Monday, 14 September 2015

Walking on Dartmoor - Bellever Forest and Postbridge

A windy but sunny Saturday saw us tying on our hiking boots again in
Bellever Tor 
anticipation of another gorgeous Dartmoor walk to complement our previous two. The scenery up on the moor really is stunning. We failed to consider the chaos that would be caused by Saturday morning shopping traffic so it took us twenty-five minutes just to get from our Lumburn Court campsite to the other side of Tavistock. However, once out of the town centre, we were soon zooming (at the 40mph speed limit!) along the road to Princetown again. This time we continued on through the accurately named village of Twobridges and found ourselves a small roadside car park not long afterwards.

I love the place names around this part of Devon and realising that our
We're going to Laughter Hole Farm 
walk started in the direction of Laughter Hole Farm could only be seen as a good omen. Dave had planned our route to be entirely on footpaths and tracks so, in theory, simple to follow. In practice, of course, we soon realised we had gone slightly off piste when the sign we needed to follow was positioned on the opposite side of a barbed wire fence and a few minutes later our footpath remained resolutely invisible so we decided to take a wide track over the top of Bellever Tor instead. This turned out for the best as there were fabulous views from the top and I took the beautiful blue sky photograph that starts this post too.

Once over the tor and descending to Bellever Forest, we passed a couple
Heather and gorse on Dartmoor 
of other walkers, but otherwise were pretty much alone. I loved the natural colours around us, especially the purple heather against the bright yellow flowering gorse. We imagined that the North York Moors must be looking outstanding by now too. Bellever Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission and is a large plantation of Christmas trees (although most were far too large to fit in the average lounge so they are probably cut down to make decking and shelf units instead). At one point, close to lunch time, I glanced to my left and saw what might have been the top of a wooden bench along a cleared track. Walking up there, we instead saw a stile and a fenced off area containing this great example of a stone row and a 'Cist' complete with its capstones. There wasn't any information there about the stone arrangement and we were lucky to have just looked the right way at the right time to find it. I have since found this survey of Bellever on the Legendary Dartmoor website.

Stone row and cist at Bellever 
We perched on a couple of recently sawn tree stumps to eat our
Clapper bridge at Postbridge 
sandwich lunch before continuing through the forest to emerge at Postbridge, a hamlet whose main claim to fame is its Clapper Bridge, a structure which could be as much as seven hundred years old. Legendary Dartmoor has a good page about this too. Alongside is an equally as attractive road bridge and we also made sure to visit the white painted Village Stores which must be an absolute goldmine in the height of summer. I was lucky to get these two bridge pictures taken because shortly afterwards the clapper bridge was suddenly engulfed by a coach party of tourists huddling together on its stone slabs for a group portrait. We could hear them shouting and cheering as we set off uphill (again!) back towards the forest.

Stone road bridge at Postbridge 
We skirted the edge of the woods initially and had fun hopping between grass clumps to avoid boggy muddy sections on the bridleway. We were taken with the location of an isolated house high up on the hill and with a huge newly-built barn in its grounds. Then, stepping back into the shady woods, a wide forestry track took us past Laughter Hole Farm which had signs proclaiming it as a working farm but looked quite closed up and abandoned. The track and trees reminded us of our walk where we saw the harvester machine and it didn't seem long before we were descending back down the first field we had climbed. We crossed the main road past a herd of Dartmoor ponies, one of whom half heartedly followed us for a few strides, perhaps hoping to be fed. She was out of luck!

The total walk was about four hours, including photo stops but excluding lunch. None of the terrain was especially challenging, the walk up to Bellever Tor being the most strenuous section, and the whole loop took in a nice mix of moor, forest and village environments.

Dartmoor ponies 


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