Wednesday 16 September 2020

Dartmoor: Princetown to Saddle Bridge - Perambulation Second Leg (15.04 miles)

The Eylesbarrow Cobra

Let me just put it out there this was a tough 15-mile walk, not because of the distance as such but because of how long it took us to walk it: almost 9 hours!

On this walk, unlike the last leg of the Perambulation, we were joined by Chris Tawn, making the total number of walkers 5. 

We started off at Princetown, following the boundary to South Hessary Tor which boasts a benchmark, rock basin and cobra - the actual boundary point.

B.M. 1475.9, N face, South Hessary SX 59708 72367

South Hessary Tor

South Hessary Tor Rock Basin SX 59705 72346

We followed the line of PCWW Markers southwards to pick up another benchmark before reaching Siward's Cross, perhaps better-known as Nun's Cross.

B.M. 1401.8, facing W SX 60075 71220

B.M. 1401.8, facing W SX 60075 71220

Siward's Cross

We soon left the good track and continued following the grassy track, which in places disappeared whilst following the markers, to Eylesbarrow, a somewhat nondescript hill for the tor bagger but boasting great views and another cobra!


'JM 2015' The Eylesbarrow Cobra

This is where the route differs; some take the track to Plym Ford, upstream, and others, Plym Steps, downstream... but us??? Right in the middle of the two!

This took us into Evil Combe where we briefly had to walk over a soggy mattress before reaching the River Plym. Across the river, we made for Calveslake Tor, a nice outcrop known for its cist but not its lesser-known logan stone.

Down the Plym from Evil Combe

Calveslake Tor

Calveslake Tor Logan Stone SX 60805 67611

Calveslake Tor

Leaving the tor, we began on a path heading in the direction of Broad Rock, although this briefly fizzled out. We soon realised that the so-called footpath marked on OS Maps didn't quite match up with what was on the ground, being a little north and east of where we were, but before long we found it and made for Broad Rock.

Broad Rock

Track to Erme Pits

I led the group down into Erme Pits and showed them the perfect lunch spot beside some modest cliff faces that were exposed by the tinners. This area is collectively known as 'Erme Pits Rocks' and I blogged about it in January on a misty day.

I, of course, had the obligatory banana and bar of chocolate.

Erme Pits

Erme Pits Banana

Erme Pits Rocks

Erme Pits Ford

I adore Erme Pits, its location beside the Abbots' Way, a once popular track giving it a significant feel to it as well as being at the head of the mighty River Erme, and also being close to the geographic centre of South Dartmoor. The path to follow from here, eastwards, is one of my favourites on the whole moor; it follows the river downstream, fording Blacklane Brook (or Wollake; this is actually further away from the river's estuary and discharges more water than what comes from Erme Head), Dry Lake and Red Lake.

En route the Table Stone is passed, and a great feel of isolation is to be had here.

The Table Stone

Blacklane Brook Ford

Dry Lake (entering into the Erme)

Red Lake (Lower) Ford

We had a break at Red Lake (Lower) Ford before trekking up the hill to Red Lake Cottage, passing a boundary stone, before arriving at the Red Lake Tramway.

Boundary Stone near Red Lake Mire SX 64318 66316

We left the tramway as quickly as we joined it, bearing off right to Crossways where I got a bit misplaced as I had taken the right track instead of the left, meaning we were above the new Two Moors Way stone. The Zeal Tor Tramway at this point is virtually non-existent and we walked over it, but this error was soon remedied after we were asked by two cyclists where Crossways was.

Western White Barrow was bagged in minutes and whilst the rest of the team continued onwards to its eastern cousin, I was reminded by Sheron of a boundary stone on the slopes called 'Little Petre'.

Western White Barrow

Petre's Cross

Little Petre B.S. SX 65431 65579

Eastern White Barrow was to be our lunch spot, and upon arrival it occurred to me that an unmarked (on my Memory Map) benchmark was to be found nearby, and I just had to have a look... I headed north-east, where I thought it was marked on maps, but after checking I needed to head east, and in no time I found my prize!

Eastern White Barrow

B.M. 1538.8, SE facing, E of Eastern White Barrow SX 66604 65176

B.M. 1538.8, SE facing, E of Eastern White Barrow SX 66604 65176

The next section was dreaded the most by all of us, that being the route to Western Wella Brook Foot... how do we tackle it? It seemed logical, at first, to beeline it as best we could which is what the knights did, but the terrain is seriously tussocky, probably housing hundreds of adders and ankle traps. But, in true style, we kept to this, ignoring the longer alternative of heading back to the Western Barrow and dropping down to the clapper bridge.

We also assumed that the Avon would be crossable without the assistance of a bridge!

Before long it became evident that Amanda, who has since been termed 'Sherpa Ellis', knows how to battle her way through this terrain going first to hopefully scare those adders away from the dogs and us, creating a sheep track that the rest of us could follow.

The river was reached, and it was here why I finally accepted Fiona's genius idea at using strong binliners on both legs to keep the water out. This worked great for me, with my only complaint being that cable ties would've secured them instead of using one hand on the poles and the other on both binliners.

The river crossed, I headed upstream to assist Sheron and Chris, the former of whom had already crossed, which is becoming a common theme now!

Western Wella Brook Foot

Avon Ford, where me, Amanda and Fiona crossed

Off to help Chris Tawn - Photo by Sheron Vowden

Huntingdon Cross

We also crossed the Western Wella Brook on the convenient clapper bridge before following its left bank upstream, visiting a 40ft wheel pit and Keble Martin's Chapel, a new D365 square for me.

Western Wella Brook Lower Clapper Bridge

40ft Wheel Pit, Huntingdon Mine

Keble Martin Cross

Keble Martin's Chapel

The brook is a fun watercourse to follow plunging into tinners' pool and over streamlined granite boulders. We, though, had to decide which side to follow as the higher clapper bridge came into sight. Noticing a 'good' path that Sheron had used before, we crossed, and indeed this was a good decision.

It passed though several pillow mounds before entering the lower reaches of the impressive Wellabrook Girt: tinners' streaming lining the valley and a benchmark that I couldn't find.

Spring near T Girt SX 66501 67761

Wellabrook Girt

As we passed the head of this brook, I noticed that as a group we began to tire, separating into segments all likely with the same mind that Ryder's Hill would come thick and fast, as it was getting late in the day. The boundary stone was reached; inscribed 'B', it marks the western boundary of Buckfastleigh Parish.

B.S, Boundary Stone, NW Re-entrant of Wellabrook Girt SX 66459 68558

Ryder's Hill was busy, surprisingly, with two chaps taking a break with another arriving as we did, both in the hope of camping out. 

Ryder's Hill Trig Point

Ryder's Hill Petre's Stone SX 65976 69057

Ryder's Hill Petre's-on-the-Mount Stone SX 65978 69057

The Team on Ryder's Hill - Photo by Sheron Vowden

Homeward bound was northward, and there are two tracks heading in this direction of which the westernmost was our choice until we met the Sandy Way and realigned, heading east before turning north again. Little Anthony lies on the former bearing and is a boundary stone inscribed 'H' for Holne.

Little Anthony B.S, Boundary Stone, N of Ryder's Hill SX 65958 69192

Wellaby Gulf

We had an encounter with a herd of cows at Wellaby Gulf, but they fortunately moved on (no, I'm not making the pun) and let us carry onto Dry Lake - another one!

We meandered through the tinners' spoil to cross the watercourse to follow its right bank downstream near to its foot before we kept high above the O Brook, aiming to follow the path beside the Holne Moor (or Hamlyn's) Leat.

Dry Lake Tinners' Streaming

Dry Lake (N side of Ryder's)

Holne Moor Leat

Holne Moor Leat Clapper Bridge, 1 Impost, near Combestone Tor SX 66730 71647

We finally crossed the clapper bridge to strike downhill to Saddle Bridge where, at the last hurdle, we bumped into a large herd of cattle. They didn't seem too bothered by our presence and they kept to one side of the road.

Quite knackered and exhausted, we were pleased to have completed the longest leg in pleasant weather, and although not in record time was still enjoyable.

Cows by Saddle Bridge - two calves

1 comment:

  1. Another good write up Max and fantastic photos as ever.m