Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wooded walks

In the last two weeks, I've been to two tors with two great views into two beautiful wooded valleys. 

Close to Ashbury Tor, looking North
Since August, experts have been quoted in the media preparing us for dramatic Autumnal scenes in our woods and forests.  A bumper season or 'mast year' for forest fruits, promised the Forestry Commision.  The dry, calm Summer was also set to provide us with intense colours in the tree leaves in a show unmatched in years.
Heading West from Fatherford

And so it was with great anticipation that WITC headed up into the trees.

Ashbury Tor overlooks the West Okement just before the river leaves the National Park, and turns to thread through Okehampton.  The scattered outcrops don't hide many boxes, but make an interesting diversion from the normal routes in the area.  I parked at Fatherford Viaduct, and never strayed too far from the noise of the A30.  This was a route with a specific target, and I had no time to cross the adjoining East Hill.  I met Richard Barry (Barry Bogwalker) whilst searching for one box.  I left with a haul of 4 stamps.
View down Bench Tor with Sharp Tor in distance

On a very different, and also the more recent route, the trees belonged to the Devon WIldlife trust's Dart Valley Nature Reserve and the view was from Bench Tor.  This is a predominantly oak woodland on famously steep slopes dropping to the fast flowing, paddling favourite river.

Track around Venford Reservoir
Bench Tor is a ridge - a prominatary - into the river valley, with incredible views in every direction.  Sitting atop the furthest outcrop, I was able to watch other walkers explore Mel Tor opposite, no more than 500 metres away, yet so completely out of reach.  Letterboxing is tough on Bench Tor, and although we had a few on our list to find, we found more Geocaches than boxes on the tor.

I returned to the car via Venford Reservoir.  One of Dartmoor's oldest reservoirs set in a small plantation of evergreen Spruce.  A tranquil spot on a weekday afternoon.  But certainly no letterboxes.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

From the top, down.

As promised, the Summer set - the Heights of Summer - needed retrieving.  The weather on Tuesday was superb.  The early cloud drifted off, and the sunshine warmed the moor up.  Following in our August footsteps, I stomped up to Yes Tor, High Willhays and Fordsland Ledge, but instead, descended South to Lints Tor.  Its been ages since I've been here.  The last time, it had been a long return trip up the river from Meldon boxing the true left bank on the way up, right on the way down.

Lints Tor is a prominent and reconisable rock pile.  Its the iconic peak in the centre of the valley.  Many breaks have been taken in the shelter its sheer walls provided.  On my list was a selection of boxes called Clapping Over Dartmoor, and I was keen to find the set.

From Lints I paced off to Brim Brook.  I had to hurry up as the light was beginning to fail.  I say fail, but the late afternoon light was actually getting more dramatic.  The sky turned purple, red, the hillsides below turned orange.  The skyline of Northern Dartmoor a bold silhouette.

To Dinger Tor next, and the security of the military track.  If darkness fell, at least I had a handrail to follow home.
It was at Dinger Tor that I met the only other person out on the moor.  A non letterboxer, heading in the direction of Fur Tor.  A risky proposition for 4pm in Autumn.

As the sun continued to set, I scooped up the last of the Heights set from Bog Hill, passing the Okehampton Parish Bound-stone pictured.

9 miles walked and 13 boxes (plus our own 6) found.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The end of Summer

Next week, I'll be back on the moor to bring in my Heights of Summer series from the High Willhays area.  If you haven't already, its your last chance to collect the set (New clues - Heights of Summer, July 2013).  It seems an age since the height of Summer.  The October letterbox Meet on clock change day appeared well attended, and theres a heap of new charity walks sited.  Meanwhile the October weather seemed typically Autumnal.  The Environment Agency tell us it was the eighth wettest October since records began in the South West, with about double the average rainfall, and high river levels reported during the latter half of the month.

The days are notably shorter, and the first frosts are forecast.  Its a time for thermals on the moor, and good waterproofs too.  Dicey river crossings, low cloud and tricky bearings.  Dark green of heather, dark grey skies.  Windswept car parks devoid of visitors.  Steamed up windows on Fox Tor Cafe.  Then there'll be the cold, crisp mornings.  Frosted grass crunching underfoot.  It is the end of Summer, but it is the beginning of another great letterboxing season.