Saturday, 3 January 2015

Dartmoor: A short "stroll" out from Princetown

Fur Tor ( Walkhampton )
Fur Tor (Walkhampton)
I woke with the early twinges of a back problem. I must have over exerted myself the day before as a pulled muscle in my upper back had begun to niggle and my persistent chest infection was aggravating it. I decided to take it easy this morning with a couple of hours in the Fox Tor Cafe, uploading photos and writing my next blog post. I planned to get out in the afternoon to tidy up a couple of missed tors alongside the disused railway near Princetown.

Disused Railway
Disused Railway
I finally set off at about 1pm; intent on a nice easy stroll, beneath clear skies and warmed by the sun, following the disused railway. I turned off just before reaching Foggintor Quarry, short cutting to miss out the long loop around King's Tor.

Looking to Ingra Tor in the distance
Looking to Ingra Tor in the distance
The field was thawing nicely, and the wet stony lower half of the track was not as treacherous as it might have been earlier in the day. Back on the railway, I turned left to pass through a small cutting, and round to a fine looking bridge above me. I turned off the track to cross over the bridge and through a gate into access land where Yes Tor (Walkhampton) can be found.

Yes Tor ( Walkhampton )
Yes Tor (Walkhampton)
I immediately spotted my next tor, just on the other side of the railway, perched higher on the hill. Retracing my steps over the bridge, it was a short ascent up to Fur Tor (Walkhampton) and a first time bag for me.

Fur Tor ( Walkhampton )
Fur Tor (Walkhampton)
Fur Tor ( Walkhampton )
Fur Tor (Walkhampton)
I dropped down to the railway, and carried on in the direction of Ingra Tor. I checked the time; at some point, I needed to turn back as my friend Jim was arriving, later, in Princetown, for a couple of days. I figured there was still enough time to see if I could have another crack at getting closer to Criptor, after one failed attempt that, writing this, turned out to be a year to the day!

Bridge near Yes Tor ( Walkhampton )
Bridge near Yes Tor (Walkhampton)
Criptor may not be a particularly inspiring set of rocks, but it is listed and it is a frustration that it sits on private land that is so close to open access. I took a walk down to the gate of the farm, half heartedly hoping I might see some sign of life in the yard to request permission to enter.

Criptor - so close
Criptor - So close!
With no one to be found, I looked at the terrain along the perimeter of the farm. Its wall is set back from a stream that runs down beside the tor, and the bank is designated as open access. In reality, it is a tangle of untidy scrub and blackberry bushes, and an impenetrable fortress without a machete. Thwarted again, I moved back down the track and then stepped off to recce the area further west. I spent some time picking my way through the sodden ground but it was soon clear that I was going to get wet feet if I ventured closer to the stream. Taking into account that I had left my gaiters back at the bunkhouse because this was supposed to be a short stroll, and that getting to the stream was no guarantee I was even going to be able to cross it to get within tolerance to bag the tor, I retreated.

Still doing a recce for another visit
Still doing a recce for another visit to Criptor
Criptor
Criptor
Disappointed, I returned to the railway and made my way to Ingra Tor. I considered following the track on to Gipsy Rock, but saw sense as the sun lowered, and climbed up to Ingra instead, and then further up the hill to Leeden Tor.

Ingra Tor
Ingra Tor
Leeden Tor
Leeden Tor
Me at Leeden Tor
Leeden Tor
Dropping down from Leeden Tor, in the direction of Black Tor (Walkhampton), before the B3212, I met an ancient boundary work that is marked on the Ordnance Survey map. It stretches for approximately three and a half kilometres, from Peek Hill, running north-east passing Leather Tor, crossing Walkhampton Common, finishing at the railway track near Princetown. It seemed like a good idea to follow it, instead of treading the road back into town.

This boundary work is classic Dartmoor. Many would look on the map, and then scour the terrain for a wall or a fence line, but what they would miss is a low mound, sometimes a trench, and often, stood in the wrong place, it is difficult to observe. I remember, in my Walking Group Leader training, this boundary was used to test our navigation skills and ability to read maps correctly.

Following an ancient boundary
Following an ancient boundary
Following the route, I stayed pretty true to the boundary, deviating slightly to avoid the worst of the quagmire, and I made good time up to the railway track. So much for a short stroll, I made it back to the bunkhouse three and a half hours later, but that just highlights one of the issues with tor bagging; there is always a temptation to go that little bit further.

A good afternoon; one new bag on a beautiful day, but a little frustration in my quest for Criptor.

The Route: