POSTBRIDGE TO FERNWORTHY VIA SITTAFORD TOR AND TEIGNHEAD FARM

START POINT: POSTBRIDGE CAR PARK GRID REF: 647 789

On Sunday 23rd April 2000 we had our second walk of the year from Postbridge to Fernworthy and it was graded as a moderate walk. The walk was led by Margaret Hancock, very experienced on Dartmoor, ably assisted by Karen as joint leaders. The distance was of the order of 12 to 13 miles and it attracted over 20 walkers. With the grading of moderate then I hoped that Margaret would use an easier route to Fernworthy than the one John Skinner had taken just three months before.

Postbridge to Fernworthy Map
Using this outline together with the OS 1:25000 map of Dartmoor and the description below you should be able to get a good overview of the route taken.

This walk took place after three weeks of rain virtually every day in April and Dartmoor and areas of the walk were decidedly wet and muddy. It was indeed much less strenuous than the January walk because it followed a direct steady uphill walking route to Grey Wethers. It returned by looping down near the Warren House Inn and across the main road to the Soussons Down Forest land .

The trip to the car park was once again in some mist on the high moors and heavy showers but the rain stopped and the skies cleared by the time the walk started.

The walks started from the Postbridge main car park with good toilet facilities available. There was another guided walk starting led by one of the Dartmoor National Park's contracted leaders which accounted for the dozen or so faces we couldn't recognise in the car park.

Margaret's walk started later at 10.30 AM and there were plenty of other people around as we set off

We left the car park and followed the road through Postbridge and over the bridge, not the old footbridge, but the much newer vehicle carrying bridge just upstream of the old bridge.

 

Having crossed over the East Dart River we turned left and followed a track for three hundred yards before turning left and making our way down to the river.

This whole section, keeping to the edge of the open area, was very muddy indeed and on the April walk, Helen who had come out to try her ankle again after the break in February wisely decided that enough was enough as we ploughed through the mud.

It was interesting to note that whilst we were ploughing around the edge, following the approved route.

We reached the gate at the far corner of the field.

Once through the gate. we were soon walking close to the east Dart on the eastern bank of the river.

We followed the path of the river upstream for a mile and then gradually moved further away from the marshy ground close to the river slightly higher up the side of the valley.

The area was very boggy in places and the path had several deviations to avoid the wetter areas, It was a case of finding a path through the marshy ground rather than following any distinct path at some points and I wondered if going higher up might avoid this very boggy ground.

We made our way through a gate in a dry stone wall and continued on roughly parallel to the East Dart.

Ahead of us we could see a brook running down to the East Dart. There were problems in crossing it after the rains however and some assistance was needed to make sure that no one fell in.

The area around the brook was obviously some form of old open cast mining area and there was plenty of evidence of the mining in the vicinity.

On the uphill side of the brook was an old, now collapsed, beehive style mining hut, shown in the picture on the right.

So far the uphill section had been relatively easy going and I recalled just how difficult then January walk had been just beyond this point.

The river swung left and its direction upstream changed from North to West upstream.

We carried on up the hillside heading more or less north, we soon found that this route would lead us through a mini bowl with plenty of bog to test Margaret's navigational skills.

We continued up the hill, keeping to the left hand side of the boggy bowl and just beyond that we stopped for a break.

Soon on our way again we continued to walk north along a well defined path, although rising all the time, it was an easy climb and after a mile we could see the magnificent Grey Wethers Stone circles ahead of us.

This is quite unusual in that there are two next to each other and that they are very well preserved.

In the photograph you can clearly see the first bigger stone circle with the smaller one just beyond.

It certainly is one of the best stone circles examples I've seen and well worth a visit in its own right.

In the distance we could see Fernworthy Forest.

A couple of hundred yards beyond the stone circles we came to a gate leading through yet another dry stone wall.

Through the gate we followed the well defined track which led us for a half a mile to the edge of Fernworthy Forest. As we walked, just across the valley we could see an old copse and some old now ruined buildings. This was Teignhead Farm which we had visited on the January walk.

In the photograph on the right the path leading to the forest in the distance can clearly be seen and with the much less boggy ground the walking was reasonably quick.

We reached the side of the forest and there was a wide gate opening into the forest and onto a track which headed across towards the reservoir

The walk through the forest is along a rough stony track first up a hill and then over the brow and down towards the reservoir.

 

Ie followed the track up over a hill and then down again for at least a mile with pine trees everywhere. In a small clearing there was yet another small stone circle to our left but much less conspicuous than the Grey Wethers circle.

The forest is at least two miles from north to south and we were crossing it at its narrowest east west point.

As we dropped down we had our first glimpse of the Fernworthy Reservoir below us.

Down by the road, Margaret opted to take the right turning and the southerly loop around the reservoir Having turned right onto the road, we walked along it for a while until we saw a footpath sign to our left taking us off the road and down closer to the reservoir itself.

Naturally the depth of the mud increased as we neared the reservoir. However with bridges over the low lying inlets and easy to follow paths, before long we had arrived at our lunch point at the Fernworthy picnic area / information centre. With access to this point from Chagford and the main road, there were many people out in their cars enjoying short walks around the reservoir.

With access for people so easy there were excellent toilets and of course ice cream vans and a range of picnic tables with very good views across the lake.

We had our lunch break with the unusual benefit of eating at a table before a visit to a proper toilet, civilisation is spoiling us.

After a half an hour break we made our way out past the toilet block up to the road where we turned left and made our way along to the edge of the forest.

Just beyond the forest there was a signpost indicating the route to Chagford some miles away.

At this point we swung right and headed onto rough moorland once again, trying to avoid the worst of the churned mud near the road.

Once back on the open moors, we soon headed off on an approximate bearing of 170 degrees to near a stone row we could just see on the skyline, and then on to just above Warren House Inn some 2 miles south of Fernworthy.

We couldn't take a straight line path up the hill to the top because of the marshy areas so we made our way up, taking many minor diversions to avoid the worst of the wetter areas.

It was a steady climb up to just west of the stone row and then on to the top of the hill at about a height of 450 m, just above Warren House Inn on the main Mortonhampstead Road immediately below.

Just before the inn there was a narrow steep gully which took us down to the road, very near to a spot on the map shown as King's Oven.

We picked our way down the steepish descent down the gully to just above the road with an overspill car park for the pub ahead of us.

 

 

We crossed the main road and followed a clear but windy track for just under half a mile east down to into a valley and a stream below by an area where there was plenty of evidence of mine working.The mine I'm reliably informed is called Vitifer Mine and the area was the most prolific area for tin mining in the whole of Dartmoor.

We crossed the stream over another clapper bridge and swung south and followed a clear wide track, somewhat wet in places, down towards a large forested area below us.

 

Just under a half a mile further on down the valley we left the main path and swung right up towards the wooded area. ahead.

We had an impromptu afternoon break by an old mine working called the Golden Dagger mine and then followed the track up and into the woods, now heading more south west as we made our way uphill again into the woods called Soussons Down.

On this track, we were forced off into the woods at times as the path became at least a 6 inch deep mud bath.

There were may criss crossing tracks through the woods but we generally tried to maintain our direction south west through the woods and down to the opposite corner of the downs.

It wouldn't have mattered had we swung more left as we would have still emerged on a road just earlier than we would have wished.

The leadership team got it spot on again, showing great navigational mastery through the woods and we emerged just on the road before Runnage Bridge.

We followed the road generally uphill heading north west for about half a mile until we saw a footpath sign down through a farm heading more or less west passing Lower Merripit.

Ivor entered major reminiscing mode at this point as he had delivered papers to houses all round here a mere 50 years earlier as a boy living in Princetown, you know he hasn't changed one bit over the years!!!!

As we followed the lane back to the main road we swung left following a footpath sign upto the local cemetery, there was no sign of the church however. Passing the cemetery we continued along a permitted path which brought us down to the East Dart again.

We followed the track,muddy naturally along the side of the river up to the old 13th century bridge magnificent clapper bridge. Over the bridge it was but a few yards back to the main road and across it to the packed car park on the other side.

Yes since it was Easter Sunday the crowds were really out.

It was gone 4.30 PM when we arrived back at the cars and we had been out on the moors for a good six hours with some reasonably paced walking along the way, Margaret and Karen are no slouches.

It was certainly a good 12 to 13 mile walk and a most interesting one to boot. We passed on our thanks once again for their organisation, planning and leadership and we were on our way back to Plymouth, feeling tired but contented that we had seen yet more new sections of the moor.