Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Dartmoor: A stroll up the East Okement

East Okement Valley
The wonderful East Okement Valley
I was fortunate to have to drive down from Uxbridge to Okehampton mid week because British Telecom were finally installing a phone and, more importantly, broadband, into base camp. With that all sorted on the Thursday, it left me with a couple of days to go a wandering. I started with a short walk from my front door, one which took me into a wonderful woodland paradise that I am blessed to call my local patch, and left me baffled as to why I had never been there before!

Just off the Exeter Road, near Okehampton, a narrow lane drops down to Father Ford, on the East Okement river. There is a small area for parking, but little need for me to use it with home being so close.

Heading down to Father Ford
Heading down to Father Ford
Through a gate, you reach the ford, nestled beside the viaduct that sadly now only takes a seasonal tourist service.

The Viaduct near Father Ford
The Viaduct near Father Ford
No need to ford the river, the other side of the viaduct, there is Charlotte's bridge, built in memory of 12 year old Charlotte Saunders, who tragically lost her life when trying to cross the river in 2001; a sad incident at such a beautiful spot. I paused awhile, a mark of respect.

Charlotte's Bridge
Charlotte's Bridge
Father Ford
Father Ford
I weighed up choices at the signpost, and opted for the East Okement Valley footpath. Soon you are immersed in woodland with idyllic scenes of rushing water.

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Following the East Okement Valley Footpath
Following the East Okement Valley Footpath
East Okement
Jenny How, of Visit Dartmoor, later told me that not many people pass the stepping stones, and sure enough, I had the valley all to myself once crossed. 

Stepping Stones for times of higher water
Stepping Stones for times of higher water
I was keen to follow the path up to the open moor. At one point the path leaves the river and you cross a small footbridge that spans Moor Brook. Through a gap in a wall, you enter into a large flat shady area . Soon though, the river returns and you start to climb once more.

I came across some huge flat granite slabs, which Jenny informed me are known as the "Water Glides", but as can be seen in the photo below, the water was very low. I look forward to experiencing the walk when the rains have been.

The Water Glides
The Water Glides
I also spotted a couple of potential wild swimming spots for my mate, Phil (@daylightgambler); I'm happy to do that, just don't expect me to test them out! But for the most part I was transfixed by the cascading waters, and I took a few short video clips to try and capture the moment;

A potential paddling spot?
A potential paddling spot?
Cascading water
Cascading water
Cascading water
Cascading water
Eventually, the open moor comes into sight, at Chapel Ford. Like Father Ford, further downstream, using it would lead to a soggy boot or two, but there is a perfectly good bridge to get you across the river.

Chapel Ford
Chapel Ford
Bridge near Chapel Ford
The bridge onto the moor near Chapel Ford
From here there is the option to return via Cleave Tor, but I was so taken with the woods, I was keen to walk the route again. I ambled back with a satisfied smug grin, I think I'm going to like living here!

Bridge near Chapel Ford
Bridge near Chapel Ford