Saturday, 29 December 2018

Moretonhampstead to Manaton hike (8 miles)

Pound Rock, North Bovey

I was sitting at home and I was thinking, "What linear walk have I not done that is achievable from my bus route, that takes in new tors and rocks?" Ah, Moretonhampstead to Manaton, which would take me back to the beloved Hayne Down.

The weather was iffy again, but it improved at the very end of the walk. As I had planned, this route would take in several country lanes and little moor.

Off the bus at Moretonhampstead (I'll just call it Moreton now, for short), I headed down Pound Road, bearing left towards Brinning Cross which took me to the T Junction.

Heading to Brinning Cross

Brinning Farm

Heading to Brinning Cross

At Brinning Cross itself there is an interesting boundary stone, which I investigated. It marks the boundary between the parishes if Lustleigh and Moreton, shown by the "M" and "L" on its sides.

Brinning Cross Boundary Stone

Brinning Cross Boundary Stone

I headed east for a couple hundred metres before turning right onto the driveway at Fursdon, using the gate which marks the public footpath to North Bovey. 

The first two fields were great - a distinct path with electric fencing on both sides to prevent cattle from eating you alive. The third field, however, and the one without the fencing, had to house cows, and lots of them. I could see the path heading diagonally right from the wooden gate, but I would never trust cows, regardless of their nature, I couldn't tell or risk it.

I tried to do a silent one, skirting the southern edge of the field (SX 7502 8411), keeping as quiet as possible as to not make my presence known. Hoping they'd stick to their own business one spotted me, then another, then they all came charging towards me. I dived into the hedge; luckily they stopped. 

Heart pounding I had quick thinking to do. The best option was to stick to the edge of the field, drop down into a muddy bog, beside a small stream, and stay below the beasts. It worked for a few minutes (I had to phone my Mum because, as usual, I panicked), but that same cow saw me again, hiding behind the tree stump. I'm pretty sure that the cows were young ones, as I've never seen them so energised and bouncy in the way they move.

I legged it as I came out from shelter to the stepping stones over mud to the next stile, into the next field. I survived, in one piece.

Looks innocent, isn't at all

The path improved, and so did the surroundings. I now had to figure out the best way to reach my first bag of the day; Dickford Bridge Tor. I know this one resides on Private Land, and it would be quite the trespass to reach it. I didn't fancy that and opted for the bridleway south first to see if I could see it from there.

The gate (SX 7474 8371) enables you to view the small outcrop (SX 7482 8382). I'll accept that thank you very much.

Dickford Bridge Tor

Dickford Bridge Tor

Dickford Bridge Tor

Dickford Bridge Tor from the gate

The bridleway is muddy in places as it heads into North Bovey, a beautiful village. As I did I was distracted by the River Bovey, this tranquil spot featuring stepping stones and small cascades.

Stepping stones in the River Bovey

River Bovey

North Bovey Church

Past the pub and up the hill, on the road of course, there is a large flat rock on the left, called Pound Rock. The name is marked on the fingerpost at the T Junction, and the rock is covered in moss.

Ring O' Bells in North Bovey

Pound Rock

Pound Rock fingerpost

Pound Rock

Pound Rock

Pound Rock

Leaving North Bovey, on the road to Manaton, I saw the small information board in the village car park. It contains some interesting information about the village and surrounding area.

Welcome to North Bovey

River Bovey

Crossing the Bovey I expected little of the next section, it is just your typical country lane where the odd car passes by every now and again. I was wrong.

At Aller, there were some ponies, one of which loved my camera a little bit more than me I had to yank it back.

Got to taste that camera!

Several small streams trickle under and beside the road, where I took the opportunity to do some shutter speed shots. 

A wooden gate just after Aller is the entrance to a plantation/woodland owned by Fountain Forestry, privately owned. Further on, I looked back, spotting a naughty sheep looking for an escape route. Hunter's Tor soon came into view, a tor that would not leave my sight for too long for the next 4 hours.

Fountain Forestry own this woodland

Trying to escape!

Outcrop in a field

Hunter's Tor

Babbling brook

It was an enjoyable stretch of road to walk to Langstone, a small hamlet outside of Manaton.

Letterbox in Langstone

I now had a decision to make: make a slight detour to Manaton Rocks, which is near Manaton, then head away from the village to Hayne Down; or continue to follow the road to Hayne Down. I chose the former, even if it did take up more time.

Through a field, over a stile and the route becomes very muddy, so you must stick to the stepping stones or fall in and get stuck like I did when I was last here. Just before I exited the woodland, at the gate, I spotted four sheep in the woodland. 

"This isn't right", I said. Given that they were seemingly waiting at the gate I assumed that they had got shut in there. Knowing sheep they are always timid and "against human contact". I almost considered calling Karla, but they weren't in distress.

Forcing the gate open, I went behind them and gave them a nudge to head through. It was successful; they ran into a large field. Even if they aren't supposed to be in the field, they will be more noticed so they can be put back in the right location. Surely sheep belong there and not in a wood? I bet the reason why they loitered by the gate was to alert people that they were in the wrong place.

Stranded sheep

Over another stile, a small path heads right, which takes you to the base of the simply breathtaking Manaton Rocks. The lower section isn't bad, but when you reach the summit, it has one of the best views on Dartmoor. I adore the feeling of height and superiority standing atop this jewel, and I was pleased to be revisiting.

From the top, you can see the magnificent lone tower of Bowerman's Nose, the rocks on the eastern side of Easdon Down, Haytor Rocks (not on this day), Moretonhampstead, Lustleigh Cleave and beyond, even as far as Castle Drogo.

En route to Manaton Rocks

Manaton Rocks

Manaton Rocks, Lustleigh Cleave left

Footpath to Manaton Rocks

Rock basin on Manaton Rocks summit

Castle Drogo
Barracott Tor

I spent a good half hour here, just admiring the views, seeing no one. Realising I still had some way to go until the end, I reluctantly descended towards the church.

Manaton Rocks

Descending Manaton Rocks

Manaton Rocks lower pile

Stile and Manaton Church

Another section of the road leads me into the valley of Hayne Brook, all familiar territory. As I ascended I spotted Bowerman's Nose, peeping out through the trees on my left. Trying to make this walk for circular I thought I'd beeline it, but I spent what felt like hours clambering through bracken and rocks.

Bowerman's Nose is a well-known landmark, and there is a path right to it. My stubbornness got into the way again, however.

It was nice to be revisiting. I had been three times before (all not logged on this blog), and it offers good views of Easdon Down.

Bowerman's Nose

Bowerman's Nose

Bowerman's Nose

Bowerman's Nose

Bowerman's Nose

From left to right: Meldon Hill, Easdon South Tor, Whooping Rock, Easdon Tor (and trig point)

What I was more interested in, on the other hand, were the large tors above the iconic feature. Hayne Down North Tor first, the summit of the down, is a massive sprawl of granite outcrops that are not named on OS maps.

Hayne Down North Tor

Hayne Down North Tor

Hayne Down North Tor

Hayne Down North Tor to Easdon Down

Before visiting the south tor, I headed south, off the hilltop, to visit a small, detached but fine outcrop, called "Little Hayne Down Tor" at SX 7406 8022. It is a lone tor, that has been suggested, by Tim Jenkinson, to be the site of what Hemery describes as "block-like ruins" on his route from Swallerton Gate, p.726 of High Dartmoor; "South-east of Jay's Grave the Ashburton road reaches a junction at Swallerton (a corruption of 'Swine-a-down') Gate, the gate having vanished before memory can recall. From here, a road drops eastward into the border-country, and between these two roads another runs due north along the east flank of Swine Down and passes through Moyle's Gate, so named after a man called Moyle who once lived at the nearby cottage. The remains of at least two hut-circles are seen near a spring on the plain above the enclosures, where large patches of almost impenetrable furze, bramble and bracken occur. A short way north of the spring is a very large weathered block, surrounded by the block-like ruins of what was once a tor."

A small, shallow rock basin tops the outcrop, poised in the manner of a logan stone.

Little Hayne Down Tor

Little Hayne Down Tor

Little Hayne Down Tor

Little Hayne Down Tor rock basin

Hayne Down South Tor covers just as large an area like the north tor, and I prefer it because of a rock that looks like a "bird". 

Once again, not marked on OS maps. It's an omission like this that makes you worry about trusting maps, especially well-known ones like the Ordnance Survey. So many people rely on them to guide you around Dartmoor, but this down really suffers which is inexplicable, since Crossing and Hemery both give details of the area.

Hayne Down South Tor

Hayne Down South Tor

Hayne Down South Tor crouching bird

Hayne Down South Tor

It was nice to finally see the sun make its first appearance of the day, as I headed to Southcott Rocks. It consists of several piles of granite, the largest being the westernmost tor at SX 7454 7997. I also visited the middle outcrops.

A running theme in this area, this tor is also omitted from OS maps! I'm seriously getting fed up of this! I spent another good half hour on the tor, enjoying the mist rolling in and out of Haytor Rocks.

Southcott Rocks main pile

Southcott Rocks main pile

Southcott Rocks main pile

Southcott Rocks middle pile

Southcott Rocks middle pile

Southcott Rocks middle pile

I had about 45 minutes until pickup, giving me plenty of time to descend Hayne Down into Water, near Manaton. I remember making the mistake of contouring the down to reach the track in another POST, but on this occasion, I did the south tor again.

Hayne Down South Tor

Hayne Down South Tor

Hayne Down South Tor

I made quick progress through the woodland to Hayne Cross, spotting both Ponies and Cows on my way back to Water (Manaton). A really enjoyable day.

Ponies at Hayne Cross

Cows at Deal Farm

Cows at Deal Farm