CIRCULAR WALK FROM SOUTH BRENT UP TO BALL GATE AND RETURN
NORTH OF UGBOROUGH BEACON ON 29th MARCH 2000
START POINT GRID REF: 698 603

The circular walk north west of South Brent was planned and led by George Parkhouse and was graded as a 10 mile strenuous walk. For the first time in March the weather was less than Spring like, with a cold north easterly wet airstream. The rain started just before the start of the walk at 10.00 AM and continued on and off for the day.

In the event George modified the walk a little because of the fog and cold up on the Moors and kept us from going up into the fog. We estimate that the route we took, illustrated below, was perhaps 9 miles rather than the planned distance.

As the route map above shows, George had added an anticlockwise loop around and up to Brent Hill before heading off to the moors to the North West of South Brent.

To follow the route in better detail readers are advised to relate the outline above to a 1:25000 ordnance survey map of Dartmoor.

14 walkers gathered at the old station car park at South Brent and were off in the rain at 10.00 AM. We left the car park and walked 200 yards along the road parallel to the rail line before turning right over the railway bridge at the west end.

We followed the road north for 300 yards before we found a footpath across fields still heading north for a short distance. Leaving the footpath we turned left onto another road and headed in the general direction of the hamlet of Lutton.

Near Higher Lutton we turned to the right off the road and followed a track east up towards the open land below Brent Hill.

Above us the Hill stood out with fields, gorse and scrubland as we headed up to the East of the Hill.

We followed a narrow track up through the gorse, climbing steadily towards the rocks at the top of the hill. Leaving the gorse and scrubland we felt the full chilly blast of the North Easterly and the rain.

We kept to the right of a hedge and then swung up to the apex of the hill.

George had said that there were the remains of an old small church at the top. There were remains but I would never have imagined that it was of a church. There was a trig point at the highest point and the temperature with the wind chill factor must have been close to freezing, a far cry form the balmy summer conditions of the previous Wednesday up on the highest moorland of South Dartmoor.

We moved on very quickly and swung around the top of the hill and descended a very steep slope on the north west side of the hill.

The descent was much worse that the ascent, as it normally is for me.

Before long we were back on the same road we had left half an hour before. We turned right and took a footpath north west though Lutton and down across a small stream; just over the ford we stopped and sheltered from the conditions had our morning break.

We were soon on our way again following a well defined footpath towards the village of Didsbury less than to mile over a hill to the northwest.

There were some splendid houses as we made our way through the village but the biggest by far was the site of an old hospital.

To be located out in the country it must have been some form of sanatorium, otherwise why have it so far from civilisation.

 

We followed a narrow winding road down out of the village and crossed the River Avon which flows down from the Avon Dam, some two miles further north up on the moor.

The signpost indicated that Shipley Bridge was about a mile to the north; we have started walks from that car park from time to time.

We followed the road towards the Shipley Bridge beauty spot but before reaching it we saw a sign indicating a footpath up to the moors above us.

We turned left and made our way up the steeply sloping and rutted footpath.

This rough path between high hedgerows has suffered serious erosion over the years, not from people but from the water which must pour down this path during periods of heavy rain.

Much of the topsoil has been washed away leaving plenty of large stones to carefully walk over and between. This path climbed steeply for a few hundred yards north west before opening out onto the moorland via a gate.

We still were walking uphill although not quite so steeply as along the track. We were on open moor at last, the visibility was reasonable as we looked downhill but the higher moors were shrouded in thick cloud. It continued to rain and the wind showed no signs of abating.

The moorland animals seemed to be absent today, obviously sheltering from the conditions lower down. We continued to make our way north west and in the distance we could see the outline of the Ball Gate.

This gate is so called for obvious reasons. Story has it that it marks the entrance to the track leading down to a large manor house in the valley below. The original gate has long disappeared but the structure of the supports still remain as a local landmark.

We turned in through the gate and found spots out of the worst of the weather to take our lunch. Because of the conditions and the cloud/fog enveloping the higher points, George planned an alternative route to the one he had reccied which kept us to the lower levels and out of the cloud if not the rain.

After the lunch stop we walked back through the Ball Gate turned left and followed the dry stone wall which headed south west towards Glasscombe Bottom. En route there were a couple of little valleys with brooks flowing through them.

As we made our way down to the first one we could see where most of the cattle were, as forecast they were huddling together out of the worst of the conditions down near the brook.

We made our way through the cattle and across the first brook.

The brooks are called the East and West Glaze Brooks.

 

Just past the west brook there were a few trees and as we climbed out of the small valley the wall turned through 90 degrees at Glasscombe Corner to align south east.

We picked our way through the remains of mine workings with the usual scree debris and headed up slightly and away from the wall to more open moorland.

George's original intention was to climb to the Tors above us and somewhere in the distance lay Ugborough Beacon. Unfortunately we could see no sign of it in the cloud. There was a Tor immediately above us or so the map shows but even that was invisible to us with the weather such as it was.

Leaving the scree from the open cast mines behind us we made our way following the contours of the moor to avoid going higher and up into the cloud.

Continuing south east, a valley opened up below us and we made our way down and across a brook, called Scad Brook and up the other side to a well defined track which led off the moor, at a point called Owley Moor Gate.

 

We followed the well defined track almost due east and we were out of the wind once more. After about half a mile of easy walking we emerged from the track and onto a metalled road at Olney and walked by a house of that name.

Following the narrow road we turned right onto a road and followed it south for a couple of hundred yards until we came across a path heading south east down through fields.

We made fast progress and got rather ahead of the leader. We stopped when he leader and back marker turned off the footpath towards a copse.

After a few minutes they re emerged carrying what looked like catkins or pussy willow, the evidence is on the left, apparently the cuttings would prove useful for flower arranging, they are not just pretty faces!!!

A short distance on, we emerged at a lane and turned left and followed the lane north for less than half a mile. To our right was the main South West rail line and there were a number of trains passing by as we walked along the road.

 

We managed to cut off a corner by finding an unsignposted path through fields and over stiles. This cut off a corner and took us slightly away from the railway line. There was little evidence of walkers using the footpath and we had to guess as to its route through the fields

We descended over a final stile from the fields, where there was a footpath sign and made our way down a few steps and back onto the road again having cut off the corner by the railway line.

We turned left and walked up the road for a short distance before seeing a signposted footpath to our right heading north east. This was a much better used footpath and it passed in front of a large house just to our left.

 

Less than a half a mile along this footpath we emerged at Lydia Bridge with the cascading water of the river Avon flowing swiftly downstream with a mini gorge just above the bridge.

We crossed the bridge and turned right to follow the riverside path for the final few hundred yards back to South Brent.

This path had brought us back to the first bridge we had crossed when we left the car park by the railway line in the morning just after 10.00 AM.

We turned left towards the bridge and then right for the final couple of hundred yards back to the car park. It was raining when we left and was still raining when we returned to the car park at about 2.35 PM.

It had been an interesting walk but the conditions had worked against us during the day. Thanks were given to George for his efforts in planning and leading the walk and we hope to see the results of the flower arranging one of these fine days.