It’s not a brilliant night’s sleep, due to Strange Bed Syndrome, and the fact that I never sleep that well in a dorm. I’m relieved when light comes and it’s time to get up. We head for the Fox Tor for breakfast and to await Rich’s arrival from the overnight sleeper to Plymouth. I glance up at the camping field and spot where Phil camped – his tent looks very low profile for a Banshee, and why’s there what looks like a bivy right next to it ? I jokingly comment that he probably fell on his tent when drunk the night before. My supposition proves to be 100% accurate.
Rich is already in the Fox Tor when we arrive and we tuck into cooked breakfasts and order packed lunches. The standards of the afternoon before are maintained, and it’s one of the best fry-ups I’ve ever had.
The Circuit of Haytor and Hound Tor
We pile into the cars and drive east across the moor, dicing with more narrow lanes and puddles as we head down through Widecombe-in-the-Moor (no sign of Uncle Tom Cobley though) and park up below Top Tor. The rain starts as we park (naturally), and several minutes are spent putting on waterproof jackets and trousers, gaitors and starting the technology off to track the walk.
Jim leads us out to Bonehill Rocks and what is to be a familiar pattern is set – I arrive at the tor and ask which one it is, Phil answers “My Tor”, Paul gives the correct answer, and we spend a few minutes there sufficient to verify it’s the right place and for Social Hiking to record the bag.
Fifteen minutes later we’ve climbed up to Bell Tor. A further ten sees us thwacking through bracken to pick off Sharp Tor on the side of the larger Chinkwell Tor, which is next. An hour into the walk we’re on Honeybag Tor, with 5 bags already recorded. From a peak-bagging perspective I can see why Dartmoor is attractive, and why Paul has surged up the league tables on Social Hiking recently. It helps of course that the things he’s been bagging is the list he created. With eight of us on this walk, Dartmoor tors and rocks are about to dominate the charts.
We have a rest, take pictures of people on rocks and chortle over the name of Honeybag Tor, and then we start to head for Hound Tor in the distance, first descending over Hedge Tor. We climb up onto Hound Tor, on the opposite side from my previous visit. It’s busy, in relation to all of the other tors we’ll see on this walk, but that’s not surprising. A short walk and minimal climb up from the car park, complete with burger van, below ensure that. The group petition Jim to declare lunch stop and he caves in. Much hilarity is caused when Cath realises she’s lost her phone and conducts a frantic search. Rik calls her phone and we hear it ringing, but still she can’t find it. Eventually it’s located simply in a different pocket to the one it should be in, and Cath tries to claim “Numpty of the Day”, but she’s still a long way behind the man who tried to sleep literally on his tent last night.
We come down off of Hound Tor and head next for one of the more pathetic clumps of rocks on today’s route – Holwell Rocks. Phil has been claiming each tor as his own so far, and has also been joking that @advbot has deleted my entire peak bagging record on Social Hiking, so magnanimously allows me to claim this one as my first peak. I jump onto the rocks and strike a heroic pose.
Photo shoot for a new profile pic done, we head for an interesting set of rocks, the shape of which looks a bit like a model of Suilven sticking up out of the moor. This is Greator Rocks, which I take an instant liking to as it’s more interesting than the normal tor. We mill around, Rich climbs up to the top and then finds he can’t get down. Below the rocks progress is delayed while Rich waits for a butterfly to open its wings so we can identify it. It obliges but in the same movement takes off, defeating Rich’s attempts to photograph it.
We cross Becka Brook and climb out of the woods fringing it for a brief rest stop. It’s warmed up and layers are shed. Layers go back on as we climb up over Hole Rock and Smallacombe Rocks and cross the old tramway. We don’t have time to do all of the tors and rocks near here, so we make for Haytor Rocks, probably the best known of Dartmoor’s tors, and certainly one of the most distinctive. As is to be expected with a car park nearby, we encounter other people for the second time today.
I like Haytor, it’s impressive, but it’s also a little clean and clinical for my liking – it has none of the out and out ruggedness and wildness of Greator Rocks.
Our route now takes us out to Fitches Holt and Emsworthy Rocks, surely only visited by torbaggers. We top Saddle Tor and the cars are in sight – just a bit of road walking and Top Tor stand between us. Just as well as the light is noticeably diminishing, not just because of the dying day but because of the unwelcome build-up of grey in the sky. We top out on Top Tor, pick of Bovey Rocks on the path back to the cars and we’re done. We just beat the band of heavy rain that’s been threatening to dump on us.
Back in the pub we replay the night before but with two important changes – I steer clear of the Jail Ale and focus my energies on the Dragon’s Breath; and Phil doesn’t fall on his tent whilst drunk.