Dartmoor: The Safari – Part 2: Harts, Foxes and Sheep

A spot of negotiating meet time for Tuesday morning turned on contrasting definitions of what “early” meant. The time agreed being a little too early for me, considering how long I would take to pack up and do the walk into Princetown; the time agreed being a little late for Paul. Ultimately we set a time based on the Fox Tor Café opening time of 9am, which meant I had to push a bit.

This all meant that packing up today was the mother of all faffs, with nothing working slickly, and me keep finding things that should have been dealt with. It took a quarter of an hour from being supposedly “ready” to set off, to actually setting off because of this. And that was 15 minutes that timekeeper Paul hadn’t allowed me to have.

There were two main ways of getting to Princetown – follow the right of way straight down to the road and then either go over North Hessary or stick to the road; and to follow the track down to the car park and then take a more gradual, but longer, route over North Hessary. I dithered between the two but ultimately took the most direct route, even if it meant a steeper climb over North Hessary. First though, I swung by Little Mis Tor.

I hit the enclosed farmland and had to stop for a layers faff, costing valuable minutes. But it was about this time that Paul, having arrived early had gone to check out the Fox Tor Café and found it shut on Tuesday (obviously). The time pressure was off, somewhat.

I got to the road and saw a sign on the other side where the footpath continues over North Hessary. Closed. A whole area around the summit either side of the path, including an express statement about no through route. Glad I hadn’t taken the longer route to be frustrated by this, I knocked out the remaining distance on the road, pretty quiet at this time of day, arriving late by the same amount of time my setting off faff cost me.

Paul had found an alternative to the Fox Tor in the form of the Old Police House Café, and it was a very acceptable substitute.

Paul had brought the rest of my food, and a change of shelter, as I wanted to try out (and the others wanted to see) my new MYOG effort. The Scarp was slung into Paul’s car along with a couple of other bits I wasn’t going to use. Jason turned up and we set off out on to Walkhampton Common by the Soldiers Pond path.

The first target was Hart Tor (Walkhampton) (animal #15), where the ancient art of “tor sitting” was performed.

Next we headed down to cross Hart Tor Brook to see the Giant’s Marble.

Up the hillside and we were at Cramber Tor, where more tor sitting was performed.

We passed by the Devonport Leat.

To spend a few minutes at Crazy Well Pool.

We climbed up to Down Tor and took a leisurely break – we could see our final destination for the day across the valley, and there was no need to hurry.

Lunch done, it was up onto Hingston Hill and a look at the “duck rock” (animal #16) …

Then along to Combshead Tor for a look at a crocodile (allegedly) (animal #17) …

Just down the hill from Combshead, and really part of its clitter field, lies Cuckoo Rock (animal #18).

We continued down to cross the Narrator Brook by Deancombe Rocks.

We followed the brook for a while to find a decent spot for water collection and then picked up the bridleway heading back up hill. Struggling a bit under the weight of a sudden additional 3kg, we crawled up onto Sheeps Tor (animal #19) and found a spot.

It was a reluctant start the next day. The weather was a little less bright, and a lot colder and breezier. We dropped down Yellowmead Down to the quadruple stone circle.

We reached the track at the car park below Gutter Tor, and had now decided not to bother with it. So we struck out from the Scout Hut towards Eastern Tor, dropping down to Ditsworthy Warren. Here we took what shelter there was to be had from the trees, as the rain started.

The rain starting also had the effect of making the loop on the other side of the Plym via Hen, Little Hen, Calveslake and the Great and Little Gnats, a lot less appealing, so we ditched it (and the 5 animals that would have scored), in favour of a lazier route up Drizzlecombe.

I think at this point, none of the three of us had much stomach for doing any more distance and work than we had to, and I suspect we’d have happily made camp there and then.

Anyway, we made our way up Drizzlecombe visiting the standing stone and arriving at Higher Hartor Tor (animal #20).

At this point the plan was to continue over the hill to the track and cross at Plym Ford, then pretty much stick to that contour around to Little Fox and Fox Tors. However as we climbed slightly, Paul had the idea of bagging the top of Crane Hill (animal #21), usually an unpleasant undertaking as it consists almost entirely of bog, but in these conditions rude not to. I’m not sure Jason was impressed with this detour though.

This did at least mean we could see where we were headed for at Fox Tor after we descended on a bearing initially. Rapid progress was made to Fox Tor (animal #22), our planned camp spot. It was now time for a break and a bit of a think.

It was still only lunchtime, so early to stop for the day, but there wasn’t much motivation in the group[ to do much else, and certainly not to think up a new plan. We were just glad to take what shelter we could from the cold wind. Paul decided to go off and investigate Fox Tor Girt, a short way to the east, to see if it had a bit more shelter. Which it did, just not in combination with places to put a tent.

Resigned to stopping at Fox Tor, Paul and I headed off to find water, and while we were at it, and freed of our packs, we went to take a look at Rabbits Tor (animal #23) so that YOU don’t have to bother, as it’s crap.

Back to Fox Tor, and Jason announced that Darren had been spotted making his way out to us.

This meant I could get a look at his new MLD Cricket. The afternoon was spent in lying around chatting and consuming hot beverages. Unfortunately Jason had to bail to take care of something at home, so we were down to 3.

A commotion concerning the quality of the sunrise prised me out of my shelter for a look, and it felt vaguely worthwhile.

This meant that we had a decent early start back to Princetown, which was handy, as having studied the weather forecast, I’d decided that I wanted to complete the last leg back to Okehampton as fast as possible to beat the incoming weekend weather. The hope was that I could break the back of the walk on Thursday (today), leaving little for Friday. The earlier we got to Princetown, the earlier I could start with that plan.

We followed the contours around to Little Fox (animal #24) and joined the path at Nun’s Cross. Then it was an easy walk into Princetown via South Hessary Tor. You can just see the cobra marker on top of it in this photo. Because of that, I call it South Hissary, which means I can loosely claim it as (animal #25).

Another breakfast at the Old Police House ensued before we parted. I again swapped my shelter out – back to the Scarp, and then left the other two for my solo trek back to the start point…

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