Sunday, 21 October 2018

The tors and rocks out of Holming Beam

Conies Down Tor
Conies Down Tor

With the prospects of a sunny day, I wanted to get out into a remoter part of Dartmoor before the Winter weather really takes its toll. Well, and being October, the weather was far from the average and what's more, I (we) hardly saw a sole and they weren't live firing.

We parked up at Holming Beam, where the impressive Beardown and Lydford Tors loomed above us, verifying that leaving them til last was the right decision. I have fond memories of this area of Dartmoor; on a Ten Tors training walk, in really miserable weather, I remember just wanting to drop out at this car park. I was fatigued and lacked motivation, especially because the mist and drizzle wouldn't stop. I didn't drop out, however, and continued where I almost drowned in a river.

That aside, it proved that I had the determination to complete the challenge and it triggered an increase in my stamina levels. Back to the walk...

Heading for Conies Down Tor
Lydford Tor and Beardown Tors

We headed north along the military track, before leaving it near its conclusion and began off-roading towards Blackabrook Head. For this time of year we were really expecting it to be chilly, but the sun shone its face and I started to take layers off. 

The route to Conies Down Tor wasn't particularly difficult, for me at least, without sounding arrogant. It helped that we could see the day's objectives and that, I hoped at the time, lightened everyone's spirits of what I was going to put them through!

Crossing Conies Down Water was easy, and before we knew it, we were at the two outcrops at Conies Down Tor. What a spot this is! Situated in the middle of nowhere, certainly not a tourist destination and not readily, if at all, mentioned as a go-to place on Dartmoor, Conies Down Tor is the perfect place to escape and forget your thoughts, or gather them. Relatively easy but from any road this tor doesn't stand out, unlike the likes of nearby Longaford and Beardown. I just adore the views of the Cowsic Valley, the river meandering its way south to Two Bridges. The tor outcrops are fine, albeit small, but pleasing enough.

Conies Down Tor
Conies Down Tor

Conies Down Tor
Conies Down Tor

Conies Down Tor
Conies Down Tor

A steep descent was necessary to reach Cowsic Rocks, and find the quickest route to Devil's Tor. I now see that people have taken a path around Maiden Hill and Cowsic Head which makes sense, but nothing I do is easy. 

I like Cowsic Rocks. First documented by my friend, Paul Buck, this is a collection of rounded granite boulders, the main outcrop piled into a small cluster. Their nature on the valley side and being the only landmark in this lush valley makes them stand out.

Cowsic Rocks
Cowsic Rocks

Cowsic Rocks
Cowsic Rocks

Crossing the Cowsic River was another easy task and it just meant the route to Devil's Tor was through tussocks - not my favourite, nor my companions, coping rather well. The Beardown Man was now obvious on the horizon.

Devil's Tor
Devil's Tor

Beardown Man at Devil's Tor
Beardown Man

Devil's Tor
Devil's Tor

The next tor was interesting, and further south of Devil's Tor. Described by Hemery: "A little to the south of Devil's Tor the fen ceases, and a rock, unnamed, far more shapely and significant than Devil's Tor proper - poised as it is on the very brow of the ridge.." The tor is also marked on OS maps as a large crag of rock and the name of 'South Devil's Tor' seems appropriate given that it is much bigger than its neighbour who, only because of its standing stone, may be more interesting. This outcrop, however, deserves a name as stated above.

South Devil's Tor
South Devil's Tor

South Devil's Tor
South Devil's Tor

From here we spied a route to Crow Tor, my favourite tor. We crossed Foxholes Water or, as Hemery calls it, the Methern Brook, taking a track to this impressive formation. I still refuse to change my opinion on this tor; it's absolutely magnificent. And on a day like today, the light enhanced the outcrop and geology. I couldn't get enough of it.

Crow Tor
Crow Tor

Crow Tor
Crow Tor

Crow Tor
Crow Tor

It would seem a little rude to not pay a visit to its extremely close neighbour; Little Crow Tor. On this visit, I took more time investigating what Hemery describes as: "An immense break-away" in the south-west of the tor.

Little Crow Tor
Little Crow Tor

Little Crow Tor
Little Crow Tor

Back over Foxholes Water, I wanted to take a better look at an unnamed outcrop near Lydford Tor, now dubbed 'Little Lydford Tor'. It consists of several small, but well-jointed rocks north-east of Lydford Tor. It was near here that we saw our first person of the day; being near Wistman's Wood, it's not that surprising!

'Little Lydford Tor'
Little Lydford Tor

'Little Lydford Tor'
Little Lydford Tor

'Little Lydford Tor'
Little Lydford Tor

Over a stile, Lydford Tor could be reached. It is a large tor, but its outcrops containing repetitive horizontal jointing seem to shrink its actual size. A flat-topped logan stone is near the summit.

Lydford Tor
Lydford Tor

Lydford Tor
Lydford Tor

Lydford Tor
Lydford Tor

Despite the car park being in view, the Beardown Tors were grabbing my attention to visit. This is, unfortunately, one of the rare cases where groups of rocks that are clearly separate are lumped together. This isn't a new tradition; they were named as such even as far back as Crossing in the early 20th century.

For the greedy tor bagger, visiting the largest or the highest of the four most prominent rock groups here would suffice; not me. I made sure that I made every effort to visit the north, east, west and little tors. I still see them as 4 separate tors, even if they are technically 1 bag.

Beardown North Tor (Beardown Tors)
Beardown North Tor

Beardown East Tor (Beardown Tors)
Beardown East Tor

Beardown West Tor (Beardown Tors)
Beardown West Tor

Little Beardown Tor (Beardown Tors)
Little Beardown Tor

A good track heads down to the bridge that crosses the Cowsic River. Then, it was just a short climb back to the car park. A very enjoyable day, with some great bags.