Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dartmoor: A wild camp at foggintor quarry

Z Packs Hexamid Solo in Foggintor Quarry
Foggintor Quarry Wild Camp
When I'm not feeling the love at work, I always want to escape to my happy place. Problem is, when your happy place is over two hundred miles away, it isn't always that simple! So, next best thing is to escape to this blog and write about walking on Dartmoor. This particular post has been a long time coming; a hectic schedule has meant it has been low on my list of things to do. But now, with me hitting the proverbial brick wall, it is time to stop stressing, distract myself from the mayhem running amok at work, and complete this particular trip report.

After a long break in the Fox Tor Cafe, agreeing a route for the next wild camp, +Phil Sorrell and I eventually stepped back out into the heat on the moor, with a plan to bag the tors west of Princetown. It was an opportunity for me to tidy up some of those I missed on my last visit. As it turned out, not everything went to plan...

It all started well enough, climbing the hill to North Hessary Tor, passing a string of ponies, lazily grazing and grooming in the afternoon sun.

Ponies on North Hessary
Ponies on North Hessary Tor

Ponies grooming
Ponies Grooming
We didn't stay long at the tor, the trig point on its top was crawling with flying ants, and we didn't want to give them any encouragement to plague us! We moved on, climbing the ladder stile of a nearby wall, and walking the short distance to Herne Hole Tor.

Herne Hole Tor
Herne Hole Tor
Although it has obvious access, by the ladder, it is hard to imagine this tor is frequented by many, probably only those enthusiasts keen to stand on every tor. With Rundlestone Tor on the other side of the wall, I expect it barely gets a second glance. That's a shame.

Herne Hole Tor
Phil on Herne Hole Tor, Rundlestone in the distance
Returning the same route, we headed east for Rundlestone Tor. Laying on the ancient boundary of the Forest of Dartmoor, this route is far more popular. It is often visited by those emulating the journey of the twelve knights who embarked on the Perambulation of 1240, the task being to set out the boundary.

Rundlestone Tor: View of Little Mis and Great Mis Tors
View from Rundlestone Tor, along the 1240 boundary of the Forest of Dartmoor, to Great Mis Tor
Rundlestone Tor
Rundlestone Tor
It is a short distance westward to Hollow Tor, this is a fine granite outcrop, begging to be scaled, and offering wonderful views of the north moor.

Hollow Tor (Rundlestone)
Hollow Tor (Rundlestone)
Hollow Tor (Rundlestone)
View from Hollow Tor (Rundlestone)
Leaving Hollow, we went in search of one I thought I had missed the last time I was on this route. If we had actually read Ken Ringwood's book properly, we would have known that we wouldn't find Billy's Tor.

We reached the grid reference of the mystery tor, but there was little to show apart from the odd scattered rock protruding from the uneven grass. Such was my preoccupation with finding Billy, I failed to notice I was attracting the attention of a solitary cow, who approached me. When I finally saw her a few metres away, staring menacingly, I wisely decided the flat insignificant slab of granite I was stood on was hardly a safe haven, and retreated. As I stepped away I realised I had been between her and a calf, and being the good mother she was, had seen me off!

Encounter with a cow at the reported sight of Billy's Tor
Supposed site of Billy's Tor (Tor not found) and the concerned cow
Still scratching our heads over the whereabouts of Billy, Phil did a quick Google and found references to others who had never found the tor. We would later learn that it might actually be another name for Hollow Tor, which sits higher up.

We pushed on, dropping down to the disused railway line and diverting for a quick look at Foggintor Quarry to gauge its suitability for an overnight. We were pleased, Phil especially so because of the lake.

We left the quarry to finish off some more tors. We crossed up to Swelltor, and approached from a direction I hadn't explored before, or at least never remembered. We saw parts of the quarry I never knew existed.

Swelltor Quarry
Swelltor Quarry
Swelltor Quarry
Swelltor Quarry
Once up on top, we headed north to Kings Tor.

King's Tor
Kings Tor
When we reached Kings Tor, I had begun to notice that my lower back was sore. My rucksack had been rubbing against my sweat soaked clothing, and now the salt was burning my chafed skin. I changed my top, and just hoped that it would ease, but clambering over the clitter on the descent to Little King's was painful and I was starting to want to see the end of the day.

At Little King's, we offloaded our rucksacks, to my relief, and we took a leisurely stroll down to Hucken Tor.

Phil on Hucken Tor
Hucken Tor
Hucken Tor was a nice distraction, a large area of open granite with a section hidden amongst woodland with a wrapping of moss. I have an inkling we just scratched the surface of this tor, and that much more lay cloaked in the foliage; maybe a winter excursion will reveal more.

Hucken Tor
Hucken Tor
We retrieved our rucksacks and took the railway track back to Foggintor. As we made our approach, we could see other hikers taking the back door route into the hollowed middle, and we worried our chosen overnight spot might be taken. We needn't have worried, as the group passed through without stopping, and we settled down for the evening.

Phil took the opportunity for a wild swim. I had threatened to as I was overheating, but by the time we had pitched, the urge had left me; I'm not a fan of swimming.


Phil having a bath in Foggintor Quarry
Bath Time at Foggintor
In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to clean and freshen myself up. I ate little that night, when my Expedition Foods Freeze Dried meal turned out to be off. I was now pretty low on energy and I had consumed nowhere near enough calories for the day. Phil gave me a pasta soup, which took the edge off but it didn't last.

Foggintor Quarry
Foggintor Quarry
That night, my sleep was fitful. I was hungry, my back was sore, and I was feeling a little nauseous, with the rancid taste of the food still on my palette.

Sheep above Foggintor Quarry
Sheep at dusk
Whilst Phil slept well, and was definitely in his element, I arose feeling dreadful. I decided I couldn't do the rest of the planned route, and so, once we had packed up, we followed the railway track back to Princetown. 

Decision was that we would drive back to my parents where I would rest up for the day, with the hope of meeting up with Phil the next day. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to rejoin him. I had lost 5lbs over the two days, had a high temperature and was going nowhere for a couple of days at least. A very disappointing end to this trip on Dartmoor.

Phil, however headed off to Steeperton Tor for a wildcamp, and had a brilliant week without me. Below is his audioboo of the day.



I'm keen to put this trip out of my mind and return to Dartmoor, but work has kept me away for quite a few weeks. Still, a weekend planned in October.

And so to the route: