Sunday, 20 December 2020

Dartmoor: Around East Okement

Oke Tor

The weather was looking undecided for this walk, undertaken the day before I write this, and one minute it was saying sunny spells and the next intermittent rain. Well, come the morning at home, it was peeing it down and we wondered if it was sensible to head up onto Dartmoor, since high winds of around 40 mph with gusts up to 50 mph were forecast.

Heading up (or down?) the A30 to Whiddon Down, the heavy rain had dissipated and the clouds departed to leave a lovely, blue sky bereft of any threats. I became more optimistic and drove up onto the moor by Okehampton Camp where I decided to do the longer of the two walks that I had planned (the first was shorter, a circular route around Winter Tor, whilst the second was longer and took in higher hills as well as a new one).

We parked at Hart Tor, where I was surprised to see only one other car, and getting up of the comfort of the car it became immediately how windy it was. My two layers became four and we set out along the military track southward to skirt the lower east flank of East Mill Tor, a truly massive tor.

Possible Quarry near East Okement Farm SX 60163 90940

Holed Stone below East Mill Tor SX 60347 90435

Quartz Boulder below East Mill Tor SX 60344 90396

After passing a military telephone point, we turned left and made east for Oke Tor. On any other day, where no heavy rain had been falling for days on end, we would have cut out this detour and traipsed through Deep Ford, but the name is enough to put anyone off, and I wasn't going to risk it, and besides, Oke Tor is a brilliant tor and I never tire of visiting it.

But, first, we crossed the East Okement on a lovely small stone bridge and I was pleasantly surprised to see that work had taken place along this part of the track to drain any standing water that, from my past walks here, had proved problematic even during a dry spell - so it was great to keep dry feet.

Bridge over East Okement

Ascending to Oke Tor

The wind naturally picked up as we reached the tor and the top of the ridge. We didn't linger and headed south passing what is probably a GPO Marker in the direction of Knack which lay to the south. This track was a bit of a slog with the winds in our faces and the grassy track sodden.

Oke Tor

Oke Tor Military Hut (W)

Oke Tor Military Hut (E)

GPO Marker South of Oke Tor SX 61316 89853

Track to Knack

Knack is a funny old hill because all it really possesses is an observation post (OP 17) and some small emergent outcrops that are reminiscent of a small tor, but it is mentioned quite a lot in Eric Hemery's 'High Dartmoor' and is situated close to Knack Mine Ford and Steeperton Tor.

Here, rounding the observation post, I was a little startled to see a chap taking refuge in it. He asked if I was training for Ten Tors which of course I wasn't, but when he went on about this being a checkpoint it made sense. He said Deep Ford and Knack Mine were proving hazardous.

Knack

Knack

OP 17 on Knack - spot the person!

Shocked it still hadn't rained, we joined the track and headed south-west where we crossed over at a junction up to OP 16 on Middle Hill. This peak is over 500 metres high and is one of my remaining peaks in Peter Freeman's 'Bog Hoppers' challenge.

Middle Hill (East Okement)

Middle Hill (East Okement)

OP 16 on Middle Hill
OP 16 on Middle Hill

Additionally, it possesses some nasty tussock grass on the east and south slopes that we encountered when trying to reach the military track. Ascending to Okement Hill, we passed at least one Ten Tors group heading to Knack and saw more people by OP 15 on the summit so, again, we didn't linger.

OP 15 on Okement Hill

OP 15 on Okement Hill

OP 15 on Okement Hill

We headed north-west and then north along the winding military track and the weather only got better. The sun beautifully illuminated the surrounding tors of High Willhays, Hampster, Yes, Little, West Mill, Row and East Mill and what struck me was how significant Curtery Clitters' position on the hillside is across the Black-a-ven; it really is spectacular when viewed from anywhere north of Sammy Arnold's Lane on the south flank of East Mill.

Another military telephone point was noticed on the right; a fine specimen.

Yes Tor

Track to New Bridge

Curtery Clitters

Military Telephone Point, West of East Mill Tor SX 59673 89582

It was a lovely stroll through this valley and the wind had died down. Still we had not seen any animals other than the odd sheep and hardly any people which, when the weather is also nice, makes for a much more enjoyable walk as the dogs can be let off and we don't need to worry about making any diversions.

Ignoring New Bridge, we passed yet another military telephone point and turned left onto a grassy track over a pair of iron stumps en route to the car at Hart Tor.

Military Telephone Point, near New Bridge SX 59712 90403

East Mill Tor behind the walk back to Hart Tor

Iron Stumps, South of Hart Tor SX 60049 90904

Whilst Mum had lunch in the warm, I took this opportunity to have a look at lonely Hart Tor, so close to the military road and at the southernmost point you can legally get yet often overlooked. Sure, it is dominated on all sides by far higher and grander hills and tors, but it possesses a charm all of its own. Remove OP 22 and it would be a much prettier spot.

You can see so many tors from Hart Tor, most notably all of those on the Belstone Ridge, Winter Tor, Knattaborough Tor, Little Oke Tor, Oke Tor, Hound Tor (Okehampton), Steeperton Tor, Knack, East Mill Tor, High Willhays, Hampster Tor (disputed location), Yes Tor, Little Tor, West Mill Tor, and Rowtor.

Here is a little compilation of some of them as well as sheep for good measure:

Belstone Tor

Higher Tor

Lower Tor

Oke Tor

Sheep at East Okement Farm
Sheep at East Okement Farm

Hart Tor is a nice tor to admire all of these tors from, and despite being fairly deep into the North Moor is very accessible and can be bagged from the car; a true hillplodder tor, a Matthew King term! This was a fine conclusion to what had been a good walk, and somehow it remained dry until we got home!

OP 22

Hart Tor (Okehampton Common)

Hart Tor (Okehampton Common)

Hart Tor (Okehampton Common)

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