In the summer we are planning to walk the Tour of Mont Blanc. This is an excursion of some 170km with 10,000m of ascent. With this in mind we thought a couple of days on Dartmoor would be a start to our preparation. We diligently checked the weather forecast in the preceding days and, confident that we could expect a couple of dry, chilly days with good visibility, we drove down to Postbridge on Wednesday 26th March.
Our walk on Wednesday took us from Fernworthy reservoir through Fernworthy Forest passing the Grey Wethers and up onto Sittaford Tor. The weather was clear cold and dry. The moor is a bland brown at this time of year but the Dartmoor ponies add interest.
We walked over Quintins Man, Whitehorse Hill and Hangingstone Hill. The whole area is a big whaleback ridge and the ground has been used for peat cutting. Up here just below 600m we were on the watershed of the East Dart running South and the River Taw running North. The views from here are tremendous with Exeter and the Quantocks away to the North and North East and the Teign estuary to the South. From Hangisngstone Hill we headed east to Wattern Tor where the granite looks like sedimentary rocks, but the layers are actually due to the slow cooling of the igneous granite.
The grassy tussocks made the going quite awkward hereabouts. Teignhead Farm was our next target. The buildings which date from 1780 have been deserted for many years. However, the Clapper Bridge is still in use and we crossed it to get back to the track back to out starting point at Fernworthy Reservoir.
Our first walk was an enjoyable, not too taxing 10 miles. We stayed in a very nice B & B in Postbridge overnight and had supper at the famous Warren House Inn.
Opening the curtains on Thursday morning revealed that there was a decent cover of snow and it was still snowing. Our plan was to walk into the North West area of Dartmoor towards Fur Tor. This is a high area of the moor and is very remote. In view of the weather we changed this to a lower level walk and one which we could easily escape from to even lower ground. We set off into the forest at Postbridge towards Bellever Tor.
It was snowing quite hard, visibility was poor, but it was quite exciting to have snow in Devon. There weren’t many people around to join in with our fun as we made our way to Bellever Tor. At 443m this is pretty small fry but in these conditions we were pleased to have kept things safe and simple.
Bellever Tor has fantastic views – but not today. We couldn’t even see the way towards our next objective – Laughter Tor. This whole area is covered in prehistoric enclosures and stone rows, largely covered by the snow today. The most prominent of the standing stones is aptly named Laughter Man.
It was still snowing as we left the moor to walk back to Postbridge along the East Dart.
Along the river banks there was evidence that the river had been in flood through the winter and there was quite a lot of storm damage with trees down.
We had to cross the East Dart on stepping stones just where the Walla Brook joins the East Dart. Harry, our older dog is 13 and he has never liked water very much. He needed help in getting across.
There was still some snow around along the river and the ground was saturated so we were quite wet by the time we finished our walk at Postbridge.
Our second day was also about 10 miles. Although lower down and on easier terrain it was much more strenuous because of the weather and ground conditions. I hope we don’t get this much snow in the Alps on our Tour of Mont Blanc in July.