Thursday 10 October 2019

Dartmoor: Chalk Ford Rocks, Pupers Hill, Snowdon and Gibby Combe Tor

Descending Snowdon

This is going to be a very difficult blog post for me to write, predominantly because there's so much to see in this part of Dartmoor! In total, we visited like 50 Dartefacts or something in this 8-mile walk, and logging all of the GR's for these wasted a lot of time! But never fear, I will attempt to 'go brief' with this one! That means no GR's will feature in this post - I hate numbers but if you wish to visit anything I describe, simply put the name in the Dartefacts search.

The night before meeting up with Tim Jenkinson we discussed two walk options: Manaton or Holne? It took me a lot of thinking time as I hadn't done either area in any great detail, but I opted for the latter as I thought it would have less bracken. Hmm... a mistake?

Parked up in Holne, where Tim kindly donated £1 to the Donation Box, we set off, southward, to Scoriton (yes, Scorition spelt with one 'r'; OS maps and many people mark it as 'Scorriton', but village signs assure us that only one r is necessary). This thriving village has a pub (called the Tradesmans), a benchmark (which exists!!), a post box, a phone box, a memorial, a gatepost, and a Methodist chapel, all of which are on Dartefacts!

But before this, we passed a very overgrown Boundary Stone immediately north of what is known as Holy Brook Bridge, north of the aforementioned village (not Holne, Scoriton). A Golden Jubilee bench can also be located here.

Tim clears the evil vegetation

Holy Brook Bridge. I failed to locate the benchmark on the north (right-hand) side.

The photos below are NOT in chronological order:

Steve Grigg's 'benchmark not on old maps'

Scoriton Methodist Chapel

The Tradesmans Arms, Scoriton

A random gatepost

Post Box

Scoriton Memorial

Phone Box - redundant
One of two gateposts

This is where the walk took a turn for the worst... in fact, this is one of those rare walks where the middle section is the most enjoyable, as being on the south moor you have to walk 2-miles along road and tracks to reach the high moor, and then return in the same fashion for a further 4-miles added to your journey in total. Not only does that take time but it is boring, and it explains, due to the lack of car parks, why we saw NO ONE all day. 

Another issue I have with this part of the moor is that it is really steep, I mean really really steep! The height difference between Michelcombe, which is situated at 160 metres above sea level, and Snowdon, which is 495 metres above sea level, is 335 metres in just under 3 km as the crow flies. That's a huge difference as far as Dartmoor is concerned.

But I digress... at the far, western end of the very long lane west of Scoriton the views open up, with the mountainous Pupers Hill rising high above us. Here there is a strange ladder, or support, for a tree, and a little lower down the non-granite rocks at Chalk Ford sit precariously above both sides of the River Mardle. 

It was also here, before entering the woods, where I remarked how it would be a horrible ascent up Pupers (Hill) from this side. Oh dear...

The Giant's Ladder - the new one!

The Mardle is too dangerous to cross

Chalk Ford Rocks zoom

Chalk Ford Rocks zoom

The tor, which is documented on Tors of Dartmoor, straddles the river which was in spate today, so we decided not to risk crossing it and stuck to the north side. A footbridge is nearby, but the impenetrable fence means you can't access the larger, southern section unless you cross the river. It's hard to describe but when you go you'll see what I mean. I was content with the smaller, northern section which is on public land.

Tim at Chalk Ford Rocks

Chalk Ford Rocks

Near the footbridge, still on the north side, Tim spotted a gatepost with a fabulous OS benchmark etched into it. At home, I was surprised to find this is another one of those undocumented on old maps. The gatepost itself is even complete with a hangar!!

Chalk Ford Gatepost

Chalk Ford Gatepost

Chalk Ford

Across the footbridge and a quick look at the ford, we began ascending on an obvious grassy track where it was our intention to veer off right, handrailing the river to find our way back across the river to the head of the Holy Brook; but we were surprised with the height of the bracken and, consulting my GPS, saw a modest bog in the way. I noted how it might be more sensible to take the high route, up to Pupers Hill and across to Snowdon, before dropping down to one of the fords nearer Mardle Head, where the water levels would be lower. I hadn't been to Snowdon before, and this seemed like the quickest way there.

Tim agreed, and I immediately regretted my suggestion! Pupers is a steep ****** and I was cursing all the way up, in my head for the most part. I had chosen this route, and it was embarrassing to watch Tim storm off ahead as I struggle up a hill. But in all fairness, it was a strenuous ascent by Dartmoor standards: a little over 200 metres in just over a kilometre.

En route, we crossed a leat overflowing and soon after we left the main track to make for Inner Pupers, at a modest 454 metres above sea level.

Inner Pupers

Inner Pupers

It was great to reach the top of Pupers Hill, marked by another small tor which goes by the name of Pupers Rock or Middle Pupers. I showed Tim the I H S Inscription and Cross as well as two features I had not visited before: jumper holes west of the tor and a small rock shelter.

It could actually read J H S, not I H S, but Dartmoor Crosses is adamant that it's I H S

Middle Pupers and I H S

Middle Pupers rock shelter

Middle Pupers pile of stones
Middle Pupers jumper holes

I noticed that the views around us were quickly disappearing: Hamel Down, Bonehill Down and Rippon Tor were engulfed by the low cloud; Eastern White Barrow also disappeared soon followed by Huntingdon Barrow. Tim and I were sure that Snowdon would be next, as it's the highest point in the area, so we hurried on, first paying a visit to Outer Pupers.

Outer Pupers 'B' for Buckfastleigh

Outer Pupers

The path to Snowdon was quite boggy, and I really felt like I was well into the high moor by this point, spotting exposed peat en route. The first of the three cairns appeared over the horizon, and the cloud soon rolled over Holne and Scoriton, but we could still see. Ryder's Hill, the highest point on the south moor, was clear, but Red Lake Spoil Heap wasn't.

The Three Pupers


Past the second cairn, we headed for the northernmost which is also the highest at 495 metres above sea level, thus making it the second-highest point on South Dartmoor. No train to this one 😀

Tim approaching Snowdon Summit


Snowdon view of Ryder's Hill

We didn't linger here and began descending at a fast rate, over rough terrain, to avoid the mist/fog/cloud. I was surprised by the steep contours on the eastern side of Snowdon, and you really feel elevated. The descent tackled, we eventually crossed the Mardle and had a quick break before contouring the hillside to another Boundary Stone.

Feather bed!!

Holne B.S.

Holne B.S. I M for Ian Mercer

Tim now showed me into Gibby Combe, a difficult descent even if you do know where the tor is. It can't be seen from above but that's the only way to access the location legally.

Gibby Combe Tor, best described on Tors of Dartmoor, is beautiful, and I instantly fell in love with it. Situated in a deep, narrow combe, places I usually hate, the dark mass of the tor stretches along the left bank of the Holy Brook, boasting a fine waterfall. I really wanted to hate Gibby Combe Tor, but I instead felt elated to be there.

Gibby Combe Tor stack

Gibby Combe Tor

Holy Brook Waterfall

Holy Brook Waterfall

Gibby Combe Tor

Whilst the scene is idyllic, I wouldn't go here alone. Despite being on the edge of the moor, you are still miles from civilisation.

My GPS showed an easy way out, a track in fact to the west of the tor, which indeed exists. Gibby Combe isn't too bad after all, nor is the ascent back out of it too arduous. Reaching Gibby Combe Gate, named by me, the walk took a rather different feel, passing dozens of gateposts. It took forever to log each one's location; only the interesting ones will be shown below.

Gibby Combe Gate

The Lonely Gatepost

The Recumbent Gatepost

We finally arrived in Michelcombe which is of little interest in itself, but it's still picturesque and it has a nice post box.



The lane from here to Holne was very dull indeed and reminded me of what I thought of the stretch from Scoriton to Chalk Ford. Once we reached its conclusion, we entered the village to explore the church, its two crosses and rivet (a benchmark and bolt).

Holne Churchyard Cross

Holne Memorial Cross

Holne Church Rivet

We explored the village which was filled with locals and tourists enjoying the recently reopened Church House Inn. Tim also pointed out a war memorial before we strolled back to the car park.

Holne War Memorial


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