Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dartmoor: The Tors and Rocks out of Manaton

Bowermans Nose
Easdon Hill from Bowerman's Nose
With the promise of a chill wind with gusts up to 50 mph and relentless rain, Phil Sorrell (@DaylightGambler), Rich Flint (@FlintyRich), Colin Astbury (@ColinAstbury) and I stepped out this weekend to visit an area none of us had trod before. I had plotted a circular that offered a mixture of woodland and moor. It also included a visit to one of the most famous rocks on Dartmoor.

The weather was playing nice when we set off from the tiny village of Manaton, and visibility was pretty good. For anyone thinking of  replicating our walk, or taking other routes in the area, Manaton has a large car park, which is a welcome surprise given the narrow lanes that need to be passed to reach it. Persevere with the roads, and you will not be disappointed. The village is spread out, with the church and village green being about a kilometre from the pub, but that doesn't detract from the fact it is a picturesque location to visit. 

Manaton
Manaton
Church at Manaton
Church at Manaton
Taking the footpath through the yard of the 15th century St. Winifred Church, we entered a narrow walkway fenced either side to deter any strays. It also resembled a steeplechase course, littered with a handful of utterly tedious stiles. 

Already we were beginning to see granite boulders dotted among the fields and gardens. I did wonder if this was to be the sum of Manaton Rocks; after all, we have seen less impressive outcrops in our previous rambles.

Ascending to Manaton Rocks
Ascent to Manaton Rocks
The path soon began to ascend into some woods and the granite became more substantial. We reached Manaton Rocks proper and climbed up onto the tor for some impressive 360 degree views. The sun even took pity on us and popped its head out, briefly, to reassure us that the day wasn't going to be so bad after all!

View from Manaton Rocks
View North-East from Manaton Rocks to Hunters Tor
View from Manaton Rocks
View South-West from Manaton Rocks to Haytor Rocks
Manaton Rocks
Manaton Rocks
As we hopped off the rock and continued on the path round its bulk, it became clearer as to how large this monolith really was; The majority is hidden in the undergrowth, and deserves another visit to explore in more detail. A great start to the morning.

Manaton Rocks
Manaton Rocks

Manaton Rocks
Manaton Rocks
The path snaked its way down from the tor, in the opposite direction to our next bag, but on the rural edges of Dartmoor this is often the case to negotiate the vast tracts of unaccessible land.

Manaton Rocks outlying boulders
Boulders in the woodland below Manaton Rocks
We joined the road that links Manaton with North Bovey and briefly walked it down passed Langstone and Luckdon Farm, turning left onto a bridleway into forestry below Easdon Hill. The further we climbed, the stronger the wind became, even with the cover of the trees. When we found the open moor, the rain had been with us for ten minutes. 

We hand-railed the edge of the forest boundary wall, until it was obvious to me that a better track existed on the other side. The better track helped but soon veered off down the hill, leaving us with a short meander through trees to the edge of another wall. We had expected to spot Barracott, on private land, within an open field, as the Ordnance Survey map gives that impression. What we found on the ground was an unkempt enclosed area, left to nature for years. 

We stepped through a breach in the wall, and made our way through the thicket. It wasn't long before the prize could be seen, and we were standing atop another impressive tor in danger of being forgotten. Sometimes, it seems that it is only our tor bagging exploits that will keep these neglected tors in the public conscience and I believe that all the tors on Dartmoor should have public access. I can see no reason this one is not open access as the land is clearly being left to the mercy of the bracken.

Barracott
Barracott
Barracott
Barracott
Making our way out of the enclosure, we passed the edge of another field, this one maintained but containing some odd piles that were surely man made and not a natural phenomena. We could only wonder as to the reasoning behind them.

Strange piles in a field near Barracott
Strange piles in a field near Barracott
We returned to the open moor, and began our ascent in the rain and escalating wind speeds, to Figgie Daniel, where we sought some shelter, albeit pretty poor refuge. As it turned out, this was the worst we would endure today, and it was negligible for regular Dartmoor walkers. 

Figgie Daniel
Figgie Daniel

Figgie Daniel
Phil on Figgie Daniel
Wet and Windy up by Figgie Daniel
Rich seeks the shelter of Figgie Daniel
I sipped on a warm flask of blackcurrant juice, whilst the others ate some lunch. After a hearty breakfast, I figured the walk was not sufficiently arduous enough to require extra food, although I had squirreled away that extra sausage I couldn't finish, for later in the day.

Up we went now, visiting the first outcrop on the top of the hill, known as Easdon Hill. However, the officially recognised tor sat the other side of a shallow saddle, some five hundred metres away, directly west, into the wind.

Outcrop on Easdon Hill
Colin on Easdon Hill
Off to Easdon Tor
Off to Easdon Tor
Tarn within the saddle between Easdon Hill and Tor
Small tarn in the saddle between Easdon Hill and Tor
When we reached Easdon Tor, with its trig point, the art of tor sitting continued, mainly because it was proving difficult to stand up in the relentless buffeting. Despite the wind, though, the sun reappeared. So much for an uncomfortable day, this was great fun and a valuable reminder to take any Dartmoor forecasts of doom with a huge pinch of salt. 

Easdon Tor Trig
Best catalogue pose on Easdon Tor
Outcrop near Whooping Rock
Colin on an outcrop near Whooping Rock
We made our way down to the next rock of note. This was a Logan Stone called Whooping Rock. Far more impressive was the outcrop it was perched on and I doubted it could be rocked as all good Logan Stones should.

Whooping Rock
The view from Whooping Rock
Whooping Rock
Whooping Rock (Logan Stone on top, to the right)
Anyway, earlier in the day we had been tipped off in a tweet about an unmarked tor in the vicinity, by @dartefacts, and I was eager to see it.


It was on our route, so we didn't have to look very hard, and what a gem it was! We all saw the potential of, as @dartefact calls it; "Leaning Rock Tor", for  a bivvy, with a great overhang protecting you from the inclement weather. Another one to return to.

Let us not forget that being alerted to this tor was also an endorsement of the power of Social Hiking!

I've since found out that this is actually known as Easdon South Tor.

Leaning Rock Tor
Leaning Rock Tor (as named by Dartefacts)
Leaning Rock Tor
Leaning Rock Tor
We dropped down from Easdon South / Leaning Rock Tor to reach a byway, and a lane passed Easdon Farm, sparing a thought for the poor sheep we encountered on the way.

Dead Sheep
Dead sheep
Lane near Easdon Farm
Lane near Easdon Farm
We were back on road, which always helps to make up some time. We stopped for another break by the roadside at Heatree House Activity Centre. I tucked into the sausage, and was ready for the ascent up onto Cripdon Down. It was straightforward and required little effort to reach Cripdon Down Tor, with great views of Haytor and Hound Tor in the distance.
Cripdon Down Tor
Cripdon Down Tor
Looking to Hound and Haytor from Cripdon Down
Looking to Haytor and Hound from Cripdon Down Tor
We skirted around a boundary wall, contouring to an awkward ladder stile before crossing the road that separates Cripdon Down from Hayne Down.

The path from there is narrow, but well trodden to Bowerman's Nose.

This was my first visit to the nose, and yet it was so familiar thanks to countless images across all types of Dartmoor related media. The only aspect that surprised me was that it was larger than I expected.
Bowermans Nose
Bowerman's Nose
Hayne Down Tors
Hayne Down Tor
We climbed up to higher ground. The Bowerman is considered to be a part of the higher area of outcrops known as Hayne Down. But, as a named significant rock, it is a separate bag, giving two on Hayne Down to capture. I would argue that there is a third, as another set of obvious outcrops on the down to the south should be listed as separate. The distance between the north and south outcrops should surely be considered, as should the fact that the southern collection is also known as Southcott Rocks. Despite it not being shown on any maps of the area, there is sufficient evidence of the name in Dartmoor literature.

Hayne Down Tors
Hayne Down
I made sure we visited both sections, just in case Phil, being the custodian of the Social Hiking Tors and Rocks of Dartmoor List, was feeling generous and would decide to add it.

Southcott Rocks
Southcott Rocks
Hound Tor from Southcott Rocks
Hound Tor from Southcott Rocks
From the shelter of Southcott Rocks (if I say it enough, it will surely be accepted!) we headed off in the direction of St Winifred church in the distance. As expected, we met up with a bridleway off the down, and descended to the lane to Freeland.

Once again, we were joined by light drizzle, and the sight of the Kes Tor Inn must have signalled the end for Phil.

We had one more tor to find today, and this one appeared, on the map, to be situated in the middle of the village. Not long after passing the pub, we got a pushover notification that we were in the proximity of Latchell Tor. I wasn't happy with that, as I couldn't see it, and we surmised that it must be out of reach, in someone's garden, a little like the Pugiestone. I hadn't given up yet, though, wandering a little further along the public right of way that seemed to be a driveway, and there in the woods we could just about see evidence of another substantial tor.

Phil was reluctant to go any further given access appeared barred by private land. I wasn't convinced we were completely stuffed and wanted to investigate further along the path, offering to meet everyone back at the pub if they weren't comfortable. Colin and Rich decided to continue with me, and sure enough, further along the path, there was a way into the woods. I turned to call to Phil, but he had gone.

We wandered up and, in the failing light, we managed to reach the tor. As Ken Ringwood points out in his book, despite it being on private land, it is easily accessible. For the life of me, I cannot understand the logic of barring the public from these wonderful natural exhibits. Open up access for all to enjoy, I say!

Latchell Tor
Latchell Tor
Latchell Tor
Latchell Tor
Latchell Tor
Latchell Tor
Chuffed with the find, we returned to Phil at the Kes Tor Inn for a quick pint. We avoided the worst of the rain before the final kilometre march back along the road to the car park. It had been a brilliant day; the predicted apocalyptic weather had not troubled us at all and we were all relatively dry when we piled back into the car.

Job done, a curry at Ma'ida in Okehampton was the next order of the day!

And the route: