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A contrast to a previous walk – East Dart in Summer

Enjoyable as this walk is it was in part intended as a contrast to a walk I blogged in March 2013 when we walked almost exactly the same way. That in itself is fairly rare these days as we tend not to stick to particular walks or paths. In practice the March 2013 walk was in some snow which continued to fall for quite a while during the walk – conditions this time (June 2014) could not have been more different with full sun for the majority of the walk as well as quite high temperatures.


We left the car at Postbridge and headed up the east bank of the East Dart river. Part way up we headed up a side valley heading slightly north East towards Sittaford Tor and Grey Wethers. Grey Wethers is a pair on ancient stone circles.  as with so many of these sort of features there is a rich folk law surrounding them and there is some more information here on Wikipedia.  The contrast to the weather last time can easily be seen at the top of the blog here.  If I were being totally honest the stones look more interesting (and photogenic) in the snow than the do in the verdant green of Summer however the contrast is worthwhile.  The photograph with the helicopter in in the earlier blog was taken close to the photograph in the centre image above.

In a sense I planned this walk to be a contrast to the previous one however the “plan” was a little loose so I wasn’t quite sure what photographs I’d actually bogged last time and the above shows that quite well.  I’d certainly not remembered that I hadn’t included a picture of Statts house in the previous one so I took one or two this time as it is an interesting remains.  As such the left hand image is one from March 2013 while the other two are from this June.  Statts house is probably the remains of a peat workers hut, in this case in a rather elevated position on Winney’s Down which has considerable peat deposits around it to this day.  It is also quite close to one of the “black lanes” on Dartmoor which are passes through the peat deposits. It seems likely that its relative remoteness has meant that there is more left of the building than is often the case.  There are suggestions that the building was as late as the 19th century however I’ve come across no definitive answers to that.

 

It was interesting following roughly the same route as in the snow – in practice the ground was easier to negotiate in the snowy conditions mostly as some of the very wet areas were frozen and we had a number of problems crossing the same areas this time (including quite wet feet).  On the 2013 walk we had reached the East Dart fairly close to Kit Rock although we were not absolutely certain we had found it as the snow tended to make everywhere look quite similar.  We got to Kit Rock with far more accuracy this time.  It is one of those strange quirks of Dartmoor naming in that there are large rocks in many parts of Dartmoor that have no name however this one does.  The left hand image is from 2013 so I can now happily say that we were at Kit Rock then – the other images from that time simply show a white mound.

East Dart

We headed south from here following the East Dart back towards Postbridge and I’m simply offering the above image as a contrast to the one in the 2013 post.  This one is taken at almost exactly the same spot as the mostly monochrome image of the East Dart covered in ice in 2013 – what a contrast!

Heading down the river we went through Sandy Hole Pass.  By comparison with the stretch up river this is a relatively narrow defile which has been managed by tinners a long time ago.  The edges of the river are man made to direct the water and on either side there are indications of tinners work.  On the eastern bank there is quite an outcrop of rock which can been seen in the left hand image as well as in the central one which is taken looking back up the river.  The right hand image is of the East Dart at waterfall.  In wet weather this can be quite dramatic (by West Country standards at least) and it certainly was in the snow (that blog is here and shows the waterfall frozen).  From here we headed directly back to Postbridge and the car.  It had been a warm walk but worthwhile and we enjoyed reflecting on the previous walk too.

Wandering up the Avon from Shipley Bridge

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When we left the car at Shipley Bridge there was only one other car there as we were early.  In fact the morning was quite cold and we set off at a brisk pace taking the road (water board vehicles only) up to the Avon Dam.  It had rained fairly hard over the past few days so it was not surprising to see that there was a good flow of water in the river.  We had also caught the rhododendrons (never can spell that word!) in flower along the banks.

Leaf and flower pattern

This arrangement of leaves and flowers looked really interesting and someone had obviously taken quite a lot of time and care over this probably on the day before as it was obvious that some of the careful arrangement had been affected by the wind and rain overnight.  We walked on up to the Dam and then left the road heading off right handed to go around the back of the reservoir.  We then followed the river on up the valley.

A little way up there is an ancient clapper bridge across the river which can be seen in the left hand image. These old bridges look simply like a collection of stones however they last amazingly well and there are quite a number of examples small and large on the moors.  The valley turn to the right at the bridge and we crossed the bridge and headed on up to Broad Falls.  The drop at Broad Falls can be seen in the centre image.  In practice there is not much of a waterfall there however it is obviously that centuries ago the water would have come off quite a high step to fall into the valley below.  At the base of the falls there are some very large granite boulders the detail of which can be seen in the right hand image.

At Broad Falls we turned left and headed up to Redlake. The ground here tends to vary between quite wet and very wet and we certainly got damp feet heading up to the spoil heap there. Not that long ago I walked down the Avon to Broad Falls and commented that I could see the spoil heap in the distance and what a prominent sight it was – that blog can be found here.  Redlake was one of the early china clay works on Dartmoor and the other side of the spoil heap there is a hole (water filled) from which the spoil came.  The china clay was piped off the moors in suspension in water and the photo on the right shows the remains of some of the associated buildings.

From Redlake we headed south (again with somewhat wet feet) to Western Whitabarrow which can be seen in the left hand image above. There is an ancient barrow here and the upright stone is the remains of an old (now headless) cross which was probably originally somewhere close by. Redlake spoil heaps can just be seen on the right hand edge of the picture. The right hand image shows another iconic feature of the area – the barrow at Eastern Whitabarrow. As with the spoil heap this can be seen from many parts of the south moor and is quite unmistakable. We walked on to the large barrow and then headed down the ridge back towards Shipley Bridge.

As we walked back down to Shipley Bridge the extent of the rhododendrons was far clearer. As a child I used to come up to the river here to play in it and the valley used to be wide open. Now the rhododendrons really are taking over both the valley and increasingly the river here. I am not a fans of destroying anything unnecessarily however if action is not taken soon these bushes will start to cover over parts of the river completely.  The distinction between conservation and preservation is open to endless discussion however the landscape here is being radically affected by a non native species.  Whatever the views on this are I decided to take the colour out of these images other than that of the flowers to show them more dramatically.

Yes Tor and High Willhays

Yes Tor and High Willhays

Living to the south of Dartmoor I don’t make it onto the north moor as often as I would like however it looked like a good day to get up there.  The weather was forecast to be fine, there was no firing on Okehampton range and we were under no time pressures to get back home.  We parked the car at Belstone village and then followed the track out on to the moors.  Often we tend to walk up along the Belstone tors and then head east so the plan this time was to head the other way.  It has been a few years since I’ve been to Yes Tor and High Willhays – High Willhays is the highest point on Dartmoor – and I would usually walk in from Okehampton end.  Belstone is a shorter drive and we decided to use our legs to get to Yes Tor from there.

On the East Ockment

Crossing the East Ockment at Culliver Steps you get this pleasant view looking towards the valley of the Black-a-ven brook.  Directly ahead is the Black-a-ven brook and, for the north moors, it is a wonderfully tranquil scene particularly on such a sunny day.  The track towards Yes Tor heads up from here on the right hand side of the brook.

Yes Tor from West Mill Tor

The path, when there is one, steadily rises from here. Climbing quite steeply we got to the top of West Mill Tor and could look over at our destination, Yes Tor.  Yes Tor itself is central in the image above with High Willhays on the same ridge to the left.  High Willhays (the highest point on the moors and the highest in the UK south of the Brecon Beacons) is a matter of two metres higher than Yes Tor however from most perspectives the difference in height is not at all clear.


Because of the height of the Yes Tor/High Willhays ridge there are excellent views. In particular you can see the Bristol Channel and the north Cornish coast on a good day and this was one of them. The left hand image looks roughly west towards the north Cornish coast. The right hand image taken from the High Willhays end of the ridge looks towards the centre of the north moor with the small “shark’s fin” (slightly left in the image) actually being the top of Fur Tor one of the more remote Dartmoor tors. To the right of centre is the large bulk of Great Mis Tor which is quite close to Princetown in the centre of the moor.

 


The two photos above are both taken from Yes Tor basically looking south.The left hand one shows High Willhays in the main.  The right hand image again shows High Willhays however it also shows Great Links Tor on the western edge of the moors.  We left the ridge towards the southern end and heading roughly east in order to start the return towards Belstone.


Stopping briefly for a break on East Mill Tor I took the two images above. The image on the right looks back on the Yes Tor/High Willhays ridge. Again there is the illusion that Yes Tor (on the right hand end) is higher than High Willhays on the left.  The right hand photo looks down the valley of the East Ockment toward Belstone with Belstone tors in the centre of the picture.

Black-a-ven brook

Heading back we walked down the valley of the Black-a-van brook for a while and the photograph above is taken looking down the brook where it swings right to join the East Ockment. Once again Belstone tors are on the ridge in the distance. It was good to get out on the north moor and particularly in such good weather. Hopefully this summer will bring far more opportunity for walks than last year did.

 

Around Padstow

We had an opportunity for a short break and decided it had been a while since we had visited Cornwall.  We stayed near Padstow for just three nights and all of the images here have been taken with maybe three miles of Padstow which is on the north Cornish coast.  It is actually a very sheltered spot compared to some of the north coast of Cornwall as it is just inside the Camel estuary.  The weather wasn’t wonderful while we were there although we did have some sunshine.  The above two photos are of the Camel estuary taken close to Padstow.  The left hand image looks up the estuary inland and the right hand image, with a little sunshine, looks towards the mouth of the estuary.

Evening light on the harbour at Padstow

The town does tend to be quite busy in the daytime and the narrow streets can feel quite crowded however the advantage of staying nearby means you can wander around when most folk have left after their day out. The shot above is the harbour at Padstow with some lovely evening sunlight.


I guess the images above emphasise that the weather was not all that good some of the time. Both are taken on the same day and are attempts at finding something more interesting than the overall grey we had that day.  When the sun came out it was great but otherwise it did tend to be rather grey and I do enjoy trying to bring out such effects in photographs sometimes.

Simply sand
Walking across the sands at low tide towards the sea there are a number of places where small streams flow across the sand and into the estuary. Paddling across one of them I looked down and saw these lovely pattern in the water and sand. It was too good not to take photos of though my feet almost got wet.


Again in the Camel estuary, the conventional image is on the left and is a view looking out from the estuary towards the sea. At the time the weather was fine although it changed about an hour later and we walked with waterproofs on for a couple of hours.  It was a good walk though out to the open sea and back again.  When we got back I got the right hand image.  This is actually one of my favourites of this trip – I love the weather contrast that are show.  Sunlight on the exposed bar just outside Padstow harbour and some very wet weather just up the Camel estuary and heading our way.  The different weather combinations in view at one time are both interesting and an indication of the quite normal variations in our local climate.


I confess at the time we booked this it had escaped my notice that we would be there on May Day.There are many places who have some form of celebrations on May Day however there is no doubt that the celebrations in Padstow and have a fairly long history.  We spent most of the day in the town enjoying the activities and although it was rather wet early on the weather improved and we enjoyed our day and I would imagine most of the fairly large crowd would have felt the same.

Wilderness and desolation: walking south west Dartmoor

Looking over a tinners working on south west Dartmoor

While the weather didn’t look as good as the past two walks the previous six months or so had been so bad that we decided to make the most of a possibly good day.  Heading down to the south western edge of the moors we parked and set off up the side of the valley of the River Yealm.  The photograph above is taken looking down into the river valley and shows an area of old tinners working (surface mining).  It also shows that the weather was less than perfect and a very short while after taking this one we had our waterproofs on.

 

The above image were taken in the upper section of the Yealm valley.  The left hand image looks down the valley from close to the source of the river.  For a stream that these days is obviously quite small the erosion it has caused over the centuries is really very substantial with a deep valley both in this higher section and further down.  The right hand image is looking at one of the sources of the river.  There are a number quite high up on the hillside that run off to become the actual river.  The whole of the area above and around the source is generally very wet even in quite dry years and we were paddling at times.  However at least the rain had stopped again.

Storm clouds over Dartmoor

The high ground above the source of the Yealm is really quite featureless and wet and probably qualifies as wilderness. The area around where the above shot is taken is close to the sources of both the River Plym and the River Erme (see this blog of a walk a few days earlier for more information).  Indeed over my last three walks including this one I’ve been around the sources of all the main rivers running off southern Dartmoor – see this blog for one around the head of the Avon.  It is clear from the image above which looks almost due north that we were right in choosing the walk the south moor.  While there is a patch of sunshine the rain is definitely falling on the north moor.

 

Heading south west we moved into the valley of the Plym and walked down the left hand side.  In general Dartmoor tors tend to be on top of ridges however Hen Tor shown in the photograph on the left here is one of the main exceptions to that rules.  It lies quite some way off the ridge line of the left hand side of the valley of the Plym.  The man on top was useful in giving some sense of scale as it is quite a large tor.  The right hand image looks down the valley of the Plym from Hen Tor and closest tor slight left of centre is Trowlesworthy Tor.  Having a break at the tor gave us some shelter and the weather was improving.

 

Heading on along the contour line we moved into what to me has always been a strange area of Dartmoor and one that has always felt like desolation to me.  I have never really understood why a National Park should be treated in this way.  I realise there is an economic benefit however – for me – this does not outweigh what I understand a National Park to be for.  This area is the closest to the National Park and it certainly seems this area is no longer being worked and is being landscaped now.  However the extraction of china clay is  continuing a little further off (albeit a little further off moor too).  It is striking visually but that is about all I can say for it.

Wandering the upper reaches of the Avon

Holne moor

Once again the forecast for the day was good and so I headed to Holne moor on the south east edge of Dartmoor.  Leaving the car it was clear that the weather was not as good as the last walk on Dartmoor (see here) just four days earlier.  As it was Good Friday I decided to make a fairly early start and head to an area of the moors where it was less like that there would be many people.  I headed broadly west and at times along the ancient track known as Sandy Way aiming for Aune Head.

Aune (Avon) head

I can understand people who see love of moorland areas as rather strange and looking at the above picture people may think they have a point. I love it though. This is the start of the river Avon and is known as Aune Head.  The darker line running across the picture indicates the wettest part of the bog which feeds the stream to start with.  In the past and in dry years I have attempted to cross the bog however to date I’ve never been able to do so although I have got frustratingly close at times.  Dartmoor bogs of this sort are not to be taken lightly; while getting very wet is the likely outcome of walking into such places animals die every year from getting stuck in such bogs.

Tinners hut on the River Avon

Wandering down this upper stretch of the Avon has always been a favourite walking area of mine and I very rarely see anyone in the section of the river – today was no exception. There are a number of old tinners remains all along the valley indeed the first part of the actual stream as it comes out of the bog has walled banks courtesy of the tinners who wanted to direct the river. A little way down on the right bank there is an appreciable working which gets little attention. The cutting (from surface mining) is quite noticeable as is the building shown above. This is a tinners hut which was probably used both for storage of tools as well as shelter at times.

Walking on down the stream I arrived at Fishlake.  There is a much larger tinners hut here as can be seen above.  In the image on the right you can see an alcove in the wall of the hut – this may well have been a fireplace.  Certainly this hut was residential rather than simply for storage.  The hut is actually just upstream of the confluence between Fishlake stream and the Avon and on the right hand bank.  The area does tend to be fairly wet and there are times when getting to the hut without very wet boots is unusual however on this trip I walked the area quite easily.

 

Heading south from the tinners hut I walked down the right bank of the Avon to Broad Falls.  The left hand image is taken at Broad Falls looking upstream while the right hand image is taken from the top of the “fall” looking south down the river.  The fall is not really a waterfall unless the river is running very high however the river drops quite significantly at this point which probably explains the name.  At this point maybe around halfway around the walk I’d not seen anyone else despite it being a fine bank holiday.

Redlake china clay spoil heap

Walking east from Broad Falls towards Heap of Sinners (a barrow) I looked back west and took the above image.  The mound in the centre is at Redlake and is the spoil heap of an early china clay works.  While it is easy to identify it always comes as a surprise when you spot it in the distance and it is visible from a number of places on the south moors.  Lines of tinners workings can be seen on the left side of the picture.  Looked on as a largely wild Dartmoor has actually been used by man for many years and this walk has a number of examples of the remains left by man in this remote area.  I headed north towards Eylesbarrow and then back to the car seeing quite a few people out enjoying the day.  I was grateful for the tranquillity I’d enjoyed for most of the walk as I always am.

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