It was ‘one of those days‘ as we left Newton in reasonable weather and felt optimistic of a walk from Smeardon, long awaited, as Gail has had to postpone it twice and was keen to show walkers that area. Sadly, we found ourselves in thick, damp, mist as we approached Merrivale. Gail made the wise decision to do a plan B walk, from Merrivale Car Park, near the quarry, taking the path south, tried and trusted to be easy and clear.
The route was pleasant as we walked through the farm, past the orchards and the old farm track, finally, reaching the Criptor Cross signpost, we took the track east, on to the moor. A tea break here while we considered the weather and the possibility of it cheering up. Short conversation it should be said.
As we followed the path towards Yelverton, the mist rolled in like breakers to the shore and the option of walking over Leedon Tor was discarded in favour of keeping to the easy-to-follow tramway. We took our lunch at the side of the path and then picked up the path again, as far as Rotrundle, where we followed the rail track around the quarries and tors, while some history of the area was imparted.
Our first tor was Ingra. Just about discernible in the mist, then on to Sweltor Quarries and Kings Tor.
The 10.5 mile single track railway, running from Princetown to Yelverton, was opened in 1883 with only basic wood platforms and shelters and four intermediate stations, the remains of which can still be seen today at Ingra Tor, Sweltor, Foggintor and Kings Tor Halt. Sweltor and Foggintor Quarries were closed in 1906. Ingra Tor Halt lasted until 1936.
In 1936 the single fares were: to Princetown, 11½d First Class or 7d Second Class; to Burrator Halt, 9d and 5½d; to Kings Tor Halt, 7½d and 4½d; to Dousland, 1s 1d and 7½d; to Yelverton, 1s 5d.
We were able to clearly see the ruins of railway buildings beside the track in places and the sidings where the trucks would have been loaded with granite, London bound where it was highly valued as a durable and strong construction material for flagstones, paving stones and monuments, but most famously perhaps, London Bridge.
At Sweltor Quarry, near the track above the scattered granite rubble, there are about a dozen Corbels, originally carved to support the extended pavement being built for London Bridge in 1903. They were surplus to requirements, or perhaps not perfectly suited to purpose and were left here. Our intention was to have a hunt the Corbels at afternoon break but as it was impossible to see a walker more than 20 feet away, we felt it was too dangerous and the Corbels remained undiscovered for the group today. A quest for another (sunny) occasion perhaps. NB The picture in the gallery this week takes photographic liberty, having been snapped on a better day but for those who missed the Corbels today, something to tease the imagination.
With the mist getting thicker the band of 16 stayed closely under leaders orders as we took the path (loosely!) to the west, away from the track. The eagerly awaited stone wall, our hand rail for this section, eluded us and we had to traverse some unfriendly terrain in the form of tussock and bog but we were undeterred and thankful of calm leadership and some techno support in the form of GPS and smartphone OS map to guide us steadily the 1.5 miles or so back to the car park. The stone row remained a fantasy today too but a good 9.8 miles completed and the group retired to the Old Police Station at Princetown for warmth, cakes and hot drinks.