Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Chagford to Manaton hike (14 miles)

Tunnaford Rocks
Tunnaford Rocks

I may have to admit that, on this occasion, my goals were a bit too ambitious, and certainly for the time I was allowed to complete this walk. Starting off in Chagford, again, my aim was to clear up a few tors from here to Manaton, including a revisit to Tunnaford Rocks, and successfully bag the elusive Lowton Borough Rocks.

Heading back to Padley Common the huge bulk of Meldon Hill looms above you. However, instead of ascending right up to the summit like I usually do, I took the contouring path that skirts the hill's western flank, to reach Tunnaford Rocks.

I have been here once before and was very happy to be revisiting. It consists of several large boulders amid some annoying bracken that would be more of an issue in Summer, and a marvellous rock basin that I cannot get enough of. It seems that my friend Tim Jenkinson was the first to document this tor which is worrying because it is so obvious from the Fernworthy direction. It is worth the effort.

Tunnaford Rocks upper outcrop
Tunnaford Rocks upper outcrop

Tunnaford Rocks
Tunnaford Rocks

Tunnaford Rocks
Tunnaford Rocks

Tunnaford Rocks
Tunnaford Rocks

It was then onto a leisurely stroll along the road to Fernworthy Forest and Reservoir, passing some protective Cows watching over their Calves. It was getting hot now, so off came the hoodie.

Cows near Fernworthy
Cows near Fernworthy

As I entered Fernworthy, I took the meandering track heading off left, to go in search to Lowton Borough Rocks. I have decided that, because of the severity and experience I had, it is best for me to dedicate a separate blog post linked HERE to ensure this post flows smoothly.

So, I have left Lowton Borough Rocks (oops, gave it away that I did reach it), and I'm now heading for the gate that leads back out onto the moorland. Last time I was here, I ascended Assycombe Hill; this time, I was headed eastward, but it turned into a north-easterly because the Metherall Brook has a mire that I wasn't keen on negotiating. Besides, I couldn't waste time here and, to my luck, a collection of Cows (is there a specific term?) and Bulls got in my way, or too close for comfort.

They were calm and left me alone, however, but being watched like a hawk is always off-putting, especially when you're in the process of crossing water and they'd laugh if you fell in, or just walk away!

Cows on Hurston Ridge
Cows on Hurston Ridge

I bee-lined as best as I could, over rough ground passing antiquities as I made for Hurston Castle Tor. This is a quite magnificent tor, and one of the finest lesser knowns. It spans both sides of the North Walla Brook (or Bovey?) and was first recorded by Crossing and later by Hemery.

I expected a shallow ford, which it certainly wasn't. I bumped into another person with his dog trying to cross and they just waded; I did the same but in true Max style. I'll let you figure out what happened.

Hurston Castle Tor
Hurston Castle Tor

Hurston Castle Tor
Hurston Castle Tor

Hurston Castle Tor
Hurston Castle Tor

From here it got rather featureless, following a faint path towards the eastern flank of Birch Tor. A track heads up and over the barrow, but the tor sits some way down the hill and isn't a summit. The tor is wonderful, with multiple modest outcrops that are pleasing to the eye. The lookout opportunities would make a good evening for sunset photography.

Birch Tor
Birch Tor

Birch Tor
Birch Tor

Birch Tor pony
Birch Tor pony

I retraced, then heading east up and over Hookney Down, with the satisfaction that every tor on this broad ridge had been bagged, although I will be back because I love the Hamel Down area. 

It was relatively featureless again with little worth logging until I reached Kitty Jay's Grave. I am no expert but for an in-depth read on this mysterious landmark click HERE.

Kitty Jay's Grave
Kitty Jay's Grave

Back onto new territory, I could see the first of the outcrops known as 'Cripdon Down West Tor' as marked by Tim Jenkinson but first mentioned by Eric Hemery. The tor is decent on its own, but with the addition of a very fine rock basin, almost as good as Tunnaford's earlier on, it is worth a visit, and readily visible from the road from Swallerton Gate to Heatree Cross.

Cripdon Down West Tor
Cripdon Down West Tor

Cripdon Down West Tor
Cripdon Down West Tor

Cripdon Down West Tor
Cripdon Down West Tor

Cripdon Down North Tor is some 400m to the north if you hadn't had guessed already! Another fine collection of small outcrops, one with a flat logan stone, another with a tree growing from it.

Cripdon Down North Tor
Cripdon Down North Tor

Cripdon Down North Tor
Cripdon Down North Tor

Cripdon Down North Tor
Cripdon Down North Tor

I was feeling fatigued by now and just had to push on as much as my body would allow. My aim was to take a closer look at the several rock piles on Hayne Down but I reluctantly resisted, telling myself that it would be better to come back another time when I could enjoy it more.

The woods at Hayne were getting dark as the sun dipped behind Hamel Down but I made it out and one final push along the road to the Kestor Inn and I was done. However, the effects of walking those 14 miles were not evident immediately.