Wednesday, 11 May 2016

We are back walking on Dartmoor again

Another advantage of our current Dornafield campsite
Ponies on Dartmoor 
over Widend is its proximity to Dartmoor where we enjoyed walking back in September and had looked forward to venturing again. The drive to a convenient car park at Cold East Cross took about twenty-five minutes and that includes going far slower than the locals would along one section of single track road. I am not sure if starting to live around here will mean we learn to drive faster on the rural lanes or discover as many routes as possible which avoid them!

Cold Cross East is more of an off-road space than an official
Rocks at Logan Stone 
car park, but there is room for a good dozen vehicles. As we parked up we met a Swiss man unloading his folding bicycle. He wanted to cycle to Widecombe and Dave was able to point him in the right direction. Our walk was planned to be a loop of about seven miles and we had our Ordnance Survey map at the ready. We set off practically due north alongside the road for a few minutes until we found a path heading north east directly towards Logan Stone and Rippon Tor. The ponies in the first photo were near Logan Stone and one was a pretty young foal although I am not sure if you can see it in the photo. It was surprisingly windy at the top of Rippon Tor and I needed to brace myself in order to enjoy the 360 degree views. There was some haziness, but generally good visibility for a long way.

Descending from Rippon Tor, we curved easterly to be
Beltane tree below Haytor 
parallel to the road, crossing over to climb up to Haytor. As one of the most popular Dartmoor landmarks, Haytor was busy compared to the rest of our walk, but probably quiet compared to its summertime crowds. I was feeling out of condition, but did at least manage to overtake a woman walking up with a stick who must have been well into her eighties! Having got to Haytor we descended in the direction of the Information Centre, our eyes having been caught by the bright colours in this tree. They turned out to be single and small bunches of cut flowers which I surmised were left from recent Beltane celebrations. Avoiding the pop-up cafe and a Wildlife Trusts stall, I wandered into the Information Centre to see if they had any good Dartmoor walking books and was pleased to be able to thumb through a dozen different offerings. We eventually decided upon Walk Dartmoor by Kate and Alan Hobbs which looks to have a good selection of forty walks in the four to eleven mile range and includes information about the history that we are otherwise missing out on. I also picked up a Dartmoor Essential Nature Guide so we can start (hopefully) being more specific about the local wildlife instead of just saying bird, butterfly, flower, etc. I think I already found some pretty pink lousewort flowers, although they could have been very early bog pimpernel - we were stood in a bog at the time!

We did struggle to find our path away from Haytor
Our new books 
intending to head southeast towards Lewthorn Cross, turning southwest just before the woods and ending up at Bag Tor. As it was, we don't think we actually saw Bag Tor, but did eventually find our track towards Bagtor Ho - just before where someone had slapped a gate and a Private notice across it. 'Oh bother' we might have said! So instead of finishing our loop by continuing down southwest past Mountsland to the road and then northeast to our Cold East Cross start point, we had to retrace our steps a little before cutting off-piste and steeply uphill towards Saddle Tor and then walking alongside the roads round the northwestern side of Rippon Tor. Dark grey clouds were beginning to threaten which is why we stuck to the road - not wanting to be drenched and lost - although in the end it stayed dry anyway. A consolation for our lost path was instead being able to walk through an old field system with interesting arrangements of stones indicating the former boundaries and watching a large bird of prey hovering relatively close by. A smallish buzzard?

And when we got back to Cold East Cross, there was the Swiss cyclist packing his bike away!

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