Dartmoor: A cold winter walk to the north of Princetown
|Matthew and I at Herne Hole. Photo courtesy of +Phil Sorrell|
Negotiating ponies caught in my headlights, the Dartmoor roads were relatively kind and I only encountered one short slide on the climb from Merrivale, just to keep me on my toes. We arrived before midnight, as the snow flurries began, and I was appreciative of the pint of Dragon's Breath in the Plume of Feathers.
A bit of a lie in (courtesy of the Fox Tor Cafe winter opening hours), we awoke to a good layer of snow. The car park was in a pretty bad state and none of us fancied moving our cars, so, with the forecast predicting more snow on the way, Phil suggested a route from Princetown. For me, it only provided the chance of two more bags on the Dartmoor Tors and Rocks bagging list, but we all agreed it was a good option. Given the conditions, it was a tad ambitious, but the route provided plenty of opportunity to cut the walk short.
Fed and watered, we made the effort to brave the weather. Straight out of the town, and up the hill to North Hessary Tor, we were immediately met with hail and snow, driven by a vicious northwind. By the time we reached the tor, I was already privately questioning the sense of being out in these conditions.
|North Hessary Tor|
I decided it was too early to bail out. Summoning up the spirits of my heroes; Mawson, Shackleton and Scott, I pulled up my buff to conceal my bare skin as best I could, and stepped out of the granite windshield to head for Herne Hole Tor.
The step ladder over the wall was icy and difficult to scale. Once over, Herne Hole Tor is a short walk away. I found a good bit of shelter in a hollow between the granite while the others stepped up to stand atop.
|Matthew at Herne Hole Tor|
I imagine the walk over to Rundlestone Tor was easier, as our direction changed from head on into the wind. I don't remember much about it, to be honest, as thoughts were likely elsewhere; trekking along a pristine beach in sunny South-Western Australia, perhaps! ;-)
We dropped down to the B3357, and followed it towards Merrivale as far as a track that turned right, climbing to Little Mis and Great Mis Tors.
|Track to Little Mis Tor|
|Looking back to King's Tor|
|Neil and Phil enjoy the sun at Little Mis Tor|
|View from Little Mis Tor|
We huddled out of the wind, while Rich took a bearing for Clay Tor, or rather where we believed Clay Tor to be. Traversing across the boggy Greena Ball, in a horizontal snow storm, we were adapting to the awful weather nicely. We caught sight of the River Walkham and contoured above it towards our waypoint. On the north bank of the Walkham, we noticed there was an obvious outcrop, but it didn't tally with the Social Hiking coordinates which placed the tor on the south of the river. We passed our expected destination, with nothing but a few insignificant rocks to enthuse us. We came to the conclusion an error had occurred when converting Ken Ringwood's grid reference to Lat, Long Coordinates, and it would have to be rectified.
|Approaching Blackbrook Head|
|Rich ascending Black Dunghill|
|View from Black Dunghill|
|Following a path to Holming Beam|
|Fence line en route to Holming Beam|
We stopped briefly in shelter behind a farm shed and trees. Long enough for me to polish off my warming flask of soup. The track at Holming Beam is a couple of kilometres long, straight and true. It has an unofficial car park at its northern end, perfect to save a bit of time when wanting to explore the north moor. We reached the main road, turned left and went down hill to a bridleway that crossed a large field, and the Devonport Leat, to the next road.
As we crossed the field, we got a good look at the moor in the east. There wasn't a single patch of snow to be seen! Our original walk; a perambulation of Fernworthy Forest from the Warren House Inn, would have likely been a doddle! Oh well, never mind. Despite its chilly beginnings, I had grown into this walk and eventually enjoyed the elements. The weekend would have been poorer had we not got out into the snow.
|Looking east, and no snow! Photo courtesy of +Phil Sorrell|