Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 01, 2013

okehampton to westmill tor and rowtor

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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.