Thursday, 4 May 2017

Dartmoor: South - Part Two

Tristis Rock
Tristis Rock

Having got up to see the sunrise, Matthew was soon rustling about in his tent. I wasn't sure if this was a deliberate attempt to get me to stir from my slumber but it worked. Our site had been a comfortable place and I had slept well for a change. Just as well because today was to be a lengthy, rambling affair to bag the tors and rocks of the far south.

Despite rising later, I was first to be ready to go; an achievement I would fail to replicate for the rest of the trip, I hasten to add!

Morning on Eastern White Barrow
Morning on Eastern Whittabarrow

We picked up a path to Western White Barrow and Petre's Cross, where we bumped into another wild camper who had been near Red Lake overnight.  We would later find out, via the Facebook Dartmoor and Exmoor Wild Camper Group that this was a fellow member, Cas Mather.

Western White Barrow and Petre's Cross
Western White Barrow and Petre's Cross

After a conversation about an abandoned tent and its contents near Red Lake, we parted, making for Quickbeam Hill, which turned out to be a pointless expenditure of energy. 

I'm not against visiting these barren, featureless summits, but, as barren, featureless summits go, this one was particularly forgettable; "If it's baggable, they will come!" appears to be the Social Hikers mantra. 

Three Barrows, on Ugborough Moor, has much more going for it. As well as three huge stone cairns, one reported to be the largest on Dartmoor, it has a trig point.

Trig point at Three Barrows
Trig point at Three Barrows
We took a break beside the southernmost barrow. So far each point was being revisited by myself, but the next one was both a new one for me and a proper tor. How impressive would remain to be seen as the outcrops in this area are lacking in stature.  The location for Sharp Tor (Ugborough), perched above the River Erme and Piles Copse, had promise.

We headed down, crossing the disused tramway, and on to a small hill with a cairn. From this direction, Sharp Tor (Ugborough) is unimpressive but when you step up onto the granite, and look down to the river valley, you realise it has got something going for it.

Sharp Tor (Ugborough)
Sharp Tor (Ugborough)
Piles Copse from Sharp Tor (Ugborough)
Piles Copse from Sharp Tor (Ugborough)
We liked this one, it was the best so far. Across the valley, we could spy another promising outcrop, that being Tristis Rock. It was a fair distance out of our way, looking further than I anticipated when I planned the route. We made our way back to the track, passing Hobajon's Cross, just before we passed over Piles Hill.

Hobajohn's Cross on Pile's Hill
Hobajon's Cross on Piles Hill
We spied some well trodden ground that went westward off the moor and we followed this to the car park at Harford Moor Gate. It was then metalled road into the village, which involved a concerning amount of descent.

Curious cows near Harford
Curious cows near Harford
Harford Cross
Harford Cross
Harford Bridge
Harford Bridge
We turned right at the church and Harford Cross, bearing left down the steep hill to Harford Bridge. Here we entered open access land, beside the River Erme, and began along a narrow muddy path upstream. We went as far as seemed practicable before attempting to climb up Burford Down to Tristis Rock. We had clearly come too far along the bank as the route up was a tangle of gorse and bush; an energy sapping battle.

The outcrop of our intentions took its sweet time appearing, but when it did, our labour was forgotten. Tristis Rock was a cracking tor!

Tristis Rock
Tristis Rock
Tristis Rock
Tristis Rock
William Crossing mentions that Tristis Rock was also known as Hall Tor, reference to Hall Pleasure House, whose ruins are nearby in Hall Plantation. There is also a Hall Farm to the south-west.

After a short break we went in search of a proper route down to the bridge. We found it easily, keeping close to a wall that dropped to a gate we had passed through beside the river. Now it was back up the hill into Harford, but instead of retracing to the car park, we went south on a footpath over Butter Brook by an old single clapper mentioned by William Crossing in his guide.

Then we climbed up the hill to an old quarry and then further up to our next bag, Tor Rocks. This is an interesting area of odd outcrops, large boulders, and clitter. 

Tor Rocks
Tor Rocks
Tor Rocks
Tor Rocks
We had more ascent to contend with, but the gradient was merciful to the disused tramway, then a little further to Hangershell Rock. We found a spot out of the wind and lay back for a while in the sun.

Hangershell Rock
Hangershell Rock
Hangershell Rock
Hangershell Rock
Most of the height gain traversed, we took a path up to Butterdon Hill, following the boundary stones and stone row to the trig point and cairn on its summit.

Butterdon Hill
Butterdon Hill
Last time I was up here, I couldn't find Black Tor (Butterdon) on the descent and it is not difficult to see why. This tor was mentioned by Samuel Rowe but it is hardly worthy of one, a very disappointing pile to the east on the descent from Butterdon Hill to Black Pool.

Black Tor (Butterdon)
Black Tor (Butterdon)
We went further, to the southernmost tor in the National Park, Western Beacon. What you first notice is the quarry that has robbed this outcrop of much of its granite. But this hole is not an eyesore, it is long since used and reclaimed by nature and its grass is manicured by the local livestock.

Western Beacon
Western Beacon
There is a small outcrop that maintains a natural look and we gravitated to that for a quick sit down, looking out over South Devon. The south moor may have few significant tors and rocks but this is more than made up for in the views!

Western Beacon
Western Beacon
A pivotal moment in our journey, as we turned from farthest south. Psychologically, we were now heading back to the car, when in reality we still had some south-eastern bags to achieve first which would require a bit of meandering.

We made our way over to an enclosure named Cuckoo Ball, where there is a burial chamber tomb. Expecting something as grand as Spinster's Rock, I was disappointed by what I found, a few large rocks likely deemed unsuitable to rob for building a wall.

Burial Chamber at Cuckoo Ball
Burial Chamber at Cuckoo Ball
We crossed over Lud Brook, stepping up to Creber Rock. A quick Google for information about this outcrop and you'll see there is a cider named after it. The rock itself is also known as Claret Tor; interestingly, William Crossing suggested that the two names referred to different outcrops, but Eric Hemery confirms they are one and the same.

Creber's Rock
Creber Rock
Creber's Rock
Creber Rock
After another sit down, we ascended to Beacon Rocks, also known as Ugborough Beacon. I particularly liked this one, a sprawl of large granite outcrops spilling down the hill from the beacon on the summit.

Ugborough Beacon
Ugborough Beacon
Ugborough Beacon
Ugborough Beacon
Ugborough Beacon
Ugborough Beacon
From here, Wacka Tor looked a fair distance off! We could see that the terrain between would obviously make for a punishing stretch, so we opted for avoiding as much ascent and descent as possible. This lengthened the walk.

I started to tire, experiencing some stomach and back cramps, remedied with a brief rest just after joining the Two Moors Way near Spurrell's Cross. It was a little soul destroying having to revisit Piles Hill, but we eventually turned east for Wacka Tor, on Hickley Plain, just before the climb up to Three Barrows.

Spurrell's Cross
Spurrell's Cross

On reaching the plain, Matthew went in search of a camp site on the top while I rested lower down at a likely candidate, waiting for the call. I was done for the day!

Camp at Wacka Tor
Camp at Wacka Tor
A better site found on top, we made camp. As we pitched, our attention was drawn to a distressed ewe. When we wandered over to see what the commotion was, we found her lamb lying behind a small rock, unable to get up. It was heartbreaking to see the ewe trying to encourage her offspring up. 

I had the number for Dartmoor Livestock Protection and called it in. After a little confusion over our position, and the markings of the sheep to identify the correct farmer, we were told that the owner had been informed and would be out. 

Everyone who spends time on Dartmoor should have the following number stored in their mobile, or to hand; 07873 587561

To help clarify the information required, the following has been lifted from their website;

It is important to give the following details, where possible:

  • Type and colour of animal: ear tag numbers, ear notches and colour of paint marks on sheep; brand marks on ponies; ear tag numbers and ear notches on cattle.
  • What appears to be wrong: pain, collapsed, bleeding?
  • Location: clear directions are vital. Please give grid reference, if possible, and state whether the animal is visible from the road and whether it is mobile.
  • Can you stay to guide assistance? This is very helpful.
  • Your name, tel no & address. This could be vital for additional directions etc.
For the rest of the evening I kept thinking I could hear the sound of a quad bike, the farmer rushing to the rescue, but it wasn't to be. When the sun dropped behind Ugborough Moor, we retired to our tents, the sound of the ewe still bleating into the night....

Sunset below Ugborough Moor
Sunset below Ugborough Moor
The route for today: