Sunday, 16 October 2016

Dartmoor: In search of Water Rock and other tors

Sign Post to Bovey Valley
Sign post to the Bovey Valley
Since I started out on this tor bagging challenge, I've been intrigued by the introduction of new ones that have not been cataloged, or were simply forgotten. Many have been brought to my attention thanks to the fine work of Tim Jenkinson. It began with an article in Dartmoor Magazine, which led me to his excellent Flickr album: East Dartmoor Lesser Known Tors and Rocks. My plan today was to go in search of Water Rock, Mill Bottom (North) and Mill Bottom (South), in addition to visiting the more well known Gradner Rocks.


I started at the car park high up on Trendlebere Down. Descending for a track by the River Bovey, it soon became clear that wasn't an option thanks to both the bracken and the steep drop. I changed direction taking the Bovey Pottery Leat west until I was on a track that led into Houndtor Wood.

Trendlebere Down
Trendlebere Down

This proved to peter out, and the way looked unnecessarily difficult, so I found myself climbing again, this time to the road. I followed the road all the way to Becky Falls

I had no intention of forking out £8.25 to take a short cut through the park, and so continued further to the public bridleway that skirts the area. The public route does encounter some of the private ones and I did consider investigating but thought better of it. Besides, this wasn't my objective today. 

As I write this, I've noticed on the park map, a mention of two tors in the enclosure; Luke's and Brett's Tor, so I will have to visit!

Private path to Becky Falls
Private footpath to Becky Falls

I was now back in Houndtor Woods, following a good track. After encountering a large number of people near Becky Falls it was nice for some solitude.

Entering Houndtor Wood
Entering Houndtor Woods
Houndtor Woods
Houndtor Woods

At a sign post, I followed the route to Bovey Valley. I came to a gate with a sign that warned to beware of grazing stock. Noted, I went through and turned north passed some earthworks, that were marked on the map. I was approaching Water Rock. Taking the coordinates provided by Tim, it was nearly time to leave the footpath and go searching. 

So, what was the reason for considering including it as part of my list? Given it was originally listed on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map would seem validation enough, but there is also a mention of the outcrop by William Crossing on page 79 of "Gems in a Granite Setting"; "Lower down (from Horsham Steps) are footbridges, and by the higher one the visitor may reach Water Rock, where is a magnificent view of the valley and its surroundings." 

Leaving the path, the ground is a bit cluttered by fallen leaves and branches at this time of year, but not difficult. The outcrop Tim believes is the correct outcrop, is a fine specimen and I agree that this is the forgotten Water Rock. The view that Crossing speaks of is long gone, as the trees have dwarfed it, but it makes sense this is it.

Water Rock
Water Rock
Water Rock
Water Rock
Water Rock
Water Rock

Well chuffed with the find, I returned to the footpath and made my way down to Lustleigh Cleave. 

Footpath to Lustleigh Cleave
Footpath to Lustleigh Cleave

Crossing the Bovey, I went along the bridlepath to Pethybridge, passing some fine specimens of granite that were, themselves, worthy of inclusion on my list, but this is an issue in the Lustleigh area as there is so much for the tor bagger and a line has to be drawn. I figure that when my current to do list was complete, I would take a closer look at Tim's work in the area and try to catalogue them.

Unnamed outcrop below Sharpitor
Unnamed outcrop below Sharpitor
Many granite outcrops in the cleave.
Many granite outcrops in the cleave
Bridlepath to Pethybridge
Bridlepath to Pethybridge
A clearing on the bridlepath to Pethybridge
A clearing on the bridlepath to Pethybridge
A clearing on the bridlepath to Pethybridge
A clearing on the bridlepath to Pethybridge
Approaching Pethybridge
Approaching Pethybridge


Out of the woods, through a charming clearing (where Tim later informed me another tor can be found, but one I missed), I was into the village of Lustleigh.

Outskirts of Lustleigh
Outskirts of Lustleigh

Even when walking through this picturesque village, you encounter huge granite boulders sitting beside the roads, with no reference to them apparent.

Unnamed outcrop on the outskirts of Lustleigh
Unnamed outcrop on the outskirts of Lustleigh
Lustleigh
Lustleigh

I passed through the village centre, under the didused viaduct and into an area known as Wrayland.

Old railway bridge
Old railway bridge

Leaving the road, through a field and into some woodland beside the Wray Brook, I almost missed the granite tucked away in the shade. This is what Tim has dubbed "Mill Bottom (North)".

Mill Bottom North
Mill Bottom (North)
Mill Bottom North
Mill Bottom (North)
Mill Bottom North
Mill Bottom (North)

Southbound, along the footpath, I crossed the Wray Brook. A short way further and I could see a huge tor on the opposite bank. This was Mill Bottom (South).

If I had the inclination, I should have retraced my route to the footbridge and got a lot closer to the outcrop. Instead, I tried my best to get as good a photograph from the edge of the brook. With all the foliage, it might be wiser to return when winter has arrived.

Mill Bottom South beside the Wray Brook
Mill Bottom (South)
Mill Bottom South
Mill Bottom (South)

As much as I was having fun, time was ticking and I was acutely aware that the return to my car was not going to be straightforward. I left Mill Bottom (South) and picked my way, through the outskirts of the village, up to Hisley Wood.

Finding Gradner Rocks was relatively easy. Signs of the outcrop appear close to the bridleway through the woods, but to get the best of it, you must leave the track and clamber up the steep bank. It's worth the effort!

Gradner Rocks
Gradner Rocks
Gradner Rocks
Gradner Rocks
Gradner Rocks
Gradner Rocks

Back down to the bridleway, I stopped at a bench to take in the view of Trendlebere Down. Whilst it was a lovely scene, my real intention was to figure out my route back. I was loathed to reach the road and traipse up it for a couple of kilometres, preferring to follow the small stream in the valley pictured below.

Trendlebere Down from Hisley Wood
Trendlebere Down from Hisley Wood

The bridleway switched back and dropped down to Hisley Bridge. A fine cobbled bridge spanning the River Bovey.

Hisley Bridge across the River Bovey
Hisley Bridge across the River Bovey
Hisley Bridge
Hisley Bridge

On the other side of the river, I followed the byway to the valley I had noted earlier, where I was relieved to see a path heading up the west bank of the stream. 

By now, sadly, my phone had died and as I'd left my camera at home, the rest of the walk continued without photographic evidence. The valley was a nice sun trap and a warm climb up on decent path to where the road bends up onto the down. I found my way up to the Bovey Pottery Leat again and joined the road with only a few hundred metres of walking on metal.

An enjoyable walk of only four hours, with bundles of interesting things to see. 

Here's the route I took: