“Turned out nice again”, quipped one of the group of 5 guys as they passed a dozen or so yards parallel to me, heading up into the clag for the dubious delights of the top of the hill. I continued my squelch downhill to the dry sanctuary of the car. Today really hadn’t turned out quite as I’d expected…
The first sign of plans going awry was an interesting series of groans coming from the next bed, and little by little it emerged that Paul was crocked. Having never really fought off his chest infection from November’s Dartmoor trip, and having had a nasty twinge on yesterday’s walk when trying to step across a gap, he was now kaput as far as any further walking was concerned. A rethink was needed.
Paul is one of the best walking companions you could have, but this trip was always intended, from my perspective, as a game of two halves – the first walking with him on the north moor, and the second a solo affair concentrating on the area around Princetown. This would be my first time walking alone on the moor, and I was looking forward to it. Just wasn’t expecting it quite so soon. With this disruption to our plans, I reasoned I might as well go the whole hog and accelerate my relocation further south. So I dropped Paul like a newly broken toy on Christmas morning, brought forward my stay at the Fox Tor Café and jumped in the car. I left Paul in the Buck family infirmary and headed south.
When on the phone to the Fox Tor Café, there was some mild banter about whether I was kayaking and opinion that I might need one on the roads, but on the drive south to Okehampton, this weak joke begun to look like a seriously good idea. Big puddles lay on the road, some of these on slopes – how do they do that ? The moor itself was invisible, being shrouded by low grey cloud. So I dived into a roadside caff for a mug of tea to ponder my next step. Outside the rain lashed down, thrown against the caff windows with particular venom. A few yards away, the wind visibly rocked my car.
One mug of tea, with a side of full English later, I’d finalised my walking plan for the day, heavily influenced by the forecast. I’d simply drive to Princetown, stopping along the way to pick off a selection of easy to get tors and rocks that didn’t involve serious exposure to the elements. Today was to be a day of “drive-by torbagging”.
Accordingly, I parked up soon at the south end of Lydford Gorge to tackle my first two targets: Was Tor and Wastor Hill. A straightforward walk up a lane brought me alongside Was Tor, twenty yards or so away from me the other side of an impenetrable thorny hedgerow and barbed wire fence. And on private land which would have been very obvious if I’d tried to sneak in. I didn’t. I was close enough anyway that Social Hiking recorded the bag anyway, and I was happy with that: the goal here is visiting the tors and rocks, rather than necessarily standing on top of each one.
The footpath brought me out into a field, at the top of which I knew lay the top of the hill, so I detoured away to try to find it. This was easier said than done as it was so flat up top. The local sheep formed two lines and started walking towards me, looking like they were trying to herd me out of their field. I took the point and moved on, trying to find the tor or rock on the Social Hiking list, which seemed to not be on the top of the hill.
Much walking to and fro along a muddy track failed to locate these rocks and I gave up and walked out to the road, to complete the circuit back to the car. Later when we found there are two entries for Wastor Hill, and that there isn’t an actual tor, the mystery was solved.
I sat in the car and had a tea break and a quick stare at the map for the next target, and then drove around to park below Brent Tor.
The wind had picked up a bit now and was buffeting me considerably as I did the simple walk up to the church. I did a circuit of the building itself and then took shelter in the porch, watching the wind trying to uproot a wooden bench outside. A swift return to the car beckoned.
A couple of lanes away, I parked up in one of the rough parking areas and headed up through the burned detritus of what used to be small trees or bushes to find myself on a largely featureless hill. I followed a succession of small tracks using the rule of keep going up until I ran out of up. This eventually brought me to the top, surmounted by a trig point. A broken ring of gorse bushes surrounded the trig.
It was grey, it was windy, it wasn’t that pleasant standing there, so I left Gorsehenge and headed back for the car. In the distance I saw the first people I’d seen on this hill. “Turned out nice again”, quipped one of the group of 5 guys as they passed a dozen or so yards parallel to me, heading up into the clag for the dubious delights of the top of the hill. I continued my squelch downhill to the dry sanctuary of the car.
I arrived back at the car and that was me done for the day. A dry, warm bunkhouse awaited me in Princetown.