Archive for March 11th, 2011

March 11, 2011

Wistman’s wood via Longaford Tor

by backpackingbongos

Watching the weather forecast the previous evening made me feel a little bit depressed.  The whole of the south-west was covered by a sheet of blue and there was talk of mist and wind alongside the heavy persistent rain.  There was only one thing for it, have a good lie-in and see what I could be bothered to do after a good fry up!

5.4 miles with 210 metres ascent

Indeed I was greeted in the morning by dark grey clouds sitting on the hill tops and the patter of rain on the windows.  I decided that a quick amble up to Wistman’s wood would keep the dog happy.  I would then return to the bog of doom and see if I could retrieve the Pacerpole that had escaped from my rucksack the day before.

Parking at the old quarry at Two Bridges (it has two bridges) the weather had a change of heart.  It was still grey and cloudy with a spit of drizzle but the hills began to show themselves once more.  I decided that I would follow the ridge above the woods visiting the Tors, seeing how far I could get before the mists returned.

A good track north from the car park leads past the building at Crockern and I left it to climb easy grassy slopes, giving good views up the valley towards Wistmans wood.  I was going to test Rueben off the lead again but his interest in a distant flock of sheep meant I erred on the side of caution.

The easy going terrain meant that we were soon at Littaford Tors, low and flat but with increasing bleak views of the surrounding moors.  I could just make out Princetown on the horizon, clouds scudding only a few metres above the village.  I had passed the prison a couple of days earlier, a bleak and foreboding place if there ever was one.

Just round the corner a herd of rather forlorn ponies were huddled behind an outcrop, it must be a tough life living out on the moors all year round.  I tried to tell Reuben that if he did not stop pulling on the lead that he would soon be sleeping outside as well.  He failed to understand what I was saying!

When I was driving to Two Bridges I had spotted a group of teenagers with large backpacks crossing a stile close to Parsons cottage.  They were now approaching the conical top of Longaford Tor on the horizon, their bright orange rucksack covers highly visible.  I would imagine that it was too early in the year for DofE, so perhaps they were training for the Ten Tors?  I had passed another similar group on my first day in Dartmoor.  I think that it is great to see young people enjoying wild places.

Longaford Tor is like a miniature mountain compared to the surrounding moors, the views were pretty good even in the murky weather.

Although not marked on the map a broad path leads up to Higher White Tor and this is where my luck with the weather broke.  Without warning we were engulfed with mist and rain, our surroundings reduced to a few metres.  I had thought about continuing on to Browns house and then Rough Tor, but enthusiasm is easily eaten away when you can’t see your surroundings.  Anyway I had a 20kg dog and a ladder stile to contend with.  Thankfully Reuben was wearing his Ruffwear harness so I lifted him to the top, climbed up myself and lowered him down the other side.  Following the wall down into the valley I realised that this was a mistake as we would have to cross over again.  He looked just as confused the second time around!

Descending to the river to access Wistman’s wood was also a mistake as the ground was a big bad looking bog, it would be virtually impossible to follow the river on this side.  I therefore re-traced my steps a bit and started to contour though the tussocky grass.  I would imagine that the areas of tussocks would be hard going in summer when the vegetation is high.

Wistman’s wood is a little gem, an area of stunted oak trees growing from moss-covered boulders.  I would imagine that there are many myths and legends connected to this magical place.  I would have liked to explore a bit more fully but by now it was tipping it down, the wet mossy boulders being really slippery.  Instead I poked my nose into the periphery half expecting to see elves and pixies dancing about, it is that sort of place!

A good path leads back to the car park above the woods, contouring the hillside.  It would be an easy there and back journey for anyone wishing to see just the wood.  I got back to the car park just as another group of young backpackers came off the hillside, looking a bit wet and bedraggled.  The school holidays had coincided with a week of rubbish weather.

I did not bother to change out of my wet clothes or shoes when I got into the Bongo as I was off Pacerpole hunting!  Dripping wet and with a soggy dog in the back soon made for a humid environment, within minutes I had to stop to de-fog the windows.  Pulling into the large car park just outside Bellever I had a private debate over whether or not to pay.  Mid week, tipping with rain meant that it was virtually empty, surely no one would come and check for a ticket?  However coming from a city where even thinking about parking results in a fine, I paid my dues.  What I could not get my head around is there was no way to pay for more than two hours, if you want to walk for a day don’t park in the forestry commission car park at Bellever!

I have to say that heading towards the bog of doom for the second time was a chore, even Reuben had lost his enthusiasm for the outdoors.  I had my fingers crossed as I approached the first set of gorse bushes.  There it was sitting like the holy grail, it had fallen from my rucksack at the first obstacle.  Chuffed I started the slosh back to the van, it even stopped raining and the sun made a half arsed attempt at shining.  All was good again so I celebrated by driving the Bongo a bit up the road to a viewpoint.  I sat there for a while watching the mist come back in with PJ Harvey singing in the background.