Saturday 2 December 2023

Dartmoor: Ryder's Hill from Cross Furzes

Outer Pupers

Significant snowfall the day before and into the evening meant that Dartmoor, or at least this southern part, was white. Those who know me know that I adore the white stuff but I appreciate that it is like marmite, with some people quite rightly preferring to stay indoors in the warm.

Cold it may have been but with four layers on and a hat, I was good to go. Whenever snow hits Dartmoor one must act responsibly to avoid becoming a 'snow tourist', someone who typically visits Dartmoor when it has snowed and causes havoc for those who live and work there by parking irresponsibly and not knowing the limits of their vehicle. Therefore I stayed well off the popular areas and refused to drive across the moor itself. Instead I drove up the lane to Cross Furzes, above Buckfastleigh, which is local(ish) to me and close to the high moor without putting myself at risk.

I walked up the lane (which seems to never end) to Hayford Hall, and proceeded up the bridleway to Lud Gate. And just like that, I was on the moor and into the white stuff. I got temporarily misplaced and missed the turning for the path up to Inner Pupers, so I decided to visit the Lone Piper boundary stone first prior to ascending Pupers Hill.

Tree on Buckfastleigh Moor

The 'Lone Piper'

Ascending Pupers Hill

On Pupers Hill are three outcrops: Inner, Middle and Outer Pupers, with Middle also being known as Pupers Rock, as it is the largest outcrop on the hill and capped by a cairn/pile of stones.

I never tire of visiting this place with its tremendous views and solitude, but adding snow into the mix created an even more glorious landscape.

Pupers Rock

Outer Pupers

Outer Pupers B Rock for (West) Buckfastleigh

I followed the snowy track up to Snowdon, passing some ponies. Having visited Winter Tor last year in the snow, it felt obligatory to do the same for Snowdon, a fabulous hill which at 495m is South Dartmoor's second-highest. Unlike its far more revered namesake which in Welsh is Yr Wyddfa, this peak never has a queue to the summit, nor facilities.

The lofty eminence is capped by four cairns, the southern two of which are the most conspicuous with granite rocks strewn about.





I now faced a dilemma, as I thought I would: it is 14:10 and I can see Ryder's Hill up there, should I visit? I figured that I had time and it was close, but I knew that I would be returning the same way back over Snowdon and Pupers.

I was keen to see if the usually sodden stretch of path between Snowdon and Ryder's (or simply Ryder) was frozen, and it kind of was, but the ice was only thin and soon succumbed to my weight, leaving me to skip across the wet patches. The snow was also getting beyond 5cm in parts and was slowing down my ascent.

It was only about 20 minutes and I had reached the trig point on the summit of this great hill. Again, you either love Ryder or hate it... me I love it. There are phenomenal views and a somewhat lonely feel to the hill. The snow only accentuated the beauty of the surrounding moorland which lay before me like a carpet, with fold after fold way off into the distance.

High Willhays and Yes Tor from Ryder's Hill

Ryder's Hill boundary stones

Snowy flush bracket on trig point

Ryder's Hill

I spent some time up here looking around and enjoying the scenery, taking photos. I was still quite toasty but stopping for this long meant that my hands were getting cold. I don't wear gloves and I never need to normally as they stay warm when I am on the move.

Not only was the chill getting to my hands but my phone went from 17% to 4% in a split second. Time to move.

I retraced my footsteps (literally) towards Snowdon where, to my right, the valley of the Western Wella Brook, which has been extensively tin streamed, came into view; a wonderful place where I could look due south towards the abandoned Huntingdon Warren Farm.

Wellabrook Girt with Eastern White Barrow on the hilltop


The path to Snowdon did disappear and re-appear with the snow not making it easier and it was quite tufty ground. I went across the top and then it was an easy stretch back to Pupers.

Looking to Pupers Hill

On Pupers I turned left to Inner Pupers and noticed the sun dipping behind the hill and turning a golden hue. The chill factor was increasing because I was rapidly descending but it didn't take long to get back to the car and warmth!

Inner Pupers

Inner Pupers

I really enjoy experiencing Dartmoor in these conditions and with such light winds, accompanied by sunshine and snow on the ground, it could not have been more perfect.

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