Exploring the wild western moors and tors of Dartmoor

by backpackingbongos

For my last day on Dartmoor I was finally treated by the weather gods, there was a promise of a bit of sun and no mist.  I had fancied a jaunt around Great Mis Tor all week as I had read that it is a great vantage point.  The good weather coincided with a non firing day on the adjacent Merrivale range, an opportunity to explore the interior.

11.4 miles with 550 metres ascent

The van was left at a small car park near to Merrivale and I walked the dog carefully back down the busy road as he is terrified of fast-moving vehicles.  A path branches off which I followed towards the imposing Vixen Tor ahead of me.  I could vaguely remember reading about some issues with access here, but this did not prepare me for the man-made fortress surrounding it.  The dry stone wall was covered with barbed wire, and just to be sure you could not get over there was a barbed wire fence at a 45 degree angle to the wall.  The gates through were firmly padlocked with six-foot fences covered with barbed wire on top.  I have since read up on Vixen Tor and it sounds like the owner Mrs Alford is a complete arse.  There have been issues with access since she brought the land.  She is currently demanding a one-off payment of £30,000 followed by an annual payment of £35,000 to allow access.  Hang your head in shame Mrs Alford.  Full details of the situation can be found here

Feeling a little angry and self-righteous I turned my back on the splendid tor and followed the path to the much more welcoming Pew Tor with its view of my destination later in the day.

The low extensive rocks were worth scrambling over for a few minutes.  I stood on the highest point and watched a child’s head pop up only to receive a lick on the face from Reuben who had been waiting for him.  I suppose that the last thing you expect when climbing a Dartmoor tor is to have a large Staffie head bearing down on you!

Contouring around Feather Tor we passed a lovely ancient cross situated next to a well constructed leat full of cold clear water.  It took a bit of persuading to get Reuben to leap across!

The skyline of Cox Tor was our next destination and we walked through the large car park onto the busy road.  It appears that this is a favourite hang out for the local Dartmoor ponies looking for titbits from the tourists.  The climb up to Cox Tor itself was along an easy grassy path and we were soon at the trig point.  The views from there are classic Dartmoor with tors adorning just about every hill-top.

I expected the col below Great Staple Tor to be wet and boggy but the close-cropped grass continued and we were at its stacks of rocks quickly.

It was now time to turn our backs on civilisation and head deeper into the moor towards Roos Tor and the military pole that indicates when firing is taking place.

In front of me laid a vast empty landscape, the endless moor stretching on for miles.  I think that it is pretty unique to have such a large area without boundary walls or fences.  A feint path led of into the moor and it was a pleasure to stride out towards the distant stone circle.

The map does not give it a name and the stones are low and or falling down but it is one of the few landmarks in the area.

Set on a course directly for Great Mis Tor the river Walkham was reached , having descended for miles across the moors.  The map marks it as a narrow stream but on the ground it is most definitely an infant river.  An obstacle to cross even on a dry day I walked up and down for a while looking for a safe spot.  Some awkward balancing and boulder hoping got me across dry foot and then it was time to coax Reuben to make the crossing.  He was unsure and spent a while running up and down the bank before crouching and attempting a mega leap, he got half way with a big splash!

Great Mis Tor is the highest spot for some distance and once we had gained the summit Tor we sat for a while and took in the extensive views.  The valley of the River Walkham leads the eye towards the coast in one direction and the high moors in the other.

The van was just a short walk away but I wanted to be on the hills for a little bit longer and Reuben is keen to be out all day.  Instead of following the track straight down to the road we branched off keeping to high ground in line with the track to Yellowmeade farm.  It was adding on the miles for the sake of it really but it was a pleasant enough stroll along the level track to Foggintor quarries and then up to Kings Tor.  By now the sky was beginning to darken, the distant views disappearing in a grey haze.  A solitary tree amongst the rocks made the scene in my eyes even bleaker.

One of the highlights of this walk was going to be the stone rows just above where I had parked the van.  However just before reaching them the mist descended rapidly, drizzle dampening the air.  Walking past the large standing stone my enthusiasm for the hills and their antiquities vanished in an instant.  I am sorry to say that I could not be bothered to walk the few hundred metres to them.  I got back to the van in a twilight world of murk, just how Dartmoor had been during most of the week.

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13 Responses to “Exploring the wild western moors and tors of Dartmoor”

  1. great great great! really must go back.

  2. Some beautiful photos there James. I love the Dartmoor crosses, you bump in to them in all sorts of places on the moor and just adds that gothic edge to your walk!

  3. David, go go go !

    Thanks Gareth, the weather helped that day with regards to taking photos. Those Dartmoor crosses are lovely and add a bit of atmosphere to the moors.

  4. I would use much stronger language to describe Alford and son! One of my old fave walks on the moor stopped by her vandalism. Pew Tor Cottage to Vixen Tor over the road for a circuit and back crossing the road further west to Pew Tor itself.

    • Hi Wurz, I would use stronger language too but trying not to offend! It’s a real shame that Vixen Tor is out of bounds, hopefully in the near future access will be restored.

  5. Really enjoyed this write up. I am heading to Dartmoor next weekend, and as it happens our campsite is just off your route so I plan to follow in your footsteps – is there anything you would change if you did it again?

    • Thanks! It was a pretty good walk so not too much to change with the exception of trying to visit Vixen Tor (not much point at the moment!). I do wish that I had explored the river Walkham a bit further upstream maybe as far as Lynch tor? I hope that you have a great trip.

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