Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Dartmoor: Forest Boundary for DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal - Day 4

And then there was one. Lower Arms Tor
And then there was one. Lower Arms Tor
It seemed a little strange making my lonely way up the stony lane to Nodden Gate. I had enjoyed the first three days with Jim; tough terrain and big distances, comforting that you have a companion in some of the more remote places and encouragement when the need to dig deep occasionally surfaces. Now, it was just me. Fortunately, this was territory I have trodden many times and I was eager to begin.

It was day four, and the last stretch of my perambulation of the ancient forest boundary of Dartmoor to raise funds for the Disasters Emergency Commission Nepal Earthquake Appeal. If you wish to donate, you still can by visiting www.justgiving.com/DartmoorForestBoundary4Nepal.

As was the case yesterday, the ford across the River Lyd was low and no drama to cross. On the other side, I looked up at Arms Tor and contemplated my route back up the ridge to rejoin the boundary. I dismissed the bridleway up over the saddle, as it involved treading the same path taken the day before, and opted for a gentler gradient. It also meant that, while I was dropping one planned tor (Chat), I was gaining another three (Lower Arms, Little Links, and Great Links).

Quietly dissecting a herd of cattle, I took a breather at Lower Arms Tor. It wasn't much of a climb to here but it was the first of the day and I was yet to find my second wind. My performance improved on the next section, to Little Links, with some steady zig-zagging and two more breathers before I reached the outcrop.

Little Links Tor
Little Links Tor
I looked on to Great Links Tor and promised myself another break at this monster of granite. As it panned out, as soon as I reached it, my lungs were working well and I moved straight on.

Great Links Tor
Great Links Tor
There appeared to be a path that went between Lower and Higher Dunnagoat, taking it would mean some repeat over the same ground, albeit about a hundred metres. A measure of how fit I was feeling, I decided to avoid it and went off road to Lower Dunnagoat. It slowed my progress but I was enjoying the day and I had plenty of time before the next front was due to move in this evening.

View south from Lower Dunnagoat
View south from Lower Dunnagoat
At Lower Dunnagoat, the view south was of the Rattlebrook. I was now back on my original route and now ascending to the head of the river. I visited Higher Dunnagoat then marched north on whatever path I could pick up, be it made from a farmers quad bike or the local livestock.

Higher Dunnagoat
Higher Dunnagoat
I remember, back in 2007, that as you cross the Rattlebrook Peat Mines disused tramway, the going was tricky around the head of the stream. An area of mire, long grass and each step a moorland version of Russian Roulette. This time, I could not believe the transformation. I could now see an obvious track, and I strode forward with confidence to Hunt Tor.

Hunt Tor
Hunt Tor
Behind the outcrop lay a bridleway up to Kitty Tor. I followed it most of the way, passed the first Boundary Mark of the day; #29: Rakernesbrokyshede - Rattlebrook Head (SX55950 86973). Another one open to interpretation, and likely determined by the recent rainfall.

Rattlebrook Head
Boundary Mark #29: Rakernesbrokyshede - Rattlebrook Head (SX 5590 86973)
I left the bridleway, wanting to first visit Amicombe Hill. It meant some meandering across some energy sapping ground of bog and grass to reach it. From here, the walk down to Kitty Tor is simple, the traverse being on a well worn path.

Amicombe Hill
Amicombe Hill
I spooked a few sheep at Kitty Tor, who were standing on the low outcrop for no reason, as far as I could see, other than to enjoy the view. Below, to the north, lay lonely Stenga Tor.

Kitty Tor
Kitty Tor
This is Boundary Mark #30: la Westolle - Stenga Tor (SX 56780 88003), and it is seldom visited due to its moat of bog. Just the other day, fellow Social Hiker, Colin, had told me he had gone in up to his knees; no matter what time of year, you need to tread nimbly.

High Willhays ridge from Steng-a-tor
Boundary Mark #30: la Westolle - Stenga Tor (SX 56780 88003)
Trick now is not to attempt to descend into the West Okement valley direct from the tor. You can, but from my experience in 2007, it is a perilous route of clitter and ankle traps hidden by foliage. Add the unnerving sound of running water through the tunnels and granite crevasses hidden beneath your feet, each step is a nervous one.

I contoured in a rough south-easterly direction to the scar of a path that led from Kitty Tor down to Sandy Ford. This steep descent can also be slippery, but the safer option. I crossed the pebbled, not particularly sandy, ford of the West Okement, and turned right for one of my favourites; Lints Tor.

Stream on the way up to Lints Tor
Stream on the way up to Lints Tor
I checked the time; it wasn't even midday. Pleased with my progress, I stopped for lunch in the sheltered cove on its north-eastern side. Over my sandwich, I contemplated the pull up to High Willhays, and couldn't help but get a hint that I was almost done despite another four hours to go!

Lints Tor
Lints Tor
I took a familiar way up to Dinger Tor, ascending the height with the minimum of gradient, then made my way across to Fordsland Ledge, with only another forty metres ascent added in over a kilometre.

Dinger Tor
Dinger Tor
At Fordsland Ledge, I was now on really familiar territory. I have lost count of the times I have climbed from Meldon Reservoir, up to here via Black Tor, and then joined the High Willhays ridge. With familiarity came a confidence that I was in fine fettle to finish.

Fordsland Ledge
Fordsland Ledge
On this occasion, I failed to have the honour of being the highest person in the south of England, as far as the Peak District; the fine weather had coaxed out a few parties, who were relaxing by the cairn of High Willhays. I lingered a while, but they were in no hurry.

High Willhays
High Willhays
Hampster Tor
Hampster Tor
A quick slap on the base of Hampster Tor, I was now bounding on to Bounday Mark #31: Ernestorre - Yes Tor (SX 58085 90151). From a distance, the prominence of this outcrop gives it the appearance of being the highest point on Dartmoor. At 619 metres, it is just two metres lower than High Willhays, but to add further insult to this fine tor, Hampster Tor (at 620 metres), pushes it into 3rd position.

Yes Tor
Boundary Mark #31: Ernestorre - Yes Tor (SX 58085 90151)
I reckon I had my eye in when descending through the clitter. A week of walking on the moor had stood me in good stead. I was soon across the Red-a-Ven Brook and up through Little Tor and on to West Mill.

Little Tor, West Mill Tor behind
Little Tor , with West Mill Tor behind
West Mill Tor
West Mill Tor
I checked the time, it was nearly two in the afternoon. Bad weather was forecast for gone four and whilst that was in my thoughts, the prize of a pint at the Tors Pub in Belstone began to be more of an incentive to move on.

Rowtor
Rowtor
Over Rowtor, I dropped down to join the military road for a short distance, then descending the bank of the Black-a-Ven Brook and its cascading waters at Cullever Steps.


Cullever Steps
Cullever Steps. 
Cullever Steps is considered to be the approximate area of my very last Boundary Mark #32: Chapel of St. Michael de Halgestoke - Halstock Chapel. The exact location of the chapel is unknown, likely within the boundary of East Okement Farm, whilst some put it further north. for the purposes of a modern day perambulator, Cullever Steps is the accepted position. Being the last mark, I figured it was an opportune moment to rest and reflect on the journey.

Reviving the feet in Cullever Steps before Belstone ridge
Reviving the feet in Cullever Steps before the Belstone Ridge
I looked skyward, and the forecast looked to be way behind schedule, so I figured I had time to revive my feet in one of the pools of the steps before tackling the last ridge. This was the coldest paddle of the trek. My feet were in considerable pain for quite some time. But as I marched over the East Okement River and up the track to Winter Tor, the warmth returned, the blood reached the extremities and I felt like I was donning a fresh pair!

Winter Tor
Winter Tor
Winter Tor bagged, I turned for the Belstone Ridge. It is a special place. One of the very first places I explored in the National Park, given its close proximity to the village, and where I truly fell in love with Dartmoor. The twelve mile circular from Belstone, along this ridge to Oke Tor and Steeperton Tor, then back over Cosdon Hill is one of the classic walks on the North Moor. If you haven't done it, I cannot recommend it enough.

Lower Tor
Lower Tor
The ridge includes Lower Tor, then the impressive Higher Tor. I barely strayed from the faint grass path through the scattered granite, eager now to reach my goal. 

Higher Tor
Higher Tor
I skirted around the multiple outcrops known as Belstone Tors, and then through Irishman's Wall. This was an attempt, by some Irishmen, to create an enclosure on the common, only to be thwarted by the parishioners of Belstone, who knocked it down. Its length follows part of the ancient boundary from near Cullever Steps, over Belstone Common, and down to the River Taw.

Belstone Tor
Belstone Tor
Irishman's Wall
Irishman's Wall
Just when you think you have finished with Belstone Tor, another colossal section rears up. Surely, they are two but, apart from it being obvious, I have yet to see or read anything to suggest they should be named separately. 
Belstone Tors
Belstone Tors
I paused at Tors End, the last of the tors today, and looked north to where I could see Okehampton nestled below the high moor, at the point where the West and the East Okement meet. I smiled, smug that I would soon have a place of my own there, just a half hour walk from Cleave Tor; I could truly call Dartmoor my home!

Tors End
Tors End
I dropped down to cross Merripit Hill and descend through the moor gate to the quiet roads of Belstone. It was gone four and I had concerns my celebratory pint might be missed. Indeed, I just made it in the nick of time, before last orders was called.

With no fanfare, I parked myself on one of the slanting benches out on the village green with a splendid view of Cosdon before me. I supped my Dartmoor IPA, thoroughly satisfied with my week on the moors, sad that the adventure was at an end.

celebratory pint at the Tors Pub, Belstone
Celebratory pint of Dartmoor IPA at the Tors Pub, Belstone, with views of Cosdon
I tallied up the "tor, rock and hill" count and found I had exceeded my expectations, by 4, at 65! In distance I managed an extra five miles, total 66 miles (108km), and had done over 3450 metres of ascent! Very pleased with that!

Before I go, and assuming you made it this far, here is a final reminder / plea to that this little expedition was to raise funds for Disasters Emergency Commission Nepal Earthquake Appeal. 

If you wish to donate, you still can at: justgiving.com/DartmoorForestBoundary4Nepal.

The day 4 route: