Saturday, 17 August 2013

In Which I Complete The Ten Tors ...

... well, not The Ten Tors, obvs.  More A Ten Tors.  And over ten miles, rather than 35, 45 or 55.  And without carrying me tent and cooking utensils.  And as it happened, possibly only nine tors.  Or eight.  But onerous enough for arthritickal old me.  

We were very brave, though, because the forecast was sunshine and showers and there were definitely lots of the latter.

Here's our starting point - Saddle Tor on the eastern edge of Dartmoor, with our ultimate destination, Haytor Rocks, rearing up behind (this being a circular walk).

I am ashamed to say that this was the first time I'd climbed Saddle Tor, having driven past it 160,000 times. It's quite high and far more impressive than it looks from the road.

This is the view looking over to Hound Tor and, in the middle distance to the right, Grea Tor - two of our later total of ten-ish tors.  It looked relatively bright over there ... not so where we were.  Five minutes into our walk and it was raining.  

Our second tor was Top Tor.  Here's the view looking over to Tor number three, Pil Tor.

And here comes the rain (although with the stiff breeze on top, it didn't hang about too long). 

 Our next port of call was the magnificent ridge of tors that dominate the skyline above Widecombe.  On the way we had more views of distant Houndtor.  (The vegetation has been deliberately burnt to encourage new growth. It's called swaling, and unlike setting-fire-to-the-moor-by-having-an-illicit-barbecue, it's legal, controlled and only happens from October to the end of March.)

But our destination was Bonehill Rocks, Bell Tor, Chinkwell Tor and Honeybag Tor, the first three of which can be seen in this photo.  

View from Bonehill Rocks over Widecombe

By my calculations, the authors of the walking book I was using were not counting Bonehill Rocks as one of the ten tors, which seems a bit silly as they are granite outcrops and we had to climb over them to get to Bell Tor.  I resolved to include them.  Eleven Tors, then. 

Looking back from Bell Tor to Bonehill Rocks, with Top Tor and Pil Tor on the horizon.

Looking south  

A raven on one of the cairns on Chinkwell Tor. 

Someone's been playing silly buggers with the final resting places of our tribal forebears. Or it might be art.

And look, it's clearing up in the east.  

Ted, ears a-blowing in the wind

View over to Hayne Down from Honeybag Tor, with Bowerman's Nose just visible on the left hand slope.

From Honeybag Tor (which is one of my favourite tors, on  account of its heather and gorse and general lovelinessness), we descended to the track below the ridge and followed it round past Bonehill Rocks, eventually leaving it to climb up to Holwell Lawn, which, contrary to its name, is just another tract of moorland.

From here, we had great views over to Haytor Rocks, but first we had to bag Grea Tor and Hound Tor.  

In fact, our route only took us close to Grea Tor (another of my favourites, it has to be said), rather than touch it, which seemed a bit of a cop-out and made me wonder whether we were really only walking nine tors (plus Bonehill Rocks, which might make it ten), but I suppose if passing close is good enough for the authors of the walk book, it was good enough for me too.  

At Hound Tor we stopped for a couple of mugs of tea in what proved to be the final shower of rain of the day, and very good (the tea) was too. 

Hound Tor always reminds me of a great granite ship sailing the choppy uplands. 

From Hound Tor we walked down to the abandoned mediaeval village of Hundetorre, one of the most poignant sites on the moor.  This is one of the longhouses.  The photo is taken from the shippen end, where the livestock would be kept.  The opposite end is where the people would live, and you can see a couple of steps leading to a tiny bedchamber, where they would all pile in together, much like the animals.  

And this is looking in the opposite direction, at the shippon.  Longhouses were built into hills, with the animals' quarters at the bottom end so that the slurry could drain out - that's what the channel in the middle of the space is for.  

Hundetorre was abandoned in about the mid-14th century.  It could have been that its inhabitants died of the Black Death, or they might have left on account of there being vacant farms on lower lying, easier ground.  We just don't know.  

In any event, it was visiting here many years ago and wondering about the people's fate that made me write 'Dart', my novel about people living on the moor during the time of the Black Death.  

And on down down down into the valley and over the Beckabrook via the clapper bridge ...  

... and up up up through the woods and over the clitter-strewn hillside ... 

... until we could see right up to Cosdon Hill on the skyline, at the very northern edge of the moor, and Meldon Hill and Easdon Tor, all in a row.  

At this point we were supposed to divert along the granite tramway to Holwell Tor and quarries, our ninth tor on the list, but we were just about wheezing by now so we decided to adopt the Grea Tor approach and admire from a small distance.

Which might mean we only bagged eight tors plus Bonehill Rocks.  But frankly my dear, after all that climbing, we didn't give a damn anymore, so headed straight for Haytor instead.  

View from Haytor Rocks ...

... and down to the mouth of the River Teign

Melancholickally - and these sorts of days always have to have a moment of melancholy in 'em - the ice cream van had vacated the upper car park by the time we passed. No matter, we reached the car at Saddle Tor and headed for the pub ... 

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