I was up in good time today, as I wanted to maximise my options. The forecast remained steady from 24 hours ago and I could see that the wild camp that eluded me last time (well, strictly speaking I couldn’t be bothered), wouldn’t this time. Equally, if I got a move on with today’s walk, I’d still have time to drive home if the weather deteriorated to the point where I didn’t fancy a camp.
With the tors count still languishing in the high 70s, it was a day for a big number of tors, so I went for the Burrator circuit, thankful that I hadn’t eaten a chunk out of it yesterday as I’d originally intended.
I parked up in the car park to the north west of the reservoir, and strode downhill to begin the walk. Up through the woods on a mucky path before I emerged to a cross-roads of paths and a decision as to which was the right one.
Neither of the two main choices, it seemed, resulting in a meandering uphill course as I followed bits of trodden route in the direction of Lowery Tor. Without the confidence of a path taking me straight to my target, this meant I went by every significant looking rock on the way, and used my GPS quite a bit to check whether I was at the right place. Of course if I’d just had Ken’s book with me, I could have used the tor recognition pictures therein – a situation I plan to resolve for the future. More about that in a future post.
I emerged onto more open hillside, leaving behind the scrub, gorse and dead bracken, and my target suddenly seemed a lot clearer – although I was still a little unsure whether the pile of rocks ahead of me were Peek Hill or Lowery Tor. The views were also opening out, and tantalising glimpses of Leather Tor and it’s smaller sibling showed around the hill. A strong sun was rising into the sky behind Sheeps Tor, promising a nicer day photographically than yet experienced on this trip.
I arrived at the pile of rocks, and it was clearly Lowery Tor. Peek Hill is on the top of the hill, and this wasn’t the top.
Onwards to Peek Hill, which was nice and straightforward. Sharpitor itself now became visible, previously hidden by the bulk of the hill. I made my way over.
Just like yesterday it was bitingly cold when exposed to the breeze and I cowered for a few minutes in the lee of Sharpitor before continuing on towards Leather Tor.
Leather Tor reminded me of some giant sleeping beast from a distance, and as I got closer and everything got magnified, it appeared as though the beast had awoken from its slumber.
An interesting and stunning looking tor, but I contented myself with scaling the rocks to the top and back down rather than a detailed inspection of the whole thing. I wanted to keep moving, it was cold. Again.
Not far away and a little down the hillside, lay Lower Leather Tor, looking mostly like someone had piled up all the leftovers remaining after making the masterpiece that is Leather Tor.
Now, short of a long detour around the head of the reservoir, a descent to the valley was needed to access the other side – a process that seemed rather tricky, there being little in the way of obvious routes down. I zigzagged my way down and across to the edge of a wood and picked up a sort of path there running alongside the wall, plenty of squelchy plodding and hopping across bogs and rivulets being called for before I planted my feet on tarmac.
I nipped along the road to the car park from whence I would reascend, initially taking a wrong turning along a track, but then finding the right way on retracing my steps. Gently upwards and through an antiquated field system, the detritus of bits of clitter and old field boundaries making it a bit of an obstacle course.
Off to one side, a trodden route aimed through the walls to a more obvious pile of boulders. According to Ken’s Tor Recognition Manual this was Middleworth Tor, although he had noted it and Snappers Tor above are often switched around. What was also apparent, though, was that the grid reference seemed to be out a couple of hundred metres from Ken’s figure, so I initially believed this to be simply clitter, or maybe even an unnamed tor ?
Well, it was obvious from the photos afterwards that this is the tor named as Middleworth by Ken – I matched the rock formations exactly.
I continued up the hill aiming for what, at the time I thought, based on what my gps was telling me, was really Middleworth Tor. Below me I spied another pile of rocks that I guessed was Snappers Tor that I’d missed. I was rather surprised then to find that this was actually Snappers Tor, and what was below was probably just some junk.
Believing I’d dropped one from today’d potential bag, I headed on up to Little Down Tor, paused only briefly and continued onto Down Tor itself, about which there could be no doubt.
The sun was just reaching its day’s zenith as I pulled up on Down Tor, and a quick look at the terrain ahead told me that here was as good a spot as any for a lunch break. I found a reasonably sheltered spot and got stuck in.
A short while later, Hingston Hill was beneath my feet, I was looking back over the walk so far, and getting a sense of progress at last. Forward to Combshead Tor.
Combshead Tor, I liked. Various bits and pieces of rock outcrops, and some nice flat patches that were big enough for a tent, albeit a bit open to the prevailing weather direction. One for a future date really.
I headed downhill, looking for Cuckoo Rock, not really knowing what I was looking for. I passed one big boulder that I thought might be it, but there was still so much rock below, that it didn’t seem right. I carried on. Shortly, I saw a distinctively-shaped rock, that clearly must be it.
And here the navigation went a little awry. I never quite picked up the path I was looking for that would take me over a nice footbridge across the Narrator Brook, finding myself a couple of fields further down to the extent that hearing the brook not far away, I went over to investigate – there was supposed to be a path the other side, so if I could get across then I’d be ok again.
An intensive study of the banks of the brook revealed plenty of slightly risky places to cross that would involve stepping on a mossy branch or slippy sloping rocks, and the brook was just too deep and fast flowing to comfortably walk through. I walked upstream a bit, my feet sinking in riverbank sludge, making me wish I’d just waded – I’d probably not have been any wetter. Eventually, I found an acceptable crossing point and got across. A short jaunt down the footpath brought me to where I’d wanted to be.
I followed the path up onto the hillside, and chucked a left to try to hunt down Click Tor. This would prove to be the hardest tor to find today, and was only resolved with the help of GPS, coming across the rocks from above where they looked just like a few stray boulders. A clamber over them, revealed a slight improvement in their profile though.
Back on the main route, I passed alongside the plantation within which lurked my second Rough Tor of the trip. Marked as access land on the map, and not described as private by Ken, I looked to find a way into the walled plantation, settling eventually on a clamber over the barbed wire-topped wall where a tree was growing through it. A bit of exploring within the plantation found me some stray rocks and eventually (with more gps help) the tor itself.
Still feeling a bit like a burglar, I snuck back over the wall and resumed the main walk to Sheeps Tor (and friends), slanting right first for Narrator.
It didn’t take much to then climb onto the top of Sheeps Tor, where because of the slight discrepancy between what the Database of British Hills and my tors list have as the coordinates, I made sure I visited both the highest point in the middle of the tor, and the most prominent formation, just off to one side. Whichever is right, it seemed to work. Sheeps Tor was ok, but I think friends may have hyped it a bit much, as I had built an expectation that I’d take one look at it and promptly come back tonight with the tent.
I could now see where the car park was, but it seemed a long way considering how much of the day I had left, and what I planned to do after the walk. I tried to put some speed on as best I could as I raced down to Maiden Tor, described by Ken as “very small”. Well, I found a pile of rocks that I wouldn’t describe as “very small” in comparison to some of the other tors I’ve visited so far. It seemed separate from Sheeps Tor too. But the grid ref wasn’t quite right so I headed across to another more extensive separate formation – which I also wouldn’t describe as “very small”. Not sure which was the one, I reasoned that I’d at least visited Maiden Tor, whichever it was.
This is one of the things that is starting to frustrate me about this tor bagging lark – tors that really aren’t much more than an extension of a parent (Leather and Lower Leather, Crow and Little Crow for example) are counted as two, but here is Maiden Tor, with at least two worthy outcrops both more separate from each other and from Sheeps Tor than either of those other examples, yet it’s one tor. And Ken’s terms for the relative sizes of these tors, I have come to realise are not on one consistent scale across the whole book. This “very small” is actually more extensive than the “small” Little Whiten Tor visited a couple of days ago. Anyway, rant over, one of the following IS Maiden Tor.
Now watching the time nervously, I raced down the rest of the hill and along the road next to the reservoir. I’d decided to forgo Burra Tor, but just as I was about to cross the dam, I spotted it from the road, so nipped up to bag it.
On the other side of the dam, I began climbing over Yennadon Down, which should take me straight to the car, but eventually settled for a nice track through the woods, that probably saved me some time.
I was back at the car for 3:45pm and now had some decisions to make….
One thought on “New Year, New Dartmoor – Part 5: Some Sun at Last”
I love the Burrator Area, the scenery makes a nice change from the open grassland of the rest of the moor.