Dartmoor: tors, rocks and tumps east of Moretonhampstead
When planning today's route, I happily plotted it across the mapping software on my pc. I could see that a substantial amount was on road, but it wasn't until I'd uploaded it as a route into Social Hiking that I was surprised by its ascent, descent, and distance. Surprised, but I should add, not put off attempting it.
This was my first time into this region. It is little visited and, in fact, the far eastern section doesn't even make it onto the Ordnance Survey OL28 map of Dartmoor! More of that later.
I found the car park on the corner of Mardon Down, after a steep narrow drive up out of the town of Moretonhampstead. With the weather predicted to hold dry for the area, until about 4pm, I was confident I could avoid the expected rain and high winds. But, I'd have to get a wriggle on!
It was straight up to bag Mardon Down, being a Tump (a hill with a prominence of over 30 metres) at 356 metres high. Looking at the map, the down is littered with cairns, and stone circles amongst its gorse, but I had little time to explore it properly.
|Mardon Down, looking back to the car park|
|Crossing Mardon Down, looking south|
|Bridleway off Mardon Down|
|The only permissive way up to Hingston Rock|
|The "public footpath" with waymarker centre-right.|
|Moretonhampstead from Hingston Rock|
The path led me down to a gate where I stopped to weigh up my options. Across the field, I could see another gate. Studying the map I could see three more fields beyond, but out of view. Uncertain of their access, I chose not to trespass and instead I returned to the rock, wandering off path across the down towards the farm at South Kingwell. I could see a mapped lane was accessible, but, sadly, when I reached the gate to the lane, I could see it cut right through a farmyard. Nothing to it but to pick my way back along to the footpath, a good half hour wasted.
Back on the B3212, I ascended along the road to Cossick Cross, taking a left turn and further ascent up to Pepperdon Down. Looking east, over the hedgerows, I caught first sight of significant granite that would be my next stop after this. It looked large, substantial, and I was eager to explore it. But first, I had to bag this Tump on the way.
Pepperdon Down is a thin strip of Open Access, covered in bracken. I picked my way towards a small copse, where its highest point was situated just before, and despite finding signs of idiocy in the form of fire scarring, I was satisfied to find a granite outcrop here, albeit short and flat.
|Evidence of idiots on Pepperdon Down|
|View from Pepperdon Down|
|Rock on Pepperdon Down|
|Ugly staircase up Blackingstone Rock|
|Fine looking barn|
|Out-house at Laployd Barton|
As I mentioned earlier, straying this far east has its complications if you have bought the OL28 Explorer map of Dartmoor National Park. In their wisdom, Ordnance Survey decided to save a few inches of paper and crop the edges. That is a particular bugbear of mine and one I would love to see rectified.
I pointed out, in a twitter conversation with Ordnance Survey the day before, that it makes me question how significant this is for the villages just off the most popular recreational map for the national park; many of us hikers have eyed that familiar blue pint pot logo on the map and purposefully diverted in hope of a local ale or a meal. As a result, I know of at least one pub, within the park boundary, that could well be missing out on business because it doesn't make the crop.
It isn't just the east that suffers this indignation; I find it even more incredible that to the west, a significant landmark like Brent Tor, with its iconic church sat atop its rocky hill, also falls foul to the crop. This wonderful national park deserves a 1:25000 scale map that covers it in its entirety!
|Left turn into Laployd Plantation|
|Ascent up Laployd Hill|
I hit the road, turned left and a couple of hundred metres further on the footpath appeared through a field to the right. Above the field stood a densely wooded hill where Scatter Rock was hidden. I went off path and approached the fence, but I couldn't get over it. I hand-railed it, seeking out a chink, but there was none to be found. I descended, resigned to the fact I was going to have to enter the wood from lower down, where the footpath passed through the fence and then battle my way up through the undergrowth.
It took quite some time, an ascent negotiating frustrating dead ends, bending under branches, stumbling over moss covered rocks, and slippery mud. But the world within was fascinating. It was tiring but I was enjoying discovering the long forgotten boundaries and evidence of the disused Scattor Quarry.
|Stumbling around looking for Scatter Rock|
I mistakenly turned left through a gate into Hedgemoor Plantation and started to follow the brook upstream. Wanting to leave the path I soon realised I was on the wrong side of the brook and also noticed that gates on each side had "Private - No Entry" signs. Reliably informed by Ken Ringwood's Tors and Rocks book that, although on private land, Rowdon Rock could be reached, I returned to the bridge where I could keep my feet dry and I had seen a gap in the fence.
Ascending through more low lying branches, and uneven ground, but no way on the scale of the quarry, I soon saw a huge wall of granite through the trees. Sitting high above the footpath, you would have no inkling this was even here so standing in its presence had me wondering how often this great rock had been visited.
|I spy Rowdon Rock|
Passing the church, I climbed up out of the village to a permissive footpath up along Rowdon Brook in Woodland Park. It was a welcome diversion from an expected section of road.
|Church at Bridford|
To access, there is a short permissive path to walk up. As I approached, the wind struck up and I felt the first drops of rain. At the tor, I hunkered away behind it, finished off my coffee and ate to replenish my flagging energy.
|Crack in Heltor Rock|
I then dropped down into a hamlet called Westcott then further descent to the B3212. It was over a hundred metres drop in all, and it pained me to know that I had to scale that same height back up to Mardon Down.
|Ford near Woodcock Wood|
|Cairns at Giants Grave|
|Penned in by Gorse on Mardon Down|