Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Risk to New Waste car parking

I have sent the following letter to Alison Kohler, Director at Dartmoor National Park Authority via her direct email address -  Feel free to copy and send it yourself.  I believe that losing access to New Waste car park is easily comparable to losing parking at OP15 on the Okehampton Military road and should it not be put at risk.  I for one don't fancy the epic walk to Bledge Brook from the Cornwood Inn and back!  More news as I get it!

Dear Mrs Kohler,

I write to you regarding the impending closure of car parking facilities at New Waste, North East of Cornwood (SX 625 612). I understand that discussions between the DNPA and the landowner are ongoing. However, whilst the right of way will remain in place, the current agreement to use the public car park ceases on 24 June 2014.

I believe that this move is not simply inconvenient to car owners, but represents yet another blow for those who wish to gain access to Dartmoor. One must only look at the closure of the Okehampton Military road, the restrictions on the shoreline of Meldon Reservoir, and all the access lanes that are falling into disrepair. For these reasons, it is vital that vehicle access is retained. The nearest alternative car parking is in Cornwood, over a mile away. As a regular Moor user myself, I cannot overstate the importance of the New Waste car park. It opens up the moor around the upper Yealm river, Stall Down and the West bank of the Erme to all moor users for enjoyment and relaxation.

As Director of Conservation and Communities with responsibility for access and recreation on Dartmoor, I urge you, and the DNPA land managers and decision makers to support and maintain car parking at New Waste and prevent its use being restricted.  Please can you also reassure me that retaining vehicle access to the moor remains of high importance to the National Park Authority.

Yours sincerely


Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday

Happy Easter to all my blog readers!

It was a joy to have a bank holiday off work, and with the sun shining, I set off for Frenchbeer Rock and a letterbox walk over to the River Teign and Manga Rock.  

The Three Boys longstone was my first destination.  Considered by William Crossing to be one of three support stones in a cromlech resembling Spinsters Rock.  This has been proven not to be the case.  

I had a few stamps to find close to Fernworthy Forest next.  Past Thornworthy Corner, close to the edge of the forest, a letterboxer had sited a memorial box for Di Hall-Say, who sadly passed away in 2006.  Under blue skies, in warm sunshine, and without a breath of wind, on a day like today, it'd be tough to find a better place to site the remembrance box.  The wall around the plantation led me North, and then when it turned West, I continued North to Stone Tor and Stonetor Gate, suddenly aware of something: I had not seen another soul all day - not even any training Ten Tor'ers.  This was a bit of a surprise since this was a public holiday.  There were plenty of sun seekers at Stone Tor - almost all were common lizards, such as the one pictured.  Manga Rails next, and since the Dartmoor Rangers replaced the rails across the Teign in 1991, two have disappeared.  Possibly in the latest Winter storms.  It did make for a tricky crossing, and I urge the Rangers to replace them again soon - please!

A loop of Manga Rock for a few boxes, and then I returned to the car via Kes Tor and Middle Tor.  It was at Middle Tor that I carried out my good deed of the day.  Middle Tor letterbox (stamp pictured) celebrates its 30th birthday this year and was registered in the catalogue as box number 1259.  Not one of the originals, but an early one nevertheless.  The box was in it's cave on the East side of the tor - box broken, and full of water, stamp in pieces, book turned to pulp.  I dried it out the best I could, confirmed it's identity and brought it home.  I intend to renovate it and re-establish it later this year.  If you know its owner, or its history, please let me know!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

King of the hill

My weekend walk took me to the far East of the moor. To Shapley Tor, King Tor and Grimspound.  The fog that hung low over Cornwall and the Western moor combined with gusty South-Westerlies seemed to lift as I passed Okehampton. The Challacombe Valley also appeared to be benefiting from being in the moor's weather shadow.

The route I'd planned began around the head of the East Bovey river.  The landscape were scarred by closely cut firebreaks and charred heather - evidence of recent swaling activity, over now for another year.  Next was the slog up and over Shapley Tor.  A spot of unsuccessful boxing here - primarily due to distant bearings being impossible.  I was forced to retreat to the line of the newtake wall to head South and avoid the pelting rain that had finally made an appearance.  The target now was the East Vitifer Mine below King Tor.  This interesting little mine last saw activity in 1913 when it employed 6 miners, albeit only in surface level works.  The warning signs around the area refer to the deep pits worked between 1845 and 1876.  It was never particularly successful as a tin mine.  The current owner of the mine has recently been in trouble with Teignbridge Council for not maintaining the fence around the one of the pits.

I side-stepped this danger, and instead opted for the lung-busting climb to Kings Barrow.  I'd received some new clues the day previous to the walk, and was keen for a first-in-book opportunity.  Due to an oversight, one of these new clues also lacked a grid reference, and the owner of the boxes had pleaded for one to be obtained for his records.  I was happy to oblige.  I felt I needed to test my GPS batteries, sat idle in the bottom of my rucksack for months.

The clues took me up to Blue Jug - the boundstone on the slopes of Hameldown.  The cloud and fog were down and wind and rain steady.  Bearings were difficult, but not impossible.  Mission was achieved, but I knew it was time to return to the car.  Taking a compass bearing, I struck out for Grimspound.  I had a handful of boxes to find around Hookney Tor.  When I was done here, I wandered back to the car in the relative calm of Headland Warren girt.  A good day.  7 boxes found.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Powering down

Say farewell bearing fans!  

Hello pylon, what you knowing?  I've come to watch your power flowing
After much anticipation, these well known telegraph poles/pylons are being removed this Summer.  The 2.5 miles of 'YP' poles and high voltage electricity cable that cross Horn Hill, Leedon Tor and Walkhampton Common on their way up to Princetown are on their way down.  Western Power Distribution announced plans to do this way back in Winter 2011, but planning permission, sought from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was required.  The planning application duly passed last August (accessible here), and so it was just a matter of when not if.  The work will involve burying the cables under moorland below Peek Hill from where the cables currently exit the fields uphill to the cattle grid.  This 400 metre stretch will be fenced off, and will be for between 12 and 18 months.  The ugly cables will now go under the B3212 from the cattle grid all the way to Devils Bridge (close to where the power cable currently goes underground).  The 40 mph speed limit has just been halved, and will remain so until road works are completed.  Completion date is expected to be August 15th this year.

Princetown's power supply is secure for the future then!  Chances of finding boxes with bearings or paces on these poles are not.  Will we mourn the loss of overhead lines?  Probably not.  Based on National Park intentions, other undergrounding schemes are likely to follow across Dartmoor.