The plan to head back into the heart of the Dartmoor wilderness over Cut Hill to Fur Tor was wildly optimistic. I awoke and opened the curtains to find that the back of the garden had disappeared into the mist. There was a sense of permanence about it, no breeze to shift it, just the constant drip of moisture off the trees. It was tempting to stay in the cottage, light a fire and read a book but there was a nagging sense that the day would be wasted that way. The ‘Walkies’ word got Reuben all excited so we got suited and booted and headed out of the door.
9.6 miles with 470 metres ascent
For a city dweller there is something special about walking out of a cottage door and already being in the middle of great countryside. Unfortunately that morning the countryside was hiding somewhere in the murk, but the feeling was the same. Out of the front porch, through a gate and we were walking down an ancient sunken track, its high banks covered by a luxuriant carpet of moss. The trees above catching the mist causing that drip drip drip sound.
A concessionary path leads on down to the river, a bit of a mistake taking it as I was soon up to my ankles in a gloopy muddy mess. There was the odd bit of boardwalk but not where it was really needed. However it soon led to the huge clapper bridge, a real Dartmoor gem. I would imagine that this would be a bit of a tourist draw with ample spots to picnic next to the river. Today was all quiet in the misty gloom.
A footpath runs parallel to the road on the way to Bellever, a dull tramp with no visibility. The odd car passed by on the road, the noise strangely muted. From Bellever I had read in a guidebook that it is a pleasant stroll along the river towards Dartmeet. Indeed it was pleasant for a few hundred metres, the grassy banks showing plenty of evidence of camping, with the remains of charred fire pits. It then got deeply unpleasant as underfoot turned into a large expanse of undrained bog. Gorse bushes then joined in to make sure I was soon lost in my own personal hell. Frequently blocking the way I would have to duck or push my way through them, those spines often reaching out to draw blood. There was a brief respite amongst a beautiful grassy glade, perfect to hide away a small tent for a night.
For what felt like an age it was battle of the gorse bushes, my low unlined fell shoes full of muddy bog until finally being spat out opposite Laughter Hole house and the stepping-stones across the river. I think that perhaps the vegetation may have changed since my guidebook had been researched!
I could not face further spiky jungle walking so took the easy option of a bridleway to the farm at Babeny before dropping down to a wonderfully mossy clapper bridge across an unnamed stream. The sort of place that fairy tales are written about.
On a dull misty day it is good to escape into dank mossy places and the bridleway down to the next set of stepping-stones did not disappoint.
The muck was washed out of my shoes and Rueben who initially was very unsure was coaxed one by one across the slippery rocks.
The river was left behind on the climb up to Brimpits farm and the mist actually lifted giving a view across the valley to Yar Tor, tiny ant like figures standing on its summit. It was whilst trying to stop Reuben rolling in fox shit that my day went downhill. I noticed that one of my Pacerpoles had fallen out of my side pocket, an instant sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach. At £90 for a set it was not something that I could afford to lose. I retraced my steps back to the stepping-stones and there was no sign of it. I then realised that it probably got snagged crawling beneath those damn gorse bushes. I could not face the gorse laden bog of doom again today so continued on my way, promising myself that I would return later in the week. Surely no one would be foolish enough to walk that way in the meantime?
Trudging the sloppy slopes of Laughter Tor I decided to see what Reubens recall would be like off lead. Unclipping him he looked like all his birthdays had come at once as he bounded up and down like a loon. He returned on command which made me feel dead chuffed until a few minutes later he went deaf and disappeared over the horizon! With him back safely on his lead I saw a most peculiar sight. A couple passed in wellies with the man carrying a large kayak paddle. What they were up to is anyones guess!
The moor got bleaker and right on que the mist rolled in once more, just as I was trying to establish my precise location. Luckily this magnificent standing stone soon came into view and was marked on the map.
Laughter tor was a unintresting place in the mist and I took a compass bearing in the direction of Bellever Tor. We were soon caught once again in a nightmare world of gorse, this time knee-high and pretty much impenetrable. The extensive use of bad language being the only thing that got us through!
I would imagine that Bellever Tor is a grand viewpoint on most other days. It is a short scramble to the trig point, something that Reuben managed with more grace than me. However his reaction to the blasts of wind were not quite as positive. He was very eager to get back down again!
We set off north to find the stone row and Kistvaen (the best way to describe is a stone box) however I was not paying full attention to the map and we walked past it in the mist. By now I could not be bothered to walk back up the hill!
We were soon back at the old sunken track leading invitingly up to the cottage.