Monday, 4 April 2016

Dartmoor: Peter Tavy to Lydford

Phil, Sarah and Kate starting off on the Lich Way the day before.
Kate, Phil and Sarah head out on the Lich Way

When I left Phil, Sarah and Kate at Lydford Castle on the Easter Saturday morning, the rain had already started. I had decided to give this traverse of the Lych Way a miss, as forecast was a character building day of misery battling with horizontal rain. Just as well I did!

Later that afternoon, as I followed their progress on Social Hiking from the comfort of my car, I noticed they were veering off the Way at the River Walkham. I figured something was amiss and rushed to Holming Beam, a couple of kilometres away, the other side of Black Dunghill. However, the river was not fordable and after a quick couple of texts we arranged for me to pick them up at a car park outside Peter Tavy; three very cold soggy hikers grateful for a lift to our accommodation at the Powdermills Bunkhouse.



This put Phil and Sarah's planned County Castle Caper in a predicament and the walk the next day was a hastily arranged one to put their adventure back on track. The original idea was to finish the long weekend at Castle Drogo, but that wasn't going to be possible now. Hence the next day Phil hatched this walk to take them back to Lydford Castle, allowing them to cycle to Okehampton Castle on Easter Monday. Confused? Pop over to Phil's blog for an explanation of the challenge at philsorrell.com.

So, we left the Powdermills bunkhouse early, grabbed breakfast at the Fox Tor Cafe, then popped back to mine to pick up the other car necessary for a linear walk. We said goodbye to Kate, dropped a car at Lydford and then returned to the car park below Smeardon Down where they had finished the day before. 

All pre-daunder faff complete, we were finally off! We nipped down to Colly Brook, and took the footpath into Peter Tavy.
  
Colly Brook
Colly Brook
Colly Brook
Colly Brook
Peter Tavy
Peter Tavy
Through the village, along a byway dissecting Gatehouse Farm, we hit a footpath down between fields to the River Tavy,  where we found our only tor of the day, and a first for all of us, nestled in a flat narrow stretch of open access land.

Longtimber Tor is a large, aptly named outcrop. Oak and beech have taken a shine to it, invading its nooks and crannies to grow all over. It's darker north face is finished in soft moss.

Longtimber Tor
Longtimber Tor
We took a narrow route up onto the rock, reaching a well trodden ledge, but were thwarted from going higher by the slippery surface. A drier day would be needed to try and reach its top. Getting down from where we were was not without its complications.

Longtimber Tor
Slippery on Longtimber Tor
Longtimber Tor
Longtimber Tor
Also here, by the Tavy, is a renowned wild swimming spot. The river has a shallow sandy beach to aid entrance to the river and a fair pool to submerge those brave enough to embrace the cold. On the bend, the current was slower making it safer. Phil and Sarah surveyed the river intently while we ate a lunch of home made hot cross buns.

River Tavy beside Longtimber Tor
Contemplating a dip in the Tavy
River Tavy
Outcrop by Tavy
Onward along the strip of Open Access Land. The area narrowed, pinched by the Tavy and its steepening bank. We met with slippery rocks, low hanging branches and creeping bramble, all conspiring to halt our progress. I spotted the footpath above the bank and made a beeline for it, captured by the thorny arms of the bramble, clawing at my clothing and rucksack. Phil and Sarah followed in my wake.

Path beside River Tavy
Alongside the Tavy
The footpath took us down to a footbridge across the river, by an old power station. I was keen to see signs of some tors further up stream that were on private land; High, Fox (Mary Tavy), Kent's and Brimhill. We came out up the path to a large area that appears to be a BMX track. It gave a good view across a field to woodland that housed the forbidden tors. What excited me was that it all looked secluded, well covered and definitely worth an expedition. Timing would be key, as the woodland in the spring and summer might be impenetrable. One for the winter months.

We joined the West Devon Way, through Mary Tavy. This was to be our route into Lydford, crossing the A386 and then contouring Gibbet Hill. As we made our way round the lower flank, a hailstorm interrupted our sunny day. My hands were freezing but I knew it would be brief and I couldn't be bothered to pause to dig my gloves from my rucksack.

Brentor from Gibbet Hill
Brent Tor from Gibbett Hill
Hail storm passed. Gibbet Hill
Hailstorm passed. Gibbet Hill
As quick as it had come, it had passed. We had good weather for the remainder of the walk. We joined the road below Was Tor. Another forbidden outcrop, we went in search of a possible route, or inclination of ownership. From the side we saw, it was ringed by houses, high hedgerows and a farm. Later looking at Ken Ringwoods book, he was granted kind permission to visit by one of its owners; we'll have to seek out the landowner for this one.

Was Tor, Private Land.
Was Tor
All that was left was a 2 kilometre road walk into Lydford, under the disused railway, over the famous gorge, and up to the Castle, with its 13th Century tower. A quick look around, then to the Castle Inn pub just as the rain began again.

Lydford Castle
Lydford Castle
All that remained was to pick up the car back at Peter Tavy, my lot done for the weekend. For Phil and Sarah, a small matter of a cycle the next day to Okehampton Castle to get their caper back on track!

And the route: