Monday, 29 February 2016

Dartmoor: Ashbury Tor

Ashbury Tor summit
Ashbury Tor top
When you take the footpath from Fatherford up to East Hill you eventually come out into a clearing and encounter a low band of non-granite rock in danger of being lost to the gorse. This is known as Ashbury Tor and more akin to a tripping hazard, than an impressive outcrop, you'll be forgiven for thinking what was all that effort for!

But don't dismiss it so quickly. For a start, it does have cracking views, high above the wooded valleys of the East Okement and Moor Brook, to the east and south respectively.

To the north,  a few metres away, you will find the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, whilst in the distance you can see the rapidly expanding town of Okehampton. It is also the closest tor to my house, and not, as I first thought, Cleave Tor.

But, I guess, for a tor bagger, it's the outcrop you are here to see first and foremost, and initial impressions will likely leave you deflated. Persevere, root around, take a few steps down into the steep woodland below and you will discover a treasure that is ample reward for your exertions.

Ashbury Tor: from below
Ashbury Tor
I have been down here before, only briefly on a longer walk, but this time I had no particular plans and so I decided to explore the hidden cliff face. It turned out to be an enjoyable half hour clambering about, around, over, under, finding out how far this outcrop stretched.

Ashbury Tor: from below.
Ashbury Tor in the tree line.
Occasionally, vantage points on the tor gave you views framed by the trees.

View above Moor Brook and the East Okement valleys
Views across the East Okement and Moor Brook valleys
The lack of foliage allowed the winter sun to light up both the rock and the woodland floor. The shelter from the biting north-easterly wind made it a pleasant place to be and I was in no rush to leave it.

Ashbury Tor: from below.
Ashbury Tor
The tor just kept giving; I was discovering narrow ledges to traverse to find further outcrops lost to the woods.

Ashbury Tor just keeps on giving!
Plenty to explore
Ashbury Tor
Ashbury Tor is non-granite
Ashbury Tor: Outcrop looking over the East Okement.
An outcrop overlooking the East Okement
Ashbury Tor: a bigger view
Wider view of the upper outcrop
Below me, Moor Brook looked out of reach. If I descended, I wasn't sure where I would end up, or if I would just have to turn around and slog back up. But I spotted an outcrop further down and the urge to investigate was too hard to resist.

The valley side was good walking, carpeted by a healthy pile of moss and much safer than the fallen leaves further up which saw me slip to my knees on one occasion.

Moor Brook below
The steep valley down to Moor Brook
Sure enough, half way down the hill, I came across another significant outcrop, cloaked in moss. I imagine, if tackling from the bottom, this would certainly be a false summit and momentarily fool you into thinking you'd bagged Ashbury.

Ashbury Tor: a lower outcrop on the descent to Moor Brook
Ashbury Tor lower outcrop
From the lower outcrop, I peered down to see the brook and a well trodden path beside it, and most importantly, on the right side of the water. That made up my mind to continue down.

Ashbury Tor: lower outcrop
Below the lower outcrop
I was grateful that the trees were bare; full foliage would mean there was no telling what lay below and coupled with the gradient would have made descent an intimidating venture that I may not have attempted. Now it has been done, though, I would have no hesitation in doing it again.

Footpath and outcrop by Moor Brook
Outcrop near the path and Moor Brook
Moor Brook
Moor Brook
I dropped down to the path, my right knee grateful for reaching it, and I weighed up which direction to take. Upstream would have made for a longer walk but, not being quite over a head cold, I satisfied myself with the Sunday morning exercise, and chose to head downstream to where Moor Brook met the East Okement and the path was straightforward back to Fatherford. But not without a last look up at the woodland below the Tor.

Woodland below Ashbury Tor
Looking back up to Ashbury Tor
Today was a valuable reminder to not just attain the bag. Don't judge a tor by it's top alone, take some time to explore as you may end up finding yourself smitten. See you soon, Ashbury Tor; I'll be back in the Spring!

 And the route: