Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Dartmoor: An evening stroll along the Taw and over Belstone Common

Higher Tor
Higher Tor

The continuing saga of not being able to relocate permanently, having to endure the weekly commute to London for work, has meant that any chores or tasks around the home cannot be fulfilled during the weekday evenings. Include the excellent form of my beloved West Ham United compelling me to seek out a dodgy online stream most weekends, my time is limited. The knock on effect is that walks on Dartmoor recently have been stolen opportunities.

With the daylight hours increasing, I took the opportunity, last Saturday evening, to stretch the legs for a couple of hours, at least. Robbed of a win at Chelscum by incompetent officials, I needed to clear my thoughts of disappointment as well as expend enough energy to justify a decent meal later; ahh, the joys of a calorie counting diet!

Belstone is only five minutes from home. I parked up and followed a good track out that contours the side of the River Taw. I've been on this track before, but in the other direction, so this was, technically, a new one for me.

Track out of Belstone above the River Taw
Track out of Belstone
I soon veered from the track when I spotted an unusual granite boulder to my left. Well trodden lawn around its base told me that others have gravitated to it, likely to see if it is natural or man made; I'm still undecided. A quick tour round the rock and I could see it resembled the rudimentary shape of a large seal. For want of a name, I tagged it "Seal Rock" but I've since found out the locals call it The Walrus Stone.

Rock above the River Taw
The Walrus Stone
"Seal" Rock above the River Taw
The Walrus Stone
The basking walrus had drawn me closer to the river, so I continued down to its bank. I checked my watch, still time before darkness fell to potter along the edge.

The River Taw
The River Taw
The River Taw
The River Taw
Further upstream, Steeperton Tor rises in the distance, with its familiar observation post overlooking Taw Marsh.

River Taw, Steeperton Tor in the background
River Taw, Steeperton Tor in the background
Continuing some more along the edge, I came across some deep pools that would have my friends Phil and Sarah venturing in without hesitation. Myself, I would need some persuading or financial incentive!

River Taw, deep enough for a bath
River Taw; deep enough for a bath
Time to tear myself away from the river, and return to the track for a short distance. It was fifteen minutes to sunset, so I wanted to be up on the ridge before, in case the clouds scattered leaving me with a glorious view to the West.

Taw Marsh
Taw Marsh
There was a gentle ascending trail up to Knattaborough Tor. Previous visits to this outcrop have been along the ridge, or from the track on the western slope. From both, it is unremarkable, but from the east, its status as a tor more obvious.

Outcrop near Knattaborough Tor
Knattaborough Tor

On the ridge now, a hint of colour in the sky beyond High Willhays and Yes Tor, but little to hold my attention too long in the dimming light. Onwards to Belstone Common.

High Willhays, Yes, Little, West Mill, Rowtor
High Willhays, Hampster, Yes, Little, West Mill, Rowtor background, Hart Tor foreground.
Looking back to Taw Marsh and Oke Tor
Looking back to Taw Marsh, Oke Tor, and Knattaborough. Lower Tor in the foreground.

Reaching Lower Tor, my phone camera could no longer cope and so I switched to my Canon Powershot to capture the rest of the walk.

At Higher Tor, the onset of dusk ever closer, I spotted a dog walker near Belstone Tor. We exchanged a wave, then he took the low path while I still felt confident enough to clamber over the higher rocks in the remaining light.

Belstone Tors
Belstone Tor

By the time I had reached Tors End, the dog walker was way ahead, by the flag pole at Watchet Hill. I figured it was wise to do likewise, and was soon to follow. I was pleased to reach Belstone before the need to dig out my head torch passing through the gate to the village just as the moor descended into darkness.

Tors End
Tors End

And the route; short but sweet!