Tuesday 21 January 2020

Dartmoor: Broad Amicombe Hole, Great Kneeset and Little Kneeset (12.17 miles)

Great Kneeset Black & White

This walk had been in the planning for a long time, and the main reason why we (Paul Buck, Tim Jenkinson and I) hadn't done it before was due to the weather conditions; impassable rivers, for example. But a weekend in January 2020 was forecast full sun so we took the opportunity to venture out to High Down car park to continue this adventure.

Note if I forget to add any grid references to items (which I probably will) then consider becoming a registered user on Dartefacts, a database that lists all of the interesting artefacts that Dartmoor has to offer. As a registered user, you will be able to view all of the grid references for the items described in this blog post.

Tim and I met Paul and we set off to High Down Ford where Tim noticed a memorial plaque for Stewart Thayre at SX 52728 85546.

Stewart Thayre Memorial Plaque

High Down Stile

High Down Ford and Stepping Stones

High Down Bridge

Over the bridge, we began the steep ascent between Arms Tor and Brat (Brai) Tor before turning to the former just as the ground plateaus. Arms Tor is a beautiful tor and I always enjoy revisiting it, not least for the tremendous rock basin that sits atop the summit rock but also the interesting outcrops spread over the spur of the hill and the jaw-dropping views westward.

Tim and Paul approaching Arms Tor

Paul and Tim on Arms Tor

Arms Tor volcano rock basin

Arms Tor - full of character!

We rejoined the peat cutters' track to Dick's Well, first passing a pile of stones or cairn and a bound stone inscribed 'L' for Lydford and 'BS' for Bridestowe and Sourton Common.

Cairn and Arms Tor

L BS Bound Stone No.3

L BS Bound Stone No.3

Over the crest of the hill, the two Dunnagoat Tors came into view and our next bags, both of which were new to me. There was a lot of frozen water around making the walk over to the cairn at SX 55606 86203 a bit slippery.

Cairn near Lower Dunnagoat Tor

Lower Dunnagoat Tor

Lower Dunnagoat Tor shadows. Great Links Tor left and Higher Dunnagoat Tor right.

Lower Dunnagoat Tor and Tim

Lower Dunnagoat Tor exceeded my expectations as I was not expecting to see such an impressive ruin of granite, however the same cannot be said for Higher Dunnagoat Tor which is the complete opposite: a low outcrop that shows evidence that it has been plundered to make way for a summit shelter. Another bound stone inscribed L BS also resides to the south-west of the tor.

L BS Bound Stone No.4

Higher Dunnagoat Tor

Higher Dunnagoat Tor Shelter

Looking to Lower Dunnagoat Tor from its Higher neighbour

Higher Dunnagoat Tor

We descended to the quaint clapper bridge (which on OS maps is marked as a footbridge) over the Rattle Brook before investigating a possible cache near Dunnagoat Cottage (or Bleak House Ruin).

Rattle Brook Clapper Bridge

Rattle Brook

Possible Cache

Tim at Dunnagoat Cottage

Dunnagoat Cottage
Dunnagoat Cottage Black & White

Green Tor was next up and, like Lower Dunnagoat Tor, also blew my mind! It is indeed topped with grass on its northern outcrops but the southern section is akin to a ruined fortress, with a massive vertical wall of granite standing proud above the valley which meanders its way down to the River Tavy. A fine spectacle.

Green Tor Rock Shelter

Green Tor

Green Tor

Green Tor

The next section from here to Broad Amicombe Hole meant we would have to beeline of sorts over Amicombe Hill - a barren dome with little interest, a good thing as I was focused on staying upright! En route to the Hole though we did pass some curious Dartefacts: military firing range notice board, a slanted rock, a clitter, a poised slab and, best of all, a ring rock. 

Military Firing Range Notice Board

Slanted Rock

Amicombe Hill Clitter

Amicombe Hill Poised Slab

Let me elaborate a bit on the ring rock which we visited next; it has two rings still extant with evidence of a third one existing in between. Found at SX 57334 85907 it is perhaps the best example I have seen so far.

Paul on a huge slab

Amicombe Hill Ring Rock

Amicombe Hill Ring Rock

Amicombe Hill Ring Rock

The delightful hollow below us was Broad Amicombe Hole where there sits a fine small tor known as by the same name or simply as 'Amicombe Rock', the latter a name used by Paul Rendell in Dartmoor News Issue 154 January/February 2017. The tor resides at a point where two massive watersheds almost run into one: the West Okement to the north and the Tavy to the south, where the moor and all of Devon for that matter is almost sliced in half. 

A small footpath passes through the hole between the back-to-back mires to make the only west to east crossing of Dartmoor achievable without crossing running water.

Broad Amicombe Hole and Sheep

Amicombe Brook Head

Broad Amicombe Hole

Broad Amicombe Hole. This photo matches Paul Rendell's in his article in his magazine.

Broad Amicombe Hole looking northward to Lints Tor

It was an enjoyable ascent up to Great Kneeset where the views really opened up; passing a few Ten Tors groups we didn't expect to see anyone on the summit, but we were wrong! The tor is rather spread out with a main north and south section, the latter being the actual summit at 567m. The views are brilliant.

Great Kneeset

Great Kneeset

Great Kneeset

View of the West Okement Valley from Great Kneeset

Great Kneeset

The descent southward off the hill was OK but it soon became rather boggy, as expected, and the experience was like walking on a mattress, but for some bizarre reason I really enjoyed it.

River Head

Black Ridge ahead and Great Kneeset left

We came to a halt at Black Ridge Brook where we took some time to find a safe place to cross. Paul decided to wade whilst I was contemplating jumping to a rock sat comfortably in the brook. Using my poles to find firm ground I positioned myself on the edge of the turf for what was a rather easy step onto the granite 'island'; it was Tim's turn next but he had a bit too much energy and ended up running across! For anyone who fancies the walk to Little Kneeset from Great Kneeset then the crossing point is at SX 58554 84642.

It was but a hard climb up to Little Kneeset, a small tor on the north side of the hill noted by Paul Buck, Cath Wells and Richard Flint during a walk from Okehampton to Fur Tor in 2016; read that blog post HERE.

Black Ridge Brook Stepping Stones

Little Kneeset north outcrop

Little Kneeset north outcrop

Little Kneeset north outcrop

Little Kneeset north outcrop

Given we were basically there it only made sense for us to summit Little Kneeset 507m Top which is topped with a cairn and granite bedrock. According to old OS maps, there is supposed to be a trig point here, but that is long gone.

Little Kneeset 507m Top view of Great Links Tor and Amicombe Hill

Little Kneeset 507m Top - pic by Tim Jenkinson

Fur Tor and Tim

Approximate location of the former Trig Point

The name of 'Little Kneeset' is a strange one as it appears to be used to describe three distinct areas between Black Ridge Brook and Cut Combe Water: the 507m Top already described, the 515m Top where the Peat Pass is to be found, and a small tor on the south side of the hill which is named as such in Ken Ringwood's 'Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks' book. To simplify things, I am going to call the tor (including the outcrop on the north side already described) as 'Little Kneeset'. You might ask the same question for Great Kneeset, but fortunately, the tor is at the summit of that hill; not this one!

Little Kneeset south outcrop

Little Kneeset south outcrop

Little Kneeset south outcrop

Little Kneeset western rocks

It was here where we realised we had to get a move on before it gets dark as we were the furthest we could possibly be from a road on Dartmoor, and we still had two rivers to cross first, which could waste time, and it's always a good thing to allow a bit of time if the worst happens.

We initially headed west but the sound of fast-flowing water caused us to turn north to a fine set of cascades on Black Ridge Brook. 

Black Ridge Brook Cascades

Black Ridge Brook Cascades

Black Ridge Brook Cascades

Continuing downstream to find somewhere to cross, the water deepened so we were forced to wade through freezing cold water with crap terrain after this where we forced our way through long grass to hop across the infant Amicombe Brook, the head of which we visited earlier on.

Now for the most difficult part of the walk: the ascent over Amicombe Hill; what a slog! This area of the moor is listed in John Hayward's 'Dartmoor 365' book as 'Wilderness' as there is nothing marked on maps in this area; it is just expansive moorland. The slog took what felt like forever (OK, I know I'm exaggerating but at the time it felt like it) with the Dunnagoats barely getting closer to us as we progressed.

Amicombe Hill with Chat Tor left

Amicombe Hill view of Great Kneeset

Great Links, Dunnagoats, Green Tor

At the clapper bridge we took the peat cutters' track back down to High Down Ford and thus the car park, retracing our steps from earlier. However, below Brai Tor, we branched off left where Tim spotted some good feather and tare marks at SX 53707 85807. Near the memorial plaque visited earlier Tim also spotted some stone steps at SX 52747 85557 - his eyes are much better than mine, although I think I was more interested in getting back to the car park!


Feather and Tare

High Down Car Park

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