Whether it was that, or just the enjoyment of a challenge of a true Dartmoor ramble across rough and sometimes tussocky Northern Dartmoor with river and brook crossings thrown in, I know not but the walk on the 25th August attracted over 20 intrepid souls all ready for the off at Postbridge for a 10 o'clock start. David Wall had been very clear in his walk description of rough moorland with a number of boggy bits and an estimate of 10 t 11 miles for the route.
Coupled with that August had been the wettest one on record so the normal dry conditions we often get in August were not with us this time. How high would the river levels be after all that rain and would we be able to cross some of the rivers, questions like that no doubt crossed the minds of a few of us present.
An outline map of the walk route is given above and this route should be studied in conjunction with a good 1:25000 map of Dartmoor such as the OS map no 28.
As a rider to all these walk descriptions, I must stress that what follows is not to be taken as a detailed description of the route. It is simply a brief overview. I would counsel any walker not to even think about doing this walk without an experienced guide. It starts off easily enough but after The Sandy Hole Pass the terrain is very treacherous and getting back from Cut Hill could be particularly difficult to someone who is not familiar with the area.
After a good introduction to the walk from David Wall we left the Postbridge car park, turned left onto the main road and made our way across the main bridge with great views of the magnificent clapper bridge that attracts so many visitors to this car park.
Just beyond the bridge, we turned left and made our way along a right of way which brought us quite close to the East Dart. For a short distance we made our way by the river and once beyond the enclosed land and on moorland, we made our way up and away from the river and towards Hartland Tor.
Don't be fooled by the blue sky in the picture, Just a couple of minutes later, as we approached Hartland Tor, the first of the heavy showers hit us and we were soon getting our wet weather gear on.
For the next mile or so, we headed north and followed a fairly well defined, albeit rough track, high above the East Dart. Just after we crossed a brook the East Dart swung from North to south west and since we were following the track of the river we, too, swung round and followed the line of the river, although keeping well above it.
We soon found ourselves crossing another brook, this one marked as Winney's Down Brook on the 1;25000 map, there was plenty of water cascading down, so we crossed it with care.
The river swung more west as we headed upstream and as it did so, our route took us closer to the river.
There is a lovely waterfall on the river, by Dartmoor standards and one where we often stop to admire the water flowing down, as indeed do many hundreds of Dartmoor walkers every year.
We were not disappointed by it, I can't recall ever seeing so much water cascading down in high summer, although "high" is maybe not a term lots of visitors might use to describe summer in August 04, "very wet" is rather a better description.
As we stopped for our morning coffee and to admire the waterfall, we were hit with another heavy shower, no problems though, that's why we carry wet weather gear.
Following coffee, we headed north west, following a track of sorts across to Sandy Hole Pass where the miners had increased the water flow of the East Dart, by deepening and narrowing the water channel artificially, to carry sand in suspension along the faster flowing stream and so away from the mine workings.
Just beyond Sandy Hole Pass, David led us away from the river and around a very boggy area called Broad Marsh. it was very squelchy where we walked but the actual marsh is 100 times worse than our path was.
Once we had rounded the marsh we headed around the contours to meet up with the East Dart again and then followed it north until we came to a small and relatively little known Tor called Kit Rocks.
It does have another lesser known name, Kit Tor and it does appear in the A to Z of Dartmoor Tors. The group rounded it, keeping to the river side of the Tor and then we dropped down to the river where normally there is a relatively easy crossing of the East Dart.
Oops, the river was running quickly and fairly high but the rock in the middle was still visible, just.
We had consternation amongst one or two but with help from a couple of the group all the walkers managed to "leap" from the eastern bank to the rock and thence to the Western bank and safety again.
It was an "only just" crossable point though but we had crossed the major river en the route, the East Dart.
From the river our target, Cut Hill, was no more than a mile off to the west of us but the ground was tussocky and at just a little under 2000 ft it involved a 300 ft ascent in the process.
David had found a way of using the military range marker poles to our advantage, since they led us directly up to the top of Cut Hill and more to the point, over the years the animals and humans and military had flattened the tussocks, for most of the way up, making the going a lot easier than had we gone straight up across the tussocks.
En route, we had to leap another brook, Cut Hill Stream by name this time.
After the East Dart crossing, this was trivial and so we plodded our way up to the top of the hill.
The views looking back east were great although ahead, the hill blocked our views until we reached the very top.
Although Cut Hill is one of the highest points on Dartmoor and certainly the most remote, apart from a few peat banks and a recently discovered stone row there is little of any attraction there. The stones in the newly discovered row, as all those on Dartmoor had been, were long since recumbant, perhaps someone might, one day, lift them all into the erect position, as the Victorians did.
No Tor here, just a flat peaty area with a high point with a marker pole on it.
The views however were excellent through 360 degrees and Fur Tor was very distinct about a kilometre off to the north west.
With the wind blowing strongly across this inhospitable area, David chose to find a slightly more sheltered spot to take lunch.
We made our way across to one of the better known Philpott's peat passes on Dartmoor, mainly because of its name 'The North West Passage'.
We passed by one of two plaques, close together, commemorating Philpotts work over 100 years before. We made our way down into the start of the passage through the peat and did indeed find a more sheltered spot to take lunch.
I made a mental note that someone had reinstated one of the plaque stones, since on the last visit, only a few weeks before, I noticed the stone was on its side and in danger of being swallowed up by the peat bog.
After lunch in the relative shelter of "The North West Passage", David chose not to lead us down through the peat pass since on his recce he had found it to be very boggy and tussocky at the far end. Instead he led us back to near the start of the pass and headed off to the south west where we could see a narrow path snaking down through the tussocks. I imagine it was a sheeps track. Whatever it was, it led us relatively easily across a particularly tussocky part of this desolate part of Dartmoor.
We had enjoyed nothing remotely similar to this the last time we left Cut Hill heading back to Tavy Cleave, the track was a real godsend in the circumstances, albeit a very narrow and wet one in places.
After about 500 metres of heading due south, we followed another track south east for another kilometre, wet most certainly, but with large tussocks on either side of the track, a very welcome route. We descended steadily and then made our way up a small rise. At the other side of the rise were a few flat rocks.
These formed one of the more insignificant tors on the whole of Dartmoor, called, quite aptly Flat Tor.
I guess that in an area where there are virtually no landmarks, a group of rocks, albeit low ones, are a welcome sight for navigation purposes.
From Flat Tor, we headed south again, following a track which ran relatively close to range marker posts that differentiated between two of the ranges on North Dartmoor. The military marker posts were certainly proving useful for navigation on this walk.
We descended and crossed two more brooks, not many realised that they had crossed the West Dart River twice in the kilometre we headed south. Following the second crossing, we headed more south east away from the West Dart following the contours around a hill, un-named on the 1:25000 map incidentally.
In the distance we could see Rough Tor up to our right and Longaford Tor ahead of us,
We came upon a derelict building, named on the map as Brown's House, where a Mr Brown once lived with his pretty wife, so the story goes, but enough of that.
We were back, or some of us were, on more familiar territory, with larger Tors we recognised.
From Brown's House, we headed across some very wet ground to a spot called Hollowcombe Corner and we enjoyed a brief afternoon break overlooking Hollowcombe Bottom, on a nice day, a very pretty area indeed overlooking a valley below.
Following the break, we crossed the brook at Hollowcombe Corner and made our way along the side of a long dry stone wall which stretched all the way across to the East Dart.
We followed it up and downhill for 2 kilometres along the southern side of Broad Down and at the top of a hill near some rocks, we reached the path which people often follow to get to the Waterfall from Postbridge.
We climbed over a stile to our right and had a steep descent of about a kilometre more or less south down a grassy track, leading to a spot named on the map as Braddon Lake.
We crossed over a large clapper, bridging a long disused leat and thence down to Braddon Lake itself. En route, we had another couple of brooks to cross in the Braddon Lake area. I'd long lost count of how many brooks or rivers we'd jumped or carefully stepped across on this walk, probably approaching a dozen, in my estimation.
Once beyond the Braddon Lake area, we walked along a well trodden route, used by countless walkers, by the old bronze age Roundy Park settlement to our left. We could see a large kistvaen in there, as yet it is enclosed land but soon it may be open access and then we can legally enter it to admire this large old grave.
We were on anearth and stone track for the final kilometre of easy walking back to Postbridge and we were soon back into the car park again at Postbridge, with the DNP information centre and shop, toilets and a car park very full of cars and touring buses from various parts of Europe.
I wondered whether most of the visitors ventured more than a 100 metres from the buses or cars, probably for most the attraction is the old large clapper bridge, just down the road.
I had enjoyed the walk, it typified the wild inhospitable terrain of Northern Dartmoor. It was gone 3.30 by the time we got back to the car park and had been walking steadily and not that slowly since we started 5 hr and 30 minutes earlier.
Based on that, and confirmed by my GPS later, the walk must have been about 11 miles. Imagine what it would have been like without the sheeps tracks to ease our way across the bogs and tussocks that surround.
A good walk indeed, but not one for the inexperienced walker on Dartmoor and certainly not one to try without a leader who knows what he is doing up there. Far too many bogs around up there!! Thanks David for your efforts in making sure our route was a safe one, even after all the rains of August 2004!!!