Monday, April 01, 2013

okehampton to westmill tor and rowtor

It seems to have stopped raining for a bit, so time for a quick mooch up to some of the highest points of north Dartmoor. First there is a rapid ascent from Okehampton up to a welcome bench opposite the 16% sign near the top of the hill on the way to the army camp. This first section takes about half an hour. Last years weather has taken its toll on the roads and lanes, with many washed away and I am slightly surprised to see that this track has just been resurfaced. It looks like it has been done the previous week and might be something to do with the expected influx of tourists at this time of year. It's a useful route for accessing the moor and is used by walkers, the army and rescue services.

The first unusual thing I see is a large heron, not the sort of bird I really expect to find up here. It flies along a small river, soon disappearing from view. There is a fair amount of ice around here and we also find a clump of frozen frog spawn.

Following the windy road up past West Mill Tor we get to some of the highest peaks of the moor and can see Yes Tor in the distance up ahead. Yes Tor is 2030 feet above sea level and is only a few feet lower than the highest point, the nearby High Willhays, measured at 2038 feet. Here we hang a left and head for the only shelter available. The wind is so strong and cold that the only sensible activity seems to be to get out of it for a while and eat a pasty. The shelter is a small stone structure built by the army which has a couple of large doors and a small railway track leading away from it. We then head across the top past some gun emplacements towards Rowtor and more brief shelter, all the while picking up empty shell cases that the army has left scattered on the ground. The only thing I can hear is the sound of the icy wind blowing through the grass. From here we head back down the hill and meet what seems to be a Wheatear flying along the river. Spring has been delayed this year and the weather remains unseasonably cold, maybe something to do with the jet stream being diverted. All in all a good walk of about four hours which is made simple by the quality of the tracks.


aferrismoon said...

Fine pics - great sense of space and interesting details - it seems to have got a little warmer with the fire reported in the news today.

Wheatear acc. to wiki is derived from White Arse.

A bracing walk, nowt better


john said...

Cheers aferrismoon. We're not sure whether the burning was accidental or not as commoners still have the right to set fire to the heather and we saw some smaller patches on fire in the distance on the way in. It's supposed to be controlled burning, though I'm not sure how this is supposed to be achieved.

And yes, white arse, not that romantic a name is it? but quite accurate. We haven't seen much of the sun for a good long time so most of us a bit white arsed here. Bracing it surely was. Most thought gets obliterated in this sort of a wind and the need for shelter becomes the overriding impulse. It clears the mind alright.

Hope all good where you are.

reem said...

An interesting wide place ,great sense of freedom to run away ,the sky seems unclear and this ice tells us about cold morning i guess ,,i like the third photo ,what a cute little bird ,seems so cold and looking for shelter ..we can find this tipe of dark rocks at Al Sowada in Syria but not in my town ,most rocks there are brown and light brown ,,spring is already there now and there's much green grass and some nice flowers too ,,here summer came fast and the sun so hot ,it's time for swimming usual nice work John and i've enjoyed .......have good time waiting for spring ....

john said...

Choukran Reem. Spring is very late here this year, maybe as much as a month late for many plants and trees. The willow starts to come out first, and in the last few days the hawthorns are beginning to have leaves.

It has been a long winter but is just changing now. It seems like we have almost forgotten the heat of the sun, but recently it has been warm enough to sit outside comfortably again, the first time since about last September.

I'll have a look at some photos of Al Sowada, I'd like to see the rocks there. There is a great sense of freedom on Dartmoor, I enjoy getting away from the towns. And swimming eh? It's been a long time since I swam, so hopefully this year.

Thanks Reem, it's always a pleasure to hear from you.