Once again the Moor beckons. I just can’t keep away.
For the second year running, I’m off to Dartmoor for a New Year walking trip, but a couple of days early this time – to actually see the New Year in. The drive down is pretty much as it always is, with the usual stops in the usual places. This time though, rather than let the A30 disgorge me onto the M5, I carry on into Exeter. Old familiar roads are traveled slowly, for the traffic always was a problem on the way into the city. Soon though I’m cutting through the centre and parking up at St David’s station. Cath arrives and we grab a hot drink while we discuss the plan for what remains of the afternoon. We have a little time to play with, but not much because of the early sunset at this time of year.
A decision is made to head out west and detour off the A30 near Cheriton Bishop and pick off a couple of small hills and tors. We make our way through the lanes and stop at a crossroads which sits neatly on the crest of a hill. This is Holeland Hill, a hill in the Dartmoor Hills list, and so worthy of bagging. It’s not worthy of lingering at though. There’s nothing to see. Not even the yellow band marked on the map denoting the National Park boundary.
Back in the car, we drive through more lanes, some of them partially flooded, and after a wrong turn eventually find ourselves at the bottom of Mardon Down. The first glows on sunset are just creeping into the sky behind us as we squelch our way up through the dead bracken and gorse to the top of the hill. Partway up I spot the tor high on the side of the hill, but there’s no way across to it, so we carry onto the summit. A stone circle and some grass greets us. We wander back down the hill to the tor itself. It feels that this should be on the list of tors and rocks, rather than the list of hills.
We look across at the eastern hill and weigh up whether we’ve got enough time. Reasoning that if the dark beats us we could worst case follow the road back to the car, we go for it. A drop down to the dip between the two hills and then we are climbing up onto the East hill. This one’s trickier to find the top off, mainly because we’ve overshot where we should turn off. Some retracing of steps is needed, and then some forging of a route through the bracken.
We reach where the top should be and linger a few minutes for the gps to record the position for the map. A short way away is a pile of rocks that looks like a mini-tor. We head on over.
Back to the car now, but we pass a standing stone on the way, and then a short distance further on a small stone circle (marked cairn circle on the map).
Darkness is gathering and the glow spreading between Haytor and Fernworthy means we’ve run out of day. We hop back in the car and restore ourselves with hot Ribena. Then it’s a short drive to Paul’s house to meet the others and begin the weekend proper….