you to explore, introduces you to a greater awareness of the environment, and strengthens the passion you have for the place you are walking in.

It wasn't an early start. I took my time getting to the Whitchurch Common car park, on the B3357. It was gone 11:15am when I started up the hill,  along the avenue leading to Cox Tor.

Grassy avenue up to Cox Tor
Grassy avenue up to Cox Tor
I stopped when I reached a band of gorse and heather that skirted the tor, and weighed up my options.

Flower arranging, Dartmoor style!
Flower arranging, Dartmoor style!
Rather than head straight up Cox Tor, I contoured left, taking a mixture of path, sheep track, and a good old fashioned off road short cut through the ferns. In just over ten minutes, I was at the foot of Little Cox Tor, contemplating how on earth I would battle through the foliage and clitter, to the top.

Little Cox Tor
Little Cox Tor
In truth, it wasn't as difficult as it first looked, a bit of a scramble, but little effort, and I was soon up on the top, enjoying the views of West Devon. Little Cox Tor is an introduction to the type of tors I would be visiting. It is made up of non-granite rock, as all those I would encounter today are, in this area.
Little Cox Tor
Little Cox Tor
I carried on around the hill, resisting the temptation to continue up to the trig point at Cox Tor as I would save that for the return, cutting my way through ferns to a gate with a bridleway along the edge of a field.

Bridleway with Sharp Tor on the hill
Bridleway with Sharp Tor (Peter Tavy) on the hill
This field, according to my OL28 Explorer map, and my Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks book, was on private land. Strictly speaking, I believe I should have kept to the edge of the field, but Sharp Tor (Peter Tavy) was so close on the top of the hill, I couldn't resist exploring it. I will add that I didn't just march across the field, I carefully weighed up the situation and seriousness of my actions; I couldn't see a farm to go seek permission, there was no fence or wall, definitely no livestock or crop in the field to disturb, and no sign telling me to stick to the track, so I figured the bridleway may have been open to interpretation and took the decision to stray.

Sharp Tor (Peter Tavy)
Sharp Tor (Peter Tavy)
It's a gnarly non-granite tor and quite unusual. Heading north, I found that a track passes quite close to the outcrop, and I followed that out of the field.

Sharp Tor (Peter Tavy)
Sharp Tor (Peter Tavy)
Leaving the field through another gate, I passed down a short walled section of bridleway, before entering open access land where Great Combe Tor sat on the side of "The Combe".

Great Combe Tor
Great Combe Tor
This tor is quite an extensive outcrop, and it took some time to find the sweet spot for the pushover notification on my phone to say I'd successfully bagged it, but as I said earlier, I was enjoying the exploration and discovering the different views and facets of the rock formations, so I cared little for how long it took!

Viewing the tors to come from Great Combe
Viewing the tors to come from Great Combe
Lower levels of Great Combe Tor
Lower levels of Great Combe Tor
Below the tor, you pick up a path. At first it isn't obvious, but when found, it is easy to follow down passed a small reservoir, and into The Combe and a footbridge across Colly Brook.

The Combe
The Combe
Colly Brook, at the point it runs through The Combe, is a wonderful spot. I hung around awhile to take some photo's and potter about on the moss covered banks. Idyllic!

The Combe
Colly Brook
When I eventually tore myself away, I headed up stream on a good footpath, climbing up to my favourite tor of the day; Little Combe Tor.

Little Combe Tor
Little Combe Tor
For me, I'm finding that these rarely visited, hidden gems are as bigger thrill to visit as the more well known giants on the open moor! If every tor bagging walk had a buried treasure such as this, I would be more than happy!

Moss on the tor
A carpet of moss on Little Combe Tor
Once again, I lingered, enthralled by the carpet of moss and lichens that covered the rocks. You feel you are in an ancient woodland, a rainforest far from civilisation, when in fact, a car park east of Peter Tavy is just a few hundred metres away.

Continuing up along the path, I exited The Combe, into a field and passed through a gate to a road that led to the farm at Lower Godsworthy. I crossed the road and ascended to meet an unmetalled track that goes to the open moor. Furze Tor, sits conveniently by the track.

View from Furze Tor
View from Furze Tor
The tor offers fine views of the fields and buildings that make up Lower Godsworthy. My attention, however, was in the opposite direction, and three tors in close proximity to each other.

First up, Boulters Tor. Unusually, a wall has been built over part of it, so only one side is accessible.

Boulters Tor
Boulters Tor
Next came Little Boulters Tor. It was clear to see, and its formation matched the one in the trusty book, but after sitting on the outcrop for ten minutes, without notification, it was clear that the coordinates provided were wrong. I marked the waypoint on my GPS and made a note to let +Social Hiking - Share Your Adventure know that it will need to be adjusted.

Little Boulters Tor
Little Boulters Tor
Little Boulters Tor
Little Boulters Tor
Ascending further still, after seeking out a grassy path to the top, I made my way up onto Smeardon Down, with its tors. Took my time to drink in the great views of West Devon and Brent Tor!

Smeardon Down Tors, Brent Tor in the distance
Smeardon Down Tors, Brent Tor in the distance
Smeardon Down Tors
Smeardon Down Tors
Smeardon Down Tors
Smeardon Down Tors
I took another route back down to Boulters Tor, before picking up the track that headed onto the moor. I followed the track no more than half a kilometre, diverting to Setters Tor to the south. This one, was quite short, and simple to scale.

Setters Tor
Setters Tor
I turned north-east, crossing the track and making a bee line for Cudlipptown Down. Enroute to Little White Tor, I passed through an ancient enclosure, the remains of a settlement; Bronze Age, I expect.

Enclosure below Little White Tor
Ancient enclosure below Little White Tor
I climbed up to Little White Tor, approaching from the west to avoid the worst of the clitter. On reaching the tor, I found it to be a pleasant place to stop, and could even be a choice to bivvy, whilst watching the sun dip below the horizon.

Little White Tor
Little White Tor
Little White Tor
Little White Tor
Little White Tor
Little White Tor
Time was getting on; I started up to White Tor. As I picked my way over the top, I was a little disappointed to see that its hill fort remains were barely recognisable amongst the clitter. I gingerly clambered over the loose rocks of the cairn and took a couple of dead ends on my way around to the south, eyeing up my distant route in the hope of seeing my next objective.

White Tor
White Tor
I looked at my map and decided to descend to Stephen's Grave. I took note of a quite distinct boundary line on the map on my way, and having seen similar boundaries all over Dartmoor, instinctively knew what to expect when I reached it. For the untrained eye, the boundary pictured below would be missed, stepped over as you walk off the down. Were it a clagged in day, this seemingly insignificant line of rocks could lead you to the comfort of the easily followed track I had been on earlier.

Boundary descending White Tor
Boundary descending from White Tor
Stephen's Grave is where a man, said to be called George Stephens, was buried after committing suicide over unrequited love. I would hardly do the tales and myths justice, and suggest you take a wander over to the Legendary Dartmoor Website for more information (after you have finished reading my post, of course!).

Stephen's Grave
Stephen's Grave
I followed a visible track south, but soon left it when it failed to turn sufficiently in the direction I wanted to go, which was to Wedlake Tor.

Wedlake Tor
Wedlake Tor
Little time spent here, as it was fairly insignificant, I dropped down to the pretty ford at Wedlake. I looked into the distance at the hill of Cox Tor, and planned my ascent, avoiding the worst of the ferns.

Wedlake
Ford crossing near Wedlake
I crossed the ford and kept to the track across the lower field, then at the first opportunity started up on good ground. I did indeed find a way through the ferns, and was soon in sight of the lower outcrops on Cox Tor. Looking at them, I am a little surprised they aren't listed as a tor in their own right!

Cox Tor
Cox Tor
Soon, the trig point at the top was in sight. With the days hike near its conclusion, when I reached the top I took a break to make the walk last just that little bit longer.

Cox Tor trig
Cox Tor trig
Cairn on Cox Tor
Cairn on Cox Tor
View from Cox Tor
View from Cox Tor
It was such a lovely day, it did seem a shame to be ending it. I laid back on a perfectly formed rocky lounger, and watched the clouds rolling across the moors.

Clouds rolling over Cox Tor
Clouds rolling over Cox Tor
Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and I strolled down to the car park, where I celebrated the day with an ice cream. I think all walks should end at an ice cream van, don't you? ;-)

Descending to the car
Descending to the car park

And the route: