Tuesday 23 April 2019

Dartmoor: Around the River Avon (Part 1)

Outcrops in Henglake Gully SX 6518 6711

I really do have a soft spot for this part of the moor, and what perfect way to appreciate it than to walk in it? I noted on my map that I was yet to bag Heng Lake Broadafalls and the outcrops of Pupers Hill, among other interesting places, so I decided to make a good day of it on a somewhat murky day.

My parents dropped me off at Shipley Bridge where I passed both the Gorge and Hunters' Stone. I didn't take any photos of these as I'd be back later knowing I've done the mileage. Now instead of continuing upstream to the dam, I turned sharp left to the waterworks to join up with the Zeal Tor Tramway. I'd walked this track a couple of times before but not for a long, long time. It was nice to be back.

The Bala Brook Valley is distracting but I still managed to notice two milestones, inscribed 3/4 and 2 respectively, and in that order. They were placed as such to record the distance between their locations and Shipley Bridge.

3/4 milestone

2-mile marker from behind. The inscription is really faded.

Passing Petre's Pits I almost ended up on the wrong track as the section at 'Boundary Crosses' is indistinct.

Track to Three Barrows - walk here

Time to summit the highest point of the day: Western White Barrow and Petre's Cross. This impressive eminence reaches 481m which means I'd already ascended over 250 metres, but what's the best part about this is how easy it was: the tramway contours Zeal Hill and below Eastern White Barrow which means you feel like you're walking on flattish ground.

It was lonely up on the peak and the haze made it feel quite atmospheric. This is what I came for!

Petre's Cross on Western White Barrow

Petre's Cross

Western White Barrow

From here, as I descended, Redlake Spoil Heap looked ominous, but it also encouraged me to head for it as I couldn't wait to reach its top, but en route, I passed some settling tanks which would've stored china clay from nearby Redlake before being transported through a pipe which follows the Puffing Billy Track down towards Ivybridge.

Setting Tanks

Ruined Building

Inside Ruined Building - a good shelter if you're stuck out here

It was, for the most part, easy-going to Redlake, although the odd section of flooded track meant I had to clamber up the steep bank to keep ploughing on, passing a couple of bikers. The closer I got to this manmade feature the more it intimidated me and I just had to ascend it.



Once at the top, I got to admire the extensive views of south Dartmoor; featureless but beautiful I could see places I've been to and not yet been to. I could see my next target ahead, one on my bagging list: Heng Lake Broadafalls, but there was no track to it from here, so I knew I would have to beeline over crap ground to get there.

After tucking into a snack and having a sip of my water, I descended via a different route: the east side. All I can say was the beeline was quite scary as there are virtually no obvious natural landmarks in this area. The 'Dartmoor Volcano' isn't natural!

I first entered Henglake Gully which is a very peaceful area, properly in the wilderness. It was the start of a series of granite boulders leading to Broad Falls.

Henglake Gully

Henglake Gully

Henglake Gully

The area around the River Avon was quite soggy and I was surprised to see a fence on the other side. I handrailed the river to see if I could get across where the fence ended, but no, it wasn't safe and I was literally in nowhere land. I always follow the rule of 'if it's not safe to cross, don't do it'. That means I my plan of ascending Huntingdon Warren was no more; I would have to find a different route to Pupers.

Henglake Outcrop

With this in mind, I decided to follow the river downstream to photograph Broad(a) Falls where I thought there might be a crossing place below it.

Heng Lake Broadafalls

Heng Lake Braodafalls

Heng Lake Broadafalls

Split Rock

Down the Avon

Granite Wall

Outcrops at Broad(a) Falls
Granite Wall

I was quite taken by the tor and in some ways, I was fortunate that I was on this side of the river as I would've failed to photograph it from the opposite bank. Looking at my OS map for a new route, the most logical would be to follow the Avon downstream to the clapper bridge (back in familiar territory) and go on from there to Huntingdon Cross and the new clapper.

I love this wall

Looking back to the 'falls'

I haven't spoken about this yet but there were copious amounts of sheep and newborn lambs throughout this walk, and here was perhaps the worst time I could've encountered one. Minding my own business trying to avoid them, a lamb approached me, and I thought 'crap', what do I do? I tried to ascend the steep hillside further but it kept on coming towards me, perhaps thinking I was its mother or something, but then this big sheep comes running towards me and I bolted. I live to tell the tale.

Huntingdon Clapper Bridge

Huntingdon Cross

Western Wella Brook Clapper Bridge

Western Wella Brook Clapper Bridge

At Western Wella Brook Foot, a new clapper bridge had recently been installed but walkers oblivious to it still crossed the ford, moaning about getting their feet yet, but here I am, making use of the bridge with dry feet. Read the full story here.

I was going back into unknown territory now, avoiding the crowds walking to and from Avon Dam, to ascend the featureless Hickaton Hill, taking me on a gentle ridge to Pupers Hill. Mum rang me on this section which I was grateful for, as it really was a boring stretch of track.

Middle Pupers or Pupers Rock was first, the largest of the three tors on this hilltop supporting a pile of stones or a modern cairn. I'll let William Crossing explain the strange name; "Turning S. along the brow of the hill we cross Gibby's Beam, and make our way south-eastward to Pupers, the piles of which we seen on the hill before us. There are three of these, known respectively as Inner Pupers, Pupers Rock, and Outer Pupers. The word is a corruption of Pipers, and the usual story of men being turned into rocks for playing and dancing on a Sunday is related to these masses."

Pupers Rock

Pupers Cross - see Dartefacts

Pupers Rock
Pupers Rock

Outer Pupers was next, best known for its 'B'.

Outer Pupers B for Buckfastleigh

Outer Pupers

Outer Pupers

And lastly, Inner Pupers, an emergent tor.

Inner Pupers

Inner Pupers

Inner Pupers

The long slog down towards Grippers Hill was mentally difficult because of how boring it was: I had been alone for most of the day and having nothing to see triggered some emotions which I had to clear out of my mind before continuing. I think it's important for me to recognise I have these moments and that I can survive them. 

And awkwardly, that's the end of Part 1. In Part 2, my mental state improves as I plod on to get to the end of this adventure.

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