National Parks Fortnight Walk – led by Gail – Sunday 14th April

A strong easterly breeze for 21 walkers who met today at Bellever Forest, bringing the temperature down considerably, on Dartmoor.

A swift departure then, as Gail led us along the road, past Bellever Bridge, the old clapper and the new road bridge, well known to most. Although some records say the missing slab was washed away by the East Dart in full spate, another legend says it was ‘mischief making’ – either way, it has strangely never been found and hardly something easily hidden! The hill after the bridge was, dare we say… welcome,  to warm up cold hands and faces today.

After traversing Cator Common, we eventually turned into Soussons Wood and took the forest trail to Soussons Farm, a remote dwelling with few modern amenities we decided. We progressed along the lower track now to Challacombe, an abandoned medieval village set amongst field systems dating back to the 12th or 13th century. Challacombe Farm still operates as a farm, producing ‘high welfare pasture-fed beef and lamb, whilst conserving and enhancing the wildlife, landscape and archaeology’, run by Mark and Naomi apparently.

We take the track along the ridge towards Headland Warren Farm , stopping for a short lunch break in relative shelter below the path, a sharp shower hurrying the party along as we set off to reach Headland Warren Farm, like parts of Challacombe converted to barns for holiday accommodation, offering horse riding and alpacas, rather than breeding rabbits these days.

Our route takes us away from the farm, up the only hill of the day (more or less!) as we make our way to the mine works of Gold Dagger and Vitifer, and follow the long, damp path back towards Soussons Wood again. To our left we can spot the stone row on the hillside and, although we can’t make out the shapes we are told that the enclosures in this area with their stone boundary walls are known as the Four Suits, being shaped like a heart, diamond, club and spade. (Although even from above, more than a little imagination needed!)

Through the woods again, eventually to emerge near Cator Common and take the track towards Pizwell Farm. The stepping stones proved an interesting event but no real problem for today’s surefooted group.

Along the lane and up a muddy track, brought us to the open heath where we could see Bellever Tor and forest, enticingly on our horizon.

A great 10.5 miles, thank you Gail for expert leadership as always.

Teas and a warm fire were most welcome at the Tavistock Inn on return for some and a good day, if a little chilly, had by all.