Week 8 – Are these really hills? Lake District versus Dartmoor.

I had been really excited about today’s training walk, getting out and about on the beautiful Dartmoor for the first time since getting back from the Lake District.
In the car on the way up to Wast Water in the Lakes, I thought to myself how well I’d been doing with my training walks and I felt ready for anything. As we turned off the motorway and headed into the Lake District the scary reality hit me, these were PROPER hills!! Eek! Now it is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter where you are on Dartmoor, after 20 minutes of walking you will be at the top of whatever hill you wish to climb. In the Lake District? Two hours and you still can’t even see the top! It’s fair to say that I learnt some very valuable lessons during my week in the Lakes.
So as I said, I was excited to get back to my favourite stomping ground – the stunning and fabulous Dartmoor. We had decided to head down to Burrator reservoir again – we had completed a walk around the northern area but today, we headed around the south eastern part. Looking at the map before we set off, I found it funny to think that the highest we would climb today was around 420m! Compared to the 978m of Scafell Pike, this shoukd be a breeze – although I didn’t say this out loud just in case the powers that be decided to teach me a lesson like they did with Great Mis Tor!!
We parked in the village of Sheepstor and Sheeps Tor was our first of the day – it began with a lovely walk through the village and past the beautiful little church before heading past hundreds of sheep (one of the first tors which had a reason for its name!) and climbing Sheeps Tor. We had an ascent of around 120m up and when we reahed the top, we found a big class of schoolchildren all learning how to rock climb for the day! Bless them!
From here we followed a path which took us past lots of cairn circles and a couple of boundary stones – these are incredible to look at and you can’t help but wonder how long they have been there for and what they must have seen! The path followed around the boundary of Sheepstor parish and from here we climbed to our second tor of the day, Gutter Tor. I was finding the walk today really enjoyable because after the heights of the Lakes, it was a welcome return! In between Gutter Tor and our next one, Eastern Tor – we crossed an area marked ‘pillow mounds’. Pablo explained that these were where rabbits were farmed. Burrows and warrens were dug within the moor and rabbits allowed to breed – when the rabbits were to be caught, they just threw a net over the mound and rounded the bunnies up! Genuis really. Now Eastern Tor was a bit of a let down – perhaps we had been spolit by seeing some of the most stunning views which Dartmoor has to offer, but Eastern was just purely a rock in the middle of nowhere. Its only saving grace was that it led us to our lunch stop – the incredible Ditsworthy Warren house. If you have a moment, look it up on Wikipedia – it is absolutely stunning. A 17thcentury house which has been uninhabited for a while but still has all of its charm. Perhaps Smusie and Sneve, liking a property challenge, would consider it!!!
After lunch we went for an impromptu little paddle through a ford – well, Cecilia did. Pablo and I braved it and hopped over some stepping stones! Little did we know that this was only the first river crossing of the day! As we strolled on towards Great Trowlesworthy and Little Trowlesworthy Tors, we spotted another tor which was just off the end of our OS map. Luckily with Pablo’s GPS, we could have a little investigation and discovered it was another tor, Hen Tor. Well, as we were here and had plenty of time left in the day, we might as well bag this one. As we approached we tried to make out the ‘Hen’ shaped rock formation – perhaps this is how it got its name? It’s like playing the cloud game – everyone looks at a cloud and says what they can see. I couldn’t see a hen; I could kinda see a church. Sort of. Ish. If you squint a bit maybe. But it was a lovely little tor and ended up being the biggest of our day at 420m.
After this one, we headed back to our original route, the Trowlesworthys. From these two, we had fantastic views of the Lee Moor China Clay mills. After a little consultation with the map and the GPS, we headed to our final tor of the day – Legis Tor. This is where today’s fun REALLY started. To get to Legis, we needed to cross a little brook called Spanish Lake (again, slightly misleading..) and a spring named Meavy Pool. Pablo, being a boy and probably having a mis spent youth, quietly happily hopped across these. Cecilia and I however were a little more girlie about it all. In reality, we only had a distance of a few feet to cross. This however felt like the Grand Canyon to us! Cue lots of squealing and practise jumps on dry land for Cecilia and I; and cue even more hysterical laughter from Pablo. I honestly wished I had had a video camera – it would have been priceless! Happily I can report that none of us got our feet wet! A result!
As our final tor of the day, we headed home – following a lovely bridle path pretty much all the way back to the village. We also passed some rather lovely army recruits out for the first time with firearms. It’s always nice to have a bit of eye-candy when out and about – can the Lakes beat that? Nope I don’t think so – yup, definitely good to be home!
So things learnt this week –
What a pillow mound is. Where I’d like to live on Dartmoor. And finally, even though the Lakes are fab; as Dorothy once said, there really is no place like home!
Kate 🙂
Next week – oh no, not more evil grass! With bogs? And marshes?
If you would like to help support me in my challenge, you can sponsor me by visiting http://www.justgiving.com/kate-ainsley
If you would like more information about the amazing Save the Children FAST project, please visit the Save the Children website on www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/fast.html

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