Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Dartmoor: The Tors around Spitchwick

Leigh Tor

After successfully bagging Aish Tor yesterday (Jun 16th), I felt the need to visit three more tors in the vicinity, before the bracken became too much. Well, it turned out it was too late, but Mum and I still battled through it to achieve the day's goals.

We parked up near Leigh Tor at SX 7081 7141, which is a tiny car park and we only just squeezed in. So if you choose to park here, park early; that's the same for the car park at Newbridge, which is at the foot of the hill of the same name.

I wasn't sure on whether or not we would go clockwise or anticlockwise: I decided that the latter would be best as it descends Newbridge Hill, and ascends the steep woodland. This road is not at all pleasant to walk since it contains tight bends and has little way for you to escape if you're about to get run over. This is not aided by the stupid idiots who feel it's OK to drive fast - even when signs clearly state 'Please Take Moor Care 40mph'.

Newbridge Hill

At the bottom of the hill, we turned left along the lane towards Spitchwick Manor but immediately turned right to take the well-worn track to Deeper Marsh - for our first bag of the day - Spitchwick Rock Face. Everyone knows Spitchwick, how the River Dart is deep enough to jump in, how it's a great spot for picnics, barbecues, and wild swimming. But what has been the issue as of late is how some people think it's perfectly fine to litter. Fortunately, no litter was evident but then again, it is not the summer holidays just yet!

Why am I ranting again?!

River Dart at Spitchwick

Oh, and for the tor at SX 7154 7109... well, it's actually a heavily weathered non-granite cliff on Private Land, but is best viewed from Public Land where we were standing. If you're brave enough to endure the cold waters then feel free to swim across, but I'm happy seeing it from Deeper Marsh.

Spitchwick Rock Face

Spitchwick Rock Face

Spitchwick Rock Face

Spitchwick Rock Face

Deeper Marsh, the large area of flat ground here, is not much of a marsh by Dartmoor definition, but it does enable you an awesome perspective of Leigh Tor, high up in the trees. If you get a close zoom, you can see just how many trees and bushes have clung onto its south face.

Leigh Tor zoomed from Deeper Marsh

Back at the road, we headed in the direction of Lower Town, veering off left into the woodland beside the disabled car park in search of Lower Leigh Tor. This was not the right decision because you immediately face a mass of boulders, clitter and bracken (at this time of year). We were too late to beat the bracken and this also meant that every step could lead to losing a foot.

I was looking for a tall cliff-like outcrop which I was so close to, yet failed to spot. All that was here was clitter and tonnes of it! With dogs, this is not easy, and every escape route was met with a barrier: bog. Our dog Millie got lost down a hole, and Coco lost her harness; luckily, I found it as it was red. This was turning out to be the most difficult bag for me so far, and we reluctantly retreated to the road.

Clitter from Lower Leigh Tor

Boulders below Lower Leigh Tor

Stumbling around for Lower Leigh Tor

Back on the road, at a bend, we headed off left, uphill, twisting and turning as we took on the ascent. Note: this is not the Two Moors Way track, which sits further north, but still a track nonetheless which is clearly used.

Consulting my GPS, we were still near(ish) the site of the tor, and we both agreed that we could not give up. So with a bit of motivation, we set off into the 'fern forest', starting off by following a faint track, past several deep holes - possibly for badgers. This soon petered out into nothing and we were met with a vertical drop on our left, so, keeping an eye on the dogs, we took a very steep right through claustrophobia. But for some reason, I loved it.

In a fern forest

Lower Leigh Tor's in there

I noticed rocks on the left and investigated, quickly coming to the conclusion that these were the top of the 'stack'. The GPS confirmed I was at the tor and I got a GR of SX 71297 71484. This was breathable terrain so I lingered, observing the fine moss cladding and strangely placed non-granite outcrops.

Lower Leigh Tor

Lower Leigh Tor

Lower Leigh Tor

Lower Leigh Tor

We followed the tor uphill, reaching its conclusion by the path at SX 71215 71503. These outcrops are easy to reach and view.

Lower Leigh Tor

Between this and Leigh Tor there is a brief break in outcrops, and indeed they are both separate tors. The route which flattened out considerably featured several colourful foxgloves.

Foxglove

Foxglove

Gorse between Lower Leigh and Leigh Tors

Foxglove

The large ridge of Leigh Tor is impressive and is a perfect spot for lunch. A large grassy plain makes photography easy, but climbing to the top of the tor is an obvious no-no given how vertical and sharp it is. Bring ropes and you might get lucky but I can't imagine the view would be much better.

From here, you can see the pimple of Buckland Beacon, the summit of Rippon Tor, and Honeybag Tor, Sharp Tor, and Chinkwell Tor.

I have been to Leigh Tor before, but it was so long ago it was prior to tor bagging began, photos began, and documentation began. So technically, this felt like a new bag.

Leigh Tor

Leigh Tor

Leigh Tor

Leigh Tor

According to William Crossing in his 'Guide to Dartmoor', if you include the whole rock ridge here, you have what is also known as 'Long Tor', which seems appropriate given Lower Leigh Tor and Leigh Tor create a very long tor, dissected in the middle by vegetation.

Leigh Tor

Leigh Tor

Rippon Tor zoomed from Leigh Tor

Taking the Two Moors Way now, we arrived at the car park, satisfied and smug at the day's bags, especially Lower Leigh Tor.

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