Day 4’s 20.2km route with 760 mtrs of ascent and 586 mtrs of descent. Click for full sized image.
Day 4 was another good day, though alas, one spoilt by a hip injury that I picked up leaving Piles Copse.
So what happened?
I had known Piles Copse would be a great Wild Camping spot, but I also knew that it was at the bottom of a rather steep hill. As a result I was steeling myself up all morning for the inevitable climb.
In the event I had overdone it and climbed the hill in a rather fast and aggressive manner – all without any kind of warm up – straight from packing the kit more or less.
When I got to the top I knew there was something wrong with the left hip, but it wasn’t yet painful enough to warrant any serious attention. However as the walk progressed the pain multiplied in intensity.
Toward the end of this day’s walk I was even considering calling out my safety number to pick me up….
But in the end I did make it to the planned camp spot – just a little worse for wear.
Anyways, as usual I’ll let the pictures take you on a guided tour of Day 4:
Ok, I admit it – this isn’t Dartmoor – but it does explain why the blog hasn’t been updated for a while 😛
I get up the following morning and notice that part of the toenail on the large toe of my right foot is starting to lift – so I decide that it would be prudent to put a plaster around it to prevent it being ripped off.
The tent’s outer is bone dry, quite a change from most mornings. As a result I decide to use that opportunity to air out the sleeping bag whilst I do the morning chores!
The scones that I had taken have now completely disintegrated. As a result I decide to pour them into my mess tin and eat the pieces from there.
The rest of the breakfast is the pretty standard fare. Cheese, coffee and a fruit museli.
I soon get the tent packed up and as usual I leave the ground in pristine condition.
The first task of the day is to navigate upward and Eastward through Piles Copse…
The hill is very steep and bumpy. But despite this I take a fairly aggressive attitude to it and make good progress. However, in the event this would prove to be a mistake that would bite me later…
However, for now, my efforts are paying off – I have nearly reached the tree-line on the other side of the copse.
Before I leave the trees behind, I take a last look downward. Apparently, most of Dartmoor used to be covered in these Oak trees. I wonder why they all died out? Was it a natural occurrence or a manmade disaster?
Upwards and across from me to the West is Stalldown Barrow Hill which I had climbed down the previous day – that was a pretty steep descent requiring hiking poles…
To the North I can see the River Erme winding its way deeper into the Moors.
Although there are now no trees, the steep climb still remains…
Despite the predicted weather, it is actually quite cold on this morning, hence the second layer of clothing and the hat. It seems that even the hard exertions of the hill climb were not enough to make me remove these items.
To the South West I can see the trail winding around the base of Stalldown Barrow. I was hoping to catch a further glimpse of the standing stones on that hill, but alas I wasn’t high enough.
I soon reach the wall that marks the outer boundary of what used to be Pile’s homestead. I’m unable to spot a gate, so decide to head Southward to spot a suitable climbing point.
The perfect spot. One has to be careful when climbing stone walls. They are extremely fragile and are very easy to damage. This spot provides many existing footholds and a stable top – you don’t want the wall to fall down whilst you are climbing it….
I soon negotiate the wall and head further uphill. This is the view to the South West.
To the South I’m almost level with Sharp Tor, a location that I had visited on the previous walk.
As I proceed uphill I spot this marked Cairn off to my right.
I have now put the main climb behind me. The next leg of this walk is to head to the top of the hill directly in front of me called Three Barrows. There should be a Trig Point at the top.
This part of the climb is easy. There are no tussocks and the terrain angle is reasonably shallow.
I make short work of the climb and soon have the Trig Point and its associated Cairn in view!
The next step is to head broadly Northward to take me to Petre’s Pits Bottom.
Initially the terrain is quite smooth…
But the grass tussocks soon turn up in force. To add further excitement to proceedings, the bogs have returned…
I’m now climbing the hill past Petre’s Pits Bottom. If I have got things right I should see the remains of a building up head…
Behind me, Three Barrows Hill now looks a fair ways off, even though the distance is around 1.5 km.
*Zoom On* Up ahead I soon spot the remains of the house. Looks like my navigation has been pretty bang on! 🙂
*Zoom Off* But there is still a long way to go, but at least I have eyes on the building, which means I’m headed the right way!
To my right are the scars of old quarry activity. I’m hand-railing this scar upward and Northward towards the remains of Petre’s building.
There it is! It seems that only part of the fireplace has survived. The building is in a superb location. It is protected on three sides by a hill and has a great view to its South.
Just past Petre’s House is Knatta Barrow. The intent is to head Northward until I spot some large ponds off to my right.
The tussocks aren’t too bad here, but it is extremely boggy, which necessitates some care.
This is the view behind me to the South, back toward Three Barrows Hill.
I soon stumble upon further evidence of quarrying. I decide to climb the mound to see if I can spot the ponds.
They turn up right on cue to my right in the East.
The next leg of the journey is still a Northward one, but the intent is to intercept a track crossing East-West.
As I proceed Northward there is still no sign of the track. I’m not worried though. From the map it looks like it will be almost impossible to miss!
I soon get to this trail crossing my path. At first I think it is the one I need, but this is soon disproved by a quick compass check. After further observation, I notice that this trail has small ancient boundary stones lining it. These stones are on the map, though the trail isn’t. I deduce that these are the same stones and that I should follow them Northward as they will take me to the track that I need.
The trail is flat – a good thing – but very boggy – a bad thing. It seems that Dartmoor never gives you an easy ride!
This is the rather grand view to the West!
I soon find the trail that I need, but I’m puzzled by the stone structure that one can just about see at the top of the hill. My gut instinct is that this is the top of Eastern White Barrow Hill, which is where I need to go. But I’m a little unsure as the map shows no cairn on the top of that hill. Luckily, to my right to the South I can see the edge of Petre’s Pit. As a result I can use the map to dial in a bearing that should point to the top of the hill I need. In this case the compass said ‘Yes!’ – that’s our hill! – cairn or no cairn!
With the identity of the mystery hill sorted out, I head straight up it via the most direct route.
Here is the ‘Cairn’ at the top of Eastern White Barrow Hill.
Just to the South of me I can see three horses enjoying the morning sun.
I decide to stop off on the cairn for a 10 minute break to eat and drink. It’s quite windy up here so I orientate my position so that the cairn’s pillar protects me. This is the view from my eating spot!
After eating, I dial in a compass bearing that should take me to the Avon Reservoir.
To the North on the flanks of Hickaton Hill I can see the outlines of many neolithic settlements.
Wooot!!! I now have eyes on the Avon Reservoir! The intent is to walk down the hill to its edge, then hang a right to hand-rail it to its dam.
The terrain on the way down is rather smooth, which makes for good going. Weather wise, the clouds are starting to dissipate as midday approaches. As a result, the temperatures are starting to soar.
On the other side of the reservoir I can see an old camp spot that I used on my first ever Dartmoor walk. This brought back many good memories.
Up above, I can see a bird of prey circling. I’m hoping it’s not after me 🙂 If anyone knows what type of bird this is, then let me know 🙂
Dartmoor always provides a mixture of life and death – especially in the spring. On the one hand one sees many carcasses, bones and dead animals. But on the other hand there is a lot of evidence of new life being brought into the world for the first time.
I’m now handrailing the reservoir. I’m a little wary as I know from experience that being this close to a water body normally results in a very boggy walk. In addition, the dull ache in my left hip was starting to make itself known. It had been with me since climbing out of Piles Copse, but it was at a level where it could be ignored. But right now, there was an undeniable feeling that it was starting to get a little more intense…
As predicted the walk Eastward was extremely boggy. However, something in this picture within the reservoir catches my in eye…
I don’t know what it is, but it is streaming a continuous source of large bubbles to the surface. I’d like to think there’s an Alien Spaceship down there – but here’s to wishful thinking and my overactive imagination! :p
As I head Eastward the dam soon pops into view, complete with a number of people sat down by it.
The Avon Dam in all its glory! Alas contrary to looks, there is no way across it…
The dam from the other side.
A sheep with its two attendant lambs.
Down below I can spot the road and bridge that I need. I decide to head straight for the road as I have been walking cross country all day today and wanted to rest my feet.
I’m soon at the road. I need to hang a right here to take me to a bridge crossing the Long-a-Traw River.
Before I follow the road, I decide to grab this photo of the Avon Dam that is now behind me.
Walking is so much easier on a road/track. My feet feel like they are in feet heaven 🙂
Here’s the bridge I need!
The view upstream from the bridge.
As I follow the road Southward I notice this picnic table off to my right. I decide to stop there to rest, eat and to top up my water supplies from the nearby stream. I know that water will probably be quite hard to find on the next leg of the walk, so I decide to top up one of the 1 ltr bottles as well as the Travel Tap.
Sat down at the picnic table, studying the map and enjoying my surroundings.
After my rest it is back on to the road. The intent is to use it to take me up to the other side of the Dam.
As I head down the road I spot a shortcut up the hill to my left. I should be able to pop up here then re-intercept the road to the Dam.
I soon find this track, which I’m guessing is all that’s left of the road to the Dam at this point.
As I head upwards, the track starts to become better made and more defined.
To the left of the track is a fenced off area. On the other side of the fence is a rather deep quarry from where I can see all these tree tops in it! It’s like some sort of secret walled copse! I wonder what this copse is as it’s not on the map and there appears to be no public access to it.
The road up to the Dam is a bit of a slog upwards, but I don’t really mind as it is easy going. As I head upwards I keep looking over the fence to my left to peer at the mystery copse set in its deep quarry….
There’s the Dam! Nearly there!
This track is only around 1 Km long, but it seems to go on forever!
I finally get to the top of the track where I’m rewarded with this great view of the Dam.
Here I am at the dam. This part of the journey would have been a lot shorter if the top of the Dam had spanned the entire width of the reservoir. In the far distance I can see that the group of people that I had passed earlier were still sat down by the dam, despite the amount of time that had gone by!
I now say farewell to both the reservoir and the trails. The next leg of the journey will take me up Gripper’s Hill seen here. When I get to the top I should see a few cairns to confirm my position.
As I climb higher up, I spot three bubble sources in the reservoir! Two more than when I was walking alongside it. I wonder what they are? Man made or natural? And yes, the peeps that I had passed earlier are still sat rigidly in their spots. I guess their day trip was one to the Dam only.
Not a tussock in sight, though it is now blisteringly hot.
As I get to the top of Gripper’s hill I take a last look at the reservoir and of the cairn atop Eastern White Barrow Hill where I had been snacking earlier that day.
However, once up top, there is not a cairn to be seen! I soon give up looking for them. Instead I decide to pick up my bearings visually.
To the Northwest I can see Pupers Hill around 2km away. This is my next destination. By now my left hip’s pain levels have increased high enough that I’m limping slightly every time I put weight down on the left foot. That hip is now starting to concern me….
On the way to Puper’s hill I start to run into a very deep bog in a place called Brockhill Mire. I now have an unenviable choice. I either stay in the Mire and get very wet with the attendant risk of sinking into it. Or alternately, I can move up to the right to the higher ground that will put me in amongst the gorse… Spikes or Bog Sir?
Spikes it is then! At least the gorse had a maze of animal trails running through it which made the navigation rather interesting!
I soon find the animals that are making the trails. You can’t see it in this photo but there is a whole heard of wild horses here.
I’m soon out of the gorse. As an added bonus I can just about make out the rocks of Puper’s Hill. Not long to go now!
There it is Puper’s Rock. I’m glad to get here as the left hip is now really playing up. Hopefully a rest stop here will help ease the pain somewhat.
The main Cairn located further up the on the rocks. I was quite excited to be here as this marks the start of the part of the walk where I follow the route of my first ever solo walk on the Moors back in 2012. The only difference is that I’m doing it in reverse. I’m curious to see what memories it will invoke and what changes have occurred to the landscape since my last visit.
Time to sit down and give my hip a rest. This is the view to the South East from where I came. If you look carefully at the top right of the picture you can just about see the Cairn I was at on Eastern White Barrow Hill.
With my hip rested I continue on my way to Snowdon Hill to the NorthWest up ahead.
Despite the rest, the pain in my hip has gotten worse. I am now actively considering the possibility of hiking to the nearest civilisation and then calling my safety number to pick me up. I’m hoping things won’t come to this, but if the pain becomes much worse I won”t really have a choice.
I finally make it to the top of Snowdon Hill. I can remember resting here back in 2012 after my exertions up Ryder Hill.
To the South West I can just about make out the shape of the artificial mound at the Red Lake China Clay works. This is a very recognisable sight in the Southern Moors.
I’m now headed to Ryder’s Hill to the NorthWest. Rather surprisingly this entire trail is extremely boggy and water logged. This was unexpected as the previous two hills had been relatively dry.
The bog starts to dry out as I ascend Ryder’s hill. I know this dryness won’t last long as today has been one of those days where I get to the point where my feet have just dried out, then I end up going straight into another bog!
There it is the Trig Point and Boundary Stones of Ryder’s Hill at 515 mtrs elevation.
The obligatory victory pose at the Trig point!
I decide to rest a while at Ryder’s Hill as the ground is dry enough to sit on and I’m trying not to strain my left hip further than I need to. I know that as far as the rest of today is concerned it is now mostly downhill. So this alone should ease the strain somewhat. The plan from this point is to head NorthWest on a compass bearing to intercept Skir Gut – the remains of an old quarry. Once intercepted I should be able to handrail it all the way to Skir Ford.
It’s amazing how hikers think alike. I’m now picking up the well worn trail of many feet. However, I have been in this situation before. One must make constant compass checks as these unmarked trails have a habit of slowly veering off course.
Up ahead I can just about make out Skir Gut. Perfect! As an added bonus the pain in my hip has levelled out. I guess it’s the uphill loading that’s damaging it. That will teach me to go racing up a hill early in the morning with no warm up!
There’s the Skir Gut! Navigation +1!! Things are now very simple navigationally speaking. Just follow the Gut and its attendant stream all the way to Skir Ford – things couldn’t be simpler!
Not only is this part of the walk downhill, it is also dry and reasonably flat! This makes for a rather pleasant stroll despite the dodgy hip.
A look back up Skir Gut – the results of some old quarrying.
As I head Northward Skir Gut starts to open up. I can now hear the sound of running water within it. I should soon have eyes on its stream. It is then a case of following that to Skir Ford. I have fond memories of Skir Ford, as it was a rest and water top up point on my first solo walk to the Moors.
Although Skir Gut has now disappeared, a trail of sorts seems to have developed which is handrailing the stream to the left. It’s only a matter of time before I reach Skir Ford.
In the mid distance on the right I can make out the recognisable rocks that are in and around the ford. Woot! I’m practically there!
I stop off at the ford to replenish my water supplies. I also decide to have my late lunch here.
Boots are still off from fording the stream. I don’t bother with a towel – I’ll let the sun do the drying. For lunch I have Thai Chicken and Chilli soup, plus Cheese Oatcakes with a cheese spread.
After I have eaten, I decide to proceed to the planned camp spot despite the hip. My logic being that it is relatively near civilisation and that I could give my hip a rest overnight before making any rash decisions about the possibility of abandoning the walk. Here I have taken a compass bearing to take me Northward to Down Ridge.
As I head Northward there is further evidence of many feet taking this route…
I soon get to the edge of Down Ridge. I need to descend it and get to the farm walls at the bottom.
The farm walls have a distinctive ‘n’ shape cut into them – that’s where I need to go.
I’m now within the ‘n’ shaped part of the wall. It is now a case of heading for the right hand corner where I should find a gate…
I get to the gate and cross it. It is now a short walk downwards to a country road that I need.
I’m now on the road heading Westward toward Wydemeet. The plan is the follow the road until it turns right and then crosses a stream. Once across, I will be going cross country to locate the first of set of stepping stones that I will need to cross to get to my final camp spot.
The road is really helping to keep the pain levels of my hip in check. By now I know there isn’t much further to go before camp, so I seem to find an extra spurt of energy!
Up ahead is the bridge that will mark my departure from the road once I am across it.
I have now left the road. I’m handrailing the River Swincombe Northwards which should take me to the first set of stepping stones.
Here are the stones! Time to play Super Mario!
I get across without incident. I know from previous experience that this area is extremely boggy. But in the event it doesn’t seem to be as bad as I remember it. All I need do now is head Northward to intercept the West River Dart where it will join the River Swincombe that I’m currently hand-railing to my left.
Up ahead I can see the distinctive tree line that tells me that I’m practically there! All I have to do is cross this rather boggy grassland and then negotiate the next set of stepping stones to be home and dry for today!
Here are the next set of stones. I know from memory that these ones are somewhat tricker than the previous ones.
The view to the East as I cross the stepping stones.
This is a look behind me at the two stones that nearly cost me a dip in the stream! I had been quite cocky up until then. However, when my lead foot hit the diagonal sloping stone up ahead it lost grip due to some sand that had been picked up. I scrambled frantically to stay upright and managed to save the day by performing an immediate jump to the stone at the very bottom of the picture. Of course, the 16 kg rucksack made things a little tricker too!
Once safely across I spot the perfect location for a tent!
Up it goes! The spot is perfect. It is sheltered, flat, near to water and has its own private sand beach 🙂
The view to the stepping stones from the Akto tent.
Time to relax! This is the rather excellent view out of the tent – pure bliss!
After resting I soon set about filling up all the water bottles ready for camp.
The perfect camp spot? Maybe. There aren’t many that sport a private beach 😛
Another shot of the Akto tent!
Time to get the water boiling for this evening’s meal.
Tonights meal will be Lasagne flavoured Pasta – one of my favourites. This is it before reconstitution.
The boiling water is put in the meal pouch and the whole thing is stirred then wrapped in my red towel which can be seen on the left. I have to wait for 10 minutes for the meal to reconstitute, so in the meantime I decide to lie down and enjoy the scenery!
Food’s Up! One Lasagne flavoured pasta dish courtesy of Mountain House Freeze Dried meals. Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it looks 🙂
Night soon arrives. This photo doesn’t really capture the dynamics of the light, but it does give a glimpse into the beautiful moonlit silhouetted trees. Time for bed! 🙂
The camp spot at the end of Day 4 on the National Trust end of Stennent’s Plantation. (Click for full sized image)
I turn in for one of the best sleeps of the walk. The plan is to reassess the left hip in the morning and from there make the decision as to whether to continue on with the walk.
Does the walk get cut short? Is there a ‘Day 5’?
Tune in next week to find out 🙂