Sunday 14 March 2021

Visions for 2021

Fox Tor (Fox Tor Mires)

This will be a different post to usual. Instead of blogging about a walk, I will focus on something that I have been thinking about for sometime: what are my plans (or visions if you like) for 2021? We are already in March, so three months in, but there are still three quarters of the year remaining for me to contemplate the future. Of course, as I write this, we are still in lockdown, but things seem to be moving in the right direction, with the rollout of the vaccination in the UK being among one of the best in the world, and now that I'm back at school the current situation, whilst still not stable in any way, is improving, and that can only mean one thing for a tor bagger such as myself: what will I do when I next get back to Dartmoor?

I know it might seem like a bit of a dumb question... I go to Dartmoor to walk and visit its many points of intertest not limited to tors, but it's much more in-depth than that. As I near my list of tors and significant rocks to bag, I have less choice when visiting new tors and I need to set a goal so I have something to aim for, and if I don't make that deadline that's fine. I move on and set another target.

My List of Remaining Tors

As things stand, I have 25 tors remaining on my list of 862 as documented on the Tors of Dartmoor website and those 25 remaining are mostly situated on private land which can mean only one of two things: I seek permission or just wing it. I try and be as responsible as possible and take the former because I would much rather enjoy my visit knowing that I have been granted permission to visit. It can be difficult to seek landowners' details at times but as I found out with Nattor, Coombe Tor and Bee Tor, the rewards are bountiful and you feel pleased for making the effort. Sometimes the owner even gets pleasure showing off 'their' tor.

When looking at the actual tors left on my list, a few notable ones come to mind, such as Ausewell Rocks, Hepstock Rock, Raven Rock (Ausewell) and Cleft Rock. Currently, these reside on private land and were only legally accessed with a permit, but a couple of years ago the Woodland Trust and National Trust purchased the land and hope to allow for public access once essential infrastructure works have taken place to ensure the safety of visitors. Whether or not this means the tors will be accessible remains but I hope so; it would be a step in the right direction because as you may know I feel very passionately about 'access for all', especially when tors are involved as historical landmarks that the public should have every right to see. The woodland might be publicised post lockdown.

Holne Chase, across the Dart, also houses three private tors but I believe that the owners do kindly grant permission when tree felling is not taking place, so my intention is to possibly visit in spring if the area is safe and I will not be knocked out by a tree.

There are two tors on the Bovey Castle Golf Course that I am yet to visit, and were it not for the pandemic I would have bagged them on my birthday last year with permission, but sadly necessary restrictions were put into place. A few public tors in the Dart Gorge also remain, purely as they are located on steep, hazardous slopes. After Rowbrook Tor, I have been a bit put off so hope to visit Little Vag Tor, Vag Hill Tor and Hockinston Tor with company - people who know what they are doing, so maybe Paul Rendell who also seems keen to visit the valley side tors? Maybe one for winter 2021 when the bracken has receded?

The main area that I have had my eye on is the western side, where Was Tor, Prescombe Rocks and Ravens' Tor (Lydford) lie. These three are all private, but Was Tor is reachable with permission and Ravens' Tor is visible by visiting Lydford Gorge, somewhere I am desperate to visit anyway on account of its beauty. I am a sucker for steep, wooded hillsides and some of the photos I have seen are whetting my appetite and I cannot wait to visit. Waterfalls, cascades, boulders, green!!

Dartmoor Perambulation & Other Planned Walks

Descending into Watern Combe

Last summer, I began to walk the Perambulation of AD 1240, a route that the knights took to circumnavigate the moor using a number of landmarks along the way to define the 'Forest of Dartmoor' which still remains as a parish today. Last year, we almost finished having completed four out of five legs in an anticlockwise route, from just below Rattlebrook Head to Horseshoe Ford so far. I have been accompanied along the way with Sheron Vowden, Bev Dickinson, Fiona Rothwell, Amanda Ellis and Chris Tawn who have been great fun to walk alongside; they each provide different humour and make the journey much more bearable. This year it is my absolute goal to get this walk done and finish with a celebratory meal in the Fox and Hounds pub at Shortacombe. Summer might be more appropriate when the weather is nicer and the pubs are open for indoor service if it's raining?

If 2021 has a cracking summer I intend to partake in the 'Dartmoor in a Day' walk which is basically Okehampton to Ivybridge in a day or over 30 miles of Dartmoor scenery, though I would probably go backwards as it's harder. Ever since Trevor Lewis successfully completed the route in 2020 and documented his journey over on his YouTube channel (see here), I have thought to myself if I could do the same in 2021, also solo. That would be a major undertaking and test my stamina and mental stability for a route taking over 13 hours of walking. My biggest fear would be getting halfway and quitting... would I possibly be able to forgive myself? I am the type of person who is stubborn and won't give up, even if I'm physically unable to continue. Throughout lockdown 3 I have been completing walks of up to 20 miles to see if I can do the distance, and whilst the answer is yes with few blisters it has drained me a bit, but that could perhaps be walking on tarmac for so long! Will I attempt Dartmoor in a Day in the summer of 2021? I'm not sure to be honest, and don't want to ping a date on it, but I do think I need more training before taking on this ambitious experience.

The Abbots' Way and Lych Way are two walks that some of the Perambulation team want to complete. Some have walked these routes before, like Sheron. The Abbots' Way connects the two abbeys of Buckfast in the east and Tavistock in the west, while the Lych Way, aka the 'Way of the Dead', connects Bellever to the village of Lydford.

Tors of Dartmoor

Tors of Dartmoor Home Page (part of)

As if I haven't banged on about this website enough, I am one of three contributors to the Tors of Dartmoor website, a database of 'both lesser and well-known rocks and outcrops' that does something different to other websites and books about the famous outcrops. It does not only document those named by the Ordnance Survey but also records all of those mentioned in the extensive literature, tors whose names have been forgotten. What it does best, in my opinion, is provide credit and reference to each one, recognising each person's contribution to every rockpile. Paul Buck, Tim Jenkinson and I have spent many, many hours reading through books and consulting old maps to supply the best and most useful information for all 862 that are currently listed (I say currently because the list will no doubt expand). I would highly recommend you pay a visit here.

The website is ever-changing and for 2021 we plan to gather more photos and information to better some of the entries. One thing I love about this project is it's never done; sure, there might be few new tors to find, but as we delve into books it becomes apparent just how much has been written about the subject and when new names and descriptions appear, it becomes a most enjoyable pursuit.


Dartefacts Home Page

I also contribute heavily to another website, Dartefacts. Unlike Tors of Dartmoor this website is pretty much everything that is Dartmoor; intuitive, fun and with so much to discover. Together with Rob (the website owner) and Peter and Karin Brooks, we have collated data for more than 13,000 points of interest across Dartmoor National Park which must be more than any other resource on the internet? Recently, a couple of weeks ago as I write this, a new map was installed for 2021, utilising Ordnance Survey 1:25,000K mapping which is what OL 28 displays to navigate people around the moor and is probably the most common map of Dartmoor. This feature is exclusive for Registered Users which is why you should Register to access this unique feature. Additionally, by doing this you will have the ability to tick-off the places you have visited, which not only provides a sense of progress but also sees your name on the leaderboard and encourages further exploration.

For 2021, the aim will be for more photos to be included on some pages that have none, as well as clarifying some National Grid References (NGRs). Again, like Tors of Dartmoor, this project is far from 'done' and is ongoing. For me, to be able to see how Users interact with the site is motivational and inspirational to say the least, and fuels the desire to continue adding to the database. If you would like to visit the site please see here.

Writing in Magazines

There are two main magazines that cover Dartmoor which I read: Dartmoor Magazine and Dartmoor News. The former is edited by Sue Viccars and includes the great works of Tim Jenkinson (who is also affiliated with the ToD website), Richard Horsham and others. I have started to contribute to this magazine in the hope of spreading my passion about the moors to others through writing; mostly inspired by Tim Jenkinson the goal for 2021 is the same as any other year really: to dive into the literature and try to decipher some confusing accounts. My last piece of writing was with Tim about 'Lesser-Known Rock Basins' which goes into detail about some little-known examples that are dotted across the moorland landscape, most seldom described before.

Dartmoor News is edited by Paul Rendell, a good friend of mine who has been walking the moor for decades and is perhaps the most knowledgeable person I've met. The magazine is excellent and I admire Paul's ability to put it together every two months. It is full of a wealth of information and news items from and around the moor with few adverts. I have been writing for Paul since the summer of 2019 and some articles for 2021 include my favourite tor and a lethal mire!

Bodmin Moor

It has been the best part of a year since I last walked on Bodmin Moor with Sheron Vowden, but because this moorland is not local to me I doubt I will be walking there until the end of 2021. We can only be optimistic. There are some lovely tors I am still yet to visit, like Garrow, Louden Hill, Alex and Brown Gelly.


Pendrift Downs Waterfall

In regards to my tor bagging progress, I know these 25 remaining will not be easy bags, but I am nonetheless excited for what the future holds. I am looking forward to heading back to Dartmoor and exploring more of its hidden landscape as well as the high moor; with companions Paul Buck, Tim Jenkinson and Paul Rendell I hope to take in some more of the hidden landscape, whilst with Sheron Vowden, Bev Dickinson, Fiona Rothwell, Amanda Ellis and Chris Tawn I plan to complete the final leg of the Perambulation. Bodmin Moor might not be possible this year, but it's not going anywhere and as for my writing in magazines, I can only anticipate that you enjoy reading what I have to say. If not then I'm sorry and I'll end it here!

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