Thursday, 6 February 2020

Dartmoor: The Tors and Rocks on Blackadon Down

Webburn Gap West

So, I've just finished early at school because it's the Tuesday where I do, so what do I do and where do I go... Dartmoor of course! Today's short adventure was always going to be a difficult one, and I did warn Mum of this, but she seemed perfectly happy to tag along. 

Blackadon Down near Leusdon, where we parked, is notorious for its steep hillside and difficult walking underfoot. I must stress that if you ever visit you go with someone else and also don't visit late in the day as the sun dips behind the Webburn Valley earlier than other places. It can be dark and intimidating at these times and due to the fact that there is no signal down here, tread with caution more than you would on the high moor, if possible.

Grid references will not be mentioned in this blog post; they can be obtained by looking at the Tors of Dartmoor database. The three Leusdon Tors are on private land but there is no signage in evidence and given this is a continuous woodland I felt no harm would be done by visiting them. The other tors are situated in Woodland Trust land.

Picked up from school we headed out on to the moor, parking up at the aforementioned hamlet, Leusdon. We headed east, past the church, towards Lower Town before turning left on a marked bridleway to the top of Blackadon Down, marked by Blackadon Tor, a small tor sheltered by its tree. I do realise that thanks to Paul Buck's post in 2017 there is more to this tor in the woodland below, but for the sake of 'the bag', we visited only the top.

Blackadon Tor

Blackadon Tor

Blackadon Tor

Blackadon Tor

I was expecting the next tor to be a bugger to reach after reading a few posts about it, but I was wrong. The route west of Blackadon Tor to Logwell Rock was well-marked, with the only obstacle being a tree that we had to duck under, but other than that it was fairly easy and the reward was wonderful.

Logwell Rock is a gem and, along with its neighbour Blackadon Tor, are the only two tors on this walk that are named on OS maps; the other eight are not.

Logwell Rock

Logwell Rock 'avenue'

Logwell Rock
Logwell Rock

Further west we stumbled across the eastern outcrops of a larger tor termed 'Leusdon Tor' by Paul Buck, Tim Jenkinson and Matthew King.

It is a grand tor and the highest on this walk.

Leusdon Tor

Leusdon Tor

Leusdon Tor

Leusdon Tor

I was heavily reliant on my GPS for pretty much the rest of the walk as none of the following features are marked on OS maps, are close together and require accurate 8-figure grid references to locate them. Little Leusdon Tor, our next tor, was a great example of this where, from Leusdon Tor, we kept too far to the left and descended too much, causing us to head back uphill

Little Leusdon Tor

Little Leusdon Tor

Outcrops below Little Leusdon Tor
Outcrops below Little Leusdon Tor

Leusdon Lower Tor was up next, a large overhanging outcrop quite far down the slope with a view of the West Webburn River in winter months.

Leusdon Lower Tor

Leusdon Lower Tor

Leusdon Lower Tor

Leusdon Lower Tor

En route to Blackadon Lower North Tor, east, we passed the lower levels of Logwell Rock. The former tor is easy to find from below, a small outcrop of granite in an area of sparse trees.

Lower levels of Logwell Rock

Blackadon Lower North Tor

Blackadon Lower North Tor

Blackadon Lower North Tor

Now for the trickiest part of this adventure, descending to the valley floor to Lizwell Meet, or near enough, to be bag some more tors. Lizwell Rock was en route, a large outcrop with a vertical rock face.

Lizwell Rock

Lizwell Rock

Lizwell Rock

Lizwell Island

It really was quite hard going, this section, trying to locate the minor footpath beside the river. We spent a lot of the trip on our bums, or me at least, sliding down the hillside as it was almost vertical. Fortunately, my poles and the trees aided our descent but once we reached the bottom we encountered another problem: wet ground. Woodland bogs are not nice because they are so well hidden by leaves and vegetation.

We found the path and chose a nice rock for lunch, but we didn't linger as we were losing daylight and I was wary that in case of an emergency we would need as much light as possible.

Webburn Rock sits above the river path and presents as a series of huge, crumbling crags, suggesting they were exposed when the river was more fierce in the past.

Webburn Rock

Webburn Rock

Webburn Rock

Webburn Rock

The path became more defined as it ascended, leaving the river as it negotiated a hidden cliff. Following another small path through a floodplain, we came to its conclusion at the crags known as Town Wood Crags.

Town Wood Crags

Town Wood Crags

Town Wood Crags
Town Wood Crags

We retraced back to the main footpath turning sharp left to head southward to the top of a giant tor, Webburn Gap West. I did, I admit it, suggest to Mum that she might like to join me in the long descent back down to the river where the tor would be best viewed, but she sensibly declined and sat on a rock with the three dogs. Understandably, she didn't want me to proceed but I was adamant that I would be fine and, if unsafe, would return.

I did contemplate the decent for a while before actually doing it because it really was taking tor bagging to a whole new level. I was not expecting such a slippery descent down to the base of the tor. I tried doing it standing up but ended up sliding down although at the bottom I plummeted off a buried rock onto another rock which did hurt a bit!

However, what was laid before me was a truly magnificent tor dubbed Webburn Gap West by Paul Buck, who I mentioned earlier. It stands proudly above the river like a sentinel. It was hard to absorb the dimensions of metamorphic rock I was seeing here; huge vertical cliff faces almost trapped me in this deep valley.

Webburn Gap West

Webburn Gap West

Webburn Gap West

Webburn Gap West

Webburn Gap West
Webburn Gap West

The ascent was tough, not only because it was incredibly steep but also because of how loose the ground was. I found myself clinging onto branches and whatever tree trunks I could find to prevent myself from falling back down the hill. It was exhilarating.

As I reached the top it was a sigh of relief to have successfully bagged all 10 tors of the day and it was an easy ascent out of the woodland back onto moorland. As we ascended the sun came back into view, beautifully lighting up the moorland so it turned golden. This was golden hour.

Blackadon Down Bench at SX 71332 73199 - OK, so maybe I lied about not including grid references!

Blackadon Down Bench

We rejoined the bridleway to exit the Down and had back to the car on the lane, but I couldn't resist taking some photos of Leusdon Church and its cross.

Leusdon Church

Leusdon Churchyard Cross

Entrance to Leusdon Church

A cracking little walk, a little over 3 miles but over demanding terrain.

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