A CIRCULAR LOOP SOUTH OF PRINCETOWN VISITING A TOR OR TWO ( OR TEN)
START POINT: PRINCETOWN CAR PARK GRID REF: 589735

Like many a keen walker of Dartmoor, the leader of the day, Fran Allen, has a liking for visiting Tors on the moor and there are quite a number in the vicinity of Princetown. it certainly wasn't a case of will we go round a few Tors but how many of them we would get the chance of getting to the top of, when Fran led the walk on 31st Aug 03.

We were joined on the walk by a group of 13 ramblers from Hampshire, who were down on Dartmoor on a long weekend, organised by Owen Plunket, who had asked if they could join us on a walk on Dartmoor.

Altogether there were 41 of us who gathered together at Princetown main car park ready for a 10.30 AM start on a beautiful day for walking the moors, good sunny spells, no wind to speak of and temperatures of around 16 to 17 degrees C. The visibility, perhaps perfect would be a good description, we were able to pick out headlands in Cornwall down as far as the Dodman and beyond, views of 30 miles compares very favourably with the many times when 30 metres has been our limit.

An outline map of the area we walked is given above and to best follow the route, this should be studied in conjunction with a 1:25000 ordnance survey map of the area such as the OS leisure map no 28 of Dartmoor.

At the introduction Fran was faced with this large mixed group of ramblers out.

How to introduce people was a question?

Fran broke the ice by getting the group to stand in one big circle and say hello to those near them. It got people talking for sure; that has rarely been a problem with ramblers, as we know.

After the different introduction, we were soon off on our way heading along the track by Princetown Fire Station. We soon swung off the normal trek along the line of the Princetown railway and headed north east to avoid the bog at Meavy head and to cross over the B3212, the Yelverton to Princetown road.

Once across the road we headed South West passing somewhere near the Soldiers Pond on the OS map, but we certainly didn't see any sign of a pond. We continued on across uneven moorland aiming for the first Tor of the day, Hart Tor.

On the approach to Hart Tor we walked by several small concrete markers each with a number on them. We were walking along the line of an old firing range, with the posts nothing more than marker range posts, clear evidence of the military presence on the moor stretching back a long long time.

Very soon we were at the top of Hart Tor, enjoying the views across the valleys and the Tors in the distance.

Leaving Hart Tor we walked downhill south east towards Hart Tor Brook and towards a potentially boggy area in wet conditions, extending either side of the brook.

Keeping out of the boggy area, by walking on the slightly higher ground to the side of the long marsh grasses, we made our way south west down keeping parallel to the brook, which we could hear but not see.

Further down the valley, the long marshy grasses disappeared and the brook became visible as it tumbled down a steep little descent with trees nestling there..

The brook swung more west until it joined the river Meavy to continue south down to Burrator, the major reservoir which it feeds into.

 

We headed just upstream of where the brook joins the river and came to a nice little waterfall cascading down, with the ruins of a tin mine blowing house to the side of the river and evidence of tin mining all around.

The waterfall is called Black Tor Falls, and is one of a relatively few waterfalls on Dartmoor, there really aren't that many around surprisingly.

 

 

We stopped in this nice spot for morning coffee and to enjoy a brief rest before the next uphill section.

First though, we had to cross this small river using granite boulders in the stream as stepping stones to avoid getting wet feet.

It wasn't a difficult crossing but with 41 ramblers to cross it took a minute or two to get everyone over.

Once over, we had our first hard climb up to the second Tor and the one that lends it's name to the waterfall, Black Tor.

 

It was fairly steep but also fairly short and we were soon by Black Tor.

Once again there are some of us who cannot go to a Tor without the need to scramble to the top of it.

Members of the Hampshire Ramblers are no exception and a couple of them scrambled up to the top, no mean feat.

I was quite taken by the interesting shapes of the granite comprising the Tor.

 

Leaving Black Tor, we headed more or less west across the B3212 and on up to the top of Tor no 3 enroute, Leeden Tor. This Tor has no less than 5 scattered outcrops of granite comprising it and is scattered over 200 metres.

Although there are not as many ponies on the moor as there once used to be, there were a few up around Leeden Tor.

We had a quick walk between a couple of the outcrops and were then off slightly north west across and down the 1 km to Ingra Tor with no discernable track to follow between the two other than sheep/pony tracks.

Nevertheless the going was relatively easy in this dry summer and we were soon admiring this large Tor.

Some of us climbed up to the top of the fourth Tor on our route and saw the huge quarry just to the north, not somewhere to wander on a foggy day with deep chasms to catch the unwary.

I was particularly interested in the heather growing out of the granite outcrop in places. So much of Dartmoor that was once covered in heather moor is now covered in ugly bracken, a real menace on the moor and seemingly taking over more and more of once lovely heather moor.

 

At Ingra Tor Fran offered the group a choice in the way to get across to Tor no 5, Swell Tor, we could either descend down into Crip Tor valley and up the other side via a footpath through the enclosed land or walk around the relatively level old railway line to get to the same point.

I was one of the 15 or so walkers who chose to pass under on old bridge and make our way down the valley to near Crip Tor farm.

Our route was then north east up through enclosed land, over a small ford crossing Yestor brook and on up to come out via a gate onto the old railway line once again, below Swell Tor.

 

By some remarkable piece of good timing we arrived up onto the old track at precisely the same time that the other group, who had followed the line of the railway, did.

With the group now together again we headed up a steep track north east then north up to the heavily mined area of Swell Tor quarry workings.

Before swinging left onto the line of railway cuttings to near the workings, we passed above a deep hole in the ground, again a place to avoid in foggy weather.

Once we had regained level ground, Fran indicated that this was a suitable time and place for lunch and a good 35 minute break.

There were good views to enjoy to occupy us over the lunch break and then at around 1.30 PM we made our way on along the line of the cutting until we came to the main quarry workings of Swell Tor, with plenty of evidence of the mine houses all around.

Some of us took the opportunity to walk into the big quarry to gain an impression of just how much quarrying must have been carried out to create such a large hole in the ground, before returning out to regroup again.

We continued to walk along the old siding line until we came to some ornately carved granite blocks.

These were carved as side supports (corbels) for the London Bridge but were surplus to requirements and all but one have remained up on the moor at this spot ever since.

In 1970 when the old London Bridge was disassembled to be reassembled in the USA, one corbel was broken.

One of the originally surplus to requirement corbels is now in the USA as part of the reassembled bridge.

As well as being of historic interest, they were also useful as a waymark point as immediately by the end corbel we turned right and followed a rough track uphill to the base of King's Tor and for 4 of us to the very summit of the Tor and enjoy the challenge and the views it afforded.

We rejoined the group after the visit to Tor number six on our route and descended south east to walk along the line of the old long disused railway which curved round all the Tors on it's route up to Princetown. It closed down in the mid fifties incidentally as it was considered and unprofitable line to run.

 

Once back on the track, we followed it south east until we came to a track off to the left which took us across to one of the once biggest Tors in the area, Foggintor.

Again the group were given the option of a walk through the workings to emerge out the other side or to just walk along the track to the side.

I always enjoy a walk through this hollowed out Tor as the remains are quite beautiful and have a presence of all of their own.

There is a lovely old pool in the middle and this is used as an adventure training area from time to time.

We soon all regathered at the north entrance to the Tor and then continued north along a track which led right by an old farm house called Yellowmead Farm, the building of course painted bright yellow these days.

The main group headed along the track until they were due west of Hollow Tor and then climbed directly up to it.

I cut the corner and in so doing was able to find a Tor called Billy's Tor, not shown on the 1:25000 map but a Tor nevertheless. It was very heavily quarried, in keeping with many other Tors in the area.

I was one up on Tor counts compared with the rest of the group!!!

We soon regathered at Hollow Tor for the customary scramble up to the top of this small Tor, this one quite easy to get to the top of, so Tor number 8 had been ticked off.

There was just one more to go!!! It was only a half km south east, slightly uphill along an easy to follow track to perhaps the best known Tor on Southern Dartmoor.

Best known, not because of the Tor outcrop, a small Tor indeed with a trig point on the top, but best known because of the very tall mast which was once a TV transmitting station for the area and one which is a landmark across huge areas of Dartmoor. "If in doubt of where you are, can you see the mast ??? " it acts as a navigational beacon for many people.

North Hessary Tor was the final Tor to be visited on this walk, it was Tor number 9 for all but me, and it is also the highest point on the walk at 517 m in height.

 

It was also our afternoon tea break and our final chance to enjoy the views before the descent down to Princetown just over a kilometre away to the south east.

Down the hill, along a footpath and we were within a few yards of the car park.

It had been a lovely day for a Dartmoor walk and we had walked getting on for 10 miles all in all and taken in 9 Tors in the area.

Our visitors seemed to enjoy the views and the walk, and were keen to thank Fran for her efforts in planning and executing the walk with her normal military precision.

What was left but to go for a cream tea in Princetown or for a pint in the Prince of Wales pub and to enjoy the Jail Ale brewed on the premises and well respected locally.

I hope our visitors also took the opportunity of a visit to the High Moorland visitors centre at the end of the walk, as there is so much in the information centre and shop to occupy any visitor to Dartmoor.