8 TORS AROUND PORK HILL
START POINT: PORK HILL CAR PARK GRID REF: 531752

The 8 mile walk on Sunday 3rd Dec 00 was graded as a moderate one and was led with aplomb by Des Deveney. The day dawned bright and sunny and over 30 ramblers ventured out to the car park for the 10.30 AM start. During the walk we visited 8 different Tors around Pork Hill and had a couple of steepish climbs to test the lungs.

 outline of route
An outline of the route we took is given below. In order to appreciate the route properly this outline should be related to a 1:25000 map of Dartmoor such as the Ordnance Survey outdoor leisure map no 28 of Dartmoor.

Pork Hill car park is one of the largest on Dartmoor and there were plenty of other walkers gathering there, in addition to the Plymouth Group.

Des began the day by giving a good overview of the walk and everyone listened most attentively, even the Dartmoor pony which insisted in taking centre stage for the briefing, Des invited the pony to act as back marker, but strangely enough it declined the invitation.

At just gone 10.30 Des set off leading us due south down across Whitchurch Common then descending on down passing Moortown.

A few hundred yards south of Moortown we turned left and headed steeply uphill towards the first of the Tors we visited during the day.

We headed east and climbed up to Pew Tor, quite a large Tor and certainly very distinctive, set as it is right on the edge of the real moor with fields below to the south and east of the Tor.

We nestled in and around the Tor out of the wind for morning coffee and after a 15 minute break were off again.

Just before we set off we could see another walking group approaching Pew Tor, we found out that this was the Freebooters walking group following a similar route to the one we were walking, at least for the first section of the walk.

From Pew Tor we headed north east and headed across fairly level ground (comparatively) to the second Tor of the day, Feather Tor, less than a half a mile from Pew Tor.

Feather Tor is a much less distinctive Tor than the neighbouring Pew Tor, particularly when approaching it from the south west.

It is not until you are on the eastern side of it, that the distinctive Tor like features are visible.

From Feather Tor we made our way down and into a more boggy area, the first we had encountered during the walk. Des kindly allowed a recce party to wander through the bog to determine a suitable route through it and on down to and across a brook.

The next Tor on the list was again one of the much more distinctive ones and one of the few on Dartmoor to be completely enclosed by a dry stone wall.

There are only a couple of access points over the wall and the access to the Tor is via a permitted path over a stile.

Signs that it is privately owned is that no dogs are permitted inside the boundary wall enclosing Vixen Tor.

Once over the boundary wall we made our way right up to this very well known Tor and made our way up and around the west side of the Tor.

Once around the other side of the Tor we headed out north towards the exit stile over the wall.

We soon found the stile, with a little help from Des Deveneys Aide de camp, Sailor John who was most deferential to Des's leadership, politely pointed out the location.

Obviously John was seeking a liquid reward in the Dartmoor Inn at Merrivale for his assistance to his leader, but for some strange reason our leader was not willing to reward such obvious manoeuvres with a drink.

Over the stone inset steps in the wall and we followed the line of a dry stone wall north west across to the B3357 Tavistock to Two Bridges road for the descent down along the side of the road to our lunch break point between the two Merrivale Bridges.

The old bridge and road down past the inn was made redundant as a bridge many years ago with a second much stronger bridge about 30 metres south further down the Walkham river.

The grassy banks between the two bridges make a very pleasant spot for lunch and we remained here for 25 minutes or so before moving off again.

We returned up past the inn and by the entrance to the old recently disused quarry at Merrivale and then left the road and turned north for the steep climb up to overlook the quarry.

The old crane is still there as are many of the old buildings. Not surprisingly though the floor of the quarry is now flooded forming an attractive pool.

From our vantage point north and above the quarry we had excellent views of the quarry itself and of the 'main' road winding its way up towards Princetown.

Leaving the quarry below us we made our way up NNE following the line of the old leat, passing Great Staple Tor high above us with the river Walkham in the valley below.

In the clear visibility of the day Great Mis Tor looked very imposing high up on the eastern side of the valley through which the Walkham flowed.

During this gradual ascent to group moved forward on a very broad front towards the next Tor on the list of those to visit, Roos Tor, which also marks the boundary of the danger area of the Merrivale Military range.

We climbed steadily up to the western side of Roos Tor and could see the flagpole at the top which flies the red flag through the week to indicate the boundary of the range when it is active.

We waited for the group to gather again after this steady ascent up from Merrivale to Roos Tor, a climb of about 400 ft up from the river.

This was the most eastern point of the walk and we turned south to make our way along across relatively level ground to the next Tor, number 5 on our list, Great Staple Tor at 455 metres the highest point reached during the walk.

As can be seen in the picture one of the granite structures on the Tor is very reminiscent of the Cheeserings of Bodmin Moor.

Leaving Great Staple Tor we made our way down south west for a few hundred yards to the less distinctive Middle Staple Tor.

From this vantage point at Middle Staple Tor we had good views of Pork Hill car park only a mile away according to the GPS king, Mr 'gizmo' Jack Sycamore. Jack was able to demonstrate his gizmo dexterity by switching measuring units to metric at the touch of only a few buttons.

It is amazing just how accurate these small handheld GPS's are as it was spot on when checked against the map grid references for every reading check we made, even to the altitude of the Tors.

Very impressive, no wonder they are becoming so popular with walkers now as well as in maritime navigation.

At this point we made our way down due south towards Little Staple Tor, little more than a scree field with collapsed buildings pointing to it's tin mining history.

To get down to Little Staple Tor we followed the leader as he scree hopped his way down like a mountain goat. His ADC had declared independence at this point as took the girlie route down, obviously sulking at the lack of his promised beer from the leader.

Like all good leaders Des soon whipped the miscreants back into shape and we all gathered at this indistinct scree Tor for afternoon tea.

After the short break we continued down south towards the B3357.

At this point Des indicated an optional loop down around Barn Hill and back to the car park or the shorter westerly return along the side of the road.

The majority followed Des and we made our way down to a broad mining fissure before climbing up passing a leat en route. The leat is named on the map as the Grimstone and Sortridge Leat, wonder how it got that name.

Slightly further up the hill we found an old grinding wheel now flat but once obviously greatly used.

We continued on uphill heading south west towards the final Tor of the day.

 

I couldn't find a Tor on the map though and I was surprised to find that it was in fact not given the title of a Tor but was called a rock outcrop on Barn Hill.

I find it strange that there are some vague groups of rocks named as Tors whilst there are others very distinctive that are not so named!!

From just above the outcrop we swung north west again for the final two or three hundred yards back to the Pork Hill Car Park.

The leader of the day must have led a charmed life. It was the first walk since September that I've walked on when we haven't had rain. A dry walk and a yellow thing in the sky from time to time.

Des had managed it though and deserved praise for that fact alone. He had kept the pace reasonable and we were back at the car park just 4 hours after leaving it making it a good 8 mile walk, visiting some places I had seen from a distance but not visited before.

After due thanks being given to Des we were off again for the 10 mile hop back to Plymouth once again.