Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dartmoor: The Tors and Rocks around Poundsgate

Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock

The last time I was at the car park at Newbridge, I was calling it a day on my Coast to Coast - Two Moors Way attempt. It was a horrid couple of days, with plenty of rain and a number of blisters. On a tight schedule, dictated by pre-booked accommodation, I couldn't take a day off and had to throw in the towel a couple of miles into torrential rain on the third day. The Visitor Centre allowed me to call for a lift and I sheltered there in the company of the Ranger. Being back here, the temporary building is long gone and the weather couldn't have been any different. But this time I wasn't here to continue my journey to Lynmouth, this was to bag the tors and rocks around Poundsgate.

I had always wondered what becomes of the Two Moors Way beyond the car park. By chance, the first quarter of my route would be following that path. The way leads through to Deeper Marsh, a wide flat grassy area beside the River Dart. Families were gathering to swim and play in the inviting shallows of the river and it was clear to see this was a tourist hot spot. Sadly, popularity brings the inevitable discarded litter, barbecue trays and illegal fire pits. I managed to snap a couple of pictures of the river that suggest tranquility, but in truth the area was getting busy.

The River Dart
The River Dart
The River Dart
The River Dart

I was glad to leave the crowd behind where the river bends to welcome the River Webburn, I would be exploring that particular watercourse on my return. I crossed the nearby road and began to climb through the woods of Newbridge Hill. It wasn't long before I began to spot the lower outcrops of Leigh Tor.

Leigh Tor (lower outcrop)
Leigh Tor (lower outcrop)

Climbing higher, more of the tor began to reveal itself as the woodland was left behind. I kept to the path, looking for a break in the bracken moat. That break came at the end of the tor, where a small lawn appeared an inviting wild camping spot, supporting evidence being another circle of scorched earth right beside the path; some people are idiots!

Leigh Tor
Leigh Tor

I liked this one. Ken describes it as a narrow linear outcrop of schorl and not granite, which surprised me. But hey, what do I know? I'm no geologist, I just like what I see!

Leigh Tor
Leigh Tor

As much as I was impressed by Leigh, I was totally underwhelmed by my next bag. I crossed another road, and took a wide unsealed track up the side of the hill. The track wasn't ascending fast enough, though, and I picked up a path straight for the top, through a scene of flowering gorse and heather; stunning! 

The gorse and heather look beautiful
The gorse and heather are beautiful
Path to Aish Tor
Path to Aish Tor

On reaching the top, I found a small cairn. I took a bit of time looking for the expected outcrop. I checked Ken Ringwood's book and he mentioned sparse clitter which I found but it has to rate as the most disappointing bag of the 336 I have attained so far. When I returned home, I checked Terry Bound's book The A to Z of Dartmoor Tors and he categorically says there is no tor on the hill.

Small cairn at Aish Tor.
Small cairn at Aish Tor

I rejoined the Two Moors Way, moving on along the track known as Dr. Blackall's Drive. A well built track that contours the valley side of the River Dart, it was constructed in the 1880's, by the owner of nearby Spithwick Manor, Dr. Thomas Blackall. It was a means for he and his family to enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride and enjoy the views. It certainly allows the hiker to take in the scene without too much effort!

The Dart Valley, looking to Bench and North Tor.
The Dart valley, looking to Bench and North Tor

I could see that Hockinston Tor was going to be difficult. It lies below on the steep valley side and I made a tentative effort to get there, but being alone I saw sense and retreated. One for the winter months when the bracken has died back.

Gave up on Hockinston Tor. The foliage was too great. One for the winter!
Foliage too great for HockinstonTor
Mel Tor, from the Two Moors Way
Mel Tor, from Dr. Blackall's Drive and the Two Moors Way

I cracked on to Mel Tor. This is another lovely tor with a number of outcrops, the largest on the top of the hill. From this vantage point I could see the wooded valley side. I saw no sign of Hockinston, so my decision was vindicated.

Mel Tor (lower outcrop)
Mel Tor (lower outcrop)
Mel Tor
Mel Tor

Looking north, I could see forbidden Bel Tor. I approached it, looking for access that wasn't too public, but barbed gates thwarted and rowdy cattle unnerved me. I followed the path around the walls to the car park where an ice cream van was doing little business in the changeable weather. Here lies the more direct route to the tor, but  in full view of some parked cars, I opted not to trespass, knowing I would be back for Hockinston soon.

Forbidden Bel Tor
Forbidden Bel Tor

I passed down the road, not the best of routes, with little or no verge and blind bends. I was relieved when I came to my turning, and a quieter road beside Leusdon Common.  I entered the tiny village of Leusdon, passing the huge standing stone celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, erected in 2012.

Diamond Jubilee Stone near Leusdon
Diamond Jubilee Stone near Leusdon 
Leusdon Church
Leusdon Church

I passed the church, down a lane to a byway that entered Blackadon Down. Despite the vegetation being high, the path up, beside a wall, was easy to navigate. At the top, I came to Blackadon Tor.

Blackadon Tor
Blackadon Tor

I pulled myself up onto the outcrop and immediately recognised the Hameldown Ridge, left and Bonehill Down, right, with Widecombe within the valley between.

View to Hameldown from Blackadon Tor
View to Hameldown from Blackadon Tor

One more bag left before heading back to New Bridge, this one was the jewel in the crown and it made me work to reach it. I headed west from Blackadon Tor, keeping close to a field wall. I think there is a path here, but in the summer it is commandeered by nature. I scrambled through, ducking and diving, trying to avoid the worse of the bracken. I enviously eyed the small copse the other side of the wall that appeared the easier way and I kept it in mind for the return journey. The wall turned north and appeared to merge into a large outcrop; here was Logwell Rock. What a beauty!

Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock

I may well have been the first to visit this year, if the approach was anything to go by, but even so, a hidden tor such as this gives you the feeling you are the first to ever set eyes on it, and that makes it all the more appealing. I climbed into a narrow avenue between its two highest outcrops and made numerous attempts to capture the scene and do it justice. I'm not sure I did, but I do hope these photographs will encourage you to make your own expedition to wonderful Logwell Rock.

Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock

I returned, via the copse on the other side of the wall. It wasn't as easy because I had to find a chink in the wall where I could drop down, back into the open access land. Passing Blackadon Tor again, I went down the path and further down to a road near Town Wood.

Yeah right, Dartmoor is bleak! ;-)
View from Blackadon Down

My original route was to follow the road back down to Deeper Marsh, but I spotted an unmarked trail off left, into the woods, and decided to follow it. I began high above the River Webburn, contouring the side of the hill nicely. I thought, initially, that it would rejoin the road, but it eventually began to descend to the valley floor.

Town Wood above the Webburn River
Town Wood above the Webburn River

Reaching the river, I was delighted that I had taken the diversion. I was alone to enjoy the scene, a welcome treat considering the horde I was heading for a kilometre away down stream. I even managed to find a bonus unnamed outcrop along the bank before I reached Buckland Bridge!

Webburn River
Webburn River
Outcrop along the Webburn River
Outcrop along the Webburn
Buckland Bridge and the Webburn River
Buckland Bridge and the Webburn
Webburn River
The Webburn
Webburn River
The Webburn

From the bridge, I could see the point where the Webburn flows into the Dart. I was close to the car now.

Where the Dart and Webburn meet
Where the Webburn meets the Dart

Rejoining the Dart, the crowds had descended on Deeper Marsh. I passed through quickly, a real sense of being out of place, like a fully kitted hiker traversing through a city centre. It was good to see so many out picnicking and making the most of the improving weather. I just hoped they would leave no trace at the end of the day.

The Dart
The Dart
Pony near the Dart
Pony near the Dart

Back at New Bridge, I took one last look at the river, capturing another couple of photos that suggest I had all this to myself, when in reality I was yards away from a packed car park.

New Bridge across the Dart
New Bridge across the Dart
The Dart
The Dart

Back at the vehicle, I cursed my error of not bringing any cash as the day had warmed and an ice cream van was a missed opportunity. I made my exit; lesson learned.

Finally, the route: