Minus 3 – walking the East Dart area in snow

View towards the East Dart from Sittaford
When we left the car the temperature was -3 deg C.  When we got out of the shelter of the trees and got on top of the ridge we realised that “minus 3” was quite warm – the windchill took the temperature down far closer to minus double figures.  I can’t say I was ever particularly cold but I did have on full winter gear and the wind found any gaps there were.  The thought passed through both our heads that we might cut the walk short but we didn’t.

Grey Wethers circle

We walked up the east bank of the East Dart and then headed up the side valley towards Grey Wethers and Sittaford.  It was obvious that the higher we got the more exposed and colder it would be.  Grey Wethers is a pair of stone circles on the shoulder just below Sittaford and more information is available on Wikipedia here.  The conditions were very variable with some patches of sunlight around but there was not much and it provided no real warmth.

Looking towards Cosdon and a passing helicopter

It was one of those rare days where we didn’t see another person while we were out walking however there was evidence that the army were on exercise elsewhere on the moors.  The image above was taken on the way up to Sittaford (Tor) and looks towards Cosdon in the distance.  We walked Cosdon area a couple of weeks ago and the blog is here.

Cosdon from Sittaford

We stopped at Sittaford for a break and realised that it was possible to find some shelter there despite being quite high up.  It is quite a good viewpoint and the one above is taken looking roughly north and gives an idea of the remoteness and bleakness of the moors at such times.  Again there was sun on Cosdon but it didn’t last long.

The terrain in this part of the moors tends to be less good walking at almost any time of year.  The grass is in tussocks which makes walking hard and the area is really very wet.  The consolation today was the the wet aspect was irrelevant as the ground was frozen hard.  However the walking was hard still.  Path finding was not really very easy as there was enough snow to mask the paths in many places.  The images above give some idea of both the terrain and the prevailing weather – it was snowing from time to time.  Reaching Stats House (an old tinners hut) we decided that it was worth continuing further into the centre of the moor towards the head of the East Dart river.

East Dart river

We aimed for a small pile of rocks known as Kit Rock.  It was a while since either of us had been there and the route we took was certainly not a straight line.  I had certainly forgotten just how small it was and finding it was made harder by the fact that is was largely covered in snow.  The above photograph was taken close to Kit Rock and shows the East Dart with quite a covering of ice on the surface.  I’ve certainly not seen it quite like that for many years.  The ice had obviously formed when there was more water in the river (although more of a stream this close to its source) and then had collapsed and had refrozen.  It was snowing fairly steadily at this point.

Sandy Hole

Crossing the river here is fairly easy normally and while not too hard we did need to be careful of the ice that was around – we were some miles from any roads at this point.  Rather large boggy areas on either side of the river meant that we had to change the bank we were walking on from time to time.  We were heading for the Sandy Hole Pass area – a deep cleft in the valley – partly created by tinners centuries ago.  We thought that we would have some shelter from the wind here and were wrong; the wind blew along the valley and we didn’t stop for long.  There really was little colour in many of the images I took and so processing some as monochrome seemed appropriate.

There is a small waterfall just below Sandy Hole Pass and we thought it might look quite interesting in the current weather conditions – we were right.  Much of the waterfall was frozen and appeared to have been for quite some time.  We stayed for quite a while – it was sheltered by comparison to most of the rest of the walk and the photo opportunity was not to be wasted.  It had certainly been one of the best walks we had had in recent years; very cold – yes but with stunning scenery and views.  I doubt there will be any more like this until next winter but the photos will keep the memories alive.

At Waterfall