It’s a long drive down to Dartmoor, but today it flew by, helped by the fact that most of the traffic was heading the other way, leaving the south west in the post-New Year reluctant crawl back to work. Almost before I knew it, the distances to Exeter were falling into single digits, and the city I once lived in for 7 years was coming into view. I pulled over into a layby and messaged Paul (@paulgbuck) to let him know I was going to be early.
Back on the raod, the landscape on the left grew hillier and with a start I realised that the high hill I was passing was Cosdon Beacon, and it would soon be time to turn off. I was in the car park at Belstone Services less than 3 minutes before Paul pulled in. Very soon after we were parking in Belstone village itself and kitting up for the afternoon’s walk, now likely to be extended because of the extra time we had. A possible 6 or 7 tors was now looking like 11 or 12. A considerable improvement on the handful of drive-by baggings I’d considered before Paul suggested we try to do a proper walk.
We strode up the road and onto farmland, reaching Cleave Tor quickly. First one done. We stood there for a few moments, looking across the valley. More tors there for another day. Walking south now, Scarey Tor was soon reached and we then dropped down to cross the East Okement and climbed up alongside the stream by way of Cullever steps, rather than following the track. We joined the track at the top and this took us to Hart Tor.
East Mill Tor rose ahead of us and we climbed up over successive outcrops to the topmost one. A glorious clear day, but breezy and so we found a spot in the lee of the tor for a brief rest and a snack. The afternoon was beginning to slip away so it was time to work out our next steps. We ditched the plan to visit Curtery Clitters and instead headed for Okement Hill. We made up for not visiting it with some juvenile humour around the name of the rocks.
We fumbled around on the flat hill top looking for the “top”, and awaiting various knocking and pinging sounds from Paul’s phone to signify that the self-aware robot back at Social Hiking HQ had granted us the bag.
At this point we looked across towards Steeperton Tor and Paul offered the view that this could be a tor too far today. On descent towards the Taw flowing through Steeperton Gorge, I happily agreed with this plan, although in my case it was more to do with not fancying the steep climb back up the other side – crossing anything with “Gorge” in the name is generally going to involve a bit of work. However, on this the third Dartmoor walk we’d done together, I’d already come to trust his judgement of timings on the moor, so was happy to take his lead on that front too.
Instead we headed for Oke Tor and the first bits of low sun were shining from the other side of Yes Tor as we reached there, hastening us onwards towards the walk’s end. Knattaborough Tor followed soon, being one of those tors that you need to be told is actually a tor, otherwise you’d have just walked past it and assumed it is some stray rocks.
We descended slightly down the side of the ridge to Winter Tor and Paul popped up onto the top of the rocks, while I captured his silhouette etched against the sunset sky.
The sun was sinking fast and we headed for the final tors of the day. Four tors all on the same ridgeline – this was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. Up onto the ridge with Lower Tor, then Higher Tor and finally Belstone Tor itself. Just below us was Tors End and we scampered down for the final bag of the day.
All that remained was to get off the hill before darkness fully overcame us and we got this spot on – arriving on tarmac just as it became too dark to comfortably see where we were putting our feet. We retired to base camp at Paul’s parents’ house and an evening in the pub to test whether Jail Ale travels over the moor well and to plan the routes for the next couple of days.
Here’s Paul’s account of the walk. He’s put a few different photos on his, so well worth a visit.
All of my photos from this trip can be found on Flickr.