Monday, 12 February 2018

Dartmoor: Winter walk to Branscombe's Loaf

Branscombe's Loaf
Branscombe's Loaf
Snow had arrived on Dartmoor a couple of days after Christmas, but I had yet to take a walk over the festive period thanks to a virus. When I got the chance, on the 28th, the best had gone, but there was still enough to make a short stroll up to Branscombe's Loaf worthwhile.

Normally, Prewley Moor can be a bit wet with plenty of stream hopping, but today the ground was firm and it made for easy going up to Sourton Tors.

Sourton Ice Works
Sourton Ice Works
I was delighted to see that the 19th Century ice works were frozen over but still, I wondered why anyone would have seen this as a lucrative business. 

Frozen
Frozen

Most of the ice was sold to fish buyers in Plymouth although some was sold for domestic use. A combination of unsuitable winters and finally the introduction of artificially produced ice heralded the demise of the icework in 1886. Source: Historic England

Sourton Ice Works
Sourton Ice Works

At Sourton Tor, I turned south-east to meet the disused tramways which would make my journey into the moor easier with gradual ascent to Corn Ridge.

Sourton Tors
Sourton Tors


Great Links Tor behind Corn Ridge
Great Links behind Corn Ridge

Reaching Granate Tor, I spied a snow storm sweeping towards me from the west. I turned my back and pushed on for Branscombe's Loaf before the cloud would surround me.

Granate Tor
Granate Tor

Snow approaching fast!
Snow approaching fast.

Sure enough, just as I reached this magnificent outcrop, the flakes began to fall and visibility disappeared. In all the excitement of the snow flurry, I was struck by the silence.

Branscombe's Loaf
Branscombe's Loaf

Branscombe's Loaf in a passing snow cloud video
Branscombe in the snow video.

It was quite cold now and the cloud cover encouraged me to make for lower ground, the inclination to head back for the car on Prewley Moor. However, no sooner had I dropped down some fifty metres, the cloud had rolled on, the snow stopped, visibility was good and I changed course for Corn Hole Rocks.

Ponies below Corn Ridge
Ponies below Corn Ridge
Corn Hole Rocks
Corn Hole Rocks

I love the amphitheatre that is Corn Hole. It is a grand view and the rocks are a good spot to stop and admire it, although the granite was a little too icy to linger long without insulation. As I looked down, I watched a flock of sheep being herded by quad bikes across the bowl, driven up over Shelstone Tor and down into the West Okement valley.

Sheep in Corn Hole
Sheep in Corn Hole

Sheep stampede.
Sheep stampede.

Shelstone Tor was my next stop. Somewhat surprised to see a robin out here, hopping the rocks. It was nice to have company as I sat and sipped my hot Ribena whilst admiring a wintry Black Tor and the High Willhays ridge.

Robin atop Shelstone Tor close up
Robin atop Shelstone Tor

Black Tor (Okehampton) and Black-a-tor Copse
Black Tor (Okehampton) and Black-a-tor Copse

Shelstone Tor
Shelstone Tor

I now made my way back off the moor, across Corn Hole, taking one last look back at the ridge before I dropped down passed Prewley Farm. It had been good to experience a wintry Dartmoor, and I was thankful to have had the scene to myself.

Corn Ridge
Corn Ridge