Wednesday 30 September 2020

Dartmoor: Saddle Bridge to the Warren House Inn - Perambulation Third Leg (9.04 miles)

Gorse Flowers on Riddon Ridge

Unlike the previous two walks, this was going to be a stroll, a lowland walk almost, following a section of the East Dart and then the entire Walla Brook upstream. It was quite undramatic but still had lots to see, and whereas last time our new member was Chris Tawn this time we were joined by Bev Dickinson - member No.6!

Setting off at Saddle Bridge, heading northward following the O Brook to its foot, we passed a gatepost and then forded the brook where Sheron and I left to explore the fascinating ruins of the lower mill at Beara House, achieved by passing over a low barbed wire fence over a small area of damp ground. Here lie several mortar and mould stones, and unlike Keble Martin's Chapel from the last walk, I was actually more interested in the ruins here, for they were more substantial.

Following the O Brook downstream

Beara House and the Mill (Blowing Houses)

Beara House and the Mill (Blowing Houses)

Week Ford Stepping Stones

I think my phobia of stepping stones has passed, as I didn't hesitate crossing the fine set at Week Ford. Every stone was an easy landing barring one, which was a little pointy at the top and is best crossed heading north and not south. Be mindful that during mornings the stones can be quite damp which may affect one's foot placement on them.

We followed the track up the hill before striking diagonally through a field to begin descending over a rocky section of path into Dartmeet, first stopping off to admire the partly underwater stepping stones.

Dartmeet Stepping Stones SX 67119 73104

B.M. 0751.8, SE facing, Dartmeet SX 67209 73185

Dartmeet Bridge

Dartmeet Clapper Bridge (Remains of)

We were now spending some time beside the East Dart River. This fast-flowing river just below Dartmeet Bridge joins the West Dart River to form the Double Dart, a menacing force ploughing through the Dart Gorge below the impressive tors of Mel and North and South Bench. Its East tributary is still of merit, being the longer of the two rivers; from below Wallabrook Foot, our next boundary point, it hugs a beautiful, scenic path on a floodplain with some good wild swim spots if you're into that stuff!

Passing Badgers Holt Tor, we were on the moor, but after just leaving something on our path jerked... could it be? An adder?! Yep, it was, a baby one, and half of us and two dogs had already walked over it and Bryony (the dog) over it again. I don't think we had brightened up its day, for it was angry and quite defensive. It was the smallest one I had seen, and so easy to miss had it not moved since it blended into the very brown substance of the path.

A couple of shots taken, Sheron gently moved it to the bracken in the hope that it isn't stood on/doesn't go to bite any dogs.

A little further on, past a tinners' pool, we stopped by the river for a drink.

Badgers Holt Tor

Young Adder near Badgers Holt

Ruby and Jet, Amanda's dogs

Wallabrook Foot was up next, the point where the brook joins the mighty East Dart. We were now going to begin following the brook to its source below the Warren House Inn, trying our best to stick to the original boundary as best as we could, of which the majority runs along the brook.

There are a few interesting artefacts in Babeny to look out for, including a memorial bench, tiny clapper bridge and slotted gatepost.

Wallabrook Foot

Babeny Memorial Bench SX 67295 75049

Small Clapper, near Babeny

The route of choice splits here, with one option being going up the western slope of Corndon Down to Cator Gate, but we instead chose Riddon Ridge which Sheron had always known as the 'proper' route and I quite agree, or at least see it as a better one; it takes in (if you know where to look) several inscribed stones, and there are a few reaves to look out for as well, these being walls that divided up areas of moorland.

Riddon Ridge RHR Stone SX 66635 76252

Riddon Ridge TS Boundary Stone No.2 SX 66594 76246

Riddon Ridge Hut Circle SX 66604 76626

Off the top of the ridge, we made for a bridgen that is either called Cator Bridge (not to be confused with Lower Cator Bridge) or Pizwell Bridge, and a benchmark also resides on its north-eastern end.

We also decided here to grab Cator Common Rocks and cut off a corner by striking across a huge, open field almost devoid of animals to the public right of way that crosses it.

B.M. 1074.6 facing S SX 66995 77625

B.M. 1074.6 facing S SX 66995 77625

Cator Common Rocks

Where the public bridleway crosses the public byway to Pizwell Farm we decided to have lunch on some conveniently placed boulders. That done, Amanda and I went off to visit two Cator boundstones, one No.4 and the other No.1, the latter boasting a very good benchmark that Sheron had spotted in a photo in a book about the area.

Bridlepath to Cator Common

Cator Boundstone No.4, inscribed 'CB' SX 67593 78512

Cator Boundstone No.1, inscribed 'CB' SX 67310 78696

B.M. on Cator Boundstone No.1 SX 67310 78696

We rejoined the group and made for Pizwell Stepping Stones which were almost being consumed by the water. They are rather lowly for stepping stones but still very fine nonetheless and Pizwell is also a very beautiful farm.

Pizwell Stepping Stones

Pizwell Farm

Pizwell Farm Engraved Sign SX 66829 78860

After failing to locate the benchmark on Runnage Bridge, we set off into new territory for me, alongside the still very beautiful Walla Brook. At a clapper bridge, open access land technically (well according to my map anyway) ends, but there is a minor worn footpath on the same side of the brook as Soussons Wood which while not marked as open access land is open to the public. This path that we were on was likely within the open access area but so narrow that the OS couldn't shade the area.

It was a little boggy in places but soon as we reached the other side of the open access land we crossed the brook, simply stepping across it, and following its right bank upstream.

Runnage Clapper Bridge SX 66861 79101

We took a look at the FB marked to the north-east of Runnage Farm which we found to be two grassy plinths across an already deep brook; hardly used I suspect!

I was really enjoying this wander up the valley.

Walla Brook Grassy Footbridge (Marked on OS Maps) SX 67056 79392

Walla Brook Grassy Footbridge (Marked on OS Maps) SX 67056 79392

Walla Brook Falls by Tree SX 67111 79492

At the north-west corner of Soussons Wood, we noticed three things: a ruin that, as I suspected, was a tinners' hut, a ford, and a modern boundary stone.

First, the tinners' hut: this comprises high walls of granite in a sheltered valley in a once active tin mining area. The Birch Tor and Vitifer Mine complex is huge, spanning much of the col between Birch Tor and Challacombe Down, and is seen from the Warren House Inn as a succession of deep gullies creasing the hill.

Walla Brook, Soussons Tinners’ Hut (2) SX 67267 80150

The ford is literally metres from the boundary stone, the former being rather nondescript; the other, however, is of great interest to me, having inscribed on it 'NB', 'M', 'DF' and '2000', standing for North Bovey, Manaton, Dartmoor Forest, and the new millennium. Yes, Manaton, believe it or not - this is the furthest west the parish goes.

Ford by Boundary Stone SX 67323 80159

Soussons Treeline

Walla Brook Boundary Stone, inscribed 'M', 'DF', 'NB' and '2000' SX 67327 80160

Locating the source of the Walla Brook was not easy, having been ripped to shreds by all of this tin mining industry. The path we were on (still right bank) was lovely, though, weaving in and out of gullies and mounds, but it had to be left and, being followed by Fiona, was time to go in search of the head.

A couple of springs were found so we were content with that, so back with the team we took our last selfie and made for the pub to conclude this shorter than usual but still pleasant walk on the third leg. Oh, and there is also a benchmark on the pub that I hadn't seen before, painted cream!

Spring, Wallabrook Head, No.1 SX 67585 80766

Wallabrook Head

Warren House Inn Flush Bracket

B.M. 1416.3, SE facing, Warren House Inn SX 67431 80935

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