Friday, 5 June 2015

Dartmoor: The Tors of Tavy Cleave

River Tavy
River Tavy
I woke to a scene of clag that was hardly an incentive to stir from my comfortable bed. The forecast had already persuaded me to pull out of the planned wild camp later that evening; I doubted it would be much of a communal evening with us all ensconced in our respective tents. But I would meet up with the gang to explore the tors above Tavy Cleave.

Some early tweets bounced about to confirm we were all still meeting up at Lane End car park, and Matthew (@hillplodder) mentioned he would be a little delayed having twisted his ankle. Being a short distance away, I offered him the chance to cut short his walk from Black-a-Tor Copse to Okehampton, one that he accepted. I picked him up half hour later, at Graddon Cross, dropping him back at his car near the station in Okehampton.

Nattor
Nat Tor
It always seems as though the drive to Lane End car park will never end. It is in a great location, positioning you on the edge of the Willsworthy Range and probably the closest you can get if you wish to visit the remote Fur Tor, but the narrow lanes to reach it should be taken slowly, and with care. Keep alert and expect some form of obstacle at each bend, be it an oncoming vehicle, walkers, horse riders, a herd of sheep or a brood of chickens. This particular journey I only encountered the latter.

Colin was already there when I arrived. We made our introductions and then Matthew turned up. We chatted for a while, seemingly with no particular rush to head out into the clag. We weren't sure if Phil and Sarah had arrived, none of us knowing his new car, so we just figured he had gone ahead earlier, as planned, with the intention of a wild swim in Tavy Cleave.

Matthew and Colin coming up to Nattor
Matthew and Colin approaching Nat Tor


Nattor
Nat Tor
Matthew decided to come as far as he could, and we headed up to Nat Tor. This wasn't the best plan for a weakened ankle. Progressing further into the cleave from here entailed being frustratingly cut off from the River Tavy by the mine leat, and we had to endure a series of obstacles, such as mud, clitter, and ankle traps, before we could reach the footbridge and cross to the path.

The visibility was better in the cleave, and we kept a constant look out for Phil and Sarah, still half believing they had thought better of their madness and skipped the dip in the Tavy. But no, as we moved further up the bank, we spotted them both. Now we were five.

Tavy Cleave, below Sharp Tor
Tavy Cleave, below Sharp Tor (Tavy Cleave)
Given the conditions, rather than head all the way up the cleave to Rattlebrook Foot, we opted to take a short cut climb up to bag the tors above. Matthew, who's ankle was bearing up admirably, was happy with the decision.

The ground was grassy but firm underfoot, and only needed a couple of stops to control the breathing. We entered the cloud close to the first outcrop of this collection known as Tavy Cleave Tors.

The haul up from Tavy Cleave
The haul up from Tavy Cleave
There is always a discussion about what constitutes a baggable tor when we come across this situation. William Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor cites at least five here, and Ken Ringwood mentions seven with only one being worthy of a name. Hence, they have been collectively named as Tavy Cleave Tors. apart from Sharp Tor (Tavy Cleave). There is a similar situation on Belstone Common and Beardown, to mention just two, but whilst we think they are all worthy of having their own names, we reluctantly stick with the common practice of going with those either listed on maps or historically documented.

Tavy Cleave Tors
One of Tavy Cleave Tors
In the cloud it was tricky to spot all seven of the outcrops, I only saw four, with one being Sharp Tor, appropriately named and unmistakable.

Sharp Tor (Tavy Cleave)
Sharp Tor (Tavy Cleave)
The view of the cleave is dramatic, from here, whatever the weather. I made a note to return when the visibility was better. As luck would have it, that would be only a few days later, but more on that in another posting.

View down from Sharp Tor (Tavy Cleave)
View down from Sharp Tor (Tavy Cleave)
We made for Hare Tor, navigating our way in the damp, with little to see for our efforts. At Hare Tor, it was decided to cut the walk short, and bag Little Hare and Ger Tors, before returning to the cars.

Finding Little Hare took longer than anticipated. I recalled, rightly or wrongly, a previous walk with Richard Flint (@FlintyRich), where the terrain was steep and had a fair amount of clitter. I chose to give the direct route a wide berth, as it would likely be difficult to navigate in these conditions. We found it, via a more gentle descent, and then attempted to head due south for Ger Tor.

Heading on a bearing, in hill fog, needs some focus and attention but we had all left the inclination to do that back in the car park, so the route wasn't as direct, or text book, as it could have been. No matter, everyone seemed to be enjoying the conditions and company. As we wandered, we relied on the walls and boundaries to readjust our bearings, as and when, and we did, eventually, end up at the tor.

Phil and Colin on Ger Tor
Phil and Colin on Ger Tor
On arrival, Phil and I immediately recognised that we had both been here before. As the cloud rose, the land below was revealed, and we could see our way back to the car park.

We zig-zagged down, our intention now to head to Princetown for lunch at the Fox Tor Cafe, and maybe a pint at the Plume later that afternoon. My day would then be at an end, but Phil, Matthew and Colin still had ambitions of a wild camp, albeit a short stroll to Foggintor Quarry.

I felt no pangs of regret returning to my hot shower, central heating, and comfortable bed, and would rejoin them all, for breakfast, tomorrow.

This morning's route: