A winter walk around the upper valley of the river Taw

Looking towards Yes Tor from Oke Tor

Having done quite a few walks on the south moors in the past few weeks we decided it was worth heading up on the north moor for a change.  It takes a little while to get there however it really does make a change and so, after checking whether the army were firing, we parked the car at the village of Belstone.  The first thing that struck us was the sound of the wind – getting out of the car we realised that there was a very strong wind blowing indeed.  Quickly getting on our gear we headed off to the moor gate and it was clear that, for a while at least, the wind was going to make some of the walking quite hard and, although there was some sun, the wind chill would be an issue for the walk.  Deciding to avoid the summit of the Belstone tors we walked along the west side of the ridge.  Although the wind was blowing from almost due south there was no warmth in it at all.  When we got to Oke tor we were grateful of the shelter it offered.  The image above was taken from there looking roughly west with the highest tor on the left of the image being Yes Tor, the second highest on the moors.  The lower tor to the right is West Mill Tor.

Steeperton gorge and Belstone tors

Continuing on along the track from Oke Tor we headed through Steeperton gorge and past the remains of Knack mine – long disused.  The image above shows the gorge around the area of the mine with Belstone Tors where we started the walk in the distance.  In the valley we were protected to some degree from the wind, however as the track rouse up to the shoulder of the ridge we really were walking into the teeth of a very strong wind.

Wartern tor

We reached the end of the track at the base of Hangingstone Hill and walked east to pick up the ridge down towards Cosdon Beacon.  Because of the wind we didn’t stand around much to take photos.  However the image above is a Watern Tor which is a favourite spot and I blogged a walk which took me up to it here last year.

From Yes tor to Steeperton tor

Stopping off at Wild Tor for some shelter we had something to eat and drink but realised quite quickly that we were out of the wind but also out of the sun and getting quite cold.  Before we set off I decided to grab one or two shots.  I’ve not done many panoramas recently and they are not easy to show on the blog because of the width however this one is only two shots stitched together and does give a feel of the space and shows some of the north moor tors.  The left hand tor is Yes Tor again and the right hand tor is Steeperton.  I do like the feel of the winter expanse of the moor.

Looking north to Cosdon from Little Hound tor

Given our experience of being out of the wind on Wild Tor we decided to stop for a short while at Little Hound Tor (sometimes called Little Round Tor) a little further down the ridge.  We found somewhere with a little shelter from the wind but more importantly still in the rather weak sunshine so that break was far warmer.  The image above is taken from this spot looking north towards Cosdon and shows Cosdon and the track up there.

Dartmoor ponies sheltering

It is a fairly easy walk up to Cosdon Beacon and the wind was at our backs which maybe made it a little easier.  The visibility was not as good as it had been earlier in the walk although the sun was more constant than when we started off – the wind remained constant throughout!  Cosdon is one of the high points of the north moor and has quite broad shoulders to the west which was the direction we wanted to go in order to return to the car at Belstone.  The track heads north so we set off across the open moorland and after avoiding one or two wet areas quite successfully we started to lose height.  The image above is probably not my best photo however it does show that we were not the only ones who appreciated some shelter from the winds.  In the middle of nowhere there was a small patch of gorse with quite a few ponies using it for shelter.  We left them undisturbed and headed on back to the car.  It struck us as odd just how quiet it was when we shut teh car doors and were out of the wind for the first time in a number of hours.  We will certainly walk this area again soon I hope – weather and army firing permitting.