A cold walk on southern Dartmoor

Vennford reservoir in winter

I’ve not managed to get in a “real” walk for a while now through a combination of circumstances and weather.  However looking ahead the forecast looked good and I arrange a walk with a friend.  The frost as we set off suggested it would be cold and it was!  Driving over the dam at Vennford reservoir it looked stunning.  Calm in the morning light and little colour so early on a winter’s day.  We parked there anyway and set off heading loosely up to Ryders (the highest point on southern Dartmoor).

Icy puddles on the track

The climb is a fairly steady one rather than steep and the day stayed calm, cold and fairly clear at first.  In practice, while the visibility was good for a short distance, there was some haze in the mid distance.  At this stage the walking was good, partly because the track was quite reasonable for Dartmoor and partly because the ground was hard with the frost.

Stopping for a while for a quick drink we were at the head of a stream/gully.  The images above were taken from there.  The gully looks east and the water going into it was mostly frozen with some stunning patterns on the frosty ice.  While we saw quite a lot of ice during the day this was the only time we saw such patterns of frost on the ice.

On top of Ryders

The top of Ryders produced the usual views and, as the high point on the southern moors, you get to see quite a distance.  I’ve taken the above shot and blogged it a few times before and it looks towards the spoil heap at Redlake.

We headed south down the ridge towards Snowdon and Pupers from here.  The path is very wide in places however it is also very wet most of the time.  From time to time we went through the ice however quite often we were walking on what seemed to be solid ice.  Not good for gripping and with a nagging doubt about how far down the boots would go if the ice broke!  The above images are taken at Snowdon and show the cairn with the frost on it in the sunlight.  The other image looks south down the ridge and shows that clouds were starting to obscure the sun at times.

We turned west after Pupers and headed to Huntingdon Warren where we stopped for lunch.  A combination of the increasing cloud and wind meant that we felt the cold rather more and didn’t stop for too long.  There is little doubt that the temperature was below zero when wind chill was taken into account.  Fortunately we have walked the moors in winter for many years and are well equipped to deal with the conditions.

We headed north back towards Ryders.  The ground along this path was a mixed as anything we had encountered so far.  Sometime the boot went down on solid iced ground and sometime broke through to very wet peaty mud – difficult to walk on to say the least.  The image on the left looks back down towards Huntingdon and Heap of Sinners and shows, for me, the beauty of the moors in winter.  Little colour, few features and I’m sure to some people quite desolate and I love it.  The right hand image show Vennford reservoir again when we got back.  The sunlight on the reservoir was stunning.  A great walk – fingers crossed the next one will be soon.