Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Dartmoor: Back to the Three Reservoirs (13 miles)

Kiln Down Tor

I was feeling a bit apprehensive about this walk, almost cancelling it at the last minute due to the weather forecast to be hot - very hot. But I was also desperate to visit these five new tors before the bracken concealed them for good until winter, so I stuck with the plan (somewhat) and got dropped off at Slade Cross at 8:20 am to begin the lung-busting ascent up Bell Lane, sometimes called Slade Hill.

I had forgotten what it was like to walk alone on Dartmoor, as I haven't been alone in the National Park for around 2 months thanks to the Coronavirus Pandemic. It felt good, though, but what was becoming apparent was how hot it was going to get later in the day.

I passed several B.M.s marked on Side by Side that I couldn't find, but I did come across one, B.M. 759.2, SE facing, Mixing Barn wall at SX 80379 81680. I had spotted this one on Google Street View the night before.

B.M. 759.2

B.M. 759.2

The original plan was to skirt the edge of the reservoirs but, seeing as there was no one parked at Trenchford Reservoir, I took the opportunity to immerse myself within the beauty that reservoirs possess. I don't know what it is, but still water blooming with wildlife really captivates me; I am drawn in and forget about my worries and, to an extent, the route I had planned for the day!

It was a very special moment; I had this whole place to myself (excluding the residents!).

Trenchford Reservoir

Trenchford Reservoir

Trenchford Reservoir

Trenchford Reservoir Footbridge SX 80254 82889

Trenchford Reservoir Duck

I was super happy to be revisiting Trenchford Tor and Little Trenchford Tor, the first tors I noted back in 2017 which, to many, is not a long time ago but, for me, it was the beginning of tor hunting and what these tors represent to me is the beginning of a journey; visiting lesser-known outcrops that so many people pass but fail to give credence.

I had forgotten how large the former tor was!

Trenchford Tor

Trenchford Tor SX 8028 8296

Little Trenchford Tor SX 8019 8304

I took the track through the plantation, across the road and to the banks of Tottiford Reservoir. What caught my eye were the vibrant Rhododendrons but also the Bluebells that hadn't died off yet. I strolled up to the dam at Kennick Reservoir noticing anglers in the distance enjoying the morning sunshine.

Tottiford Plantation Bluebells

Tottiford Reservoir Footbridge SX 80697 83699

Tottiford Reservoir Rhododendron
Kennick Reservoir Anglers

I passed the Clampitt Burial Ground getting glimpses of Hollowpark Rock as I progressed to Beacon Farm and, thence, the hill above it where Clampitt Rocks North lay. These low outcrops, noted by Jake Parrish at SX 8130 8477,  are largely overgrown with much likely hidden under the pine needle bed. I was more interested in the recumbent remains of a granite post that, presumably, once marked the summit of the hill as is the case with Clampitt Rocks South nearby, only that post is still standing in situ.

For a more detailed read, please refer to the Tors of Dartmoor database.

Clampitt Burial Ground
Clampitt Burial Ground

Clampitt Rocks North

Clampitt Rocks North

Fallen Granite Post atop Clampitt Rocks North SX 81287 84751

I retraced back to the track to descend off the hill to Steadycombe Brake, heading into new territory ascending the hill to Bowden Beer. The grass in the field leading up to the Beer was quite high which made it quite difficult (for me anyway) to find the track as I couldn't find a way out of the field! 

Great Stone from the road near Bowden Farm

Bowden Beer Gate SX 82308 84822

Bowden Beer Stile SX 82347 84753

Through an open gate and over a stile, I was in the woodland where I would encounter my next outcrop: Bowden Beer Rocks at SX 8243 8478.

The Rocks are actually very good, better than I was expecting, but they do reside on private land; it is a harmless trespass into unkempt woodland over a break in the barbed wire. They were noted by Tim Jenkinson and Paul Buck a few days earlier, and overall this is a very good find.

Bowden Beer Rocks

Bowden Beer Rocks

Bowden Beer Rocks Foxglove

Bowden Beer Rocks

I returned to the footpath, descending to Bowden Farm and the set of three fine millstones at SX 82263 84595. From here, I would find myself passing through fields below a herd of cows enjoying their breakfast. Entering a patch of semi woodland, I found a nice rock to sit down on for a quick drink, away from another herd of cows who were worryingly quite close.

Bowden Farm Millstones

I had a reason to worry since as I neared them, one began running around in circles and another began to approach me. They were right on the footpath I needed to take in order to reach the north slopes of Kiln Down, and there was no way I was going to risk it. Me vs 20 young cows... who would win? Quite obvious really. 

I turned back to embark on a lengthy detour, deciding to not trespass and retrace my steps back to the farm. As I neared the gate where I had my drink, I turned around to see them all hurrying towards me so, in a haste, I bolted through the gate to the safety of the next field. What I don't get it that every other field in the surrounding area was bereft of cattle, so why put them in the field that a public right of way passes through? I understand they're curious, but having been chased by cows before, I didn't want to risk it, especially alone in an area I didn't know very well; this was a new footpath for me and I think I'll be avoiding it from now on!

Fortunately, the other cows were doing the right thing by minding their own business.

Evil Cows near Bowden Farm. Time to turn back.

Bowden Farm

I took the driveway out of the farm to Steadycombe Brake (again!) to find a recumbent fingerpost that looks like it was trampled by cows (OK, I'll stop - they're not all bad).

Heading south, I noticed Bowden Down Tor, a name given by Paul Buck and Tim Jenkinson for an emergent outcrop on what Tithe Maps call Bowden Down. The rocks reside on private land, and they are not a minor trespass, the view from the road being the best and only place to view them legally. I think I'll bring a tripod next time to grab some better photos, and when the light is more favourable.

Steadycombe Brake

Bowden Down Tor SX 81970 84239 from the road

Bowden Down Tor SX 81970 84239 from the road

Bowden Down Tor SX 81970 84239 from the road

At an unnamed crossroads, I turned left to reach the top of Bennah Hill, incorrectly depicted on OS maps as a 'wide road'. It couldn't be far from the truth because as you descend, the road becomes narrower and is clearly unkempt. Signs inform that it is 'Unsuitable for motor vehicles' and quite right too!

Bennah Hill

Bennah Hill Foxgloves

Bennah Hill Foxgloves

At a junction, I scaled a stile and made my way east in search of one of Dartmoor's grandest LKTs: Kiln Down Tor. Also noted by Tim and Paul, this huge tor is a bit of a surprise because when seeing scattered rocks on the Down above, you would not expect such huge outcrops to reside such a short distance away.

Kiln Down Tor SX 8256 8417

Kiln Down Tor SX 8256 8417

Kiln Down Tor SX 8256 8417

Kiln Down Tor SX 8256 8417

Back at the stile, I took the straight byway to Moor Barton to join the road down past Beesleigh Copse. At a gate, I got far-reaching views of Haldon and the impressive structure known as Haldon Belvedere or Lawrence Castle. According to the landmark's website, "The Haldon Belvedere was built in 1788, at the height of the Romantic Period of the Georgian age and is a much loved iconic landmark sitting high in the hills of Haldon Forest, above Exeter with breathtaking panoramic views over the Devon countryside."

Foxgloves on Byway to Moor Barton

Sheep near Moor Barton

Haldon Belvedere (Lawrence Castle) from Beesleigh Copse area

I turned sharp right to ascend briefly before turning left onto a track that skirts the mid-levels of Barton Down. This is a lovely track to follow; there are no steep ascents or descents and you can lose yourself on it. It passes through a large plantation which is best appreciated on a sunny day, though perhaps not on such a hot day.

Track on Barton Down

Track on Barton Down

Track on Barton Down
Track on Barton Down

Having walked this track before, I knew that I would leave the path at the bend to see the Canonteign Leat, the leat which takes water away from the stream to create the beautiful Canonteign Falls

Canonteign Leat Pipe SX 82594 82830

Canonteign Leat Pipe SX 82594 82830

I immediately turned right where I spotted a ford and, directly above it, the next tor I was going to visit: Fleetwood Rocks at SX 82542 82915. In February this year, I received an email from Paul Rendell about some new tors in the Canonteign vicinity, with the small tor at Fleetwood being one of them, named as such because it is located within Fleetwood Plantation.

Getting down to the ford was quite difficult because the sandy bank made it slippery. I almost went arse over tit a few times! A short, steep ascent took me to the main outcrop, a fine one too, before returning back to the track.

Shuttamoor Ford SX 82520 82866

Fleetwood Rocks

Fleetwood Rocks

Fleetwood Rocks

Fleetwood Rocks

Another tor he mentioned in his email was 'Shuttamoor Crags', but for this one, no NGR was provided and so I had to assume that it would be in the vicinity of the disused mine as he did mention. I headed as far west as I possibly could where, near the end of the open access land, I came across a sign warning me to keep out for my own safety. Barbed wire along the track meant I couldn't ascend so I returned to the ford area where it ended to scramble up the bank.

This soon turned into a narrow path weaving up between trees still following the barbed wire fence but uphill - this being my only option before giving up. I do find it strange how there is barbed wire here; I understand its purpose to deter people from going anywhere near the mine shafts, but my 2020 OS map marks it as open access land. I reached the end of a forestry logging track that I ignored to follow the barbed wire at the top of the woodland where, to my right, I spotted a ledge which just had to be the top of one of the Crags.

Just after this, I was lucky in that I stumbled upon a tree which had landed directly on top of the barbed wire giving me access to Shuttamoor Crags. No trespassing was done here despite it sounding like I was; everything was on public land. Shuttamoor Rock to the west is, unfortunately, out of bounds.

Pleased that I had persevered, the set of outcrops reside at SX 82365 82752.

Shuttamoor Crags

Shuttamoor Crags

Shuttamoor Crags

Collapsed Barbed Wire above Shuttamoor Crags

Back on the forestry logging track, I passed what I can only assume is a 'logger' beside his truck who, understandably, seemed quite confused to see a young walker in these parts. Rejoining the main track to the west of Hyner Rocks at the turning circle, I passed two more vehicles and began to feel hot and bothered so, on a small ledge, I had another gulp of my water and put on some suncream, perhaps something I should've done earlier on since I was at over 10 miles now, but anyway...

The suncream has returned!

I glanced in occasionally to see if I could spot any of the tors in Netton Cleave Wood, but no, and I don't think that even in winter they would be visible as they emerge from below the upper track that I was on.

Making quick progress after refuelling, I almost stepped on a small frog before finding my way to the road at Tottiford Farm. B.M. 736.6, NE facing, Tottiford Farm at SX 81475 82401 was here, too.

B.M. 736.6

B.M. 736.6

B.M. 736.6

I could hear people's voices as I neared Tottiford Reservoir and I, being antisocial, took the 'back lane' to Tottiford House, passing B.M. 822.0 at SX 80927 82418, on a gatepost

B.M. 822.0

B.M. 822.0

Just around the corner, I began looking for B.M. 764.7, S facing at SX 80877 82334, which I had missed last time 'round because I never obtained an NGR although, when surveying the rocks, I was only metres off which with B.M.s is the difference between 'spotting' one and not.

B.M. 764.7

B.M. 764.7

It was a simple walk back up to Poolmill Cross to rejoin Bell Lane down to Slade Farm, lastly having a quick look at a B.M. I had seen before: B.M. 471.3 on Slade Farm at SX 79929 81248. A grand walk, and one of my favourites of 2020. It encompassed some beautiful parts of East Dartmoor, some great tors and was overall very quiet which I liked.

Trenchford Reservoir overflow

B.M. 471.3

2 comments:

  1. Well done Max it was a tough walk to attempt on your own especially Bowden Beer which we found a bit claustrophobic. Good write up.

    Tim

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    1. Thank you, Tim. It was a great walk and I was fortunate to be able to visit these woodland outcrops before summer really kicks in. Fleetwood Rocks are quite nice, and Shuttamoor Crags aren't too bad either although perhaps a little difficult to explore due to the steep, uneven slopes.

      Cheers,
      Max

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