Brent Knoll high …

Sat beside the motorway many of us have whizzed by this island of rock just south of the Mendip Hills. DSC_0872I have had a plan to climb this in the past, tied with Burrow Mump and Nyland Hill to make a levels 3 peak challenge but an opportunity in Weston-super-mare deposited me in the area on a Monday evening.DSC_0882I climbed from the church in East Brent, this is not as straightforward as it should be.  The obvious way up is marked a private drive and the rising footpath through the churchyard detours out to the road.  Instead head for the lower left corner beside the school and keeping the high green metal fence on your right; skirt closely around the school playground.  This emerges to open fields and the climb begins.DSC_0883Over to the right the coast opens up and Brean Down comes into view.  The wooden pole at the top is your target, easily reached in twenty minutes.DSC_0900The walk around the ridge on the flat top is slowed by the stupendous views in all directions.  Wales, Steep Holm, the Quantocks, Polden and Mendip Hills.  I glanced back at Crook Peak, my objective the previous Sunday.DSC_0910The central area has been worked extensively and it reminded me of a story whereby generations of skeletons were discovered, gradually becoming more deformed as they became younger, before dying out.  It was thought this was an island then.  Although never collaborated the teacher who told me was a favourite of mine. DSC_0925Photographs do little to capture the wonder of this place.DSC_0930

As the sun set I retraced my steps before retiring for a pint, I will return; sunrise next time?DSC_0932



The spine to Crook Peak

As the western Mendips narrow towards Brean Down, the hills fall away and the view opens towards the sea. The levels and the Quantocks lay to the south, Steepholm raises its’ head and Wales beckons. With sunshine ahead I navigated from Priddy through back-lanes to Shipham and along the A38 to park at Kings Wood.DSC_0924

This was packed by ten on a Sunday and the overspill was beside the road. Dog walkers came and went.DSC_0833

Climbing through Kings Wood was cooler but our objective was off of the path, around to left. We broke out into the sunshine, luckily it was still cool.DSC_0864

The main path handrails the wall but by heading south you can stand on the highest point of Cross Plain, the knife edge ridge dropping to the village of Cross. The sheep sheltered from the sun, recently shaun.DSC_0834

Wavering Down lay ahead and the climb was more eroded, the beckoning triangulation pillar clearly marking the high point.DSC_0837

Beyond here the path drops, picking up two more tops. Barton Hill is the eastern end and the summit of Compton Hill lays off of the path. We surmounted the ridge enticed by the rocky top of Crook Peak ahead.DSC_0840

The view out to sea was stupendous, we were lucky with the weather and southwards Brent Knoll sat proud. We sat for a moment, sucked in the view before deciding to detour to Compton Hill on the return. The outgoing path was simple enough, the return path gorse laden.DSC_0856

We climbed Wavering again, dropped back to the car before refreshment in Axbridge.

365 top ten.

Time to be controversial; my preferences.

10. Belford Mill O18, curious architecture repurposed for modern day living it even has its own mine!

9. Lustleigh Cleave I19, organic, green, isolated but the perfect combination of wood and water.

8. Target Railway C8, a railway! Going around in circles, which you can shoot at!

7. The Dancers T11, isolated, hill top perfection marking the southern end of one of the longest stone rows.

6. Keeble Martin’s Chapel K13, hidden, follow the instructions, beautifully etched and some genuine stories.

5. Foxes Holt B11, hard to find but the most perfect of medieval views.

4. Statts House H10, tucked away from the wind, fireplace and 360 views, peat cutters.

3. Cranmere Pool G9, the original letterbox, peat pass and pool.

2. Thirlstone F10, the best Tor by far, something in every weather.

1. G7 … obvious really.

365 done; what next?

Of the 170+ likes on the 365 page there were plenty of red ‘congratulations’ but the overarching question was ‘what next?’. After the Bristol marathon and with a reasonable time i simply stopped running long distance … This is different, I hope.

Firstly, I have my own project, Mendip 200 which I hope to develop. 200 kilometre squares in the AONB but with a similar vein; less flowers but more underland. There is a [small] Facebook group but it would be good to make the selection of artefacts and locations more crowd sourced.

I do feel that I need a rest from Dartmoor, not because it is Dartmoor but because it is 50 miles away and the mad dash after work wasn’t the best way to spend my monthly carbon. I would like to devise more carbon free road side opportunities, linking rail with bicycle and loops without cars. I have also become an expert on breakfasts, explored lots of accommodation and cafes. We shall see how this manifests itself.

A good deal of the squares visited have been during Ten Tors training, I used a different code for these – orange stars rather than purple – and I will revisit some. There are places where I visited the square – such as Legis Tor [S9] – but couldn’t find the artefact – the vermin trap. I had decided quite early on that I didn’t want to waste hours searching but completion within the time frame was more important. My eyesight failure confirmed the importance in finishing but I will return, with my camera. I have a short list of rehits and these may begin a second round, of sorts.

I have continued to use the first book, almost exclusively and so also want to lose myself in the second book too.

I would like to guide some walks, maybe taking advantage of Toucan outdoors.

There is a 365 pub trail …

Most of all, the project has developed an interest in the Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor and so I would like to spend time at Brimpts and Eylesbarrow exploring the Tin, integrating ideas into my geological teaching and understanding more of the processes.

I have plenty of classic ‘David Charles’ non-fiction texts which need consuming now that I have the ultimate framework. Ebay bulges with these readers, now discarded by the electronic generation.

Most of all I want to return soon, meet some of the people involved in 365 and explored some more for completion is not terminal.

Final Furlong

I had a plan to wander down Tavy Cleave once before, with GT but the ranges were closed and so I traversed along the leat and out into this steep and imposing place.

I had given much thought to my final square. Originally I began my quest at Widgery cross [G5], heading across to Cranmere Pool [G9] and so Ducks Pool seemed an obvious final square; ignoring it, when so deep into the south moor was too difficult.

Going is hard on the right bank and although there is a path it is sinuous and I was keen to dive deep quickly into the moor. The stream is delightful, the line of four tops to the west frame it nicely, many unnamed. This is an unvisited place as it is so often closed and lane end is a difficult location to find.

Emerging from the top, one of the largest areas of bronze age hut circles is up on the left. This is an astonishing place and fitting for my final visit. With a natural river and ancient settlement the variety was perfect.

Cutting across the river I headed south up Western Red Lake; the red and white military poles fringed the horizon and I stood between them all, safe. The military presence and influence on the moor is well recognised by John, two squares to complete.

The poles offered me a perfect handrail on the three kilometres into Cut Hill as at Fur Tor the heavens opened and the mist descended. I sat in the cave below the Tor thinking through – river, huts, boundary, Tor; for the industrial archaeology of the peat cutter to be last seemed perfect. Dartmoor was laughing back.

I knew I had to leave the safety of the poles to head to the top of Cut hill, nil visibility and heavy rain; it was as if the moor wasn’t going to give up its last square.

I found the cairn, half a dozen stones, a place rarely visited. I tried to enliven my phone but despite clicking it did not write the image; I will need to revisit one day.

Cut hill has a reputation as being the furthest point from any road and so provided the perfect final square. I had tried to come here once before, early days when I had travelled up from Postbridge but underestimated the tough nature off path.

Following the poles back westwards I dropped to cross the Tavy, I had met this river before, emerging from the Walkham in full flow; today it was lower, gentler and no need to remove my boots. I kissed the surface, finished, refreshed and satisfied that this two year journey had come to an end.

H5 Tavy Cleave

H6 Watern Oak

I6 Western Red Lake

H8 Fur Tor

H9 Cut Hill

The last three visits were lightweight assaults and so tied with poor weather I left my SLR, relying on my phone instead.


My first adventure to Fur Tor


First 365 adventure

Slicing the bottom off of the moor.

The closed main road towards Okehampton directed me south but rather than peel off at Bovey I dropped down to Ashburton, this was a lengthy process, but I got boots on the moor by two. The plan was to follow the East Dart up to Statts house but first I needed to find an iconic square.

John Hayward tells the story of William Donaghy well but in recent years the memorial has become overgrown. After crossing the river – the quickest way in from Postbridge I stayed on the top path a little too long and searched a little too high. Accessing John’s image from the snapshot on my phone I lined up the trees and hey presto! This has been cleared by enthusiasts and with recent swaling it is much easier to access.

Over the top from here the sheepfold is an astonishing piece of architecture from an era when function determined form. It is deep within the moor but the combination of verticals and very level walls catches your eye. I will return to bivvy here one day.

Heading towards the Beehive I considered crossing the river again to cut off the corner but I was far enough north now. Transiting the left bank the East Dart waterfall was my next target but this is a delightful series of falls the whole way and I was glad I had not headed directly.

Emerging out into the open air at the valley head Statts house lay across to the right. I had not realised this would be last 360 degree view, Cut Hill would be shrouded in mist. I sat below the wall, snapped the fireplace and then looked all around.

The drop into cowflop bottom felt terminal, the Dart was done and the stories of this place had been visited before. I crossed the river, hoping the right bank would offer a different story and at the top of the falls an opportunity opened up. The route over .496 was not mapped but it was well worn and I took a chance dropping back into Postbridge and back out to Princetown. I was within five squares of finishing.

J11 William Donaghy

I11 Sheep Fold

I10 East Dart waterfall

H10 Statts House

I9 Cowflop bottom

Kissing Rocks

Sunday was grim, after a Fox Tor breakfast the drive to Batworthy [west of Chagford] took a while. I procrastinated, waiting hopefully for the weather to lift, it cleared but rain sat in the shadows.

The direct route to Walla Brook [E11] involves crossing the River Teign, I considered dropping to the clapper but there is something medieval in removing your boots and wading, toes upstream.

I was following Walla Brook onto Wild Tor [E10], a flowery haven. The squares were linking together and my last time here was following a group in similar conditions. The wind built and as I turned south the clag turned to rain.

Watern Tor includes the Thirlstone [F10], this is an iconic place where two opposing layers of granite reach across to each other.

It seemed a shame to leave the ridge but Manga rock lay below enroute to Teignhead Farm. The weather was grim but the farm was a welcoming place, a chance to refocus and consider the way out; this was towards Kestor.

Back at the car I headed towards Cafe 360 before heading home. One remaining weekend remained but a tour of the East Dart and Tavy was going to be a tough finish.

E11 Walla Brook

E10 Wild Tor

F10 Watern Tor

F11 Manga rock

G11 Teignhead Farm

Isbn 0-9514037-2-9