Dartmoor: The Tors of Hameldown and Challacombe Down
I was hardly up at the crack of dawn today. I had "strange bed syndrome" at the Fox Tor Cafe bunkhouse and with the heavy frost on the car, I chose to stay in the warm a bit longer and let the sun rise higher in the sky. I went for a leisurely breakfast in the cafe before setting off to the Warren House Inn, the start of my walk today.
In hindsight, I probably left it a bit late for a route of this length. It was just gone eleven when I began my descent into the remains of the picturesque Birch Tor and Vitifer Tin Mine area. The ground was hard, still extremely icey despite the sunshine. At the point where you reach a small granite slab that crosses the mine leat, the area is grassy, green and worthy of a picnic stop.
|Challacombe Hill and the Vitifer Tin Mine works|
|Birch Tor and Vitifer Tin Mine|
|Challacombe Down end stone|
I followed the wall steeply down to the valley below. When I finally reached the bottom, I turned right, to take the bridleway east towards the medieval hamlet of Challacombe. This whole area is rich with archaeology. It has been worked for thousands of years, with evidence of ceremonial sites, bronze age settlements, medieval farming, and later tin mining. There is little left of the medieval hamlet but you do find evidence to confirm it was a larger farming community than exists now; a few low moss encrusted walls of buildings, spread around what is now just one working farm.
|Gate to the Medieval Hamlet of Challacombe|
|Tree line to Hameldown Beacon|
Position confirmed, I returned to the tor, made a note of its reposition and continued on.
By now, time was getting on, I was cold and I was feeling it now. Conscious of the lack of daylight left, and not particularly relishing a drive back to Princetown on a rapidly freezing surface, I realised I wasn't going to bag all the notable rocks and tors on the ridge. It was a good job that this is a cracking route, and one I'll be back to enjoy when the days are longer!
I strode along the spine of the wide ridge, with a wonderful panorama to my right, of the Bonehill Down and Haytor Down area that I enjoyed with my fellow Social Hikers back in November.
|Bonehill Down panorama from Hameldown Ridge|
|Approaching Hameldown Beacon|
Broad Barrow was next, also known as a Dewey and Sub Hump called Hameldown, at 532 metres. The ice here had seen the sun, and was thin, so, on occasion, my footfall cracked the surface.
By now, the light was turning as the sun got lower and made for good viewing. However, the descent on the path down to Grimspound was slippery and still frost bound, thanks to its north face, and I had to concentrate.
|Grimspound and Hookney Tor|
On from Hookney, across the frozen bogs, I strode, dipping into the shadows from the hill where my final tor of the day sat. As I made my approach up the hill, I considered giving it a miss, in my race with the setting sun, but as I reached a small rock shelter where the path to the tor goes left, I felt the sun was still high enough for me to bag it in time. I turned and went for it.
|Shelter near Birch Tor|
I was so glad I did. The light was fantastic, and despite only having my Galaxy Note 3 handy to take photographs, I managed a couple that I am quite pleased with.
Rather than head for the road, I descended back down to the tin mine I had passed through earlier in the day, and retraced my route back to the car, just after the sun had set. Despite missing out on a few of my goals, and cutting the route short, I was very content with the day. Very content indeed!