Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Dartmoor: South - Part One

North Dartmoor left behind
North Dartmoor left behind

Sat in the Forest Inn, Hexworthy, on a Tuesday afternoon, cradling a pint of Dartmoor IPA, the temptation would be to stay on for another couple. But the fact was Matthew and I had a route planned that involved sixty kilometres and two, maybe three, nights wild camping so we had to get as far into the south moor as we could to make the next days as comfortable as possible.

We checked that the car could be left outside the pub, then stepped out to put our packs on. Whilst Matthew is a bit of a regular multi day hiker, preparing for his first TGO Challenge, this is the first time since the Two Moors Way, last October, that I have burdened myself with such a weight to carry.

Contouring Down Ridge
Contourng Down Ridge
The start of the walk stuttered around Down Ridge, as Matthew took a business call he had been expecting, but once that was sorted, we cracked on. We followed a path around the hill, above to Horse Ford Cross. This cross is a way point on the Monk's Path, a route that went between Tavistock, Buckland and Buckfast Abbey's. It was originally located closer to Horse Ford, but went missing and was unearthed at this spot in 1884, where it was re-erected. It's a short one because not all of the shaft could be found. For more, go to Dartmoor Crosses.

Horse Ford Cross
Horse Ford Cross

We came down the track into a large, disused, open cast tin mine called Hooten Wheals. There are various ruins here, including the remains of a couple of "buddles", which I understand are shallow containers in which ore was washed.

Hooten Wheals
Hooten Wheals Buddles

We passed some large spoil mounds and crossed the O'Brook, ascending to join the ancient forest boundary line of 1240, up to the trig point at Ryder's Hill and Petre's Bound Stone, which marks the parish boundaries of Buckfastleigh, Dartmoor Forest and Holne.

Ryder's Hill trig and Petre's Bound Stone
Ryder's Hill
Our progress was good, the further south we would manage to camp would stand us in good stead for tomorrow and if we could just cross the River Avon then I would be very pleased. But first, we had some relatively easy walking along the ridge to the cairn on Snowdon, and then further to Puper's Hill.


Cairn on Snowdon
Cairn on Snowdon
Despite there being three rock piles on Puper's Hill, named Inner, Outer and Middle, it is the latter , near the summit, that is known as Puper's Rock. Derived from the word "Piper", Dartmoor folklore  / nonsense where dancers and pipers were turned to stone for engaging in such revelry on a Sunday. Is this why Chagstock doesn't have a Sunday line up like other summer music festivals? ;-)


Pupers Rock
Puper's Rock

Puper's Rock
Puper's Rock

We dropped down to the River Avon, where the low water negated the need to traipse out of our way to the clapper bridge upstream. We forded just passed Huntingdon Cross, then began our last climb of the day.

Climbing to Eastern White Barrow
Climbing to Eastern White Barrow

The pull up from the Avon to Eastern Whittabarrow is always hard in the thick long grass. It gave us plenty of opportunity to catch our breath and look back across the valley to Huntingdon Warren, where the descending sun was casting long shadows that accentuated the boundaries and pounds of the ancient settlements dotted across the hill.

Ancient settlements on Huntingdon Warren
Ancient Settlements on Huntingdon Warren

Ancient settlements on Huntingdon Warren
Ancient Settlements on Huntingdon Warren

Ancient settlements on Huntingdon Warren
Ancient Settlements on Huntingdon Warren
We reached the huge cairn of Eastern Whittabarrow, immediately seeking a good spot to camp. A little to the east the ground appeared greener and we found ample space to make ourselves comfortable for the night.


Eastern White Barrow
Eastern Whittabarrow

Camp near Eastern White Barrow
Camp near Eastern White Barrow

With the fading light the temperature dropped, reminding us that it wasn't quite summer yet! We retired to our tents as the sun dropped behind the cairn. A great start to our little adventure but a big day lay before us tomorrow.

Camp sunset at Eastern White Barrow
Camp sunset at Eastern White Barrow

The route for Day One: