The forecast on 5th February 03 was for a cold, crisp and sunny day and lo and behold that was exactly what the day turned out to be.
Down in the Shipley Bridge area the temperature was a balmy 3 degrees C but as soon as we got up onto the moor, the 3 degrees disappeared and we had plenty of ice to contend with and a fine coating of snow in places.
The early morning forecasts had indicated that the road conditions off the main roads were decidedly slippery and perhaps this accounted for the reduced numbers we had out on the walk on the day.
Normally we get between 20 and 30. For this walk we had only 14 walkers out.
We left the car park and went onto the road and down towards Zeal Cottage for no more than 5 yards before we turned up a track to the right which led us up and above the car park and to the moorland just above.
Very soon we were passing Shipley water treatment works below us to our left.
I knew we had a good climb ahead of us since the car park was at about 700 feet and we were heading for Uncle Ab's House for coffee above the top of Middle Brook and at a height of about 1450 ft.
Dave elected not to follow the direct route up to Uncle Ab's House as it is very marshy and difficult terrain.
The picture on the left indicates the sort of terrain the two brooks The Bala Brook and Middle Brook run through, It looks nice but the uneven ground underfoot makes for difficult walking.
Instead he opted for the longer but much easier route along the long disused tramway which ran from Shipley Bridge all the way up to Redlake.
Accordingly we located the path of the tramway, with the concrete base supports still visible in places, just about the treatment works and then followed the tramway as it climbed first north west , then due north for 3/4 mile before swinging NW once again, climbing all the time.
Although it was uphill all the way the track was good and we made excellent progress up onto the higher moor. Rumour has it that we were averaging 3 mph over this uphill section, well it is a fact according to my GPS track which I checked later.
We reached a point of the moor which although still almost a mile east of Uncle Ab's House was on the same contour line.
We simply headed south west, crossing Bala Brook then swinging west and following the contour line until we intercepted Uncle Ab's House, not marked on the 1:25000 map but easy enough to locate just above Petre's Pits Bottom.
. There was barely a track to be seen once we had left the disused tramway, a look at the 1:25000 reveals that it we had continued for about 100 metres beyond where we had left the tramway we would have found another track which would have taken us south west passed Knoffa Barrow and directly to Uncle Ab's House.
I've shown the alternative track on the route map in red.
After all these mentions of Uncle Ab's House, what then is it.
Nothing more than an old stabling house used by horses and ponies used for pulling the old rolling stock up to Redlake. It is now nothing more than a ruin. Uncle Ab who worked it, was, according to old records a little bit of a drinker who was more or less permanently drunk.
Now the ruins in a sheltered, slight hollow offers a nice place for a break on walks through the area.
After a 10 minute fodder break, (well it was a stable), we were on our way towards the next point of note, Leftlake, just over 1/2 mile to the South West.
The ground was relatively level, albeit tussocky and despite the tussocks we were soon looking down onto another tramway and a water filled pit that is now Leftlake.
As can be seen from the picture, it was quite cold with powdery snow visible, it wasn't that cold though as Leftlake wasn't frozen over.
Before reaching the bridge with the lake on the left hand side, we turned off the track and made our way round a spoil heap.
Off to our left was Leftlake brook which tumbled south west down hill to the River Erme which was just over 1/4 mile below us.
The descent to the river grew ever steeper and we took care to maintain our footing during this first real downhill section of any difficulty.
The Erme runs from North to South at this point and is the river which flows through the centre of Ivybridge.
Once down near the river we turned south and headed downstream keeping slightly above the river for a time to avoid boggy areas.
After a two or three hundred yards we came across a weir and some evidence of SW Water activities.
With barely a glance we continued on down the river. It was now midday and we had quite some distance before the planned lunch break up at Hangershell Rocks.
We followed the river down for a mile or so and ahead, off to the left, high above us, very high and very steep we could see Sharp Tor.
Where we going to climb up there? No I pleased to hear.
As we rounded the bend in the river we continued to remain low crossing ever boggier ground and then for the first time ever for me, we entered the Piles Copse wooded area.
This is one of only three oak woods on Dartmoor.
In this copse the trees looked bigger than the other two old oak woods, one up in Wistmans Woods north of Two Bridges and the other at Black a Tor copse right up above Meldon Reservoir on the high north moors.
It is salutary to visualise Dartmoor many centuries ago where such woodland abounded, one reason why it is still known as Dartmoor Forest, even today.
Piles Enclosure is not classified as open access land but there is a clearly track right through it.
We followed the track through the bottom of the wood keeping close to the side of the river and very pleasant, quiet and almost warm it was too, particularly after the hour of so of walking across the moors high above this secluded spot.
We were down by the river and lunch was planned at Hangershell Rocks approaching 2 miles south of the wood and several hundred feet higher.
We would certainly earn our lunch break, it was now 12.30 PM and I was getting peckish.
We turned away from the river and headed uphill for a steepish climb up out of the enclosed land.
After a shortish but quite steep climb we were approaching the dry stone wall marking the boundary of the enclosure. It was broken in many places and relatively easy to walk through it.
It was 12.45 PM and still 1.25 miles to go to get to Hangershell Rocks, I was hungry.
Beyond the enclosure, we had Piles Brook to cross which we did with no difficulty.
The grass here was quite almost downland, strange to see how the ground can change quite so easily from tussocky moorland to grassy downland, long grass nevertheless but no tussocks.
We continued to head up but far less steeply than before and about 20 minutes later, no more we were up at Hangershell Rocks where for most lunch break was taken.
I have to admit to taking mine rather earlier and then meeting the group somewhat later at the Rocks just as they were finishing theirs.
Most of the group continued on across to Western Beacon a further mile of more to the south.
Since I had planned to keep my walk to around 10 miles, for knees related reasons, Dave Tromans and I left the group at this point and we headed North East across more tussocky ground towards Spurrells Cross about a half a mile away.
On the way to the cross we passed a grassy mound which was obviously once a barrow.
Before long we came upon this old cross.
At some time the cross had been beheaded but it had been refixed and now once again resembled a cross, albeit one with a white band round the neck.
After stopping to look at the cross we were on our way once again, now heading NNE for the gradual and more steep descent to a point called Glasscombe Corner.
Behind us as we headed north was the imposing Ugborough Beacon and across the valley to our east was Corringdon Ball a large circular hill, in enclosed land.
As we approached Glasscombe Corner, we passed two horse riders galloping south across the moor, altogether an easier way of getting across the moors than walking and considerably faster too.
Glasscombe Corner is at the corner of enclosed land and West Glaze Brook flows down by the corner.
It was easy enough to cross though and after a break for a slurp of coffee, we headed north east keeping the enclosed land on our right hand side.
There was plenty of evidence of surface mining in the vicinity and we picked out way through the mine workings on our way to cross the next brook, this one called East Glaze Brook.
Years ago when I worked for a living I often had to visit the Glazebrook Hotel to teach Statistics to human resource managers, yes even they had to learn numbers!!
Now I could see how the hotel near South Brent got its name, from the East and the West Glazebrook merging together below Corringdon Ball to flow just below the hotel.
After passing a small stone row and a couple of very small stone circles we came upon a much more recent piece of mans work.
This was a gate with two large granite orbs atop each piller.
Apparently at one time the local landowner laid a road leading up from his imposing house up to the moors above and Ball Gate, as it is now known was the exit onto the moors.
It is now a public right of way and the signpost also indicated another path, this time a bridleway which leads right back to Diamond Lane and from there back up the road Shipley Bridge and the car park.
It indicated that Diamond Lane is 1mile north east from Ball Gate.
We continued on along the bridleway, though a relatively narrow section of open access land between two enclosed areas and before along we were approaching the gate which leads onto Diamond Lane.
What a name for a very rough track, looks like the rough bed of a dried out stream now which descends steeply and over some very rough stony terrain down to emerge out on the road linking South Brent to Shipley Bridge.
Diamond Lane should be renamed Rough Diamond Land and I was mighty pleased when the descent down the couple of hundred metres of incredibly difficult path was over.
It was very steep and very rough, not recommended for people with bad knees and I certainly fall into that category.
It was the most difficult part of the walk as far as I was concerned.
I would not like to have attempted it on a wet day.
Almost back to the car park now, just less than half a mile of uphill along the narrow road, over a bridge, passing Zeal Cottage, then across a cattle grid and we were back into Shipley Bridge Car Park once again.
It is a popular car park with locals and walkers as beside the route we took out to the moors, it links to a route up the River Avon and the Avon Dam beyond along an easy to walk tarmac narrow road for most of the way.
A check on my GPS track of the route walked revealed the walk to be 10.3 miles, just about what I wanted to do on the day.
About 30 minutes later the rest of the group arrived back in the car park. They had walked 2 miles further than us, they were either walking at a higher rate than we had done on the way back or they hadn't taken an afternoon break.
It had been perfect weather for walking the moors, that is cool, not much wind and lots of winter sun. We thanked Dave for his efforts in working out this interesting route and then we were off to various points in Devon since our Wednesday walks series attract walkers from many parts of our Devon Area.