Tuesday 27th October 2020
First thing the following morning I negotiated the rest of the muddy slope and boggy river edge and crossed a clapper bridge to firmer soil so I could replenish my water bladder. As you can see from the picture, I was camped high enough above the water to avoid all but the most biblical of floods. The river was moving very quickly and was quite full so it was easy to filter and sterilise enough water to replenish my drinking water by leaning over from the side of the clapper bridge.
I followed the course of the Two Moors Way however the path was very boggy and the mist had come down. My mind wandered to the plot of The Lord of The Rings where the Hobbits are lost amongst once they head east of the Brandywine River. OK, there’s no Old Forest here but the valley seemed earie and the path was a bit of a bugger to navigate. Again I was thankful for the footwear and gaiters.
The next major landmark was the drystone wall and rickety wooden style at Huntingdon Cross. As I got closer the mist started to lift I could see someone else breaking camp. It looks like the guy had been camping with a tarp and bivvy but as I got closer and said “hi” it was clear that he had some children with him. He explained the tarp was being used to shelter their kit while they were in a tent.
I should have stepped over the stile and headed up the path at about my 10 o’clock with the stile behind me, but I confused the path with a waterfall/stream as the rain was now doing what it does well on Dartmoor and there is a fair bit of mist so I mistakenly head along the path to the Avon Reservoir. As the path is fairly flat the old grey matter got suspicious especially as the river was still very close by and a quick check of the map showed my error and that I had missed the path I needed. At this point I forgot I am 57 with a dodgy knee carrying 32 lbs and convinced myself I’m a Dartmoor sheep and the steep pathless slope to my left would be a quicker path than retracing my steps. My schoolboy memory of Pythagoras’ theorem and my Oxford Brand set square convinced my addled brain a shorter steep incline would be the quickest way to get me back on track.
At this point, dear reader, I should stress it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey – honest! With few features to use to take a bearing, and forgetting about the river and reservoir behind me being a good reference point for a back bearing, I started the climb. What should have taken 10 minutes took me at least 90 minutes of wandering in the mist, stumbling over tussocks and trying to avoid walking through bogs. To add insult to stupidity, it started to rain. Hard. When I recovered to the correct path it is time for a snack, drink and a foot check.
With the shenanigans recovering my path behind me, along with a bit of a leisurely start to the day, I was behind my target timeline but as I said earlier, it’s all about the journey. My target for today should have been Wind Tor however I realised that even though I was starting to head down hill towards Scorriton I would have arrived at my planned overnight site after dark so I had to start thinking about a plan ‘B’ even though it was still a few hours until sunset.
Heading down from the top of Huntingdon Hill I had my first sighting of Dartmoor Ponies. These ponies always seem more skittish than their cousins in the New Forest so being able to stop and spend a few minutes watching these most famous of Dartmoor’s wildlife left me breathless. I kept my distance but when they sensed me they slowly move off heading up the hill. It’s The Journey right?
At the bottom of the hill, the River Mardle was pretty full and fast flowing just like the Avon. The original ford is now supplemented with a narrow footbridge. Heading over the bridge I left moorland behind me and topped up my Nalgene bottle as looking ahead I needed to have a couple of options to stop for the night. At this point it was clear I would not have made the planned stop so I headed towards Scorriton and the road to Holne with a plan to camp on the moor above Holne.
Past the river I was back in deciduous woodland and walking down a track that eventually became a narrow road and I entered the village of Scorriton. I stopped for a proper sit down on one of the benches,that form a War Memorial even though it is raining the change to rest my feet is welcome. I saw a couple walking up the lane from Holne and they stopped for a chat. As they moved off a car passed in front of me stops suddenly before pulling away. I soon had more company, this time bearing a stick. Sitting watching the dog he slowly moved his stick towards me. Eventually I simply had to pick it up and throw it a few feet for him and he really appreciated a fuss. Rather than leave him I checked a couple of houses to find his home. It turns out my new found friend picks up stray walkers on a regular basis.
By this point my carefully planned schedule was so far off it really was all about the journey, so I headed out of Scorriton to Holne as planned but with a diversion to pitch for the night on Holne Moor, a walk up from the village of Holne.
Just before heading down into the centre of Holne I turned left to head back onto the moor to find my spot to pitch for the night. Bearing in mind the weather had been blowing a gale and the rain had been abundant, I was really surprised to see two girls manning a table at the side of the road. I stopped to speak to them and I could see home made cakes, drinks and wristbands. They were raising money for their school playground so of course I had to buy a cake which was thoroughly enjoyed.
Having made a fairly significant decent off the moor, I was walking on a road with a steady incline, and to be honest road walking, especially uphill, is one of my least favourite activities.
With the sky clearing as I got to Holne Moor I was blessed with the most amazing vista. I’ve included a Skyline shot from the ViewRanger App with some key features highlighted. “Camp 2” was the original planned location for camp that evening and as you can see it’s 4 miles in a direct line from where I was standing on Holne Moor and given the route, I felt I had made the right call to change my plan.
Monday night’s pitch was on the side of a valley, tonight I was on top of a fairly exposed moor with wind and rain forecast overnight so my next job was to find a bit of shelter with space for my tent. Rather than keep climbing to the top of the moor I found a large Gorse thicket with plenty of space. Being Dartmoor, wherever you find short grass there will be poo from sheep, ponies and or cattle to either move or work around. A deft flick with a walking pole or boot is usually the best way to create a large enough space to pitch.