A perfect day for Dartmoor we all agreed, the sun warm, the ground dry and a light breeze chasing cotton wool clouds across the blue sky overhead.
Ten walkers met at the car park below Saddle Tor and Gail led the way south initially, skirting the usually boggy head of the River Sid, towards Bag Tor, known as a little gem of a tor, overlooked by most in the stampede for Hay Tor. Standing here we could see down as far as the Teign Estuary.
We then took the path downhill taking the contour line towards Halshanger Common. A spot for tea was chosen that provided a wonderful view of Haytor from an angle not often seen, looking splendid with purple heather slowing creeping towards this iconic rock.
Gail expertly led the group on paths that were often hidden under the ferns and gorse, at their highest in July of course, to Cold East Cross and down to Ruddycleave and Challamoor Farm. Ruddycleave providing a lunch stop that we weren’t familiar with, sitting in the sun on a bridge over the stream. Who would want to be anywhere else on such a day? Until the tractor came along. Some bridges just aren’t wide enough – a small interruption only.
After a good break, we set off past Challamoor Farm to pick up the path to Blackslade, noting the ford that 95% of the year is boggy and impassable, running at little more than a trickle as the spring from Blackslade Mire struggled to surface in this dry spell.
Continuing along the well worn path here we found Blackslade Down Cist and a photo opportunity as well as a chance for the 10 to reflect on the occupant who was buried there so long ago in the Bronze Age. How this world has changed in many ways, yet Dartmoor remains natural, open and little altered, luckily for us.
A diversion up to Whitburrow now, almost a tor but not quite, offering the most amazing views, particularly across to Hameldown and down to Widecombe where St. Pancras, The Cathedral of the Moor stands tall and proud in the valley, with Honeybag and Bonehill Rocks to the east.
A little tor-ticking now as we walk to Pil Tor, past Tunhill Rocks and to Hollow Tor and Top Tor where a drink was welcome after the climb. The views continuing to enthrall as the clouds sent shadows gliding across the moorland and over the rocky outcrops.
Down to Hemsworthy Gate now and a short stroll to Saddle Tor, past the panting ponies to walk through the tor ‘valley’ to see our cars below, with Hay Tor once again dominating the horizon with it’s 30 metre high, solid granite presence, standing proud today in the sunshine.
9.5 miles completed and tea and cakes in the garden at Ullacombe Farm Shop was a welcome end to a wonderful day on Dartmoor for the lucky 10.