Mountains

Dartmoor’s vivid History

Spending a weekend out on Dartmoor is always incredible, even if it’s foggy and you can only see around 5 metres ahead of you. I had organised for sever

al people to come together to go camping, do a bit of a night walk and then a longer walk the following day. The plan was to walk around 20 miles over the duration of the entire trip, while camping at a pub overnight.

The weather forecast for the weekend was not great at all, with visibility being all but none existent, with rain and a slight chill in the air at around 6c. Fog is a hard conditions to navigate in especially on Dartmoor where it’s possible to walk a kilometre and find it looking exactly the same as where someone started. Of course that’s not true with all of the moor.

On a Friday evening, we met up at the Plume of Feathers Princetown, experienced the local drink selection and sampled the food, while sorting out tents and sleeping arrangements for the night.

The group consisted of 6 people, three of whom I didn’t know well, including one who was, at the beginning, a complete stranger to me.
Some of us prepared for our evening outing on the foggy South Moor. While some people stayed behind to grab some shut eye, to be fair they had driven straight from work.

Dartmoor railway Photo by Paula

Heading South the group followed the track down to South Hessary, at this point I will mention that the group had climbers in it, so we had to climb to the top of the Tor, obviously. Without much surprise it was very windy on the top, biting in to us and driving the fog in to our clothing. We carried on great spirits, chatting and making jokes, down the track for another 2.5 kilometres down the track to reach Nun’s Cross. This is a wayside cross, one of the largest on Dartmoor standing at around 2 metres tall, it marks the tracks of the old monastic Maltern Way, Abbot’s way and the Monk’s path. Creating a lot of paths in many directions.

Exploring this area further we then headed off the track, to find Nun’s Cross farm, now an established Bunkhouse owned by Mount Kelly School in Tavistock, it turned out to be incredibly spooky in these foggy conditions…

Alongside the bunkhouse we located the Devonport Leat Tunnel entrance, which is closed off to the public due to a high levels of Radon gas in the air. This leat originally used to send water all the way to Plymouth dockside, but has since been shortened to end in Burrator Reservoir.

Dartmoor tunnel Trying to find radon gas in the Devonport leat tunnel.
Photo by Paula

It was a fantastic experience to find the tunnel entrance in the fog and from here we started heading back to Princetown, along Tor Royal Road. A somewhat uneventful walk back, with it being dark, cold and everyone being wet through. the weather and tiredness was beginning to affect everyone’s mindset now.

The next day we all woke up, packed down our tents, went for some breakfast before heading out on to the Moor for our 16 km walk, in, what appeared to be even thicker fog! This was going to make things more interesting, as I hadn’t navigated with a map and compass for several years. luckily for me and everyone else, it soon came back in leaps and bounds.

Our first leg was to reach Hart Tor, which is just South West of Princetown, while many of the group opted to follow the path. I chose the straight line bearing, more to firm up my own bearings more than anything else. It’s amazing, that if you don’t use a skill, you will find that you lose it.

From here we headed down to a stone circle and a double stone row, which is part of many remains of the Bronze Age markings on Dartmoor. Descending through Tin Workings and down to a waterfall, we crossed a river and the headed up the hill towards Black Tor.
At this point, did I mention that some of the people with me, were very keen climbers and liked to climb everything in sight including every Tor, quarry, nock and crag, literally everything that goes up…!

Finally leaving Black Tor, I couldn’t help myself, I joined in and had a climb as well. The path took us up to the road to Leedon Tor, where we were supposed to be. Letting another member of the group lead on for a section in the fog, we crossed the road much closer to Princetown than anticipated. None the less we carried on towards Leedon, ending up dropping just north of it and in to a huge marshy area, which is always interesting to see the funny walks ensue, with everyone trying to avoid getting wet feet. Being only a short section we pushed on and with a small lifting of the fog, the visibility became clearer, around 300m which was enough to see the situation we were in. We were heading directly to the bridge crossing of the disused railway line. Basically on a bearing straight to it. We got to the bridge and started the ascent of the railway line up towards Foggingtor Quarry.

The quarry which was certainly living up to it’s name had another eerie feel, especially after a few clangs of metal on metal in fog, then a few shouts, then some more clanging. In a clearing we found, a group out having a go at abseiling. We watched intrigued by some of the climbing routes on the quarry face. Us being us, we explored the quarry, climbed around some of free standing granite and generally had a blast. Foggingtor Quarry used to be another Tor. Quarrying begun in the 1820’s and continued all the way to 1938. The granite from this quarry along with the other great quarries of Dartmoor, supplied the materials for the likes of Nelsons column and London Bridge.

Dartmoor in the fog Photo by Paula

Following one the of old railway lines North, which is know as the Yellowbrick road for many Ten Tors teams, due to Yellowmead Farm being along the track. By this point on Ten Tors event, many teams have walked several miles across open moor land and it means that they can now walk easier and faster. We didn’t walk the entire way of the Yellowbrick road, but instead turned off the track and headed to Rundlestone Car Park or Four Winds Car Park. As you can probably guess it’s pretty exposed and gets a fair amount of wind, despite having some big trees surrounding the car park.

Rundlestone CP, is also next to another main road crossing the Dartmoor and it separated us from our next destination, Little Mis and then Great Mis Tors.

The track leading up to the Tors is fairly steep and seemingly never ending. After around 20 – 30 minutes we reached Little Mis Tor, had yet another opportunity to climb, for some people, discovered a new letter box if anyone ventures up and finds drop it in a comment below. By this point it was getting towards mid afternoon and we were starting to get wet and a little chilly. Of course not the climbers, although standing around was certainly making me a little bit cooler.

Great Mis Tor, is a truly incredible Tor it’s huge, with loads of places to explore and camp. It was was also incredibly windy. Being the highest place we visited on the day that makes sense.

Great Mis was the final stop and from here we made our way back to Princetown.

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