Friday, 31 May 2019

An Expedition to the Queen of the Moor (Part 2)

Heading into the mist - Fur Tor 2019

This blog post is a continuation of the last (link HERE), where we followed the East Dart upstream after leaving Broadun through Sandy Hole Pass. We then enter even more remote territory, and the weather dramatically changes for the worse.

After leaving Broada Stones, it is but a long walk to reach a stunning set of cascades in the East Dart, which we found out are known as 'Kit Steps' at SX 6141 8200. The mist started to descend on us and all of a sudden, as is usually the case, the mood changed and the scene felt ominous and rocks just appeared out of nowhere. This became most apparent when we began ascending Cut Hill later on. We felt uninvited.

However, the sound of the water still kept our spirits alive and we plodded on to have a closer look at the Steps. On another note, the good path which heads out of Sandy Hole Pass begins to thin here; I suppose these parts aren't as well walked.

Kit Steps

Tim at Kit Steps

Outcrops by Kit Steps - noted by Pete McCrickard

Kit Steps

Kit Steps

Eric Hemery romanticises the scene; "The crossing place at Kit Steps is beautiful. The river twists, dividing at a tiny island and foaming around the adjacent flat rocks that form the natural steps. There are falls and the banks in summer are heather clad; above the left bank is a mound covered by scattered rocks and beneath it a tinners-diversion channel- for Dart here is at the commencement of the largest medieval streaming works on the Moor. The right bank is almost cliff like as the result of erosion by the river and from its fern and moss covered crock crevices two trees have sprouted, first in this lonely land and favoured as a nursery by that vicious recluse the carrion crow."

Heading north now, the ground becomes a tad boggy in places, but for most of the time, it actually looks worse than it is - the idea of walking poles comes to mind which I now use.


Kit Rocks is a great tor, with many low outcrops encouraging you to sit down. Even William Crossing calls it by its definition: 'Kit Tor'. For an area which is basically devoid of major exposed granite outcrops, it is a welcome sight, and there are even southern outliers on the right bank at SX 6122 8251. But if we were to see the main tor, on the left bank, we would have to wade.


Paul and Tim made it across easily, and there I was, on all fours, nervously crawling across.


Kit Rocks southern outcrops

Kit Rocks southern outcrops

Kit Rocks

Kit Rocks

Tim on Kit Rocks

Rock basin on Kit Rocks

Kit Rocks

Back over the river, we did a westerly, over boggy, featureless terrain, following the range poles, where the mist really obscured everything. There is but an obvious path to Cut Hill Outcrop (SX 6035 8299), which in itself is a small granite outcrop in complete isolation, topped by a mini cairn. It is a good place to take a rest, though, like I did as if that was a surprise to anyone! Paul joined me whilst Tim went off in search of a letterbox.

Cut Hill Outcrop

Cut Hill Outcrop

Tim atop Cut Hill Outcrop

Paul taking a snack at Cut Hill Outcrop

Cut Hill Outcrop

Now, the final trudge to the summit of Cut Hill, a massive eminence which, at the time, I wasn't all that impressed by. But now that I look back it's just because I couldn't find (or see) the Jew Stone. It's more annoying as I was at the right stone, but the markings have faded so much they were practically invisible to my eye. That aside, it will make me revisit and hopefully on a day where I can see the many miles of moorland which stretch out to infinity and beyond.

At the summit, there is a stone row, I believe the Jew Stone being part of it and a cairn in the centre. The terrain here is something else: peat hags everywhere and it was deceptively dry.

I'll let the photos speak for themselves but even with Paul and Tim here, it was spooky and if you were without knowing that you are literally 6km away from the nearest road, in limited visibility, you'd likely freak out. I am fully aware that some people love this stuff, even me from time to time, but until now I'd never been to this neck of the woods before and it was, well, different to say the least.

Cut Hill peat hag

Looking for the Jew Stone... this is the wrong stone.

Cut Hill summit cairn... the Jew Stone is metres from here but I didn't photograph it.

SW terminus of the stone row.

SW terminus of the stone row.

A little disheartened we were going for the Queen, on a good track linking the two. Where do I start? Fur Tor, the much-loved tor on Dartmoor which has become famous for its location, is certainly a spectacular tor, but with no views, you could have been at Saddle Tor and not noticed a difference. If anything, it would appear more impressive in the mist as you approach the simply enormous stack of granite which dominates and intimidates you.

William Crossing best describes it; "Fur Tor is perhaps the grandest of the Dartmoor tors, for while there are some that rise much higher above the ground than the loftiest of the piles here, and also exhibit finer rock masses, there is none that covers so large an area, or whose surroundings are of desolate character as those upon which this lonely tor looks down. Fur Tor is a wilderness of stone. Masses of grey rock stud the slopes that sweep down to the Amicombe and its tributary stream. On one side the rambler may wander amid innumerable lumps of granite, each a miniature tor, as in a maze."

There is a rock basin on the summit, but there was no way I was climbing to the top - not when there's no view - and when no one would join me. If I fell off, no helicopter would come out in the misty conditions and it would further put their lives at risk as well. Not worth it.

There's also a plaque, recently moved, for Matt Berry. However, Paul, Tim and I doing an extensive search of the tor found nothing. And of all tors it had to be located on, Fur is one of the largest and grandest I've ever seen.

We spent a good 40 minutes on the tor, exploring the granite which just kept giving. As much as I was impressed, it wouldn't go into my top tors list because 1: I haven't seen the view and rock basin on it, and 2: it's just a bit too much for me! It's like someone's gone to a modest tor and increased its size x50.

Team ToD at Fur Tor - pic by Paul Buck

Tim rounding Fur Tor stack

Fur Tor

Fur Tor xenolith

Fur Tor massive boulders

Tim at Fur Tor

Fur Tor

Fur Tor

Fur Tor

Fur Tor and Tim looking for another letterbox

Fur Tor

Just to say I've been there

Now for the long route back, via Flat Tor, to Postbridge. For me, this was the most difficult section and I lacked energy from stupidly not refuelling on Fur Tor. There is little for me to note about this part of the walk, apart from just leaving the Peat Pass we bumped into two gentlemen walking to... you guessed it... Fur Tor.

Later that day on Facebook, they told us how the weather had cleared and they could actually see. Just typical.

Cut Hill Peat Pass: North-West Passage

Cut Hill Peat Pass: North-West Passage

Before reaching Flat Tor, we passed a range notice board, warning us not to touch any "military debris", despite not giving us an example of what to look out for.

Flat Tor range notice board

Flat Tor is exactly what you'd expect it to be: low, flat granite outcrops near the top of the hill, overlooking the air crash site and 'mires project'.

The perfect picnic tor, the mist decided to lift.

Flat Tor

Flat Tor

Flat Tor

Flat Tor

Flat Tor close close close up

Leaving this fine area of granite and short grass, we came to some bumpy, mossy ground around the air crash site in a depression. It was quite fun bumping up and down and just watching the whole area wobble with you. Just imagine if it opened up!

The large pool below Flat Tor is a conspicuous landmark from miles around, and was caused in 1965 by a naval aircraft, a Sea Vixen. Luckily, no deaths were cuased and both airmen escaped unhurt. Debris can still be found at the site today.

The mires project, aiming to conserve Dartmoor's peat as a carbon store, can also be found here. A weather station is situated amid barbed wire fencing - not something you see everyday.

Bog hopping

Flat Tor Pan view of Rough Tor

Flat Tor Pool - the air crash site

Weather station

Ahead, we could spy tyre tracks used to access this location and decided to follow it, first by crossing the same stream beside Broada Stones.

It took us up and over Broadun, passing a hut circle en route to our last tor of the day; Broadun Rocks (outlier). It's like Flat Tor, a very very low outcrop covering a decent area. It's situated some distance from the rest of the Broadun group, being nearer Braddon Tor. 

Hut circle

Broadun Rocks (outlier)

Broadun Rocks (outlier)

Broadun Rocks (outlier)

Broadun Rocks (outlier)

Sleepy face at Broadun Rocks (outlier)

Broadun Rocks (outlier)

And that's basically it - we rejoined the track we took up to Broadun and recrossed Braddon Lake Ford, past Braddon Lake Rocks and Roundy Park Rocks again, taking us back into Postbridge. It was an excellent walk and one I won't forget for sure. Additionally, it wasn't as tough as I envisaged it to be.

Here's one last photo of Braddon Lake Rocks, this outcrop being nearer Roundy Park Rocks than the outcrop by the ford.

Braddon Lake Rocks

Once again my thanks go out to Paul and Tim for their company, putting up with me for some 12.5 miles in total. It demonstrated how barren Dartmoor can be at times and I loved it.