Day 2’s 23.8 km route with 765 mtrs ascent and 628 mtrs descent. (Click for full size image)
Day 2 was a day of mixed weather. I knew from the forecasts that the morning’s weather would be pretty bad, so I had already steeled myself for this. In the event apart from a small upset in the afternoon, the weather cleared up remarkably well, though it was to remain cold throughout the day.
Most of the walk was into a relatively strong headwind which was quite unexpected as the prevailing winds normally come in from the Southwest. Having to walk into the wind makes a lot of difference to the effort required.
Despite the winds, my progress was so rapid that I ended up modifying the end part of the day’s route to proceed much further on with the original plan than was allocated for the day. This is where carrying full paper maps comes in very handy 🙂
Anyways, I’ll let the pictures do the talking as they take you through a virtual tour of day 2:
It’s good morning from Piles Copse! It is cold and there is the ominous sound of rain on the tent!
I soon get the breakfast on which consists of coffee, hot muesli (a first!), a scone and a round of cheese.
It is so cold, that I bring the breakfast indoors and shut down the tent so that I can eat in the relative warmth.
In a first for me I make up some hot chocolate for the vacuum flask. It will be interesting to see how this performs on the walk. The flask is small enough that it will fit into my hardshell front pocket for easy access.
With the rain outside I decide to take down the inner, which is normally left attached. This will allow the inner to remain dry when it’s next used.
The other advantage to taking out the tent inner is that one can pack ones’ rucksack in the dry within the tent. This ensures that ones’ kit stays dry.
I’m soon fully packed! The hiking poles are taken out as the first task of the day is to ford across the River Erme.
The first crossing attempt fails as the water is too deep. To cross here, I would need to strip off and float the rucksack across – not something that I was prepared to do in Winter!
I move Southward and decide to cross where this rock-line crosses the stream. The water is quite fast flowing through this part, but I figure that where the rocks are it should be relatively shallow. The hiking poles make a huge difference on the crossing. They help keep me upright against the current and slippery streambed. They are also used to probe ahead to find the relatively shallow spots. From here on in these poles are going to be a mandatory piece of kit!
I get across to the other bank where I towel myself off and get my boots and socks on. Hiking poles are stowed and I’m now ready for the bulk of today’s walk. The first task is to climb this bank which should take me up onto a track that will take me Northward.
I soon get to the track. It is now a case of following it Northward until it terminates which should be around 1.5 km away.
A last look at Piles Copse before I make my way Northward.
Eventually I can see the track end. On the right is a weir crossing the stream. The intent is to head up the hill on my left, but before I do so, I decide to take a closer look at the weir.
The weir! I approached it as I was curious as to whether it had a small maintenance bridge for easy crossings in the future. But alas not…
I have now started my hill climb Westward up to Stall Moor. This is the view back down to the weir.
The climb is a relatively easy one. Despite the rain, the ground is actually relatively dry – I was expecting bogs at this point, but was pleasantly surprised!
I get to the top of the ridgeline. The intent is to head broadly Northward up Langcombe Hill. The rain seems to be easing off at this point. Maybe I’m due some better weather?
I’m not using a compass as there is no need to. Up ahead is the peak of Langcombe Hill which is where I’m headed!
The view Southward back from where I came. In the distance I can just make out Sharp Tor, which I had climbed down the previous day.
As I look Eastward I can see a familiar landmark….
*Zoom On* It’s the mound at the old Red Lake China Clay Works. Right away, my imagination kicks in and I get a good impression as to the lay of the land in that immediate direction. It’s amazing how the mind pieces together the lay of the land from previous walks. For instance I instinctively know that the hill behind it is Ryder’s Hill. I also know that 2km to the right of it lies the Avon Reservoir. It seems that I’m building up a fair bit of ‘local’ knowledge for Dartmoor!
On the way up the hill I find some rocks and decide to stop off to snack out!
With my new vacuum flask (thank you Mountain Warehouse 🙂 ), I can now have a hot drink with my snacks. This makes a big difference in the cold!
To the South there are signs that the sun is fighting to put in an appearance!
Now that I have eaten and rested, I carry on with the climb up Langcombe Hill. Rather unusually the winds seem to be coming in from the North, which means that I’m walking right into them. This hinders progress somewhat.
By the time I get to the top, the clouds have almost disappeared! This completely transforms the feel of the walk.
To the South the skies glow in the yellow of the early winter sun. It is still cold, but at least the weather has improved!
*Zoom On* To the North I catch site of the Television Mast on North Hessary Tor. This is one of the objectives of today’s walk – at least I’m headed in the right direction! 🙂
Far away to the Northwest I can make out the familiar terrain around Burrator reservoir.
The intent is to get up onto Great Gnat’s Head to view the cairn there. So out with the compass to send me in the correct direction!
I soon get eyes onto the cairn that sits atop of Great Gnat’s Head! I know that on the way there I’m going to be crossing the Abbot’s Way track, but I also know from previous experience that I’m unlikely to actually see it as it is a very difficult track to discern.
A flock of sheep doing their thing! I often wonder how farmers actually manage their flocks when they are so far out!
The area is criss-crossed in tiny streamlets like this. This allows me to keep my water bottle continually topped up.
There’s the cairn! Nearly there!
The cairn on top of Great Gnat’s Head hill! Although relatively low at 470 mtrs, there is a good all round view from up here!
It’s out with the compass again. The intent is to head Northward until I can get eyes on a collection feature in the form of the remains of a boundary wall – I’m using a navigation technique called offsetting here. It’s then a case of hand railing this Westward to get me to Nun’s Cross Farm. However, if I can get eyes on the farm first, I will simply change direction and head straight for it.
Up ahead the terrain looks innocuous enough… However, part of the River Plym flows through here resulting in the dip up ahead being extremely boggy. At one point I lose most of my left leg to the bog. My instant reaction was to throw myself onto a small mound directly in front of me to prevent myself sinking further in. Then it was a case of fishing out an extremely muddy leg!
It’s now a relatively easy climb Northward up the side of Crane Hill. Once I get to the top of the ridge line I should start to get some navigational references that will direct me onto Nun’s Cross Farm.
Once I cross the ridgeline I get my eyes directly onto Nun’s Cross Farm and change my bearing to head straight for it!
The view to the East – pure Dartmoor Wilderness! 🙂
Up ahead are the remains of the boundary wall that I was going to follow had the visibility been bad – it eventually turns Northward toward the farm. But in the event there is no need to!
I’m now at the farm. The weather looks like it is starting to close in again. With an on-tap water supply, I decide to have lunch here before the weather gets really bad.
Lunch consists of Oatcakes, Cheese Spread and a hot mulligatawny soup. The latter is most welcome in the cold weather. It seems that my timing was impeccable as it was starting to drizzle just I started to pack up.
There’s the farm itself! The plan is to get onto a main track just off to the left. This track will take me Northward all the way to Princetown.
The rain has now started. The winds have also picked up considerably too and once again they are from the North, which results in the rain being blown right into my face.
The famous Nuns Cross, also known as Siward’s Cross.
The walk Northward is rapid due to the track. However, I’m finding the that winds are getting stronger as I gain elevation.
There are many boundary stones on the route. But unlike the Bronze age ones that I saw on Day 1, these ones are relatively recent.
Up ahead on the horizon is South Hessary Tor. This marks the highest point of this leg of the walk. After that, it will be downhill to Princetown.
South Hessary Tor! I didn’t hang around here too long due to the wind and rain.
I’m now on the descent to Princetown. The winds are very strong on this side of the hill. Up ahead on the left is the Tv Mast on North Hessary Tor – the target for the next leg of the walk.
I’m now in Princetown. I was a little worried that navigation would be difficult here, but the OS map made things relatively easy. I guess I’m starting to get used to using OS maps for urban centres…
Here I have hung a right Westward. The intent is to walk past a Fire Station. There should be a track putting in an appearance to my right…
Right on cue I pick up the track! This track should take me directly up to the top of North Hessary Tor to the Tv Station.
From this point onwards I’m back in the National Park! 🙂
The weather has cleared up and the hill is sheltering me from the strong winds which makes for a pleasant ascent.
The view Southward toward Princetown. I can’t believe how quickly the weather has changed. I guess this is one of the benefits of high winds!
Down below is the rather infamous Dartmoor Prison…
The view to the Southwest – just awesome!
Nearly there! This will be the first time that I have visited the top of this Tor.
As I get nearer I spot the trig point marking the top of the hill at 517 mtrs elevation. Now that I’m at the top the winds have gotten a lot stronger. Despite this I decide to climb up onto the trig point – it would be rude not to!
The trig point with the Tv Station just behind it. When I get to the top I have to hold on to the trig point to stop myself being blown off. But at least I can say that I visited it!
I now start my descent Northward down onto the B3357 road. Up ahead in the distance is Great Mis Tor. This was the planned camp spot for today. However, with the high winds and the fact that I’m well ahead of schedule, I decide not to go there. Instead I decide to press on and head to the West Dart River to make camp at the base of Beardown Tor.
I soon intercept the road servicing the Tv Station. This makes the descent extremely easy.
That’s an unusual sight these days! A genuine ye-olde red telephone box!
Here I’m following the B3357 Eastward on my newly plotted route. There should be a track making an appearance on the left.
And there it is! Right on cue! The intent now is to head Northward across three fields to get to Fice’s Well.
Crossing the fields is pretty easy as there are no tussocks here! It’s now a case of counting the field boundaries as I head Northward…
On the way Northward I spot this rather old looking boundary stone. This one’s not on the map.
I’m now in the last field and have turned Eastward to get to Fice’s Well which can just be seen up ahead.
And here it is Fice’s Well. The ground around it is very boggy, but I’m curious as to what’s inside it…
That’s not quite what I was expecting to see! This is a stone covering over the actual spring. The well has stood for 437 years and apparently has healing powers, which is why it gets a lot of visitors. More about this well can be read at: http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/fice_well.htm
To the North is a tributary of the the Blackbrook River. I need to cross this. I head Northward directly toward it. The terrain here is extremely boggy.
There’s the stream. Looks like it is going to be another boots-off-fording job…
This is my chosen fording point. It turned out to be a little deeper than it looks. Once again the hiking poles proved invaluable for the crossing.
The plan is to head roughly Eastward and locate a boundary there and follow that. I know that the boundary follows the edge of the woods up ahead, so I make my way directly toward those woods.
The terrain is quite difficult here. It is very boggy and tussocky. This makes forward progress quite tiring.
I have now located the boundary which turns out to be a fence. It is now a case of handrailing it Eastward until I reach a track. Up ahead in the distance are the Beardown Tors which I intend to climb. My planned camp spot should be just beyond them, so not too far to go now!
There’s the track, but there is a barbed wire fence between me and it. I decide to take advantage of the extra long columns and use these to climb over the barbed wire.
I jump down onto the track. It is now a case of following it Northward until I see it turn off Eastward.
To the East the Beardown Tors beckon. There is a tangible sense that the end of the day is approaching. I know that I only have an hour or two of light at this point.
The track has now turned Eastward. It should take me to a footbridge which should make for an easy crossing of the Cowsic River.
I soon get eyes on the bridge where I’m surprised to bump into 3 people – what were they doing out here at this time? 🙂
The climb up to the Beardown Tors has started. There is a well worn path through the tussocks, this makes the ascent an easy one.
And there are the Tors! I note there is some Army kit on it – presumably to watch over the Merrivale Army areas to the West.
Behind me the sun is getting near the horizon. In the far distance is Great Mis Tor, the original planned camp spot.
The Northern complex of Tors that form part of the Beardown Tor group.
Up ahead is Longaford Tor on the other side of the West Dart River. The intent is to get to the bottom and make camp by the River in the relative shelter of the Tors.
Behind me the sky is starting to light up yellow – a sure sign that I’ll be running out of sunlight. Looks like I will be getting to my camp spot just in time! 🙂
Down below I spot the weir across the West Dart. The plan is to make my attempted crossing there tomorrow morning.
Just by the weir I find this excellent spot to pitch a tent – Perfect!
Due to the rain in the morning the tent is now in two parts – the inner and outer. Normally, both of these parts are kept together and the whole tent is put up as one. However, to keep both the inner and my kit dry I had decided to separate them. This makes putting up the tent a little tricker than it would otherwise be.
The trick to easily installing the inner on the Akto tent is to leave one corner unpegged. This reduces the tension on the tent and makes it a lot easier to connect the inner up properly. Once fully connected, that peg can then be re-sunk into the ground.
The tent is soon up! It is now a case of sorting out my water supplies.
I take a moment to study the weir in detail. Looking at the speed of the water sliding down it, I’m beginning to wonder if this will be a good crossing point for tomorrow. I guess I will find out then!
The camp spot is perfect. I have water above and below me and the whole area is sheltered from the high Northerly winds that I had been experiencing all day.
Rather than take my water from the stream, I decide to take it from the artificial leet just above my camp spot. I find that the flow rate of the Water-To-Go bottle to be much greater than my standard Travel-Tap – this results in the 1 Litre bottles being filled a lot quicker than they normally would.
The view across the stream to Longaford Tor. If things go according to plan, I will be up there tomorrow morning – can’t wait!
Time to get the supper on whilst there is still some light!
Tonight’s meal is a delicious Salmon, Dill and Potatoes by Mountain House.
The final camp spot by the Weir due West of Longaford Tor.
So ends a rather good Day 2.
I was quite happy as I was now technically quite far ahead of the overall schedule to the tune of around 8km – all thanks to the decision not to camp at Great Mis Tor.
However, I still had concerns about the planned fording of the West Dart tomorrow morning. It didn’t look like it was going to be an easy one…
Tune in next week to see if I make it across 🙂