Friday, 1 January 2021

Dartmoor: Snowy Stroll to Feather Tor

Windy Post

With these new tier 3 restrictions put into place, it becomes hard to understand what is and isn't deemed 'acceptable' by the vast majority of people because whilst the government have set out rules, they are to be interpreted differently by different people and 'local' is a very difficult word to define. To me, much of Dartmoor is local because I visit there so often, but in truth some parts of the moor are an hour or so away from home, which cannot be defined as 'local'. The first day of the new restrictions people had travelled to Dartmoor from their homes so I felt why not do the same in a considerate manner after picking up some bits and bobs in Plympton for work first? If it appeared too unsafe, we would go somewhere else.

Snow was forecast for the day before and, due to the cold temperature, lingered overnight to reveal a winter wonderland. We left Plympton with no idea about where to go because, for one, the roads would either be treacherous or fine, and secondly, we weren't sure how many other people would be up there which naturally deters me from sticking to a spot - pandemic or not.

Admittedly, given we were already a fair distance from home (although for work purposes, I should add), we should've parked up below Trowlesworthy Tors and visited those outcrops, but instead, without thinking, we went onto Yelverton, then Tavistock before arriving at the huge Pork Hill Car Park. This seems like a bit of a long way round, and ideally I wanted to be closer to home because we had already travelled to Plympton, but I was on the assumption that the road between Dousland and Princetown was closed since it was the day before but, as we were to find out, that did not appear to be the case for today.

Parked up in a suitable space (i.e. the car park!), we set out across Barn Hill to visit the cist on the south side that I had been meaning to visit for a while now after missing it previously. It is a fine example, even in the snow, and the light on show was wonderful. Just by walking to here did we find ourselves set away from the majority of folk out with their families having fun nearer to their cars.

Barn Hill Rocks

Barn Hill South Cist SX 53316 74552

Barn Hill South Cist SX 53316 74552

Windy Post was next, and although a popular spot for walkers and photographers alike remains a favourite spot for me. The cross, also known as Beckamoor Cross, is so well situated beside the Grimstone and Sortridge Leat which trickles in a shallow col. The leat  has taken water from the River Walkham below Little Roos Tor and it is distributed to farmsteads that rely on this water source, so it is vitally important not to pollute it and just admire it in all its glory.

We got here just in time as behind us were photographers and families taking an interest and heading our way, and sure enough, just as we left, two people set up tripods to get shooting.

Windy Post

Windy Post

Windy Post

Grimstone and Sortridge Leat

Feather Tor was an obvious objective given its close proximity to the cross, and although not an illustrious tor is one of my favourites this side of the moor on account of its fine south face and abundance of interest all around. The area abounds in historical artefacts and is such an easy tor to reach. Don't let its meagre 313m height put you off; it is well worth visiting.

Rounding the tor, we saw two ponies, one of which was very friendly and walked up to me. You shouldn't be too friendly to ponies as it may encourage them to stay closer to roads which is a hazard, but this one walked up to me and I couldn't resist taking some photos.

Feather Tor

Feather Tor

Pony at Feather Tor

Pony at Feather Tor

Pony at Feather Tor
Vixen Tor

Back over the clapper bridge, we made for a different part of Barn Hill Rocks, the middle section beside a lovely lone tree that I figured would make for a good composition with Over Tor, Great Mis Tor and Middle Staple Tor as prominent background objects. I just couldn't get over how much snow was here, and also how quiet it was. Evidently a lot of people are here to go sledding and have a snowball fight, and who can blame them?

I was struck by the icicles on the rocks; a true gem.

Barn Hill Rocks

Barn Hill Rocks and Over Tor

Barn Hill Rocks icicles

Barn Hill Rocks

Barn Hill Rocks

Then, at the top of the rocks, we saw a massive snowball that must've taken some time to create, presumably the base of a snowman?

Vixen Tor

The Giant Snowball, Barn Hill Rocks

Sam making snowballs

Sadly, if you look in the image immediately above, behind Sam, you should be able to spot a long line of cars. This is no traffic jam, this is pure madness: cars have parked either side of the B3212 just to get their opportunity to see some snow. This is not acceptable; roadsides are not parking areas, and they put people's lives at risk. What about the emergency services whose duty to keep people safe is hindered by idiots causing chaos on the roads, or locals who simply need to get to their homes after going shopping?

It's ridiculous and sadly it is not a note I want to finish on. Just remember... if there is no room in a car park, move on and find another. This side of Dartmoor especially has plenty and respect that a National Park is a mutual relationship between its visitors and residents. 

Pork Hill was far busier when we got back but car parks by Merrivale (other than Four Winds) still had room. Park considerately, think about others, and enjoy this beautiful open space.

Barn Hill

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