Day 5’s 18.9 km walk with 672 mtrs of ascent and 551 mtrs of descent. (Click for full-sized image)
Day 5 was a decision day for me. The previous day had saw me pick up an injury to my left hip that at the time was exceedingly painful. However, I had decided to put off any decisions about cutting the walk short until I had given it a chance to rest over night.
As luck would have it, the hip felt a lot better the following morning and in the event it would give me no more trouble for the rest of the walk.
Today’s primary aim was to put me in the vicinity of Steeperton Tor in the Northern Moors. This would ensure that the camp spot was wild enough to be out of the way and also provide for a relatively short 15 km walk for the last day.
Anyways, once again I will let the pictures take you on the journey….
I awake on Day 5 to what feels like a hot morning. I’m relieved to note that my left hip feels a lot better 🙂
Time to get the breakfast on. As usual, it consists of fruit muesli, a round of cheese, a scone and a cup of coffee.
Soon it is time to clear out the tent and get everything ready for the take-down.
As usual I leave the ground in pristine condition for others to enjoy.
The first task of the day is to head Northward to get to the B3357 road that crosses Dartmoor from East to West.
Parts of the trail run between thickets of bushes and trees. The trail is quite muddy and also presents a myriad of routes to choose from. So it’s a case of picking the least path of resistance!
Occasionally the trail takes me toward the West Dart River on my left. Here there is some evidence of what was a bridge.
I soon get to the boundary wall which indicates that I’m nearing the road. I’m a little weary, as this part of the trail was very boggy on my 2012 walk.
As I ascend up the hill toward the road I take a last look back to my camp spot in the distance down below. That was one of the most comfortable and scenic camp spots of this walk!
It seems that the dry days we had been experiencing had dried out the mud and bog. This resulted in an easy and dry jaunt up to the road.
I get to the B3357 road where I start to head West. I’m looking for my turn off to the right that will ultimately take me to Bellever Tor.
There it is! Time to get off the road and head Northward!
As I climb up the hill I can see Bellever Tor up ahead in the far distance.
As I climb I start getting great views to the South West.
The route to the Tor is simple – just handrail the wall on my left!
This stone pile amused me. It kind of reminded me of Macca-Pacca… allegedly…. 😛
I have now got to the stage of the climb where the Tor is no longer visible. However, this isn’t an issue. Just follow the trail!
It doesn’t take long before Bellever Tor comes back into view. On its flanks are the Bellever Forest.
It doesn’t take long before I make it to the Tor. My map indicates that there should be a Trig point on it marking its top at 443 mtrs elevation. Now where is it?
Ah hah – I can now see the tip of the Trig Point! However, it looks like I will have some climbing to do to get up there…
I climb up the initial set of rocks to be presented with this view of the Trig point.
To the South East I can see the edge of the Bellever Forest and Riddon Ridge. They formed part of my 2012 route from my first ever Dartmoor walk.
As I climb further up I notice a wreath of poppies had been laid – I didn’t realise this Tor had any military significance.
*Trig Point victory pose! 😀 *
On the side of the Trig point I find a plaque dedicated to the Creber family. Alas, I haven’t been able to find out anything about them.
The view to the South West from the top!
To the North I can see the trail that I need for the next leg of the journey. This leg will take me Northward through the forest and then ultimately onto the B3212 Road.
I love the views from this Tor. It makes a change to have a forest break up the monotony of grassland as far as the eye can see.
I have now started the next leg of the journey. Again, there isn’t much to do in the way of navigation. It’s just a case of following the trail Northward.
The trail is very wide and flat at this point. This combined with the downward gradient makes for a very pleasant stroll 🙂
I soon come to the boundary wall marking the start of some ancient human habitation. I’m hoping to spot some signs of our bronze age brethren as I pass through.
From here on in the track narrows quite considerably. According to my map, there should be a stone row at the top of this hill…
And there it is. Not quite as grand as the stone rows of Day 3, but never the less there is still a palpable sense of the gulf of time between these stones’ origins and the present.
Time to carry on Northward to the tree-line. Before I get there I should end up walking right through the middle of a bronze age settlement called Kraps Ring.
As I head North I start to pick up these sawdust markings. Presumably from ‘hashers’. These are runners that follow a ‘hare’ that leaves a trail for them to follow. I used to belong to a ‘hashing club’ when I worked in Cambridge. Our motto was that we were drinkers with a running problem! 😛
It’s not long before the tree-line comes into view. In the far distance I can see the Fernworthy Forest. My walk should be taking me past there later on!
It’s hard to see from here, but the whole area is littered with what looks like the foundations of bronze age huts. My imagination starts to kick in by providing vivid insights as to how the area would have looked.
After looking around the various building foundations I head into the tree-line. For some reason I always get a feeling of foreboding when entering a forest. Don’t know why. Maybe I need to go on a woodsman course to learn more about them?
The feeling soon turns into a reality with a sign asking me to turn around. However, I’m too committed at this point, so I ignore the sign. By the way, if this leaks out, I’ll deny everything! 😛
It looks like this trail has been created by logging vehicles. I keep my eyes and ears peeled for any signs of vehicular movement. But luckily there is nothing nearby.
I soon get to a crossroads in the woods then spot this fire-break leading Northward – perfect! This should take me straight to the B3212 road.
I get through the rather boggy firebreak and straight onto a main track which leads onto the B3212. Ahead of me is a Forestry Commission truck. Good job they didn’t spot me walking down through the wood 🙂
I’m now on the B3212. The plan is to head NorthEastward along it to get to Postbridge. Once at Postbridge I will hang a left to get up into the Northern Moors. This will effectively put me back onto my original 2012 route, but in reverse. Once again I’m looking forward to the invoked memories of my first serious multi-day walk.
The road is quite busy and I notice many coach loads of visitors parking up at the local Car Park. They are all laden down with heavy rucksacks, though their rucksacks looked packed for Urban adventures…
Once I get through Postbridge I spot my exit off to the left!
As I head Northward I take a last look back toward Postbridge. The stream in the foreground is the East Dart River. I will be following this all the way Northward to the Fernworthy Forest.
The start of this journey is on well made trails. Readers should note that of all the routes Northward into the Northern Moors – this is by far the easiest and will keep you away from the Tussocks and Bogs that the Northern Moors are famous for.
I’m soon out into the Moors-Proper. I had a choice of hand-railing the East Dart River directly or alternatively climbing up a hill to its right to get some elevation before proceeding Northward. I took the latter option as I knew from experience that the route by the stream is extremely boggy.
I soon make it up to Hartland Tor which is up ahead.
As I head Northwards the views down the valley of the East Dart River are very good. There is nothing quite like being out by one’s self in the middle of no-where with great weather and great eye candy!
By this stage of the journey the trail has become much less distinct, but the way forward is still obvious.
Across the other side of the East Dart River are many walls. These make getting an exact positional fix a trivial exercise. Up ahead on the the hill to the right is the next destination – Sittaford Tor. It’s a bit of a detour from my planned route, but it is a Tor that I have always wanted to visit, but never got around to doing so.
As I head Northward I take many glances to my left to decide when to make the break up toward Sittaford Tor.
In the end I settle to make my crossing here toward the Tor. Down below I can see the tell tale signs of bog by the colour of the vegetation. However, this seems like the best way to get up to the Tor.
There were a few occasions in the bog that were a little touch and go, but I soon get to the other side. However, the cost of this little excursion was wet feet courtesy of my rather leaky Salomon boots.
After taking a ten minute rest – you wouldn’t believe how tiring traversing a bog can be – I decide to start the climb up to the Tor.
It isn’t long before I come across a trail of sorts. Up ahead I can just make out the rocks of the Tor.
I soon get eyes on Sittaford Tor which in the event turns out to be an anti-climax. For such a high Tor at 538 mtrs elevation I was expecting a massive rocky complex. However, all I got was a rather small rocky outcrop with many stone walls nearby
Despite the Tor being a disappointment, the views from it were not!
This is the view Southward down the valley that I had just walked up.
After a snack break I decide to handrail the stone walls downward and Eastward. This should take me to the main trail that will ultimately lead to Teignhead Farm by the Fernworthy Forest.
As I descend I get this impressive view of the Grey Wethers Stone Circles. I had walked through them on my first walk here, but you can’t appreciate their full grandeur from ground level. However, from up here, their perfect circular structures become very apparent. Once again, I wonder why our ancestors built these?
I soon get back down to ground level and as expected the stone circles have lost some their form.
I’m now on the main trail to Teignhead Farm. This trail can be seen winding through the wall on the left and up toward the Fernworthy Forest.
The plan is to follow this trail to get to a clapper bridge that crosses the North Teign River. Once there I will break out my stove and have a late lunch.
I soon make it to the borders of the Fernworthy Forest – not far to go now!
Across from me to the West is Teignhead Farm – the remains of a farm that was first populated in the early 1800’s.
I soon get to the famous clapper bridge. Legend has it that these rocks originated from Manga Hill and got brought here by sled during one of Dartmoor’s snow laden Winters in the early 1800s.
The view back toward Sittaford Tor to the South. It seems that I got here just in time as my water supplies were about to run out!
As with the first walk here, I make the clapper bridge the scene for a spot of luncheon. This time around it is a Thai Chilli and Lemon Grass Chicken Soup with Cheese Oatcakes and Cheese Spread.
After the meal is consumed and the water bottles have been topped up I begin the ascent of Manga Hill to the West. The intent is to keep heading upwards until I cross the outer boundary wall of Teignhead Farm. Once across the wall, I will then swing Northward toward Watern Tor.
Initially the climb is very easy due to the very flat ground.
I soon get over the steep part of the climb and take a look behind me back toward the clapper bridge.
However, despite the shallower incline, North Dartmoor’s famous Tussocks have now put in an appearance! This makes for some tough going as I head up the hill. If you look carefully at the photo you can just about see the outer boundary wall in the distance.
After some fairly heavy going I eventually get to the boundary wall. I scout along it to find an easy way across. It is here that I spot that part of the wall has collapsed. I decide to take advantage of this.
I have now crossed the wall and swung Northward. The plan is to walk up the hill directly ahead which should lead to Watern Tor. I’m confident that it is the correct hill due to its direction and the rather prominent Cairn on its Southern right flank. This can just be seen in the picture above.
*Wilderness Selfie* 😛
As I head upwards the Cairn starts to come into view.
Behind me, the Fernworthy Forest looks a long way off! In reality it is a little over 2 km away…
Here is the Cairn in all its glory. Dartmoor has relatively few Cairns, but where they appear, they are invariably large!
I soon pass the Cairn on my way Northwards. It is at this point that I see a group of teenagers all with rather large rucksacks walking by toward the Fernworthy Forest. They were all singing, so I guess their leader was trying to prop up the team’s spirits!
It is strange, but the top of this hill is lacking in any kind of tussock. I wonder why?
I soon get to Watern Tor. I now know that I’m on the last 2 km of today’s walk.
This Tor invokes many memories from my first walk here. I can remember climbing up to it from the North and then being gobsmacked by the view. At that time there were low lying clouds pouring over the lower hills to the South – just breath taking.
The Tor complex is quite extensive. Up ahead on the hill just behind and to the left of the Tor is an area of hill scree. Scree is a relatively rare sight on Dartmoor, but the reason that I remembered it is that my first ever wild camp spot on Dartmoor was directly opposite that scree slope down in the valley.
Watern Tor in all its glory. I love the way the rock of this Tor is layered.
I now turn to face Wild Tor which is directly ahead on the opposite hill – that is my next destination!
There is an unmarked track which takes me down the valley and presumably back up to Wild Tor.
A quick run and jump sees me across the Walla Brook.
Once across the brook I start the ascent up the hill toward Wild Tor. But as I do, I find myself re-entering the Army Firing Ranges where-upon I am presented with rather sobering signs like this one…
During the climb I take a look behind me down toward Walla Brook. I scan this area intently in the hope of spotting my first ever wild camp spot on Dartmoor. But alas, this proves to be futile. I have a few educated guesses where that camp spot was, but there is no real way of telling. I wonder if my previous self ever had an inkling that I would be passing so close by 3 years later?
The climb seems to go on forever, but at least it is tussock free on this section.
I soon crest the top of the hill where I’m presented with this view of Wild Tor. This will be my first visit to this Tor!
Wild Tor in all its glory!
To the North West of Wild Tor is Steeperton Tor. The plan is to climb that tomorrow morning. In the meantime, the intent is to make camp by Steeperton Brook which is down below between me and that Tor.
Once again, I’m following an unmarked trail. I’m guessing this trail evolved by fellow hikers following the Army Ranger markers downward as the terrain here is quite smooth and dry.
I soon get to the rather water logged main track at the bottom of the hill. Here I have hung a left to go South Westward. This should lead to the fording point across Steeperton Brook.
The fording point! I take a good look around and decide to make camp its vicinity. That way I will have easy access to water, shelter from the wind and as a further bonus it will place me in a good position for a short climb up to Steeperton Tor the following morning.
Up goes the Akto tent by the ford! In the distance one can see Wild Tor.
As is usual, the first task after putting up the tent is to fill all the water bottles ready for camp.
From my tent I can just about see the top of Steeperton Tor. This camp spot is at a relatively high elevation of 490 mtrs. As a result there won’t be a lot of climbing to do tomorrow morning to reach the top at 532 mtrs.
As is traditional on all of my hikes, I leave the best until last – the Mountain House Chicken Curry. Here it is before reconstitution.
So it’s out with the trusty Jetboil Sol Stove. I love this stove. It is small, lightweight and boils water incredibly quickly. In addition the flame is kept out of harms way by the design and a small gas canister will easily last a week! In short perfect!
Curry’s up! Here it is after having eaten around two thirds of it. The curry was utterly delicious!
The skies have now started to turn into that tell-tale orange colour that indicates the end of the day.
And soon it is sunset!
With the sun below the horizon, I close up the tent ready for my last night in the wilds…
Day 5’s camp spot at the Steeperton Brook Ford. (Click for full-sized image)
So ends Day 5.
Although not particularly strenuous or wild, I enjoyed the walk as I got to see parts of the Moor that I hadn’t seen in three years.
It kind of felt weird when I realised that by this time tomorrow I would be at home in a real bed. One gets so used to being in the wilds that being in civilisation is almost inconceivable – it’s like my previous civilised life was a dream away – something ethereal and not quite real….
Anyways, tune in next week for the final instalment of this walk!