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Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round


Postby houdi » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:20 pm

Date walked: 30/01/2011

Time taken: 3.5

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A couple of Sundays ago I missed a perfect walking opportunity. A beautiful still sunny day beckoned but I had something else on and missed out. I’d been rueing it ever since. Until today that is. I woke up in the morning to the exact same conditions as two weeks ago and Dartmoor beckoned.

The south-east moors are the most scenic of all Dartmoor. Rivers, waterfalls, forests, hills, wooded cleaves, it has the lot. One of my favourite routes is the nine mile trek around Widecombe taking in two high level walks – the flat plateau of Hameldown and the ridge walk across the valley comprising of several good rocky tors, namely Bonehill Rocks, Bell Tor, Chinkwell Tor, and Honeybag Tor. These tors are viewed at their best coming across the moors towards Widecombe where they show off their granite rocks to perfection, managing to appear much more dramatic than they actually are.

Most people do this route anti-clockwise but it is equally as good in the other direction. I try to rotate it evenly but I invariably forget which way I went the previous time. Today I’d chosen the clockwise route as the other direction ends in an uphill struggle on a country lane from Widecombe to Bonehill Rocks and is not welcome at the end of a tiring march.

It’s nine miles all told and usually takes me three hours almost to the minute. Today I’d be taking more photos than usual (for this report) and I was anticipating a slightly longer walk timewise. An added bonus is that this route begins at a car-park just before the steep drop down into Widecombe and is reached in only fifteen minutes from Newton Abbot. Consequently, it doesn’t require an early start like the north moors. Even in winter leaving at midday still gets you back to the car before it starts to get dark. I left about eleven from the car-park, heading across the wide grass path to Bonehill Rocks and then down the country lane to the village of Widecombe which was surprisingly serene for a change. In the height of summer you can’t get moving for hoardes and hoardes of Grockels, coach loads of them who come to the moors’ village hoping to catch a glimpse of Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Maybe it’s time someone told them Widecombe Fair is in September or that Tom Cobley died in 1884 (although this is debatable).

And now for an explanation of the word ‘Grockel’. Basically, it’s Devonian slang for holidaymaker. They found the need for a new word as ‘holidaymaker’ doesn’t really describe what they feel about their tourist friends. Grockel is not a term of endearment. It’s a mocking expression. For those who rely on tourism they are welcomed with open arms, but for the rest of Devon (and Torbay in particular) they are a necessary nuisance. During the height of holiday season the roads are gridlocked around Torbay at rush hour and it’s a nightmare even trying to get to Torquay from Newton Abbot (and vice versa) for work. When I first moved down here I actually thought they were called ‘F***ing Grockels’ as workmates would say things like ‘It took me over an hour to get through Kingskerswell last night. F***ing Grockels!” Fortunately, I do not have to rely on tourism for a living, neither do I have to travel through Kingskerswell to get to and from work.

One minor fact about Widecombe is that it featured as one of four possible answers for a question on the TV show ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ and they spelt it WIDDICOMBE instead of WIDECOMBE. Very unprofessional, Mr Tarrant. I have to say here that Widecombe exists only because of tourism. It consists of one pub, the Old Inn (two if you count the Rugglestone Inn outside the village) and several gift shops and tea rooms. The customers are ferried into two large car parks before they are tempted by Devon cream teas and little porcelain toby jugs of the Tom Cobley characters. Widecombe needs its Grockels. It would die on its feet without them.

A sign points the way along a narrow country lane to the start of the path up onto Hameldown. It was so still and warm in the valley that I had to take my jacket off and walk in only a light fleece. I knew I would have to put it back on again on top of Hameldown as I have only ever been up there once when it wasn’t blowing a gale and that was last February when the down was covered in a couple of inches of snow. It was a sunny day with not even a breath of wind and was actually warmer that day than in the middle of summer when winds blew me across the top at a decent rate. I was walking in a northerly direction today with a cold north-east wind in my face. A light wind thank goodness. There are extensive views up here across to Princetown and all the way past Fernworthy Forest to Cosdon Beacon and the north moors.

The motorway path across Hameldown is part of the ‘Two Moors Way’ and is just as easily followed in thick mist as clear weather. I can’t think of a wider more obvious path on the whole of Dartmoor and it is always busy no matter the weather or the season. At the top of the initial climb is a stone tablet to mark Hameldown Beacon, one of eight specific beacons on Dartmoor where they used to light signal fires in the days before telephones. The top of Hameldown is one long flat plateau about 3 miles long and it tops out at 532m. This started me thinking that if the sub 2000ers on this site was extended to include Dartmoor then I would be well ahead of the pack. I was chatting to someone on Pillar in the Lake District last year and we got round to talking about Dartmoor. They said they had never been there but always imagined it to be completely flat. Not sure where they got that idea from. The main Dartmoor Tors and hills are higher than the Pentlands.

At the far end of the plateau is Hameldown Tor, or rather a poor excuse for a tor as it seems to consist of a pile of rubble scraped together into the shape of a cairn and a trig point. No granite stacks around anywhere unless someone moved them elsewhere. In the valley below is Grimspound, the remains of Dartmoor’s largest Bronze Age settlement from the days when the temperatures on Dartmoor were way higher than those of today. And to think they managed to arrive at this Global Warming situation without the aid of the internal combustion engine or coal-fired power stations. I’m not convinced about Global Warming. First they tell us that recent years of extremely mild winters and intermingling seasons is a result of Global Warning and now, when someone correctly points out that we have had two Artic winters in a row, they are saying we should expect very cold winters and hot summers as a result of Global Warming. Try making your minds up, why don’t you.

The distinctive lone white building of the Warren House Inn is visible from Hameldown Tor. Three years ago me and my walking buddy Stu (‘buddy’ is a slight exaggeration obviously) called in at the Warren House to discover they were charging £3.40 for a regular pint of bitter. It must be near enough a fiver by now. Talk about ripping off the Grockels. My advice is to avoid it like the plague. The previous week we were walking around Kes Tor up Chagford Way and discovered a pub called the Northmoor Arms. They were charging £2.65 for a pint. Are you listening Warren House Inn? Also, they have created an Urban Myth about the peat fire in the pub having burned constantly for a ridiculous number of years without ever having gone out. This is utter rot. The first time I went in there (many, many years ago) it was a hot August day and there wasn’t so much as a piece of ash in the grate never mind any burning peat. Again, it’s a story to charm the tourists, or a fairytale more like.

The descent path passes a memorial stone on the lower slopes of Hameldown. It commemorates the people involved in an air crash – a Wellington Bomber returning from a mission in France during the Second World War. It’s intended destination was Scampton airforce base just outside Lincoln (where, coincidentally, some of my family used to live). Now, I’m no kind of aviation expert but something tells me they had a severe navigational problem. In technical terms that means ‘lost’. I would like to hope they were heading in a north-easterly direction when they ploughed into the hill, otherwise why would they be anywhere near Dartmoor when heading for East Lincs? Not surprisingly, all four crew members were killed.

The route from Grimspound down to the back lanes of Nattsworthy opens up views of the return ridge and also extensive views across to Easdon Tor, Hayne Down, Hound Tor, and Haytor. Up until recently there used to be a 30ft high wooden (green oak) chair at the top of a field in Natsworthy. It was designed by a local artist as a sculpture to celebrate the natural environment. There was no planning permission, however, and it was allowed to stand by local authorities for three years before being dismantled. There was talk of objections by locals because of traffic problems and other such garbage, but the chair is no longer there having been removed in July last year. It can still be seen from Google Earth though. I climbed up on it a couple of times and I’m sure I must have been breaking some kind of ridiculous Health & Safety regulation

The walk along the lane to Honeybag tour is quite a decent stroll even on tarmac. Today is was nice and peaceful and very warm, almost Spring-like in fact. A farm road leads to a path which skirts round the bottom of the tors to the lane at Bonehill Rocks but that would be defeating the object. Another path leading from this one gains the ridge between Honeybag and Chinkwell. However, by following the wall on the left it allows you to start the ridge below Honeybag and all four tors can then be tackled end to end in a straight line starting from the north and working south. It was possible to view the wooden chair from the top of the stacks on Honeybag Tor and I have included two photos of this view, one before and one after the removal of the chair.

There are unsurpassed views on this ridge walk across the valley to Hameldown and of all the main south-east tors, including the famous trio of Haytor, Saddle Tor and Rippon Tor. It is also the very best viewpoint for Widecombe nestling in the valley directly below. The highest point on this ridge walk is the summit of Chinkwell Tor which is marked by two fine cairns. Once again, the Ordnance Survey people have short-changed Dartmoor by not giving it a spot height on their maps. They have given a height for the adjacent (and lower) Honeybag Tor of 445m but not the main one. In case you’re reading this OS, it’s 451m. Perhaps you’d like to add it to your maps at some stage?

And so back full circle to Bonehill Rocks. These are a very popular scrambling/bouldering venue and throughout the summer are teeming with budding rock climbers armed with their little foam safety mats. I have posted pics of one of the most difficult scrambling routes which I tackled last year. The red ‘X’s mark the horizontal cracks which you have to gain in order to progress, after first stepping across to the lower ‘X’ from the rock in front which is not attached and is separated by a good three foot gap. When I pulled myself up on to the second horizontal crack, I discovered I could not get back down as there were no handholds. There was only one way to go and that was up. I completed it by jamming a foot into the vertical fissure and then using my knee to gain the top of the rock. I have to say that these bouldering types cheat by using sticky slipper-like climbing shoes. I did it in my hiking boots.

Arrived back at the car at two-thirty. Not bad for a lazy nine mile stroll.

Ham1.JPG
Bonehill Rocks


Ham1a.JPG
A nice little scramble


Ham1b.JPG
Follow the Red Route


Ham2.JPG
Return Route – left to right Honeybag, Chinkwell & Bell Tors


Ham3.JPG
A busy route on to Hameldown


Ham4.JPG
Looking across to Princetown from Hameldown Beacon


Ham5.jpg
Hameldown Plateau


Ham6.JPG
Hameldown Tor summit


Ham7.JPG
Grimspound & Hookney Tor


Ham8.JPG
A distant Warren House Inn


Ham9.JPG
Entrance to Grimspound


Ham10.JPG
Walkers take up Squatter’s Rights on Grimspound


Ham11.JPG
Looking back to Grimspound & Hameldown


Ham12.JPG
The mighty Haytor!


Ham13.jpg
Airforce Monument


Ham14a.JPG
After the chair was removed


Ham14b.JPG
And before


Ham15.JPG
Can we have out chair back please?


Ham16.JPG
A candidate for Dartmoor’s best – Hound Tor


Ham17.JPG
Haytor and Saddle Tor


Ham18.JPG
Chinkwell Tor


Ham19.JPG
Looking back to Honeybag Tor


Ham20.JPG
Chinkwell Tor summit cairns


Ham21.JPG
On the skyline - Haytor, Saddle, and Rippon Tors


Ham22.JPG
Granite-framed Hound Tor
houdi
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby threya » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:53 pm

That looks to be the area I took my first one day visit to Cornwall... why only one day? I arrived late at night and slept in the car overnight in a little carpark with a stone cross about 2 miles from the Warren House Inn. When I woke in the morning I strolled up to the nearest tor and realised I wasn't going very well at all. In fact I felt terrible. I'd caught a really bad dose of flu. When I got back to the car that wasn't feeling too good either as it wouldn't start. So I had to go to the pub to call out the RAC - didn't buy a drink though.

I thought it was Widdicombe (as in the song)? And I make it 3 arctic winters in a row now
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby colgregg » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:16 am

threya wrote:That looks to be the area I took my first one day visit to Cornwall... why only one day? I arrived late at night and slept in the car overnight in a little carpark with a stone cross about 2 miles from the Warren House Inn. When I woke in the morning I strolled up to the nearest tor and realised I wasn't going very well at all. In fact I felt terrible. I'd caught a really bad dose of flu. When I got back to the car that wasn't feeling too good either as it wouldn't start. So I had to go to the pub to call out the RAC - didn't buy a drink though.

I thought it was Widdicombe (as in the song)? And I make it 3 arctic winters in a row now

And I thought he'd had Ann Widdicombe round .........for tea or something. Or even gone round ann widdicome. Quite a journey that would be :o
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby fedupofuserids » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:21 am

colgregg wrote:And I thought he'd had Ann Widdicombe round .........for tea or something. Or even gone round ann widdicome. Quite a journey that would be :o


I had to read it twice :lol:

Looks an interesting place!

When I used to have to travel into the lakes to work, a normal 11 minute car journey could take 45 on a bad day in summer. Later I worked in Barrow and driving through the lakes at 5.30am was a dream but the return was a nightmare and tended to stick to the coast road & over Corney & Cold Fell. ALthough I would much rather be stuck in traffic somewhere like Cumbria or Cornwall than in a big city.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby houdi » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:30 pm

Threya, the village is properly Widecombe-in-the-Moor and its annual Fair is now held every September. And yes, it is the same Fair referred to in the song about Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

The spelling 'Widdicombe' (and sometimes 'Widdecombe') appears to be an error which has now become so widely used in relation to the song that it can never be corrected. However. the official website for the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor refers to the song as 'Widecombe Fair' not 'Widdicombe Fair'. And, let's face it, they should know.

I'm not sure what you mean about Cornwall, Threya. Dartmoor is in Devon and no Devonian would thank you for referring to it as Cornwall. They're very touchy about that sort of thing down here. Incidentally, there is a car park with a cross not far from the Warren House Inn. It's called Bennetts Cross and the tor directly behind it is Birch Tor.

Colgregg, I have a feeling it would take me more than three-and-a-half hours to do a round of Anne Widdecombe (oddly enough, her name is spelt like the village but with two 'd's') but the walk is perfectly feasible considering she lives down here in Newton Abbot.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby malky_c » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:57 pm

Enjoying your Dartmoor reports - so far away and a place I'm unlikely to visit for the sake of it. Seeing a few photos means I'd definitely make the effort to see some of it if I was down that way though, so cheers for that :) . Must be great to have some open wild-ish country way down in the SW. Do you have similar photos of Exmoor and Bodmin Moor? More places I've never been and am unlikely to any time soon.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby fedupofuserids » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:14 pm

houdi wrote:Grockel is not a term of endearment. It’s a mocking expression.


houdi wrote:Dartmoor is in Devon and no Devonian would thank you for referring to it as Cornwall. They're very touchy about that sort of thing down here.


You make it sound a very opinionated place houdi - I'm sure there must be some people in that area that are a bit more friendly to tourists & the money they bring (other then Rick Stein). Although I've been told that Rick Stein is hated in 'Padstein' & surrounding area. Not sure I could be bothered with all the politics.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby houdi » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:17 pm

Apart from visiting the Tarr Steps over the river Barle with the missus one fine summer's day when we were heading for Minehead, I have never actually done any walking on Exmoor, Malky_C. Did Rough Tor and Brown Willy (sounds as if that has Gay connotations but it's probably best not to go there) on Bodmin Moor last year. I will dig the photos out sometime and post a walk report.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby threya » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:25 pm

Sorry - you're right - it is in Devon! Don't know where I got the idea it was in Cornwall from.

I've been to Brown Willy and it was a very nice walk :lol: Awful name though :shock:
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby houdi » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:25 pm

Don't blame me fedup, I only live here. I didn't create the word 'Grockel'. I'm sure Devon and Cornwall aren't the only places that have an inter-county rivalry. For instance, the Cornish refer to Devon folk as 'Janners' and I don't think that's a term of endearment either. And don't get me started about Lancashire..........
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby fedupofuserids » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:50 pm

houdi wrote:Don't blame me fedup, I only live here. I didn't create the word 'Grockel'. I'm sure Devon and Cornwall aren't the only places that have an inter-county rivalry. For instance, the Cornish refer to Devon folk as 'Janners' and I don't think that's a term of endearment either. And don't get me started about Lancashire..........


Don't take me wrong I'm not having a go, certainly blame don't you !

In Cumbria the rivalry/dislike of somebody from the next town or village can be a bit disturbing :shock:
This was probably ok 30 odd years ago when people worked a few miles away from where you lived but nowadays its the norm to commute a fair distance.
I've been accused of not being 'local' in one village only 5 miles away from where I was brought up.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby houdi » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:03 pm

The 'Grockel' insult is more like a joke these days. Like me, most people from Torbay have moved here from other places and were once Grockels ourselves. The Devon/Cornwall rivalry is very strong though. Exeter City fans actually taunt Plymouth Argyle fans (their great rivals) by accusing them of being Cornish because Plymouth is right on the border of Devon and Cornwall. It's funny because my mate Stu is very pro Plymouth as he was in the Navy at Devonport. I continually wind him up about it being in Cornwall and he gets quite enraged about it. I shouldn't do it, but he bites every time.
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby fedupofuserids » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:57 pm

In Cumbria, it even goes on what you put on your sarnies !

see... http://www.whitehaven-news.co.uk/news/who-are-the-jam-eaters-1.248985?referrerPath=home
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby threya » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:05 pm

That article and the comments after it are hilarious! :lol:
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Re: Dartmoor - A Widecombe Round

Postby houdi » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:30 pm

This jam thing isn't restricted to Cumbria. When I lived and worked in Motherwell years ago jam was referred to as 'Carluke Steak'. Carluke is a town in Lanarkshire and maybe it meant that people from there couldn't afford meat on their sandwiches (or 'pieces' as they are known up there) and had to have jam instead?

Actually, the coal mining reference in your link caused me to do a bit of research on Carluke as I know that Lanarkshire was a big coal mining county. There were, indeed, coal mines around Carluke but there was (still is?) a jam factory there (Scott's Jam) and I guess that's where the 'Carluke Steak' expression originated.
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