Friday 7 October 2022

Dartmoor: Abbot's Way Walk 2022 (22.7 miles)

South Hessary Tor

On Sunday more than 420 of us, or 78 teams, set off from Buckfast Abbey between 7:15am - 8:30am to walk the 23-mile Abbot's Way to Tavistock. Run by the Tavistock & District Outdoor Education Forum with the help of countless volunteers, I was to complete this route with Amanda Ellis and Fiona Rothwell. Our team name was 'Mafiam' (can you work out why?).

It was pouring down as we made our way up the road to R15 Cross Furzes, the first checkpoint. We were apparently the second group through. Down to R14 Dean Burn Clapper Bridge and up to S14 Water Oak Corner we entered the moor. As we crossed Brockhill Ford and reached Huntingdon Cross, the weather began to clear. This was most unexpected because the forecast said rain until lunchtime, not until just after 9am.

Dean Burn Clapper Bridge

Huntingdon Warren Clapper Bridge

Over Huntingdon Warren Clapper, we climbed the hill to Crossways, meeting Nigel Stainer at the checkpoint. The view ahead of the Upper Erme Valley was stunning. Down the bridleway we had some 'interesting' crossings of Red Lake, Dry Lake (Hux Lake) and Wollake (Blacklane Brook). The crossings got harder and Dry Lake was anything but dry, whilst Wollake was more of a river that took some time to safely cross.

Blacklane Brook Ford

I love this valley, and Erme (or Arme!) Pits are a stunning piece of human devastation that nature has reclaimed into an alien landscape, which looks almost glacial with huge mounds. We weaved our way up to Broad Rock, stopping for a breather and talking to Neil Handley who had walked in from Whiteworks to man the checkpoint. We were advised that Q9 Plym Ford was not very deep, and that was true but I still leapt across.

Plym Ford

We rounded the hill and descended to P9 Nun's (Siward's) Cross and then checked in at Peat Cot (by the roadside). Walking up the track towards O8 South Hessary Tor, we were joined by Bev Dickinson who had come out to walk a stretch of the Way with us as far as Merrivale. Down Ivybridge Lane and through Princetown it was quite a haul up to North Hessary Tor.

Nun's Cross

South Hessary Tor

South Hessary Tor

Hollow Tor is close by to the NW and passed en route so it was the perfect choice for lunch, with its awe-inspiring rock formations, views and rock basins. Continuing down the hill, passing Red Cottages, we arrived at Four Winds and M6 Merrivale Antiquities, parting with Bev. Good progress was being made through Merrivale and towards N4 Windy Post. Then new territory for me through Moortown and up onto N3 Whitchurch Down. This is a huge expanse of flattish moorland.

Hollow Tor (Rundlestone)

Merrivale Antiquities

Whitchurch Down Cross

The final leg was descending into the delightful town of Tavistock, or Tavi, passing Whitchurch Down Cross at the top of town. The end was at the college which is wedged between Tavi Canal and the River Tavy. A thoroughly enjoyable walk, but quite challenging, with great company. It was never meant to be a race, but we did come 7th overall out of 78 teams. Thanks to all of the people involved in making the event so successful.

I would have liked to have embedded the Strava track but I am having a few, shall I say, 'technical' difficulties.

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