Sunday, 2 June 2013

Paying Homage to Ted Hughes in Sweat and Mud

Being a poet, my walking companion wanted to pay homage at Ted Hughes' memorial stone on Dartmoor.  Being a poet with a biscuit tin by the sea, I'd already been there and done that, but it's an easy lope out to the spot near Taw Head through the valley of the East Okement, so I agreed to repeat the experience. Though to make it a little more interesting, I chose the village of Belstone as our starting point over Okehampton Camp.


Our previous two walks of the holiday had taken place under high clear skies (I forgot to put the memory card back in my camera for the second, so will post an account when I work out to get the pictures off my new phone), but this trek looked like it was going to be far more moody and atmospheric, with Yes Tor and High Willhays dipping in and out of cloud. As much as I like not getting wet when out walking, interesting skies are preferable to the banality of blue. Also, the streaming wind means that Dartmoor walks are seldom uniformly grey - there will usually be gaps in the cloud and patches of sun to fire last year's grass and the imagination. 

Looking towards Oke and Steeperton Tors

On High Dartmoor 'roads' can be a bit of a misnomer - OK for military vehicles, for which they were designed, but a bit tough on arthritic joints.  Still, even the roughest of tracks is easier to negotiate than tussocks and bog, and so we made reasonable headway towards our goal of Taw Head ... 

... that is, until we got to Deep Ford, which was, and we had to boulder our way across.  

As we shared an orange by the ford, we spotted evidence of previous wayfarers with a less poetic purpose.







Dartmoor painting itself in the style of J M W Turner











A stand-off with a rather large sheep

Looking back towards Yes Tor


Looking north from near Taw Head

After a challenging stretch of bog-hopping and tussock-jumping, we finally reached Ted Hughes' memorial stone, prompting an outburst of 'You stupid Yorkshire bastard!' from my companion, himself from those same Northern climes.  Then we sat and ate oranges while it hailed, and communed about moorland and poetry.  Well, the poets did; Ted the dog was still sniffing out sheep.  

At Ted Hughes' stone, looking towards Taw Head

Since my other companion, Arthur Itis, had been pretty quiet on the way out, I decided to forgo the comparative comfort of tarmac for the return journey, taking instead the rough road to the ford at Knack Mine.  This is the view up to Steeperton Tor ...


... and this to Belstone Tor and beyond.

As at Deep Ford, the ford below Okement Hill was too deep to use, and once across via boulders, a lot of puddle-dodging was required.

The ford at Knack Mine was just about passable, however. 

Looking down the Taw towards Steeperton Gorge


Climbing up and away from Knack Mine

Steeperton Gorge

Then it was up and over Oke Tor ...
... and on past Belstone Tor to the village. My hips and knees were beginning to protest a little now, not to mention both big toes, but I was really pleased at how my newish walking boots, which have some support for my insteps, are helping me to cover longer distances without doing my joints in completely.  

And anyway, what's a little pain in return for days like these?







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