Monday, 13 June 2016

Dartmoor: The Tors and Rocks above Wapsworthy

Standon Hill
Standon Hill
We were being spoilt this weekend; another dry warm and sunny day greeted us, and this time we were going to enjoy the open moor, steering clear of the woods below. We were picking up some tors missed from yesterday, a route that had been a touch ambitious in the heat.

Matt drove Jim and I through the narrow lanes beyond Peter Tavy, up to the moor gate above Wapsworthy. Here, there are a few spaces for vehicles and we were fortunate there was plenty of room, I was nervous we'd have to turn and head back down without a back up plan.

Bagga Tor
Bagga Tor
Our first prize, Bagga Tor, is supposed to be on private land, but the way from the car is open and you are at the top in a couple of minutes. We scanned the fields below for a sighting of its neighbour, Brousentor, also on private land, but nothing jumped out at us. We could see a couple of vehicles below in the field that we believed it was located, so we decided to visit at the end of the day.

The decision to leave Brousentor until last decided our direction. I was particularly pleased because Standon Hill, to the north-east, looked a beast of a climb.

It was back down to a track known as Black Lane, which once serviced a peat works at Walkham Head. It veers left of our intended route, forming into an obvious sunken lane climbing up into the moor, between Lynch Tor and Standon Hill. 

This stretch is also a part of the Lich Way, which heads up towards Cocks Hill. We followed it, enviously eyeing up an outcrop over a kilometre away to the south, that we were wanting to reach on Cudlipptown Down. At first, high stone walls barred our way and we were resigned to a lengthy slog around but eventually we found a gate to breach the wall. We climbed over and dropped down to Youldon Brook.

Crossing Youldon Brook
Crossing Youldon Brook
making our way up Cudlipptown Down
Making our way up Cudlipptown Down

We marched up the side of the down, out of the field, and followed a wall separating us from some skittish bullocks. We reached another field, where the outcrop lay, although it appeared much less impressive close up.

There is some contention as to the location of this bag; Hare Tor (Wapsworthy). William Crossing, in his Guide to Dartmoor, describes it as "..above Wapsworthy Wells, where a small pile on the slope above an equally small clatter is always spoken as Hare Tor..". 

From this, Terry Bound, in his book "The A to Z of Dartmoor Tors" surmised that it is "over a wall beyond a gate close to the green army huts along the track from Wapsworthy Gate, near Bagga Tor". 

However, Ken Ringwood, in "Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks" places it on the side of the hill overlooking Wapsworthy. This is where we now were, finding a group of outcrops that were sufficiently tor like. Looking at the map, this is also better placed to be described as "above the springs known as Wapsworthy Wells" so I'm inclined to agree with Ken.

Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)
Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)
Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)
Hare Tor (Wapsworthy)

It was gentle ascent to White Tor; fifty metres in just over a kilometre. It is an untidy tor, some large non-granite outcrops stand among a mass of clitter and scattered cairns. Throw in the remains of a neolithic settlement, it is bewildering to make sense of the scene. A mess it may be, but the views from this vantage point alone are worthy of a visit.

White Tor
White Tor
White Tor
White Tor
White Tor
White Tor

Once we had negotiated the clitter to join the grass of its lower flanks, we moved down to the less frantic scene of Lower White Tor.

Lower White Tor
Lower White Tor

I do like this tor. It looks out onto West Devon, with Brent Tor prominent in the distance. We found a sunny spot out of the breeze and sat back to enjoy the vista. Today was definitely a day for tor sitting.

Lower White Tor
Lower White Tor

We cut south, to meet the wide track that originates from Peter Tavy, heading east to join the Lich Way. Along the route, we came to a standing stone on Peter Tavy Common. Nearby, the map told us there was a stone row. I saw no sign of it, but,to be fair, we were more interested in heading for Cocks Hill.

Standing Stone on Peter Tavy Great Common
Standing Stone on Peter Tavy Common

For a brief period, we split up, taking different routes for Cocks Hill. Matt and Jim left the track and went straight for it, but I stuck to the path to avoid the tussocky ground. I made my way up to White Barrow, and then struck south over some bog, to meet them. My route wasn't quicker, but I assume it was simpler.

We returned to White Barrow, crossed the Lich Way, northwards to Lynch Tor. The ground between us and the tor was sodden, slowing our progress. It took about half an hour to reach Limsboro Cairn. This is a natural outcrop circled by a man made cairn of granite stones. The military have also installed a flag pole here to warn the public of live firing.

Limsboro Cairn
Limsboro Cairn

Lynch Tor sits a few metres further north. I have fond memories of taking a break here, within a sheltered depression beside the tor, back on my first perambulation in 2007 and I always enjoy revisiting.

Lynch Tor
Lynch Tor

Now it was on to Standon Hill, but in our way lay Black Lane and Baggator Brook. I aimed to avoid as much descent as possible, contouring as best I could, but inevitably, the chosen route across Dartmoor involves some deviation, and we lost some height before crossing both lane and brook. Fortunately, we had stumbled upon an easy grass path up the side of Standon.

Jim had been bemoaning that he hadn't managed to get a Social Hiking recognised first bag over the past couple of days. When you are walking with companions, it can be a bit of a lottery who gets the honour, affected by the amount of beacons transmitted by your tracking device of choice or when the server pulls in your tracking data. So, knowing this hill had not been visited before by any Social Hikers, I held back, with Matthew, to ensure he arrived first and with enough time.

Standon Hill
Jim on Standon Hill
Standon Hill
Standon Hill

Standon Hill was our penultimate tor. It wasn't even three o'clock and so we took another extended break before tackling the descent.

Standon Hill
Standon Hill

Descent was steep, with occasional areas of clitter, but the thought of tackling it in the other direction was a comfort.

Descending Standon Hill
Descending Standon Hill

At the bottom, we came to a bound gate. The other side we knew to be Open Access land and so we had no hesitation in scaling it. It was a bit of a mire beside Baggator Brook, a couple of attempts had us retreating before we tried a more north-westerly direction. That did the trick, and even took us to an open gate to the concrete track of Standon Farm.

We turned left, heading across the brook and up the steep track to Brousentor Farm. Passing the entrance on our right, we were at the field to our left, where Brousentor was said to be, withing the confines of Baggator Farm. From the gate, we saw nothing and so followed the wall eastwards to a point where we spotted the outcrop. 


Brousentor
Brousentor, just out of reach
The wall was good and it seemed that we were to be thwarted within about thirty metres of the tor. But I wasn't giving up yet; I saw some signs of deterioration in the wall further on that could prove a chink in the defence and Jim went to look. What he found was an entrance to the field, with no gate! We took this as an open invitation to walk briskly to the granite, get a notification we had bagged it, take a photo and return with no harm done.

Brousentor
Brousentor
Bagga Tor
Bagga Tor


Happy that we had picked up all we had been seeking, we skirted the base of Bagga Tor, back to the car, a productive two days of tor bagging complete. Time to head back to Base Camp, shower and celebrate with a curry and a couple of cool ciders in Okehampton!

And the route for today: