Wednesday 10 July 2019

Bodmin Moor: The Tors on Twelve Men's Moor

Kilmar Tor

Well this was different! It's amazing how it only takes one person and then a Facebook Group to convince me enough to visit somewhere else other than Dartmoor. And it got me thinking, how about I try and bag every tor on Bodmin Moor - because there are less than 100 - and I'm well over halfway into bagging all of Dartmoor's? It just so happens that this walk was the start of an additional challenge.

It all started after I began talking to Dartmoor 365er Sheron Vowden, who had successfully visited all 365 square miles of Dartmoor National Park. I'd noticed she'd starting visiting Bodmin Moor, also a newbie, so I thought who better to be my companion for the day? I mean, Sheron offered to show me 'round so why not take her up on that offer?

Three rhetorical questions in the first two paragraphs I'm so sorry. Let's go to the walk which was stupendous.

Sheron picked me up in Newton Abbot and we drove to a dead-end lane, at SX 2584 7585, with a small parking area at its conclusion - if you could call it that as it's quite tiny and rugged.

Bodmin Moor: my first steps

Taking various footpaths below and to the east of Kilmar Tor, a giant tor, I noticed a small tor on our left. Sheron had been before and showed it to me with its three awesome rock basins. Already, it just so happens, this tor is unnamed to my limited knowledge. But if you know it has a name, at SX 2603 7509, then please do drop a comment.

The main outcrop is beautiful, perhaps representing the early stages of logan stone formation if it isn't one already. In this area, there is evidence of feather and tare where the granite would've been cut with an unimaginable amount of energy to then be transported somewhere across the country to be used. Being such a hard rock, it was and still is highly sought after and shapes quite nicely into worktops, etc.

We dubbed it Little Kilmar Tor which I would hope requires no explanation.

Little Kilmar Tor approach, with great views of Dartmoor

Little Kilmar Tor

Little Kilmar Tor
Little Kilmar Tor, with rock basins atop

Southward, over a dry bog, we made for the easternmost part of the huge Bearah Tor - an awesome ridge of granite with beautiful outcrops and rock basins. We just couldn't get enough of it and I think Sheron was pleased to be revisiting.

Bearah Tor and quarry

Bearah Tor

Bearah Tor teardrop rock basin

Bearah Tor

Bearah Tor
Bearah Tor two possible logan stones

We followed the tor uphill, weaving our way through granite encountering the odd dead-end. One outcrop, just above the quarry, had a natural plughole in a rock basin atop its summit. I decided to stay at the bottom but Sheron went on. Two blinks later, she was at the top observing this strange and rare phenomenon. It's the first time either of us have ever seen such a creation.

Bearah Tor plughole in rock basin

After reaching the summit at 367m, Sheron thought she'd show me the quarry as it was a weekend - no one was working so all was peaceful. Now I'm not a fan of these 'eyesores' but I have to say despite this being a working quarry it was more interesting to me. Not least because the bags storing granite had my surname, Piper, on them.

Bearah Tor quarry

Bearah Tor quarry

Bearah Tor quarry feather and tare marks

Bearah Tor quarry

We left the quarry and beelined, sort of, towards the huge alpine peak of Sharp Tor at 378m. Such a common name for a tor, this beautiful eminence has a path leading up to the summit from the west side and the views are simply wonderful. Here, we bumped into three lads also taking in the scenery.

Sharp Tor

Sharp Tor

Sharp Tor view of Langstone Downs
Sharp Tor

En route to Langstone Downs, we stopped so I could coat myself with the white stuff: suncream, but also to indulge myself in water. Walking was pleasant thanks to the breeze, but that doesn't mean you won't still burn!

Langstone Downs is an interesting summit, and one I like, consisting of three cairns sitting at a respectable 379m. On its south side at SX 2554 7375 there is a ruined tor amid a sizeable clitter. The best outcrop is nearest the cairns, a small, lowly group with great views of the conical Sharp Tor rising boldly from the hillside. At this location, a boundary stone engraved K2 marks a line heading north-west towards the west flank of Kilmar Tor, below High Rock. Please could someone enlighten me as to what they represent?

Langstone Downs boundary stone K2

Langstone Downs ruined tor

Langstone Downs ruined tor

Langstone Downs ruined tor
Langstone Downs summit cairns view of Sharp Tor

Sheron at Langstone Downs summit cairns. Brown Willy in the distance.

We simply headed north-west, on very neat grassy moorland like a garden. Though this was the nicest terrain of the day. Passing K3 we were soon at K4, on the edge of a fence. More on fences later.

K4 is inscribed with something else on another of its four sides, though we both had difficulty trying to make out what the letters were. It's faded.

Boundary stone K3

Boundary stone K4

From here, Sheron gave me a choice and I hate making decisions because I always choose either the greedy option or the one that's going to put me in danger. So what did I do? - chose Newel Tor and Hill Tor when I had the option to discover the rock basins atop King Arthur's Bed. I chose the former as it sounded more challenging and I wanted to get it out of the way. I wasn't at all wrong! 

A path heads downhill from K4, after negotiating a feather bed, almost reaching the small crossing point over Withey Brook. This was far from a dramatic crossing.

Withey Brook

Sheron led me up to the old railway at which we turned left, but not for long as we veered off right to examine a large settlement, being used by sheep for shade. 

The uphill was OK but it just so happend here that the 'breeze' dropped and it became a sweaty affair. However, the excellent panorama including Kilmar Tor and High Rock forced us to stop - and besides, we were here to enjoy it.

Newel Tor soon appeared at the top of the hill, which from here became tussock grass hell. Never have I ever seen such high grass in all my life. Is this Open Access Land not looked after? Where's the lawnmower?

Newel Tor view of Brown Willy and The Beacon (?)

Newel Tor view of Kilmar Tor, Bearah Tor and Langstone Downs

Newel Tor flagpole

We stopped here for lunch and contemplated our next bag, and a new one for Sheron. We gravitated to the westernmost outcrop of Newel Tor to assess the situation. When looking at the map, there was an annoying field between here and the Open Access Land of Hill Tor, and, when zooming in that direction, a fence seemed impenetrable and there was another after that to contend with. Between all of this was more of that long grass but we saw a track between the plantation and the field heading to our destination.

Newel Tor

Newel Tor

Newel Tor

Not wanting to give up since we had made the effort to come this far, we basically beelined to the corner of the fence to find a track on the other side. We stepped across a low section of wire fence adjacent to a tiny wooden part of the fence, and we were over. 

The track to Hill Tor improved, but upon reaching the Open Access Land, we had another obstacle: a wooden gate, locked. "There must be another way in here," I said, and we must've approached from the wrong direction. The grass was still high at this point, an indication that this gorgeous tor is rarely visited.

Hill Tor and Sheron ascending

Hill Tor

Hill Tor
Hill Tor

Back over the gate, we took a left along an unkempt forestry track to reach a gravel one, with the intention of taking in an unplanned bag. With a fence on our left, we had no choice but to stick to this track but it's the most sensible way. Took a left through an unlocked gate, we made for Smallacombe Tor, a decent compact granite outcrop looking for some love. Max, stop romanticising.

Below the main tor is a small, isolated outcrop.

Smallacombe Tor

Smallacombe Tor

Smallacombe Tor
Outcrop below Smallacombe Tor

In order to continue with our route, we had to choice but to descend into the dark plantation to rejoin the disused railway. Little did we know that this was private land, when reading a notice at Trewortha Farm later on, due to the lack of signage in the area.

At the railway, we had one last claustrophobic section to endure. But I was fine, for some reason. I usually moan, but for some inexplicable reason, I didn't. Was it down to the company or because I was secretly enjoying it?

Through the long grass

Sheron stated with confidence, "My walks aren't usually this bad!" just before reaching the Withey Brook again, at a ford. Descending should've been simple, but I lost my footing and went splat, rolling down the hill to within the centimetres of the watercourse. 

Splat! Pic by Sheron Vowden

Whilst Sheron decided to take her boots and socks off for a paddle, I chose to get wet boots as I really don't mind, especially in this heat. It was soothing.

Cooling off!

At the ford, a track (could be a bridleway also) appeared out of nowhere, and a good one too, heading through Trewortha Farm where we were fortunate that they weren't live firing.


Track through Trewortha

Now, we were faced with the grandest eminence of the day: Kilmar Tor and High Rock. But before taking the plunge, we were distracted by some highland cattle and a bull. I kept my distance as I was wearing red.

Sorry to disturb you

We aimed for the right-hand side of the ridge, coming to what Sheron describes as an 'aeroplane'. After this you cannot fail to miss the massive stack that is known as 'High Rock', probably the best rock formation I've ever seen on both moors. How on earth it doesn't collapse in on itself I don't know; it must be able to withstand extreme weather as it's still standing today.

Sheron Vowden's 'aeroplane' rock

High Rock

High Rock view of Trewortha and Brown Willy
High Rock

Me at High Rock - pic by Sheron Vowden

Following the lofty Kilmar ridge, we spent some time navigating our way up, down, over and across granite in the direction of the trig point, some 6 metres below the actual summit. But there was no chance either of us were going to make it up there. If Sheron declines, I have no hope.

Kilmar Tor middle section

At the base of the trig point, Sheron literally stepped across the gap between two rocks with no fear, whilst me, determined to do the same, had little courage. In fact, I was annoyed that Sheron was enjoying the trig without me so I just went for it. 

Having this peak all to ourselves was rewarding, let alone the fact that it is so little known, to me anyway. This is so much better than Cox Tor and several other popular tors on Dartmoor.

Kilmar Tor trig point

Kilmar Tor trig point

After spending some time here, we descended southward to avoid the clitter to walk around the base of the tor, between the eastern end and Little Kilmar Tor. The footpath led us down the hill which we ascended earlier back to the car.

An excellent walk which we both survived, I think this won't be the last walk with Sheron, or the last walk on Bodmin Moor. As of July 2019, I have created a map for all the tors on this moorland as I would like to bag all of them, a challenge I hope will be easier than Dartmoor as there are way less.

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