Leaving Grey Wethers, which incidentally was like a meeting place for ramblers both on the recce and on the day of the scheduled walk with three groups arriving there together from various directions on both days. I guess several paths converge at this local landmark so it is natural that walkers should make their way to it.From the double stone circle, we made our way uphill for 600 metres heading west along a reasonably well defined track for the climb up to Sittaford Tor, fairly inconspicuous when approached from the east but offering a tremendous 360 degree vista from this local high point at 540 metres height. It is a great place to sit with a decent map and to try to recognise the dozens and dozens of tors, valleys and hills all around of Northern Dartmoor. At this point the route of the recce diverted again from the planned walk. On Sunday 15th jan I led the group across to visit Statt's House which was 1000 metres on a bearing of 240 degrees. It was a route I knew but I didn't know if it was possible to walk across Winney's Down directly to the Waterfall on the East Dart. There was only one way to find out and that was to walk across the Down on the recce. As it was the first time that I had ever attempted this track, I had no idea how boggy it might be. We would certainly be crossing the head waters of Winney's Down Brook so the spirit of adventure kicked in. There seemed to be a relatively new track heading across the Down, I certainly don't recall seeing it the last time I was there. It was a little over a mile across heading just west of south to get to the waterfall and the going, whilst wet and boggy in places, was quite passable. It was quite damp in the area of the head waters but certainly no worse than close to the head waters of the South Teign. It could prove a useful shortcut on a route back to Postbridge, particularly if the East Dart was crossable just above the waterfall which it frequently is. I headed slightly west of south to keep to slightly higher ground and found yet another rocky outcrop that I hadn't recorded before. There was only one name to give to this so Winney's Down Rocks now appears on my database of Tors and outcrops. From these rocks, it was an easy and relatively dry descent down to the East Dart waterfall. We crossed over the old Vitifer and Birch tor mine leat with its take off point a few hundred metres further up the East Dart and were soon gazing down on the waterfall. Although I didn't recall overmuch rain falling over Christmas and leading upto the New year there was certainly plenty of water roaring down over the waterfall and quite impressive it looked too. But there was just one problem, it didn't look as if it could be crossed with safety so I ditched the idea and decided to keep to the same side of the East Dart for the return to Postbridge. Unbelievably, just two weeks later on the planned Plymouth Group walk via Statt's House and Sandy Hole Pass, even on such a wet day, we found that with care we could cross the East Dart here, there certainly was far less water tumbling over the waterfall than at the New Year, so the routes differed completely after Sittaford for the two walks, as the walk outlines show. Leaving the waterfall on the recce, we continued along tracks to the North of the East Dart cutting the corner of the river and heading for a hopeful crossing point over Winney's Down Brook. This was easily achieved and we enjoyed good views down and over the East Dart. A little further downstream we looked down on a small island in the East Dart just before it swung south to head down towards Postbridge and beyond down to Dartmeet where the Double Dart starts. Since we were returning around to walk back down to Hartland Tor we had Ladehill Brook Ford to negotiate as the river swung south. Luckily this was not too deep and so no wet feet here. We then took the opportunity of going upstream slightly along the brook to visit one of the better preserved Beehive Huts on Dartmoor and clearly marked on the OS map. The roof of the hut is missing, there is just one beehive hut on Dartmoor where the turf roof is still in place. Despite the absence of one on this hut, the reason for the name beehive hut is obvious. Leaving the beehive hut we headed south and gained height and so made our way back along tracks directly to Hartland Tor once again, but this time keeping to the lower side of the Tor.
From the Tor I could just about pick out a kistvaen which I knew to be situated close to Roundy Park across the other side of the East Dart, It is a large kistvaen and was renovated a hundred years ago and so is a fine example of a cist complete with capstone.On the 15th January having crossed the river at the East Dart we walked right down by Roundypark and for the first time in my life I was able to legally visit the site of the kistvaen. Why legally?? In late August 2005 the area was classified as Open Access land under CROW, before that date the Roundy Park area was not Access Land and was therefore officially out of bounds to walkers.
From the tor it was simply a case of retracing our steps back down to pass near the impressive Hartyland House, across new open access land, over the clapper across the Stannon Brook and so back to the road bridge at Postbridge with the impressive old clapper bridge just downstream. A few metres further we were back into the DNP maintained car park with its good facilities and information centre and it was absolutely heaving with cars. It was of course a sunny day and it was the New Year Bank Holiday too, albeit on Monday 2nd January.On the Sunday of the planned walk just two weeks later we were one of a handful of cars and school mini buses there ( for 10 Tors training) to populate this large car park. The conditions were rather different too, On the new year bank holiday it was bright and sunny and crisp, whilst two weeks later there was rather more typical Dartmoor weather of rain, strongish winds and low cloud to mar the views. I rarely mix two walks in one description but it is worth doing so here since it shows that recces need not always slavishly follow a predicted route. Dartmoor is such a wonderful area and providing proper pre planning is done it is possible to test walking areas, albeit with a degree of common sense and careful map reading thrown in.