Dartmoor: The Safari – Part 3: The Land of Horses

A familiar route, the road walk to Two Bridges. I stopped a few moments to watch the geese.

I took the path that heads towards Wistman’s Wood, although I wouldn’t be going quite that far. I slanted off up the hillside towards Littaford Tors, not bothering today with Crockern Tor, as I was on a bit of a mission.

This is one of my favourite ridges, and is my default north-south route – far easier than the route I’d toiled along to get down from Okehampton a few days ago. This route goes very much with the grain of the hills, rather than against it.

Longaford Tor provided a pleasant spot for 1st lunch, and a popular one too with several other people spread out around its base. These would be the last people I’d see until the very end of the day, as I was heading very much into the back country.

Higher and Lower White were next, but I didn’t bother with Little Whiten or Wildbanks Rocks this time (on a mission, remember).

I dropped down to Cherrybrook Rocks and broke the tradition (at least for me) of refilling of water supplies that takes place there. Then up to Braddon Tor – one of of those tors I’ve always either passed by or only given a fairly perfunctory inspection in the past. Today though, I looked at all the various bits, partly to give me time to decide whether to pick off all the outcrops on Broad Down, or just get on with the walk.

I opted for making progress in the end and steered a pretty direct course for East Dart Falls, although I picked off Broadun Rocks Outlier that lay directly in my path as I went.

East Dart Falls was an obvious spot for 2nd Lunch – both because it was what I’d set as my target, and also because it was time. I refilled with water here and sat down to enjoy the scene, which I shared just with local birdlife.

Now came the only real new territory for today’s walk. The plan was to aim for Winney’s Down, and that would put me on a straight course for Quintin’s Man and the well-trodden route. But first I needed to head further up the East Dart – even with the ground apparently this dry, it seemed pointless risking the bog the map showed lying in the direct path. I would head up the East Dart for a kilometre or so and then cut north for Winney’s Down.

This worked quite well, although not without much checking of how far I’d gone at several points. I realised when I had passed both Sandy Hole Rocks (South) and (North) and could see Broada Stones that I was nearing the optimum turn off point, and began cutting up onto Winney’s Down, pretty much opposite Dead Pony Gulch (I’m pretty sure you’re not going to let me claim that as animal #26)

I reached the top of Winney’s Down (animal #26 sort of), and then it was a simple matter of picking up the range poles, and the obvious route up to Quintin’s Man.

The walk up onto Whitehorse Hill (animal #27) is one of those that always feels longer than the mile or so it really is, and that’s true in both directions.

I reached the top of the peat pass and made what would normally be a crazy decision – rather than take the easy peat (by)pass I would take the direct route to the top of Hangingstone Hill: after all when would it ever be more viable than today ?

It wasn’t too bad underfoot – there was a certain amount of zigzagging to circumvent all the pools of stagnant water, but that’s as bad as it got really.

The top of Hangingstone Hill was a good place to take stock. Ahead of me was a myriad of options I hadn’t expected to have. I’d thought Hangingstone might be the best I’d manage today, but it wasn’t yet 4pm, and my legs were still good. I’d really flown through today’s walk. It was even conceivable that I could push on and make Okehampton the same day if I wanted.

Whilst I did want to get the walk done to beat the incoming weather, I also wanted one final night on the Moor, so my effort was put into working out where to aim for to camp, rather than finishing the walk. I briefly toyed with Wild Tor, but rejected that on the basis of it creating more work the next day.

Steeperton called to me, until I saw someone else ahead of me heading that exact way, and I decided better of it. I decided to simply continue towards Okehampton and camp as soon as I either found a spot or felt I’d had enough.

While I was deciding all this, I missed my turning where the track momentarily fizzles out and found myself heading the wrong way towards Okement Hill. It took me 10 minutes before I realized what I’d done and I retraced my steps.

On the right track now, I stopped near Knack Mine to get water from the Taw, and then up to Oke Tor, which I decided was as good as anywhere else.

I’d almost got the tent up when the rain came, my lost 10 minutes earlier now making me fail to get under cover in time. It came down quite hard for a while, but eventually eased. In the meantime all that water vapour in the air had intensified the sunset colours.

It was a pretty peaceful night, but the tent was still wet as I packed up. An easy walk lay before me – I could either follow the ridge and then drop down to the East Okement, or I could just head straight there. Last day eagerness to just get the walk done saw me take the direct route, past Knattaborough Tor and Winter Tor.

The track took me down towards Cleave Tor, but before going that far, I dropped down to cross the East Okement and follow the Tarka Trail through West Cleave Gorge. A bit of undulating along the path brought me back to the viaduct I’d last seen nearly a week ago, and a short bit of road walking later I was at Paul’s.

I’d got well up the A303 when Paul messaged me to tell of the big thunderstorm he was having, so I felt pretty good about my timing!

Final Scores

  • A total of 27 animals, in the form of either hills or named tors.
  • A total of 66 named tors and rocks (as defined by the Tors of Dartmoor database)
  • 106.01km walked
  • 3,196m of ascent
  • 45 hours 11 mins of walking
  • 6 camps
  • 2 Fry-ups
  • no dead animals this time

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