Day 1’s 21.5 km route with 879 mtrs ascent and 577 mtrs descent. (Click for the full-sized version)
Day 1, like all day 1’s started off with that weird transition from civilisation to the wilderness. At first one just feels a little discordant, like a feeling of not quite fitting in, but after a few hours this soon wears off as one settles into the walk.
The weather was mostly overcast and a little cold, but there was no rain. In the event, it turned out to be the worst weather that I would experience over the six days! To say that I was very lucky is an understatement indeed!
In terms of adventure, I did find myself in a bog up to my upper thighs and still sinking….
You will have to read on further to find out more, but I will apologise now for the state of the later images of the day. These were affected by water ingress into the camera from this rather disconcerting incident.
Anyways, enough of the spoilers, I will let the photos tell their story…
Despite being my fifth walk on Dartmoor I still manage to plan a route out of Okehampton that is unique 🙂
This route is similar to the 2013 May walk, the only difference is that I will be going straight up this road. In 2013 I had hung a right at the sign post in the distance to walk through a Golf Course!
I’m now officially in the Dartmoor National Park. Let the adventure begin!
I take a last glance behind me back to Okehampton. The next time I will see it will be in 6 days time!
The initial part of the walk is on Army tracks. This is my first walk for 4 months, so I thought I’d take the start a little easy 🙂 In the distance from left to right can be seen Rowtor, West Mill Tor and Yes Tor.
These Tors dominate the landscape in this area, so naturally draw one’s eye to them. Alas, I will not be climbing these on the way into the Moors. Though they are on the itinerary for the way back!
A small waterfall at Red-a-ven Brook.
I soon have to cross the brook itself. This presents no problem at all thanks to some strategically placed stones!
As I head westward, I soon depart the tracks and start making my way cross country. To my right to the North I catch sight of the railway bridge which was part of my 2013 route. My one memory of this bridge were of the mad people abseiling off it!
The terrain on the way westward is very smooth by Dartmoor standards so progress is quick. I’m a little surprised that my fitness is still in good shape, despite having not hiked since last December.
I soon catch a glimpse of the Meldon Reservoir. The original plan was to pop directly across the valley up ahead and climb up Homerton Hill on the other side. However, a Tor catches my eye to my left…
The Tor I spotted is part of the Black Tor complex. They looked pretty impressive and I had never visited them before, so I thought ‘What the heck!’ and decided to head up the hill to them 🙂
The going across country was much more like the terrain I’m used to seeing on Dartmoor: Tussocky and very boggy!
With spring in the air there were many sheep out and about with their new offspring in tow! I think these two have fallen out and are now no longer talking!
I soon get to the Tors themselves. I often wonder why these structures seem to be pretty unique to Dartmoor? I’m guessing it is something to do with its underlying granite structure. One thing for sure, they make great navigation markers in a land that can otherwise appear quite featureless to the untrained eye!
I soon clamber up the rocks to take in the view and have a good look around!
Behind me are the Northern Rocks of Black Tor. Time for a visit me-thinks!
These rocks are quite impressive in size, yet somehow I have missed visiting them until now. I guess I have been too busy looking at the nearby high points of Yes Tor and High Wilhays.
I climb the Northern rocks too and get to immediately see Black-a-Tor Copse down below. It kind of reminds me of Piles Copse in the South as both are composed of Oak trees. I have never seen this one before, but alas, it’s not on the route… Ah well, I guess I will have to fix that then!
After a short snack break I decide to head down to Black-a-Tor Copse. I don’t have time to visit it properly, but I just want to take a quick look to see what’s there.
I soon get into the borders of the copse and find this informative notice board. It seems that it is a nature reserve. It does feel weird entering places like this because they seem so out of place on Dartmoor.
Even without their summer leaves I find the trees of the copse entrancing. I make a decision that I will be back here on another walk, with the intent of camping nearby on its Southern border so as to be able to fully appreciate the place.
However, I don’t dither too long as I have a schedule to keep to. I soon find myself hand-railing the West Okement River Northward with the intent of getting to a bridge about 1km away so as to make my crossing with feet dry!
As I head Northward I come across another much smaller unnamed copse. This one seems to be fully walled in!
After passing the small copse I find the main track which should take me to the bridge. It feels weird heading Northward and downward as it feels like I’m headed off of the Moors!
From my height advantage I soon spot the bridge down below…
The foot bridge is part of a Weir. Time to head across!
Once across I start to head straight up the rather steep hill to Shelstone Tor. It’s hard going, but I do know that the gradient will flatten out…
There it is! Shelstone Tor! – Another first time visit for me!
Once in amongst the rocks I note that this Tor is quite extensive too. In the background one can just see Black Tor on the opposite ridgeline that I had visited earlier.
*Zooms In* Black Tor now seems so far away – even though I’m only around 1 km from it.
I head South West to get onto Corn Ridge as seen here. The plan is to hand-rail this ridge South-Eastward with the intent of visiting Kitty Tor.
The weather seems to be a combination of extensive cloud coverage with occasional gaps that sometimes allow the sun to shine through. Despite the appearance of the sun, it is still relatively cold, hence the hat and second layer of clothing.
Black-a-Tor Copse is now well below me on the other side of the West Okement River. This affords me with an excellent view of the entire copse. I use this to my advantage and survey the lie of the land in and around it for a future walk.
North Dartmoor’s tussocks and bogs are now back with a vengeance which hinder progress somewhat. Directly ahead I think I can see Kitty Tor, but in reality it is really Logan Rock. I make this mistake because in my mind’s eye Logan Rock is… well… a rock! As opposed to something looking like a Tor!
Then it happens… Both feet enter an extraordinarily deep bog. In around half a second I’m up to my upper thighs in the ground and still sinking! I immediately dive for the nearest grass tussock to arrest my sinking motion. This seems to work, but it temporarily damaged the camera I was holding. I have never been in such a deep bog, especially as it was up to my thighs and I hadn’t reached the bottom! This does dent my confidence somewhat as I’m used to bogs being knee deep at the most. I now walk like every step could put me into the same predicament. This makes me quite edgy until I leave the boggy area.
Up ahead is Logan Rock that I had mistaken for Kitty Tor. I gingerly make my way toward it, sometimes pausing to test the bog depth of my next step…
I soon get to Logan Rock. At this point, apart from an internal splash on the lens, the camera seemed to be operating pretty well. However, its condition would soon deteriorate as the water inside it started to seep into other areas.
From Logan Rock I head broadly Southward toward Kitty Tor. On the way I spot Lints Tor on the other side of the valley to my left.
The ground is still boggy on the way to Kitty Tor, but it has a certain firmness that was missing from the ground in and around Logan Rock.
As I approach Kitty Tor I can see it has the usual array of Army buildings on it, though unusually, these ones were unlocked with open doors…
From Kitty Tor I look to the South West where I can see Great Links Tor dominating the skyline. This is my next destination. By now, the water in the camera was starting to dry out which resulted in the internal lenses getting fogged up with water vapour. The camera pictures would soon deteriorate until the following day
On the way to Great Links Tor I run into this North-South track across my way. The ground directly to Great Links looks very boggy and given my previous escapade I decide to follow this track Northward and then Westward. This should put me further up hill and much nearer to Great Links Tor, that should in theory make for a less boggy walk.
I follow the track until I feel it’s time to leave it and start my journey cross country toward Great Links Tor. My hunch was correct. The higher elevation of my new starting point meant that the ground here was relatively dry.
I’m now on the final approach to Great Links Tor. I have never been to this Tor and I’m surprised by it’s size. It’s one of the largest Tors I have seen, plus as an added bonus, I know that there is a Trig Point on it somewhere!
I’m now in amongst the rocks! The Trig point is not immediately visible, but there is a couple here so I ask them if they know where the Trig Point is, to which they give a great set of directions!
And there it is! Just have to climb up to claim my prize!
Victory pose on the Trig Point! 😀 This one is at 586 mtrs elevation, not particularly high for the UK, but quite high for Dartmoor!
To the South East I spot a rock column in amongst the rocks – it seems that there is a lot to see here amongst this Tor. In the far distance are the Higher Dunna Goat and Lower Dunna Goat Tors which I have now decided to visit. The original intent was to walk to Chat Tor and then to ford Rattle Brook, but on examination of the map I noticed that there was a footbridge near to Higher Dunna Goat, so choose to head there instead.
It’s a fairly easy almost downhill walk to these two Tors, which results in a fairly short journey.
Upon reaching the Tors I take a look downward toward the East and Rattle Brook in the hope of spotting the footbridge. But alas I cannot see it. However, I do see the ruins of an old house on the other side, which is rather aptly called ‘Bleak House’. I decide to head toward that as I know from my map that it is North of the Footbridge that I’m looking for. This will enable me to get to the brook and know that I have to turn right in order to locate the bridge.
I soon get to the brook. I take a look at the ruins of the old house on the other side and think what a marvellous location to live! Anyways, I now have to turn around to face Southward. Then it’s a case of hand-railing the brook in that direction to locate the bridge!
The bridge soon turns up right on cue!
I soon ascend Amicombe Hill on the other side of the brook to get to Green Tor which can be seen here.
As I leave Green Tor I spot what I think is a dead horse, an assumption based on the fact that it hasn’t moved. However, with a sigh of relief, it wakes up as I get nearer!
In the far distance to the South East I can see Fur Tor – it’s around 3 km away. The intent is to get as close to its base as possible, so as to put me in a good position for the climb the following morning.
The going isn’t too bad for North Dartmoor, though it is a little boggy in places. For the first time, I start to feel like I’m back in the wilderness!
I’m now within around 1km of Fur Tor. I now decide that I will make camp at the first suitable location that I find. For me, this equates to a stream and a flat piece of tussock free ground!
I soon come across Amicombe Brook. On the other side, the ground looks like perfect camping material!
I decide not to chance it on the rocks as I only have one set of clothes. Instead, I opt to take my boots off and ford the stream. This is not an issue as I can leave my boots off when I get to the other side as I intend to make camp there.
I get to the other side and survey the ground – it’s absolutely perfect. Especially when compared to the tussocky grass all around. Time to break out the tent!
The Akto tent soon goes up with Fur Tor looming in the near distance. Just have to unpack the rucksack and get the tent ready to use.
After the tent is made ready, the first task of the day is to top up my water bottles for camp use. As usual I do this via the filtered Travel Tap. All the bottles are new including the Travel Tap itself. I notice that it has a much higher flow rate than my old one, but then again, that one was three years old!
The view back to the Akto tent from my water filling location. A perfect spot really!
The Akto tent in its rather splendid isolated location. This is what wild camping is all about!
There are many much more newer and sexier tent designs out there, but for me, the Hilleberg Akto is still number one. It’s roomy and more importantly really solid. Over the last 3 years I have been in a number of storms in it and despite my reservations, it has always held fast. As such I now have a lot of trust in its ability to protect me in all weathers.
The view Southward down stream of Amicombe Brook.
For the first time I decide to try Mountain House’s Macaroni Cheese freeze dried meal. I have normally stayed away from it as I tend to avoid vegetarian food on principle 😛 Here it is before being reconstituted.
The water is now on the boil for the Macaroni Cheese. The JetBoil makes very short work of this job!
The resulting meal turns out to be surprisingly good – despite my principles! So much so, that Macaroni Cheese will become a regular item on the menu for future walks!
Having eaten I lie down to read an eBook. There is a real feeling of tranquility here as a result of the bubbling sounds of the brook, the tweeting of the nearby birds and the sun’s warm rays from its rather late appearance to the show. Soon it will be time for bed at the end of a pretty good day 1!
The final camp-spot at the end of day 1 nestled near Little Kneeset. It’s about as far from civilisation as one can get on Dartmoor! 🙂
Tune in next week for Day 2’s instalment!