Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dartmoor: Some tors and rocks around Lancombe Hill

Hen Tor from Eastern Tor
Hen Tor from Eastern Tor
Above the River Plym, on Penn Moor, there were a couple of outcrops I needed to visit on my quest to bag the tors and rocks of Dartmoor. One I had forgotten to photograph on my first visit and the other missed altogether. With such a nice day ahead, I thought it was a good idea to incorporate them into a circular over Lancombe Hill as far as Yealm Rocks and also seek out a third outcrop missed near Ducks Pool.

Parking near the Scout Hut below Gutter Tor is always a lottery given the lack of spaces, but today I was early and the second car to arrive. I took the path through the walled grounds of the scout hut and out onto the moor, climbing to Eastern Tor then dropping down to Ditsworthy Warren House.

Gutter Tor
Gutter Tor
Gutter Tor
Gutter Tor

Eastern Tor
Eastern Tor

Ditsworthy Warren House
Ditsworthy Warren House


Ditsworthy Warren House
Ditsworthy Warren House

Crossing a river so early in the walk meant only one thing, a day of wet feet thanks to the Goretex lining of  my boots being about as effective as a sponge. It took some wandering up the bank of the Plym before I found a spot that I could ford. Then it was up onto the hill to seek out Shavercombe Tor.

Shavercombe Tor
Shavercombe Tor

This was a tor that I had forgot to photograph on my previous visit. Richard, Matthew and I had been distracted by rain at the end of a long day and we only had thoughts of setting up camp on the other side of the Plym. Well, I say "we"; in truth that would be Richard and Matthew because I would have preferred trekking straight back to the car!

Shavercombe Tor
Shavercombe Tor

Shavercombe is a modest tor. Some nice granite shapes for it's low stature and worth a look if you happen to wander in this area.

Shavercombe Tor
Shavercombe Tor

Looking on the map, I could see there was a waterfall nearby in Shavercombe Brook. As I would be following this water course up the hill to Little Hen Tor, it made for a welcome distraction before the ascent. It also proved to be the only part of the route that had some shade on a warming day.

Shavercombe Brook Waterfall
Shavercombe Brook Waterfall

Shavercombe Brook Waterfall
Shavercombe Brook Waterfall

Leaving the brook, I started to encounter some clitter. You'll begin to doubt you'll find little else of ruined Little Hen Tor, but as you near the highest point of this rubble, you will come across a section that is exposed bedrock. It is a little disappointing for such effort, but reading Ken Ringwoods' notes, I was prepared for that. I could also see why we missed it last time around.

Little Hen Tor
Little Hen Tor

Little Hen Tor
Little Hen Tor

Ahead, lay a section up and over Penn Moor, down to Yealm Rocks. New territory for me and eagerly anticipated. I pulled up to the trig point then set a bearing for the river that was out of sight over the brow, I needn't have as the visibility was so good today.

Penn Moor Trig
Penn Moor

Although obvious when approaching, Yealm Rocks was a little disappointing for me. It comprised of a few large boulders sat beside the River Yealm.

Yealm Rocks
Yealm Rocks
Yealm Rocks
Yealm Rocks

Yealm Rocks
Yealm Rocks

Much more interesting was the cascading Yealm Steps, although approaching from the rocks proved hazardous, with deep clefts among the clitter, hidden by grass.

River Yealm
River Yealm

River Yealm Waterfalls
Yealm Steps
River Yealm
The River Yealm

The temperature had risen further and I realised I had erred in forgetting my water filter. Carrying only a litre of water, I was going to have to slow my pace and ration my intake. With that in mind, the long traverse over Lancombe Hill became more of a psychological battle than a physical one. It felt like hours picking my way through the tough grass, constantly checking my position in this featureless terrain. It was a great relief to reach the boundary stone atop Lancombe Hill and the follow a semblance of a track to the mark at Lancombe Head.

Boundary Stone on Langcombe Hill
Boundary Stone on Langcombe Hill

Boundary Stone on mound near Langcombe Head
Boundary Stone on mound near Langcombe Head

Descending, I was now on familiar terrain in Erme Pits. This old tin mine has been reclaimed by nature and its large pits and piles make for a fascinating landscape. 

Erme Pits
Erme Pits

Erme Pits
Erme Pits

I crossed at the Erme and proceeded to a stream called Wollake, where I then turned north to follow the west side of the bank. There was plenty of granite here, but nothing stood out to merit the name "Black Rocks". I approached the rough grid reference I had and it was apparent these were very rough so I continued further upstream.

Wollake
Wollake

A slight bend in the brook and to my left a collection of large boulders appeared. This fitted with a photograph I had seen of Black Rocks taken by another tor bagger, Dave Bellamy. Briefly, I was satisfied I had found it.

Black Rocks
Black Rocks

Black Rocks
Black Rocks, or is it?

Briefly, because across the brook, on its eastern side, I could see a more tor like outcrop. It got me thinking. I continued up the Wollake (aka Blacklane Brook), with the prospect of some further research to be done and a future return to bag the outcrop on the other side of the river.

Black Rocks?
Is this the real Black Rocks?

As I suspected, when later consulting Crossings' Guide to Dartmoor, I found the following description of his journey down the brook, from the north; "Below the site of the streaming operations the Wollake enters a glen, on the eastern side of which, are some masses of granite called Black Rocks..

The eastern side! Crucial evidence and confirmation that I still hadn't bagged Black Rocks.

As I was in the area, I thought it only right that I make my first visit to Duck's Pool to pay my respects to the memorial for William Crossing. Reaching the tin works, I veered north-west up to the pool where I found a small plaque placed on a large boulder beside the letterbox. It is scant recognition for such an important character in the history of Dartmoor.

Memorial and letterbox at Duck's Pool
Memorial and letterbox at Duck's Pool

William Crossing Memorial at Duck's Pool
William Crossing Memorial

Another bearing set, this time for Great Gnat's Head, this one was more useful as the cairn on the summit of the hill is not seen until late. I am not fond of these Lake District style constructions but must admit that on a claggy day, in this terrain, it would be a welcome sight.

Great Gnats Head
Great Gnats Head

By now, the sun had been masked by grey cloud, the temperature dipped and my rationing of water was less of an issue. I marched down to the Plym and stepped across with little difficulty to join the track near the Eylesbarrow Tin Mine.

Eylesbarrow Tin Mine
Eylesbarrow Tin Mine

Meeting up with the cycle track between Princetown and the scout hut, it was a march back to the car, with time to appreciate the views to across to both Sheeps and Gutter Tor.

Sheeps Tor
Sheeps Tor

Gutter Tor
Gutter Tor

I downed the last drops of my water when I reached the car so first order of business was to drive to Cadover Bridge where I knew there would be a Willy's ice cream van. A replenishing drink and a 99 cone were a perfect end to an enjoyable day.

And finally, the route: