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.