Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Dartmoor: The Tors of Bridestowe and Sourton Common Land (South)

Great Links Tor
Great Links Tor
Back for a weekend on Dartmoor, Rich Flint and I spent Saturday embarked on a bagging session; a prelude to the Burrator Perambulation in aid of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (Plymouth), the following day. Initial plan was for ambitious distance across some high saturated areas, but as we ended up in clag for most of the day, it was pretty unrealistic.

We stalled for long enough, there was no point putting it off any longer. After a hearty breakfast in the Little Chef, at Sourton we, eventually, parked up at the Fox and Hounds in Shortacombe, a few miles further down the A386.

We could see little of the high moor we were going to spend most of our day on, all of those tors normally visible were hidden in the mist. As this was an area I had trodden before, I had a fair idea of what to expect, and as forewarned is forearmed, we strode off down the lane to Nodden Gate in confident mood.

At the gate, we took a footpath, right, across open field towards the footbridge over the River Lyd. Crossing the river wasn't our first objective, though. A little further downstream we were looking for Black Rock. On approach, it was obvious that the days clambering over tors wasn't going to be straightforward, a damp greasy film clung to the surface of each rock, making a treacherous pursuit.

Black Rock
Black Rock
Black Rock is a pretty spot. I've never visited before, but have seen it from the opposite bank on a warm summers day, a popular haunt for families picnicking and playing in the rock pools of the river. Today, it was just Rich and I, the river was fast, cold and uninviting.

Fixed to the rock, by a bench, is a plaque commemorating a fallen soldier in the First World War, with a poem..

Plaque at Black Rock
Plaque at Black Rock


The River Lyd
The River Lyd
We climbed up from Black Rock, to meet a bridleway heading south towards another track that descended back down to the Lyd. The planned route was to cross a ford, but the river was high enough to make us reconsider; neither of us wanted to get soaked at such an early stage in the walk. Instead, we followed the bank back upstream, passed Black Rock again, and onto the footbridge and stepping stones.

Footbridge and stepping stones
Footbridge and Stepping Stones across the Lyd
Once over the bridge, we turned again, on good track, towards Doe Tor Brook, where another footbridge could be crossed. Through a gate, we started to ascend, at first following the brook, with its crashing falls, and then veering south east towards Doe Tor.

Waterfall on Doe Tor Brook
Waterfall on Doe Tor Brook
Already, the conditions had delayed us, as did finding that sweet spot that would send a pushover notification to our phones, confirming we had bagged Doe Tor.

Doe Tor
Doe Tor
Rich on Doe Tor
Rich on Doe Tor
Taking care not to make a beeline for our next tor, we skirted around the Old Tin Stream Works and the mire of Wallabrook Head. Fortunately, the stiff winds provided the odd window in the mist, aiding our navigation to Little Hare Tor.

Little Hare Tor
Little Hare Tor
We turned east, and ascended further, into thicker clag. We took no more than twenty minutes to reach Hare Tor, but the visibility was bad enough for me to not even try and get a photograph. Instead, we set off north, heading for Chat Tor, with an eye out for a semblance of a path to Sharp Tor (Lydford).

Rich spotted a likely candidate, and sure enough, out of the cloud, a dark mass of granite appeared before us.

Sharp Tor (Lydford)
Sharp Tor (Lydford)
Sharp Tor (Lydford)
Sharp Tor (Lydford)
Little to see here, in the way of panoramas and majestic vistas, either, so we rejoined the rough peat bog of a path, towards the small outcrop known as Chat Tor, on Rattlebrook Hill.

Chat Tor
Chat Tor
From memory, I recalled a path, from here, taking me to an obvious track near Dick's Well and then down to Bleak House. Today, though, I couldn't see far enough to make out any obvious route, and so we started north, with the intention of reaching the track.

Almost immediately, the nature of the ground had us veering off any northerly bearing we wanted to take, but I still had a fair idea of where we were. By the time we had reached the deep cuttings of an old tin mine that dwarfed the source of the Doetor Brook, we were being forced west. Our time was being eaten up, so we acted quickly and dropped down into the works, crossing the brook and following its source up to Dick's Well, where we arrived at the track we sought.

The actual track we were now following was a deep cutting, and wet, so it was simpler to stay above it. Reaching an intersection, we went left, taking us, according to the map, towards the old ruins of a building belonging to the Rattlebrook Peat Works, now aptly named "Bleak House". On a good day, it is obvious, on the opposite bank of the Rattlebrook, but no such luck seeing it today. We dropped down to the brook, crossing an old granite footbridge. In the murk, we could just make out  the ruin, where we would lunch, but first we followed the track uphill to Green Tor.

Green Tor
Green Tor
With plenty of lawn spread over its granite top, Green Tor was obvious, despite the murk. From here, original intention was to continue north east to Kitty Tor, and bag the rocks sitting above the West Okement valley, but it was a tough route and the day was disappearing. Instead, we dropped down to Bleak House to contemplate a reroute while having some lunch.

Bleak House
Bleak House
Whilst at lunch, the cloud blew clear to reveal Lower Dunnagoat sitting above the banks of the Rattlebrook, but it was a fleeting glimpse, and it rolled back in just as quick. We went back across the bridge, and then ascended straight up.

Rattle Brook
Footbridge over the Rattle Brook
I have walked passed this tor many many times, but this was the first time I had made the effort to climb to its top.

Lower Dunnagoat
Lower Dunnagoat
Lower Dunnagoat
Lower Dunnagoat
Once again, our next target was presented to us for a few seconds, and before we could forget the position of Higher Dunnagoat, we dropped off Lower, to pick up a rough path we had spotted through the decaying bracken.

Higher Dunnagoat
Higher Dunnagoat
Although higher, it is hardly more impressive than Lower Dunnagoat. It's a stumpy tor, with no towering walls or precipitous drops.

Higher Dunnagoat
Higher Dunnagoat

We took a compass bearing for Great Links; our way appeared to follow a well trodden, but boggy path, and we took that all the way to the first outcrop of this massive tor.

Great Links Tor
Great Links Tor
In the clag, you'd be forgiven for thinking the first set of granite was the main event, but as you pass it, there lies the larger sections, with a trig point placed high on its westerly point.

Great Links Tor
Great Links Tor
We wandered around the base of the granite, looking up at the trig and wondering if the conditions today were the best to allow us to get to it. I eventually found a simple climb in a relatively protected section, which wasn't as slippery.

Trig on Great Links Tor
Trig point on Great Links Tor
Onwards into the clouds, again, but as we were descending slightly, the visibility began to improve. As a result, we spotted Little Links Tor early enough to discard the bearing we had taken.

Little Links Tor
Little Links Tor
Further down the slope, carefully avoiding a herd of cattle, we were afforded good views of the  Great Nodden ridge and the extensive ruins of the tin workings along the River Lyd.

Lower Arms Tor
Lower Arms Tor
Lower Arms Tor, like many, is deemed not significant enough to name on the 1:25k map, although its granite is clearly marked and easy to spot from a distance. We contoured from here for about 500 metres, and then began our last climb of the day, a bit of a slog up to Arms Tor, which failed to reveal itself until the last moments of the climb.

Climbing up to Arms Tor
Arms Tor
It also possess the Tor equivalent of a false summit, in that the first outcrops you reach are not the ones you're seeking, and the sweet spot is still a little higher.

Rich on Arms Tor
Rich on Arms Tor
We dropped down off of the outcrop and picked up a path to the track that dissects this area. Crossing it immediately, we carried on up a slight slope to our final goal, Bray Tor and the mighty Widgery Cross.

Bray Tor
Bray Tor
Widgery Cross
Widgery Cross on Bray Tor
Widgery Cross, standing just under 4 metres tall, was erected in commemoration of the 1887 Jubilee of Queen Victoria, by the artist William Widgery. Driving down the A386, you can't fail to see it sitting proudly on Bray Tor, seemingly willing you to park up, and pay a visit!

We sat and chatted for a while, sheltered from the relentless breeze by the tor. As we did, we got our first glimpse of blue sky today. I saw it, in desperate hope more than anything, as a good sign for tomorrow, although I said nothing to Rich for fear of jinxing it!

Descending Bray Tor
Descending Bray Tor
We stepped gingerly down the steep path to the bridge across the Lyd, and made our way back to the car. Although a shorter route than hoped, it was still a good workout in preparation for the Burrator Perambulation the next day. More on that in another post!

Finally, here is the rambling route we took: