Friday, 18 January 2019

A Winter Walk North of Moretonhampstead

Haytor Rocks sunrise
Haytor Rocks sunrise

This is one of those walks that was dependent on weather. It was misty all the way to Moretonhampstead on the bus from Newton Abbot, and I became pessimistic about the day ahead. However, this turned out to be my favourite walk in 2018. Read more and you'll see why!

Starting in Moretonhampstead, I headed up to Howton, a small hamlet north-west of the town,  looking for Trips Tor on my right. I spotted it, on Private Land, at SX 747 868.

Trips Tor
Trips Tor

Trips Tor
Trips Tor

It looks like a good outcrop, but it's so difficult to capture it in one shot. Further along the road, I noticed pigs on my left, minding their own business. I enjoyed having a staring contest with one of them. This is not the first time I've seen them on Dartmoor; I've also seen them at Mary Tavy and Murchington.

Pigs at Trips
Pigs at Trips

In Howton, on my left, there is an unnamed outcrop at SX 7436 8702, just outside of the small copse.

Outcrop above Howton
Outcrop above Howton

Ponies at Howton
Ponies at Howton

Just after passing a small but pleasant stream that heads under the road, you should be able to see the lower outcrops of Linscott Tor on your left, the largest boulder being dissected by corrugated iron sheets.

Tumbling stream at Linscott
Tumbling stream at Linscott

Tumbling stream at Linscott
Tumbling stream at Linscott

Linscott Tor lower outcrops
Linscott Tor lower outcrops

Linscott Tor lower outcrops
Linscott Tor lower outcrops

Heading up the road to the stile, I passed Linscott Cross. Linscott Tor's upper outcrops are modest, in a boulder-like fashion.

Linscott Cross
Linscott Cross

Linscott Tor upper outcrops
Linscott Tor upper outcrops

Linscott Tor upper outcrops
Linscott Tor upper outcrops

Linscott Tor upper outcrops
Linscott Tor upper outcrops

The path, which sits metres from the upper section, is surprisingly good, and steep at first. I felt like I was leaving the mist now. There is a horrible, wobbly stile that I had to negotiate, however.

A bit further on, the woodland opens up on the left and leaves the field wall. I noticed a faint track leading off left. Seeing scattered boulders here I felt like there could be an outcrop further up the hill. Within minutes of heading off the track I found what I was somewhat expecting; a small tor, that I have dubbed "Ash Tor", as named on the Tithe Map. (SX 7422 8758)

Ash Tor lower outcrop
Ash Tor lower outcrop

Ash Tor
Ash Tor

Ash Tor
Ash Tor

The trees in this part of the wood are very sparse and so it almost feels like a ledge where you can look out above the canopy, and oh my what a good view it is. It blew my mind seeing the inversion below me, in the valley of the Sticklepath Fault. I was speechless and my thoughts were on getting to the summit of Butterdon Hill.

Ash Tor inversion
Ash Tor inversion

Ash Tor inversion
Ash Tor inversion

I presume that this tor resides in Private Land, as it is not shown an Open Access, but there are no signs warning of trespassing. 

Dartmoor couldn't bee that nice, though; as I quickened my pace as I rejoined the track/bridleway, a fallen tree, and muddy terrain, slowed me down. Reaching a field gate, just before the road at Bowden, I could see Haytor Rocks and Easdon Tor.

Mist over Moretonhampstead
Mist over Moretonhampstead

Mist over Moretonhampstead
Mist over Moretonhampstead

A bit of road walking and yet again, I was slowed down; Cows! These were not nice ones either, and they all had horns. I took my time, reminding myself that safety comes first. I tried to forget about that 360 degree panorama I could be missing out on at the summit for a while.

Negotiating Bulls
Negotiating Bulls

Field Wall
Field Wall

Fernworthy Forest
Fernworthy Forest

A Rubble Tor near Butterdon Down
A Rubble Tor near Butterdon Down

I did survive, and I made it onto Butterdon Down, being distracted by the impressive menhir. I also passed some sizeable rocks that I called Butterdon Hill Rocks, for want of an official name. (SX 7488 8841)

Gate onto Butterdon Down
Gate onto Butterdon Down

Menhir on Butterdon Hill (Moretonhampstead)
Menhir on Butterdon Hill (Moretonhampstead)

Butterdon Hill Rocks
Butterdon Hill Rocks

Butterdon Hill Rocks
Butterdon Hill Rocks

Butterdon Hill Rocks
Butterdon Hill Rocks

Butterdon Hill Rocks
Butterdon Hill Rocks

The view from the top of Butterdon Hill is awe-inspiring and is one of the best viewpoints on Dartmoor. Despite being at a lowly elevation of 351m it really feels higher, almost rivalling Cosdon and Assycombe Hills on the High Moor.

Its panorama sees many tors and I spent around 45 minutes just pointing them all out to myself - from the Roof of Devon (Yes Tor, Hampster Tor and High Willhays), to Watern Tor, Sittaford Tor and Steeperton Tor.

Mist over Wray Valley
Mist over Wray Valley

Mist over Wray Valley
Mist over Wray Valley

Watern Tor and The Thirlstone
Watern Tor and The Thirlstone

Assycombe Hill
Assycombe Hill

It was now time to head back in the direction of Moretonhampstead. Butterdon Hill is a difficult descent, through bracken and gorse even at this time of year, and I tried my best to come down the way I came up. I did, however, veer off, relying on my GPS to get me back to the track. On doing so I spotted several Deer.

Deer on Butterdon Hill (Moretonhampstead)
Deer on Butterdon Hill (Moretonhampstead)

The way back was easy, past Hill Farm Cottages and Coombe Court, with plenty of things to see. The sunlight here was awesome as it shone through the sparse leaves of the trees; the gentle rumbling sound of the Wray Brook, accentuated by the vibrant moss, captures the eye of the visitor.

Menhir on Butterdon Hill (Moretonhampstead)
Menhir on Butterdon Hill  (Moretonhampstead)

Lane near Hill Farm Cottages
Lane near Hill Farm Cottages

Light in the wood at Coombe Court
Light in the wood at Coombe Court

Light in the wood at Coombe Court
Light in the wood at Coombe Court

Crossing the brook, I noticed some boulders above the field in a small wooded area. I have, for the purposes of tor bagging, named them Milland Rocks as the name is shown on Tithe Maps. (SX 7551 8651)

Outcrops
Milland Rocks

Outcrops
Milland Rocks

Bulls
Bulls

As usual I rushed everything and had ample time to do more, so paid a revisit to Rectory Tor, a track leading to it from Shute. Above the houses here there is another outcrop, unnamed, and in Private Land. There could be more hidden behind it.

Rectory Tor
Rectory Tor

Rectory Tor
Rectory Tor

Outcrop
Outcrop

Outcrop
Outcrop